Tuesday, 23 May 2017

An Unfortunate ECW Oversight

I've stated here before that 'An Unfortunate Oversight' is one of my favourite scenarios in 'One Hour Wargames', and you'll find a couple of write-ups of it here. I was quite pleased, therefore, when it came up as the random scenario for trying out the few tweaks I needed to make to my OHW ECW adaptation.

So what do we have in this scenario? Well, we have a village by a river, defended by some supported Royalist foot. The Parliamentarians  are lined up ready to attack.

But wait! The bulk of the Parliamentarian force is actually further upriver, ready to cross by a ford which the Royalists didn't know about.

Both sides rolled four units of foot. I made one elite and one raw. All of the Parliamentarian foot was shot-heavy, whereas their Royalist opponents were pike-heavy. The Royalists rolled one unit of horse (Automatically dashing) and one of dragoons, whilst the Parliamentarians has two units of horse (both disciplined).

The Parliamentarian horse led the way, crossing the stream and heading for the hill, which is the actual objective in this scenario.

The Royalists turned the bulk of their force to meet them. The dragoons were left in reserve, whilst a couple of units of foot stayed to defend the village. Whilst not an objective, loss of the village would allow the Parliamentarians to launch a two-pronged attack.

The Parliamentarian leader began attached to one of the foot attacking the village. I kept a leader's ability to add or remove out of ammunition and impetus markers, but removed their ability to rally off hits. Instead I allowed a leader to attach to a unit which had taken hits and give that unit a cover save. This fits the Neil Thomas OHW ethos better, by maintaining attrition and not having hits tracked in both directions. If any of the save rolls were a '1', then the leader would be killed or wounded; lost to the controlling side for a turn whilst someone else took over.

Meanwhile the Parliamentarian horse took the hill. The outnumbered Royalist horse moved to oppose them.

Their uphill cavalry charge was about as effective as you'd expect it to be. But the supporting foot below the hill started inflicting hits on the horse.

The Royalists were taken in the flank.

An attached leader helped stave off defeat.

At the ford, the foot of both sides were exchanging volleys. Or salvos. Or whatever they exchanged in those days.

The Royalists now had a handy little firing line set up from the ford to the hill. Its only downside was that it wasn't really inflicting much in the way of casualties.

Out of ammunition, and with their leader busy elsewhere, Parliamentarian foot surged across the bridge to assault the village. It was only defended by militia; how long could they hold out?

On the hill the Royalist commander fell, and the horse routed not long after.

An overview. Parliament still held the hill. A push of pike was happening at the ford, and another in the village as Parliament tried to cross the bridge.

The horse on the hill redeployed, ready to charge. Against pike, and dragoons behind a wall, this wasn't the best move, but it would buy time for some Parliamentarian foot to get onto the hill.

But the reinforcements weren't going to come from the village any time soon; the raw Royalist infantry held firm.

The Parliamentarian commander prepared to lead his horse into the attack.

But at the same moment the lead unit attacking the village melted away in defeat.

The horse attacked! Amazingly they began to inflict a steady stream of casualties on the Royalist elite foot.

The other unit of horse attacked the dragoons.

The Royalist commander moved to the village to inspire the defenders.

They were inspired enough to drive off the second attacking unit, and were able to leave the village in order to move on the hill. But Parliament had won at the ford and a unit of their foot was moving to the hill as well.

Parliament got there first.

The fired at the Royalist foot, and even the leader's exhortations were insufficient to keep them on the field. The Royalists fled.

They were closely followed by the dragoons ...

... and finally the elite Royalist pike and shot.

Parliament controlled the field!

The battle was decided on some terrible saving rolls by the Royalist foot, and some lucky rolls by the Parliamentarians.

The changes to the leader rules were mostly OK, and any adjustments I make will just be down to the timing of when things happen. Having them give a save roll felt more in keeping with the original rules, and added in a suitable level of risk. I'll try and write things up properly at the weekend, if not before.

What I thought I might try, now that I have a set of rules I'm fairly happy with is maybe a mini-campaign. Some of my earlier game reports have featured a campaign set in the fictional country of Midsomer; maybe it's time to do that properly. But whilst I have a couple of possible campaign structures for such a campaign, I need to work out the chrome.

6x6 - Game 2.2

Saturday, 20 May 2017

ECW Bridgehead

On my Six By Six Challenge list is 'Neil Thomas Pike and Shot'. When I drew up the list, I'd not long played the Pike and Shot rules from his 'Wargaming: An Introduction', and was keen to give them another try and explore how they played. And I probably still will. However the other day I was surprised to find that someone else was using the ECW rules I derived from his 'One Hour Wargames', and this inspired me to take the various notes and ideas I'd got for changes to them, and actually write everything up properly.

I did that during the week, and decided to try them out this afternoon. And, I thought, since I'm playing Pike and Shot, and the rules are nominally Neil Thomas, in style if not in content, it will count as one of my Six by Six games. Because it's my challenge, and I get to set the rules.

