Chickamauga – 1863

Stephen takes a break from his War of the Roses games to revisit the American Civil War…

I fancied an ACW game, and since I had a scenario for Chickamauga already written out for play at the club (whenever that will be) I decided I’d have a solo game and give it a go.

I don’t have enough models to do the whole of Chickamauga so I decided to concentrate on one small part – the Confederate attempt to outflank the Union left on 19 September. This would be a challenging battlefield – nearly all wooded! Normally a piece of felt on the table indicates woodland, but not this time – the felt indicated open spaces. Everything else was woodland, so would be difficult going and all engagements would be at close range. So a potentially deadly battlefield (as indeed it was, both historically and in my re-fight).

The objective was simple – the Confederates had to get a brigade on the opposite side of Lafayette Road and take fewer casualties than the Union. The Union had to stop them. During the course of the battle fresh brigades would arrive on both sides.

Let’s see how it played out…

Brannen holds the river

The Union won the initiative in the early rounds, allowing them to dictate the course of the battle. I pulled Croxton’s brigade back – he was on his own, far forward, at the junctions of Alexander Bridge Road and Walker’s Road and staring down two Confederate divisions on his own. But on the next turn I realised I’d made a mistake – an uncontested advance is just what the Confederates wanted, so I decided to push him back forward to stall the Confederates and to bring up Baird’s Union division and Turchin’s brigade (and feed in the rest of Reynold’s division when it arrived). This would hold the Confederates back.

The Confederates advance on the road

Up on Reed Bridge Road Pegram set up his artillery and got his cavalry ready for a charge against the Union line. In hindsight I should have dismounted the cavalry, but I was carried away by the romance of a cavalry charge. Whilst the cavalry got ready Pegram’s artillery started a duel with the Union artillery to soften them up before the cavalry went in with their sabres.

Confederate corps commander, Leonidas Polk, along with Cheatham’s division arrived on table in the area of Alexander Bridge Road, meaning that flank was heavily loaded against the Union. Liddell’s division led the Confederate advance and with bayonets fixed and a wild rebel yell they charged Croxton and Turchin. Surprisingly, they were bounced back – the Confederate charge didn’t go in.

The Confederates go in

Inspired by the infantry’s zeal the Confederate cavalry did likewise, and charged in. The effect was just the same – repelled by the Union line.

The Cavalry go in

Meanwhile, to the south (the Union right flank) Baird’s division still moved up slowly. This was caused by the need to keep the artillery in line with the foot brigades.

Baird’s Division moves slowly

Further south, as the rest of Reynold’s division came on, they found themselves all that stood in the way of two aggressive Confederate divisions.

Battle for the right flank

Wilder’s cavalry brigade launched a daring and foolish charge against the Confederates – outflanked and outnumbered they were shot down and cut down.

Confederate numbers start to tell

It started to dawn on the Union that the right flank was looking very weak with not much (a lone artillery battery) between the confederates and Lafayette Road. Further north, Brannen’s division held firm against Pegram and Forrest. Pegram’s cavalry had taken a mauling so were pulled back and Forrest’s infantry were pushed forward.

The right flank opens up

Baird’s slow advance actually paid off here because he hadn’t moved too far forward and was able to pull back Starkweather’s brigade and an artillery battery into an enfilading position to try and do something about the Confederates who realised how close they were to victory with little to stop them securing Lafayette Road with a mad dash.

Wright’s brigade is sacrificed

Starkweather’s repositioning proved successful. The Confederates had used Wright’s brigade to screen Jackson’s brigade’s dash for the winning line. But Wright took a hell of a pounding and paid the price – his brigade was obliterated and routed off the field. Sure enough, Jackson had made it to Lafayette Road, but the Confederates had taken quite a few casualties and lacked the oomph to assert control over the road.

Too little too late

In the end it was a historical outcome – the Confederates moved on Lafayette Road but didn’t have the manpower to completely take it. Further north, the Union troops held firm and stopped Forrest’s advance. Neither side could really claim a convincing win at this stage (the full battle went on into the 20th Sept and would ultimately be a Confederate victory).

Wars of the Roses: Battle of Blore Heath

Stephen continues his refight of the Wars of the Roses…

This is the second battle as part of my plan to re-fight all the major battles between York and Lancaster.

On to Blore Heath we go! Like before, this will be done using Basic Impetus. It’s worth saying a bit more about these games. The idea is they can be played by anyone at home who has limited space – table size for all these battles is just 3’ x 2’.

For anyone interested in having a go themselves then here’s the order of battle I put together for the game.

Order of Battle

This one was always going to be difficult for the attacker. To reflect the difficulties faced by Lord Audley’s troops I classified the stream as Difficult Going. In addition, the archer’s stakes cancel out the attacker’s Impetus bonus, and the Yorkist’s will also get a bonus for defending the hill. It’s not going to be easy for the Lancastrians.

