Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Battle Between Mercenary Companies

In this battle, the Gold Company is hired by one Italian city-state and the White Company is hired by another.  Each company has four units: one mounted knight, one archer, and two foot knights.  Each unit (represented by one figure) contains ten soldiers.

One Hour Wargames rules were used - medieval version.  Each unit can absorb only 15 hits. Archers and infantry units can only move six inches each round.  Cavalry can move 12 inches.  Archers can shoot 12 inches but cannot shoot over the heads of the men-at-arms. Cavalry have +2 hits in their attacks but no armor protection.  Men-at-arms have armor protection. Archers get +2 with shooting but in hand-to-hand they are  -2 hits.  They have no armor.

One d6 is used.  Each army has a deck of chance event cards. The objective is to destroy the enemy.  I played the White Company. 

Picture 1.  The opposing armies.
Initial deployment was random.  See picture 2.  The gold units were concentrated on the west side, with the archer in the center at the back.  The white company was in the west and center with one infantry unit in the southeast.

Picture 2.  Initial Deployment
At the outset, the forces gravitated toward the west side north of the church.  The white infantry held back, waiting for the rest of the White Company to get closer.  The white archer unit stayed under cover so that the enemy archers could not get a shot.  However, the white archers had line of site on the gold infantry.  Finally, the white cavalry unit could not resist charging.  After a few rounds, both armies had lost their mounted knights. See picture 3.

Picture 3.  Midgame.

White Company now appears to be in a good position but it has taken several hits and the men-at-arms are open to flank attacks.  The battle goes against them quickly.  See picture 4.  The white archer wisely chooses to exit the field at this point.

Picture 4.  Endgame.
This battle went seven rounds and lasted 14 minutes.  The reader may wonder how I managed to lose an equal battle.  Was it the initial deployment?  Unfortunately, I must confess that this was my second attempt.  In the first battle, the initial deployment was more central and the action revolved around the trees in the center of the field.  The White Company lost in six rounds, 13 minutes. 

There must be a lesson in this for me. What might it be?  Don't attack with cavalry.  They need to hold back until they can mount a devastating flank attack.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Battle on a Chessboard

Wargaming on a chessboard is an old idea.  See Bob Cordray’s comments about it here:  Cordray is famous for development of The Portable Wargame.

The chessboard combines the advantages of playing on a small space, portability, and using a grid.  Some special rules are needed to avoid confusion.  For example, no diagonal movements are allowed. Critics will say this is not realistic, but no tabletop war game is perfectly realistic.

In my opinion, One Hour Wargames rules lend themselves to a chessboard because they involve a small number of units.  Games that adhere to the rule book have three to six units per side.  Only four types of units are available for each era, which helps to avoid confusion on a small surface.

One possible problem with a chessboard, for me, is fitting 54 mm figures into the squares. An obvious solution is to use figures with round bases.  What comes to mind?  Chess pieces.  Thematic chess sets are available that are sufficiently detailed so as to use them as soldiers without having to stretch your imagination too far.  You need figures that have  faces so that you know which way they are facing. Medieval sets, for example, can be found that have knights riding horses instead of just a horse’s head.  Men-at-arms can be found that look like armored infantrymen should look.  Archers are more difficult, but I have obtained a pair of them. In fact, a pewter painted knight chess piece is less expensive than a similar figure sold for the war-gaming market.

The two pictures shown below represent two armies.  Both are composed of partial Roxy chess sets purchased from ebay except for the archers. The gray pieces are William Wallace's army.  It is composed of six units: one mounted knight, one archer, and four commoners.  The commoners have armor because they took it from dead English men-at-arms.  

The other picture is the English army.  Six black chess pieces represent six units: three mounted knights, one archer and two men-at-arms.

Painted chess pieces would be more attractive and are available from chess set vendors as "replacements" but nothing stops us from buying individual figures for our own purposes.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Custom Event Card Decks

Chance event card decks are useful in solo play. The cards suggested by Neil Thomas in One Hour Wargames are a good start but, in my opinion, more events would be an improvement. You need enough cards so that you can never know which cards might turn up during a battle. Also, different scenarios might call for different events.

When you make your own deck using index cards, you will find that they do not shuffle easily and they are not sturdy. Fortunately, custom card decks can be printed on regularly playing cards. I used MPC at to make a deck for myself.

This was not cheap. A deck of 55 cards with a nice tin box and shipping cost me about $25. The cards did not arrive for three weeks. However, I am very pleased with them. The finish is standard for playing cards so they should last a very long time for solo play. The risk, of course, is that you might change your mind about which events you want to include. Eventually you might want to go back and make another deck of supplemental cards.