Here's some quiet English countryside, in 1643. I decided to do a scenario from One Hour Wargames, and got 'Bridgehead'. One side would start with a unit roughly in the centre of the board, whilst the rest of their force would trickle in from the right of the picture to cross the river and expand the bridgehead. The other side starts off table, and their six units appear in three groups of two over the first few turns, with their entry point being randomised.

The Parliamentarians. Their force consisted of four infantry units, one of horse and one of artillery. I decided that each side could have one infantry unit upgraded to elite but one also had to be raw. One of the additions I have made to the rules is for pike and shot ratio; units default to being 'balanced', but might be pike- or shot- heavy, which gives them a bonus in close combat and shooting respectively, whilst penalising the other form of combat. I decided that parliamentarian foot would either be balanced or shot-heavy and rolled for each infantry unit. The elite unit ended up balanced, whilst the others were all shot-heavy.

The Royalists. They had three foot, some dragoons, artillery and a unit of horse. Again, their elite unit ended up balanced, whilst the other two units were pike-heavy.

Both sides had a leader, who could rally off hits, change a unit's ammunition status or rally cavalry that had lost impetus.

I randomly determined which units would appear when for both sides. The Parliamentarians had the bridgehead, and their elite infantry was it.

The first Royalist units appeared to the east. Coincidentally it was their elite foot as well, supported by some artillery. The artillery was sent up onto the hill to cover the ford, whilst the two foot units closed.

First blood to Parliament. Red markers indicate hits; a normal unit can take five hits, and elite six and a raw one four.

The first Parliamentarian reinforcements arrived; the artillery. Rather than have it cross the river into what would e the centre of the action, it was sent further up the bank to harrass the Royalists as they deployed.

More Royalist reinforcements arrived, in the same lace as the first batch. This group consisted of the raw foot and some dragoons. The dragoons moved to screen the rest of the infantry from the Parliamentarian artillery.

Finally the Parliamentarians got some reinforcements, in the form of their raw foot. They rushed down the road to the ford

Outnumbered at the bridgehead, the Parliamentarians were fighting hard.

But the Royalists were massing. Ther thrid batch of reinforcements - the horse and the final foot unit - would enter from the same point.

Parliament now had two foot units across the river, and some horse moved u in support. But the defenders of the bridgehead were too close to the ford for any other units to cross and assist them.

Under these rues, units which shoot can run out of ammunition. In addition, those units cannot enter close combat unless they have run out of ammunition. So foot will trade fire for a while, before sending in the pikes. I allow leaders to change a unit's status, so a player can manage their foot's ability to charge or fire to a small degree. In this case both Royalist foot had run out of ammunition. Their leader failed to replenish it, so there was no choice but to charge into combat. In fact this was no bad thing; units remain locked in combat until one is destroyed, so whilst the melees were ongoing, the Parliamentarian couldn't move their units away from the ford in order to bring up reinforcements.

In the current iteration of the rules I only allow a one to one melee engagement, so the Parliamentarian horse couldn't cross the ford to support their infantry on the other side. This is something I'll probably change (the original rules allow one contact per face, which will work with a few adjustments to the combat rules). The elite Parliamentarian foot had now broken, but the Royalists which defeated them also couldn't turn onto the flank of the other Parliamentarian foot unit because of the one on one melee rule.

The Parliamentarians now had all of their foot up, and they lined the river-bank, to take the Royalist reserves under fire. The Royalists returned the favour. The dragoons had eliminated the Parliamentarian guns, but had taken hits themselves.

A firefight across the river.

The raw Parliamentarian foot was holding firm, but so were their opponents. And with both leaders rallying off hits, it would be a long fight. The ability of leaders to do this is something I need to review.

With the game into the last few turns, the Parliamentarian infantry broke. They now had nothing north of the river.

Their foot to the south kept firing, until the one at the ford was encouraged to charge.

In it went, with the horse moving into position behind it to carry on the fight if it broke.

A shoving match ensued, but the Royalists held firm. Again, the ability of a leader to rally off hits was key.

The parliamentarian foot couldn't force a crossing and broke. The only hope they had now was to force a draw by getting their horse into the bridgehead. This would require them to score plenty of hits, and for their opponent not to save any.

They charged, and scored two hits. But they needed three. The Royalists held the ford and won the day. Once again the attackers failed to open up the bridgehead, which I have regularly found to be the key to them winning this one. You have to take the fight away from the ford, if only to allow your reinforcements room to cross.

Although not dominating, the pike and shot ratios had a small effect, with the pike-heavy Royalist foot using it to score a winning series of hits in one melee, and the Parliamentarians using their shot advantage to gain an edge in the firefight over the river. As I wrote above, I'm not entirely sure about the ability of a leader to rally off hits. Neil Thomas games tend to be attritional, and I somehow feel that eliminating hits is against the spirit of them. Many of the One Hour Wargames scenarios tend to assume that units will be destroyed within a certain time-frame as well, and rallying makes this harder to achieve. I'm inclined to allow leaders to prevent hits on a unit, rather than take off ones already there. But I need to work out a mechanism I'm happy with.

The current version of the ECW rules can be found as a link on my Free Stuff page. At the time of writing, though, they aren't the version I used here.

6x6 - Game 2.1
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