Deployed battle lines

I decided not to waste time rolling for initiative for the first couple of turns, not until just before the two sides got into bow range. At which point initiative was rolled for because then it would be important.

Audley moved his forces forward. The infantry all moved in good order, keeping their line intact. This meant they had a few turns coming under telling bow fire.

Lancastrian advance

The cavalry initially held back, unsure where they would be needed. In the end, the currours started wheeling and moving to the Lancastrian left, where they could support the infantry attack on that flank. I nearly turned the mounted knights that way as well, to load that flank for a hefty punch. But I could see it would cause a traffic jam, so I hung them back and decided to keep them in the middle where they could support the infantry there. That would prove to be a lucky decision.

Currours start to outflank

It wasn’t looking good for the Lancastrians. Moving in slowly, against the Yorkist archers, had the inevitable effect. I wondered how long it would take and if the two sides would even come into melee. On Audley’s extreme right flank the levy spearmen had slogged forward against the archers on the hill, taking damage as they went forward. By the time they had splashed through the stream, hiked up the hill, and finally got into battle, they were all but spent. The archers dropped their bows and pulled out swords and mallets and finished off the spearmen.

First contact – it won’t go well

The Yorkist archers were proving very effective. Not only had the levies been shot away, so had the Lancastrian centre – the billmen took a heck of a pounding as they progressed. Fortunately, Audley had held back his knights in the centre, and as the bills were dispersed, he drew his knights into order and got them ready to charge.

Audley prepares his knight

It had been a reversal of fortunes on the left. Here the Lancastrian archers had engaged Salisbury’s dismounted knights on the hill. It was obvious they couldn’t stay there, with arrows falling on them. Although their armour protected them from the worst, it was still a steady drip of casualties. There was only one thing for it – Salisbury himself took control and ordered his knights to charge down the hill in a counter-attack.

Salisbury orders a counter charge

This wasn’t the only charge being made by knights. With his knights now all lined up, Audley gave mis men the order to charge through the stream and up hill against the Yorkist archers.

The classic encounter – knights charge archers

The wise money would have bet against them prevailing – through the difficult stream, up the hill, and then fighting across stakes. Historically, this is what did for Audley and how he lost the battle. But what can you do? Such a valuable asset to the army can not be left behind – at some point they have to go in, and it’s never going to be good for them under these conditions. However, the God of Battle (the dice) can be fickle. And fickle they were. Although the knights lost a lot of dice with all those obstacles in their way, they still made a good roll (4 of 6 dice rolled 6s) whilst the archers couldn’t hit a barn door (not a single hit!).

The charge proves successful

This would prove to be the decisive action of the battle – the Yorkist knights charging the Lancastrian billmen, and the Lancastrian knights charging the Yorkist archers. Whichever was successful first would win the battle.

That honour would go to the Lancastrians.

The Yorkists held the right flank…

Salisbury holds the right

…but the Lancastrians held the centre and left flank.

But Audley has a firmer grip on the left

In the end Audley won the battle by the narrowest of narrow margins – there was just one point in it!

As Pyrrhus once observed, ‘Another victory like that and we are done for.’

On to Northampton next…

Wars of the Roses: First Battle of St Albans – May 1455

Stephen embarks on a modest endeavour to refight the War of the Roses…

I decided that I would re-fight all the major battles of the Wars of the Roses (well, those listed on www.britishbattles.com) in order.

So first up is the First Battle of St Albans.

For rules I am using Basic Impetus, because these will be solo games and Basic Impetus provides a nice and simple game that lasts just about as long as you want it to. For anyone who might also be interested in having a go then here’s the order of battle I cobbled together for the game:

I went with a historical deployment, and after that the battle was mine.

So, the Yorkists had Salisbury on the left flank, Warwick in the middle, and York on the right. The Lancastrians had Somerset on the left, King Henry in the middle, and Clifford on the right. Although it’s clear the battle ended in the town, it’s unclear where it started. I went with the Lancastrians positioned on the edge of town and the Yorkists crossing the fields. The Lancastrians had barricades protecting the lanes, and I decided these would negate the Impetus bonus for any charge across them (in either direction).

There was no reason for the Lancastrians to move out from a defensive position (in fact, a lot of the battles during the war were assaults against prepared positions), so I let the Yorkists take initiative for the first couple of turns until they got within bow range. At that point it became important who had initiative each turn so then started dicing for it.

York led his nobles down Shropshire Lane toward the Lancastrian defences whilst Salisbury led his men down Sopwell Lane.

This left Warwick, who had the largest contingent, across the fields. The early rounds looked bad for the Yorkists. In fact, I was wondering how on earth they could win – the Lancastrian bow fire took out two Yorkist units before units met in combat.

The battlefield formed a natural funnel – the fenced lanes gave little room for manoeuvre, which meant any jockeying for position was down to Warwick. In fact, it would turn out this is where most of the action would take place.

Just a few turns in, and I thought I had been careless with York’s deployment. His archers went down, leaving the plate-armed nobles to push forward as quick as they could, all the while taking fire from the ensconced archers under Somerset. If they went down, then York would go with them and that would be that!

