Friday 30 July 2021

Revenge of the Goths…………..well almost.

The table at the start of the game. Goths under Paul and Richard on the right.
 Conrad and Nigel on the left.

I seem to be falling behind in my posting of late, as this game took place last Saturday 24 July. We (Conrad, Paul, Richard and Nigel and me) are “into” Sword and Spear at the moment so another Late Roman v Goths and some misguided Late Romans was on the table. Conrad Nigel and I were the good Romans. 

The Roman battle line from their right. Opposite, the Goth commander pondering their first move.

The view along the Goth/Roman line from their left wing.

The Goth centre. 

Goth warriors launched a series of attacks against the Romans holding the central wood. It took several turns before the latter were dislodged.

The Roman left wing cavalry advances.

Richard was in command of several units of misguided Romans backing his attempt to be crowned Caesar. Fighting to the last Goth was their plan.
The Roman right caught on the back foot by Richard’s Gothic cavalry.

The Roman left surging forward after breaking several Goth units.

Another view of the hoards of Goth infantry in the centre.

The Roman line holds steady as the Goth warriors approach.

The Goths are piling the pressure on our centres,  have broken one Legio and are locked in combat with another.

The tide turns - last surviving Goth warband in the centre.

On the Roman left the Goths had been contained and were beginning to falter.

On my flank my cavalry were getting well and truly hammered yanks in part to my dreadful tactics and dice throwing. At least we acted as a big speed bump while the reserves moved to plug the gap.

The Roman left getting the upper hand….just.

Esme providing cover for the Roman infantry.

The last of the Gothic infantry being taken apart by the Romans

It was another hard fought and enjoyable game, even though my command broke. My memory is a little fuzzy as to the end result. If I remember correctly it was declared to be a marginal Goth victory, but only given that the misguided Roman infantry backing the usurper Richard had yet to be engaged. As noted earlier Richard had fought to the last Goth, and in doing so seriously weakened our infantry and cavalry, leaving them extremely vulnerable to his usurper Roman legios.

PS. I actually had a game during the day this week as well. The other Paul came over and the Goths under my command somehow managed to wreck his centre and left while my left wing held up his cavalry for several turns before being wiped out, who had been intent on rolling up my flank. A rare Gothic victory but no photos of the game as I was too busy engrossed in the game. 

Monday 26 July 2021

The Masters Interview: Another podcast


A few weeks ago my mate Tim put Chris, the producer of this series of podcasts, in touch with me to see if I’d agree to be interviewed. Why not I thought? I survived the Yarkshire Gamer experience. Chris is a relative newcomer to the hobby and full of enthusiasm, and I’d heard some of his other interviews so it seemed like a way of sharing my experiences and wargame thinking, such as it is, beyond the blatherings that can be found on this blog, with anyone interested in listening. 

Winston ap Rees Podcast The Masters  

I guess I’m more than a little bit flattered to be seen as walking in the same shoes as the likes of Henry Hyde and Kevin Dallimore, or even my mates Tim Whitworth and Ken Reilly who have also featured in this series of interviews, let alone being thought of as a ‘Master’, although I was quite into debating at school.  

Anyway, Chris is clearly an enthusiastic new wargamer, with great plans for a massive Wars of the Roses collection, and unlike most of us these days is still many years away from middle age except in his choice of wargame project. We passed an enjoyable couple of hours chatting away on Zoom on a sultry Sunday evening in the Burrow as I did my best to respond to Chris’ questions. 

I trust if you listen you may find it interesting, even if just a little bit.

Friday 23 July 2021

The Tudor Arte of Warre 1485-1558


Next in Helion’s Retinue to Regiment series is The Tudor Arte of Warre, volume 1, The Conduct of War from Henry VII to Mary I, 1485-1558 by Jonathan Davies. This book is a comprehensive and authoritative account of the Tudor war machine, warts and all. The author argues that the complexities and generally “different” character of the English army cannot be explained without understanding the wider context within which it is set, such as the political, economic and social constraints of the time.