MPC’s web site allows you to use your own photo for the backs of the cards and to insert some text on backs as wells as the faces. My backs have a photo of French infantry figures and text that says OHW+ SOLO EVENTS. This indicates that I started with OHW event cards intended for solo play and I added some of my own.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

First Battle of Barcelona (1898)

In this alt-history scenario, Teddy Roosevelt decided to stick his finger in the eye of the Spanish monarchy after the charge up San Juan Hill by sending a small force directly to Spain.  Forty Rough Riders under the command of Crazy Bob Shoemaker shipped out to Barcelona via tramp steamer.  A logistical problem in Cuba had forced them to eat their horses before the famous charge, so they were reluctant infantry.

Unbeknownst to the Rough Riders, their tiny invasion of Spain quickly excited the imaginations of Europeans.  Disembarking in Barcelona, the Rough Riders were led to the bodegas and feted.  The populace in Barcelona had long sought regional independence, so they grasped the moment and rose up in rebellion.  Two units of French lancers on weekend leave in Barcelona were caught up in the enthusiasm and, after several bottles of wine, joined the rebellion .  The local detachment of Spanish Regulars heard about these riotous activities and rushed from their homes.  Warned by the citizens, the Rough Riders spilled out of the bars, rifles in hand.  All combatants converged on the central park.

Order of Battle

Spanish side: four units of regular infantry supported by two cavalry units.
Rough Riders:  four units of infantry and two units of French lancers.
All units were deployed randomly.  The Spanish were distributed on the leftward three-quarters of the field and the Rough Riders were distributed on rightward three-quarters.  This left some possible overlap in the center of the park. 

One Hour Wargames rules were used.  See my other posts for more detail,.  In my games each figure represents one unit of ten soldiers.  Cavalry may charge but not shoot.  Infantry may shoot but not charge. Infantry may not move and shoot in the same move.

A deck of chance events cards was used.


By a strange coincidence, four units were deployed next to each other in the center of the battle field.  See picture one.  Pictures 2-4 are different views of the initial deployment.  One of the Rough Riders was not in a bodega when the fighting started.  He was in church.  Another RR was on the beach.  He began moving toward the church. 

Picture one.

Picture two.

Picture three.

Picture four.

The second French cavalry unit joined the melee in the center of the park (picture four).  All four cavalry units were charging each other while the infantry fired at each other.  Meanwhile the other Spanish infantry have moved into range of the meelee, but that put their backs in range of the church (picture five).

Picture five.

As the meelee unfolded, both French units were broken and one Spanish unit broke.  One Spanish infantry unit was removed from the field along with two Rough Rider units.  The surviving Spanish cavalry took refuge behind some trees and out of range of the church.  They were effectively out of the battle unless the shooters in the church chose to leave the church yard.  The Spanish infantry units had taken cover behind the trees while engaged in the firefight.  This put them out of range of the church.  The Rough Rider units in the center of the park were broken while the three surviving Spanish units were all bloodied. 

At this point, the Spanish had done well despite poor shooting (bad luck with the dice).  They had three infantry units left versus the two Rough Rider units.  However, they must have felt compelled to drive out the Rough Riders so they moved toward the church (picture six).  This was a mistake.  All had taken hits and when they moved they could not shoot, so the Rough Riders mowed them down.  The Spanish had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. 

Picture six. 


This battle lasted 18 minutes (8 rounds).   The Spanish could have won on points but they could not just hide behind cover and wait for seven more rounds; they had to do something.  They chose wrong. Perhaps they could have attempted to enter the church from the back.  They had enough time left to do that, but that plan did not occur to them. 

This was a close one for the Rough Riders.  They will have to bandage their wounds, gather up the broken units, and rest in preparation for the next battle.  

Note:  The infantry figures in this battle all were included in a box of Armies in Plastic Rough Riders.  I painted some uniforms white to make the Spanish army. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Random Deployment is an Excellent Procedure for Solo Wargaming

This was my first attempt at using random deployment and it turned out very nicely.  My board runs from left to right, so let's say left is west and right is east.  I mentally divided the board into eight squares by slicing it across the middle from left to right then having four squares on each side of the line.  Starting with the French, the squares on the left were numbered from 1-6.  Notice that this procedure will result in the center squares being available to both sides. Selecting one French unit, I rolled one die and placed the unit in the corresponding square.  Continue until all French units have been placed.  Next number the six squares on the east side of the board and randomly deploy the Prussian units. 

Each side had six units: two cavalry, three regular infantry, and one skirmish unit.  One figure represents one unit.  Each unit represents ten soldiers.  Each unit can absorb only 15 hits.

Rules were taken from One Hour Wargames (OHW).  In the nineteenth century rules, cavalry can charge but cannot shoot.  Hits are double when charging flank or rear.  The defender cannot hit back. (Note:  In Thomas' other nineteenth century rules, found in a different book, the rules are more complex and defenders can strike back when charged.  But I was using OHW rules.)  The charging unit falls back six inches if the target is not destroyed.  Hits by infantry and skirmishers are just the number of spots on the die, unless the defender is behind cover or the shooter is elite. Cavalry can move twelve inches, skirmishers nine inches and infantry six inches.  Cavalry can turn only at the start of a movement.  Infantry cannot move and shoot in the same turn.