This volume is sensibly constructed and well written. Three large sections cover firstly,  Politics, Diplomacy, Strategies and Campaigns, then then Armies and lastly the Equipment. The scope of this first volume covers the reigns of Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I, and provides us with an excellent introduction to the efforts of the fledgling Tudor dynasty to legitimise itself and overcome every effort from internal and external enemies to overthrow it. This is not a subject I know a great deal about, so for me the information presented was a fascinating insight which brightened up a rather murky period of history, with interesting and enlightening accounts of the various rebellions, wars with the French and of course war with Scotland, the latter punctuated by the crushing English victories of Flodden and Pinkie.

Part 2 covers the armies themselves, from the tactics used to recruitment and discipline. The chapter on the ‘Professional Soldiers” or perhaps lack of them reminded me that the vast bulk of English nobility and yeoman, and all the border Reivers were well practiced in the use of arms even if they were not paid on a full-time basis.  The author’s claim that the Borderers were probably the best light cavalry in Europe at the time is one that I would certainly agree with, not least because my mum’s family were themselves Border Reivers back in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This section puts a strong argument forward the English army was far better than the untrained poorly disciplined rabble of freebooters, dregs of society and Landsknecht mercenaries that many historians would have us believe, and that it was very much fit for purpose.

My favourite chapter is the one covering the supply and support available to Tudor armies. I’m always drawn to the social aspects covered in books such as this. The sections on logistics, administration and purveyancing  make fascinating reading and the level of detail is to be commended. After covering such things as rations and their sources, clothing and accommodation the best part for me is the one covering medical provision and practices. Medical science was certainly no better and probably no worse than 200 years later, but some of the procedures explained in the book when dealing with gunshot wounds and amputation suggest that many barber surgeons knew their trade and practiced it well. However the remedy that required ‘the boiling of two new-born puppies until their bones dissolved’ has thankfully fallen out of use, no matter how successful it might have been.(p.250).

Finally the arms and armour of the army are discussed in some detail, as is the art of military fortifications. The analysis of the gestation or development of the army that is presented by the author is well presented and convincing, and based upon a wide range of primary and other sources.

The book is provided with an excellent series of colour images of re-enactors in a wide range of dress and equipment. There are of course many more excellent black and white illustrations throughout the book together with some useful maps.

Overall then, the book is really easy to read and quite hard to put down. It is of course very informative and is an excellent place to start should one be wishing to study the Tudor armies in any detail. I highly recommended the book and look forward to volume 2 which presumably will cover the reign of Elizabeth I.

The downside of all this is that I am tempted to raise an English army for this period. 

Tuesday 20 July 2021

Goth incursion annihilated! Sword and Spear AAR

I had a long overdue visit from my old mates Robbie Rodiss and John Reidy, aka the Independent Wargames Group, on Tuesday. We’d settled on an ancient game as everyone was familiar with the rules, more or less, and less in my case! We diced for sides and Robbie took the Late Romans while I had the Goths. John generously offered to umpire. This was the first time I’d played these rules on a 1 to 1 basis NOT using the multi player variant for activation, which was to prove very interesting and incredibly frustrating for both commanders. We also played as they are written rather than implement the few house rules we’ve used in previous games.

The Goth left and centre.

I was out-scouted which didn’t really have a detrimental impact on my deployment. I managed that all by myself. The bulk of my cavalry were on my right and all my infantry was on my left as my plan was to throw subtlety out of the window and try and overwhelm the Roman left with 11 units of cavalry while my  six large war bands and remaining four cavalry units tied up the enemy centre and right.  

Early in the game fortune favoured my activation dice rolls and the Goths were slowly getting into a strong position on my right to launch an attack. Getting the infantry to move was another matter, especially as I couldn’t get my skirmisher screen out of the way. Doh! 

The Goth right, with some Hun allies covering the extreme flank. There were a fair few Romans facing me but I knew what I was doing…..

The main Goth cavalry attack was conducted in a very piecemeal manner, but it did it the frighten of the Romans.

The Romans launched a couple of cavalry charges on each wing which were moderately successful and upset my attacks. While the Roman Cataphracts demolished my Huns and heavy cavalry my other heavy cavalry hit the Roman Legios facing our right, but were held and eventually broken. Robbie’s cataphracts and heavy cavalry made short work of most of my cavalry on the right and one of my own Goth elite cavalry units was charged in the flank and destroyed. As my cavalry routed Robbie’s pursuit rode down and killed my C-in-C. My other Goth elite cavalry were pinned between a Legio and some nasty light infantry but held out until the last turn.

On the other flank we’d had a little more success. Several Roman skirmisher units were destroyed and one of my cavalry units had worked their way round to the rear of the Roman line. The Goth foot warriors only ever managed to get three units into action, mainly as two others were stuck behind some olive groves and the other just never got moving as there was always something more important to do. They were soon left out of command as the others advanced.

On the left the Romans had quickly overwhelmed one of my cavalry units which had pursued too far after breaking an enemy light cavalry unit. The Roman lights then pursued into the flank of my cavalry, but were held and then in return hit in their flank by another Goth unit. We then managed to overrun the enemy war machines and a Legio and we found ourselves with two units and a sub general in the Roman rear. But it was too little too late to change the outcome.

Meanwhile these two large units of warriors were stuck. I could have moved through the vineyards as  they were passable but I had it my head that they weren’t… why did I deploy them there? 

One of the Goth cavalry units on the right locked in combat with a Roman Legio before breaking.

My right is now a mess and is about to get messier. Both of us had been throwing some dreadful activation dice, but I had several turns with only one useable dice, and one at least with NONE! The collapse of this wing was sudden but not unexpected.

Two war bands did get into contact with the Roman main infantry body, but  by then it was too late.

My Elite cavalry rode down one unit of light infantry before being sucked into the maelstrom.
Esme plonked herself down in the middle of the Roman line and refused to let Robbie touch anything within her Zone of Clawing (ZOC).

I was too engrossed in the game to take many photos but suffice to say, my army soon reached the point where each unit had to pass a discipline test. Some didn’t. I conceded defeat shortly afterwards as my army had been effectively destroyed, ok it was pretty much annihilated. It was however a most enjoyable defeat. I thoroughly enjoyed the game, the rules, and the company; less so my dice rolling. But it was a fun if rather sweaty day’s gaming. Note to self:  I really need to finish some more Goths.

Sunday 18 July 2021

My 1000th Post! Italian Wars Disguised Scenario

Over a week late with this, another belated account of our game on Saturday 10 July. Back by popular request was another early Italian Wars game using the Renaissance adaptions tried last time for Sword and Spear. They’d worked really well on our first attempt so I decided to mash up the orders of battle, essentially removing the Swiss and the Spanish from the mix, leaving the French to fight my larger than I thought Venetian army.

To add to the fun, for me at least, I created a scenario very (very) loosely based on a well-known battle with its anniversary this month. Before I divulge the name, in this scenario the French have invaded an Italian duchy currently under the control of the Venetians, with the purpose of securing a victory and putting a pro-French candidate on the ducal throne. The Venetian army has responded to the invasion by assembling a significant but mixed quality force close to the city of Aquaponte, which has been occupied by the French, confident after winning a series of skirmishes as they brushed aside the local militia.

The French plan was to execute an attack through the dawn mist on the Venetians who were camped on the other side of a ditch/stream/dike in the hope of catching them by surprise and destroying them. anyway, here's how the game went. I think the photos are in the correct order.

The Venetian army seen from their right wing. The CinC looks suitably unperterbed.

 Orders of battle will be at the end of this post. Suffice to say there were more Venetians than French and almost a third of the latter were relatively poor and very badly dressed French Picard pikemen and Gascon crossbowmen.

The table at the start. French on the right.

Conrad, Nigel and John were the Venetians while Richard, Paul and Neil were the French. I brought the oranges and cold sponges on throughout the game and kept a few secrets up my sleeve regarding the terrain and weather, most of which I forgot about. It was supposed to be misty but on turn one the sun burnt the mist off so we were spared the fun of troops loosing their way. The stream, ditch, dike whatever was crossable to all troops but I only told the Venetians that. The French were led to believe it was difficult. Well, it was for gendarmes (of both sides where it would take a whole turn) but otherwise crossing only cost 4" of movement for everyone else.