Chance events cards were used.

I was playing as the Prussian commander.  The French were assumed to behave in a rational manner.  Since they were responding to the actions of the Prussians, they did not have a lot of latitude.
Here is how it unfolded.  Deployment resulted in one French cavalry unit in the northwest corner by the tree (not visible).  Three Prussian units find themselves across the river in enemy territory.  One French cavalry unit is on the Prussian side of the river. One Prussian infantry unit is off to the right (not visible).  It will move toward the action as quickly as possible.

The Prussian infantry units who are on the west side of the river advance toward the French units so that they can get into range.  The straggling French infantry unit and the skirmisher rush to the aid of the forward infantry units.  The French cavalry unit rushes from the northwest corner of the battlefield to approach the Prussian units from the rear.  They are positioning themselves for a devastating charge.

The other French cavalry unit was deployed in clear view of the two Prussian cavalry units.  The French wisely turned 360 degrees so that they could escape back across the ford.  The Prussian cavalry units begin to pursue, but one breaks off so that it can cross the bridge in support of the infantry on the other side. 

The cavalry proved to be decisive in this battle.  On the south side of the field, the Prussian cavalry unit was able to charge the French cavalry unit, after it had reached the infantry and turned to face its attacker.  Meanwhile, the other Prussian cavalry unit was able to cross the bridge in time to charge the French cavalry unit in the flank before it reached the Prussian infantry.  Neither French cavalry unit was destroyed on the first charge, so the Prussians were repulsed, but they just charged again until their targets were destroyed.

While this was happening, the infantry were firing at each other.  The straggling Prussian infantry unit finally reached the middle of the bridge, which was in range of the firefight.  The roll of the die favored the Prussians.  Also, after finishing the French cavalry, the Prussian cavalry were able to run down the surviving infantry. 

In sum, it was a devastating victory for the Prussians.  Elapsed time: 16 minutes (six rounds).  I enjoyed it a lot.  Clearly, the random deployment procedure results in an entirely different battle each time it is used.  This is much more exciting than a set-piece battle.  And now I have much more fondness for cavalry that I did previously.  Even if the defending cavalry had been allowed to strike back in melee fashion, the charging units were likely to win.  Cavalry are not just for irregular warfare and scouting, except perhaps in the ACW, where instead of charging they dismount to shoot.

Review of Ancient and Medieval Wargaming by Neil Thomas

One Hour Wargames (OHW) by Neil Thomas is my standard rule set.  The rules in it and the scale of the battles are perfect for a gamer who is proud of his amateur status.  My reasons for buying the kindle version of Ancient and Medieval Wargaming (AMW) were a) an affinity for OHW by the same author, b) a desire learn more about ancient and medieval wargaming, and c) a need to study fresh battle reports.  The specific rules offered in this book were not  my interest so I skipped over them.  Sophisticated gamers may like specials rolls such as saving rolls but that kind of thing makes my eyes glaze over.  They just slow down the game without adding to the enjoyment.

Even though this book was published in 2007, it does not appear to be dated, except in one respect: no photos.  The game reports do not contain any color photos.  No photos at all.  They contain some diagrams of the battles but a more recent book would have pictures. I understand printing color photos increases the cost of a book, but since I only buy ebooks, I am disappointed.  Photos would add a lot of value to the book.

One lesson quickly learned from AMW is that the effectiveness of armies has not steadily increased over time.  Just the opposite; ancient armies were more effective than those that followed.  The economics supporting the professionalism of ancient armies escapes me, but their quality is an established historical fact.  The levees that supplemented armies in the dark ages and later were not of the same caliber as ancient soldiers.  Eventually, technological advances in weaponry increased the effectiveness of soldiers, but sometimes a soldier could do no better than hitting a knight on his helmet with hammer. 

The development of military weaponry is displayed nicely throughout the book.  The crossbow, the English longbow, artillery, armor, the replacement of bronze with iron, the evolution of horses used in battle, and the like are all concisely mentioned.  Their impact on the battle is explained in simple terms.

Another lesson learned for me is that the variety of unit types is very rich and the gamer can essentially choose his favorite because sometime in history  an army was using that unit type.  Do you prefer archers on horseback?  It is there.  Do you like your armored knights to fight on foot?  It's there.  Would you prefer armies to mainly fight with cavalry units instead of mainly relying on infantry?  It happened.

Neil Thomas offers some suggestions  in each chapter about where figures can be found that portray the correct weapons.  I was afraid this might be dated, given the age of the books, but I now suspect the market has not changed much in thirteen years.   Since I use 54mm figures, much less variety is available for ancient and medieval  wargaming.

In sum, I recommend this primarily as a reference book.  I expect to return to it frequently for refreshers on particular eras and unit types.  However, the reader should realize that this is not an academic book.  References are provided but citations such as are found in an academic text are absent.