Stradiots on the Venetian right, with men-at-arms behind.
The great mass of not terribly good Venetian pikemen still look impressive.

Events would soon wipe the smile off that face!

Both armies approached the stream. The Venetian Stradiots drove off some French mounted crossbowmen but would in turn be forced to pull back in the face of the advancing gendarmes. 
Landsknechts in French service confidently cross the stream.

On the French right Paul ordered his Gascon and Picard infantry towards the  Venetians.

The Venetian pike were attacked by the Landsknechts and gendarmes. Remarkably, the Venetians not only held but broke all of their opponents, albeit with a little help from Venetian Men-at-Arms.

It all got just too much for Esme who went to sleep on the battlefield!

The French left and centre were essentially annihilated, while the right (the Gascons and Picard infantry) was struggling against the Venetian men-at-arms and arquebusiers. It was a valiant effort, as I hope the photos will illustrate without me having to give them all captions, and it was also very fierce and a little confusing. It was a clear Venetian victory but a costly one. 

It took until lunchtime for anyone to guess the battle that was inspiration for the game and only after I translated some of the Italianised names, such as Acqua del Ponte which is of course Bridgewater.  Yes, this was  very, very, loosely interpreted version of the Battle of Sedgemoor in 1685, which as everyone will know was the end of the Duke of Monmouth’s (the French in our game) attempt to evict James II (the Venetians) from the throne. 

The mechanics of the game and the few rules changes made to accommodate 16th century weaponry and tactics worked well. With a Venetian victory the result even went the way of the original, although the Venetians took far more of a battering than James’ army. 

Orders of battle as promised.

FRENCH                                                      Discipline/Strength/Armour/Weapon

Commander in Chief

The Centre

One unit of Condottieri Gendarmes Cav# 4/4/HA/Impact/Undrilled
One unit of Landsknecht Pike HF 4/8/Sw/Pikes+2HW*/Huge unit
One unit of Landsknecht Pike HF 4/6/Sw/Pikes+2HW*/Large unit
One unit of Landsknecht Shot LF 4/2/Av/Arquebus

The Right:

One unit of Gendarmes d’Ordinance Cav# 4/4//HA/Impact/Undrilled
Two units of French pike HF 5/4/Sw/Pikes
One unit French Arquebusiers MF 5/4/Av/Arquebus
Two units of Gascon/Norman Crossbowmen MF 4/3/Pavises/Crossbow
One unit of Gascon/Norman Crossbowmen MF 4/5/Pavises/Crossbow/Large
Heavy guns in battery Art 4/3/Av/Guns

The Left

Three units of French Gendarmes d’Ordinance Cav# 3/4/HA/ Impact/Undrilled
Two units of French Argoulets LH 4/2/Av/Arquebus

ARMY OF VENICE                              Discipline/Strength/Armour/Weapon

Commander in Chief

The Right
One unit of Condotieri gendarmes Cav# 4/3/HA/Impact
One unit of Lanza Spezzia Gendarmes Cav 4/3/HA/Impact/Undrilled
Four units of Stradiotti Cav 4/3/Av/Javelins
Light guns in battery Art 4/2/Av/Guns 26

The Centre:
One unit of Ventian Casa/Famiglia gendarmes Cav# 3/3/HA/Impact/Undrilled
One unit of Condottieri gendarmes Cav 3/3/HA/Impact
One unit of Italian mounted crossbows LH 4/2/Av/Crossbow
One unit of Italian mounted arquebusiers LH 4/2/Av/Arquebus
Two units of pike Venetian Pike HF 5/6/Sw/Pikes/Large
Two units Venetian arquebusiers LF 4/2/Av/Arquebus
Light guns in battery Art 4/2/Av/Guns 29

The Left:
Two units of Casa Famiglia Gendarmes Cav 4/3/HA/Impact/Undrilled
Two units Italian mounted arquebusiers LH 4/2/Av/Arquebus
One unit of Venetian Veteran Pike HF 4/6/Sw/Pikes/Large
One unit of Venetian Swordsmen HF 4/4/Swd & Buckler
Two units of Venetian Militia Archers LF 5/2/LP/Short bow
Two units of Venetian Crossbowmen MF 4/4/Pavises/Crossbow
Light guns in battery Art 4/2/Av/Guns 38

Rule amendments:
  • Pikes+2HW* - If the unit is fresh and has not moved this phase, has an action dice allocated, and was charged and contacted frontally by enemy pike, it causes an automatic discipline test on the enemy unit before the combat is resolved. The unit may still use the action dice to gain impetus as normal. If it is fresh and has made an advance this phase, it may choose to get the same effect, but it must give up one impetus dice to do so.
  • #Gendarmes moves as Cataphracts in the rules.
  • Large (or Huge) pike blocks fired on by artillery count as Lacking Protection.
  • Crossbows - 16” range. Heavily armoured or armoured target reduced by one level or protection.
  • Arquebus - 12” range. Ignores all armour.
  • Light Guns - 24” range. Can move 4” in Open terrain.
  • Sw – Shieldwall. Treated as armoured if fresh and either in melee or shot at by a unit which is in front of it (i.e., Part of the shooting unit is directly in front of the unit).
  • Large/Huge - It requires an action dice two higher than its discipline rating to carry out a manoeuvre. It cannot move backwards, although it can carry out a 180° turn as a manoeuvre.
  • Undrilled - It requires an action dice two higher than its discipline rating to carry out a manoeuvre.
  • Pavises – The unit is treated as armoured if it is either in melee and is fresh or is shot at by a unit which is in front of it (i.e., Part of the shooting unit is directly in front of the unit with pavises). Otherwise, it is treated as lacking protection. The movement rate of the unit is reduced by 1 DU (4”). 
  • 2HW - A unit armed with two handed weapons ignores any enemy armour.

Venetian Objectives and Briefing:

Your army is camped not far from the town of Acqua del Ponto in the county of Estatemettere where it known that the invading French army under the Scottish Prince Jacques, Duc de Lainage de Casque has occupied.

The terrain between your camp and the town is open apart from a large, cultivated area of olive trees across from the formidable looking B’sesso Reno dyke. The stream is spanned by a single wooden bridge. In reality the stream is wide but quite shallow so is only a minor obstacle to all cavalry and infantry. The Pappagallo stream runs along the walls of the town into the B’sesso Reno dyke.

There are two villages shown on the battlefield, Occidente Soiaterra near you camp and Capannone Soia.

North is the long table edge behind the French deployment area.

The time is 6am and your army is beginning to stir.

The weather is dry but there is a morning mist, so visibility is down to 12” until it burns off in a few turns time (1D6)

The French must be defeated, and their army totally destroyed. The fate of Venice is in your hands.

French Objectives and briefing:

Your army under the Scottish Prince Jacques, Duc de Lainage de Casque is camped outside the town of Acqua del Ponto in the County of Estatemettere. This is Venetian territory that you have invaded, but the populace are hostile towards Venice and would welcome a pro-French ruler reinstated. After some days of minor skirmishes since crossing the border you have occupied Acqua del Ponto to rest your army.

The terrain between the town and the Ventian army is open apart from a large, cultivated area of olive trees and the formidable looking B’sesso Reno dyke. The dyke is spanned by a single wooden bridge. It is purported to be wide, and deep, so careful reconnaissance is required to find a crossing point or points. 1D6 on reaching the dyke will determine whether it is crossable at that point. The Pappagallo stream runs along the walls of the town into the B’sesso Reno dyke.

There are two villages shown on the battlefield, Occidente Soiaterra near the enemy camp and Capannone Soia.

North is the long table edge behind your deployment area.

The time is 6am and your army has formed up and is marching towards the Venetians in order to surprise them in their camp before they can ready themselves for battle.

The weather is dry but there is a morning mist, so visibility is down to 12” until it burns off in a few turns time (1D6). Movement in the mist can result in units becoming disorientated or worse still, lost. However, you have local guides and speed is of the essence in achieving your goal.

The Venetians must be defeated, and their army totally destroyed. The fate of your expedition is in your hands and will be decided in the next few hours..