The same could be said for Salisbury, who got locked in an archery duel against Clifford. Warwick, in the middle, was also looking weak since he had lost units going in.

Yes, things were looking good for King Henry!

The Yorkists were not gaining anything by exchanging bowfire. This was partly because I forgot I had classified some of the Lancastrian archers as levy and was rolling for them as retinue quality. Oops.

Warwick needed support, because it was becoming clear that this was where the main battle would be – to punch through and nab the king. So levy spearmen were funnelled into the middle to support Warwick against any losses.

Down in Sopwell Lane things had stalled. Eventually, Salisbury decided to bring it to a head – he urged his billmen forward who swapped lines with the archers and forward they went. Clifford realised his archers would fair poorly against the bills, and he did likewise – pushing his billmen forward.

Meanwhile, along Shropshire Lane, the Duke of York’s dismounted nobles surged forward and smashed into Somerset’s line. If it went badly, then that would be the end of the battle. But York prevailed!

Although the Lancastrian archers had given good account of themselves, once Warwick’s billmen got stuck in things soon started to change. The archers soon fell under their blows, and so the King ordered forward his nobles.

But as the Lancastrian archers had rolled well in the initial turns, it was now the turn of Warwick’s troops to be blessed with good dice rolls.

The battle had really been fought in the middle, and when the Lancastrian nobles were cut down, then King Henry went with them!

It would be a Yorkist victory!

So that was my re-fight of First St Albans finished. I really didn’t see how the Yorkists could win. But once they got stuck in, then things started to turn around. In hindsight, the levy spearmen should have been deployed with Warwick in the first place, instead they lost several moves and had to manoeuvre into position where they could support Warwick’s assault.

Work in Progress Wednesday

It’s Wednesday again, so that means a quick look at what everyone has been up to.

First up Andy has finished his Saxon, Viking and Welsh Princess. I suspect these are going to make an appearance in quite a few games.

picture of miniatures
28mm Saxon, Viking and Welsh Princess

Steve has been taking advantage of the season’s availability of various plastic creepy crawlies to paint up some monster miniatures.

pictures of spider miniatures
Various plastic spiders and scorpions accompany a few other creatures (from Ral Patha)

Tony has finished painting up a new force for Hammers Slammers. This time the New Ukrainians, apparently they’ve already seen action (successfully), vanquishing the Thunderbolt Division.

picture of miniature tanks
Tony’s new force of 15mm miniatures for Hammers Slammers

Lastly for this week John L has finished painting his scratch built bunker for Zona Alfa.

picture of a bunker
Finished Bunker for Zona Alfa

The club members are definitely getting quite a bit done at the moment, next week it looks like we will have more Panzer action from Mark J and sea creatures from Marcus.

Building A 15mm ACW Ironclad

Stephen is inspired by a piece of balsa…

I had a spare bit of balsa planking I’d used for a previous project where a piece had been cut out of it that left the remainder with a prow-like curve at one end.

I just happened to see it and then a thought popped into my head: ‘that looks like the prow of an ironclad.’

And that’s how this project came to be.

The first decision I had to make was size. It was going to be a gaming model not a scale model. Assuming that 15mm is 1/110 scale that would mean a scale model would need to be about 2 feet long.

That wouldn’t be practical since this would be used in big battle games and ground scale comes in to play.

But it had to ‘look right’ next to a 15mm figure, as if a crew could actually get in it. So it couldn’t be too small either.

The bit of balsa I had was 25cm long. I got out a 15mm figure, put it next to it and…it looked about right.

The starting point and tools.

So that’s the scale I went with – the gamer’s favourite ‘looks right’ scale.

This proved to be a simple model to make, though some processes were repetitive.

I used Wills Scenics embossed plasticard for the wooden decking. With that done I then sanded the sides to make sure it was all nice and smooth.

Hull planking added

Next came the superstructure. This was built in thick card and then clad in plasticard.

Superstructure added.

The plasticard was incised using a compass to represent the iron cladding. This got really dull! It was only after I had stuck it all together that I suddenly realised I had forgot to add any rivet details. I thought about doing it retroactively, but then I thought about the amount of rivets I would need to do and thought, ‘sod that – this is a gaming model.’

Broadside gunports and more tools.

The funnels were made from styrene tubing with a bit of styrene wrapped around the top for where the stabilising wires were attached. Guide holes were drilled and they were glued in place.

Funnels added

The wheelhouse went through two versions. Some pictures show it with sloped sides, some with slab sides. The first version I did was sloped. But when it was glued in place it gave the whole model a modern ‘sports boat’ look with all those slopes. It just didn’t look right. So I took that off and made a new, square, one. The rest of the hull furniture was made from bits of styrene and chain from an old necklace.

Second attempt at the wheelhouse and deck furniture added

Then on to the paintjob.

I got this wrong as well.

I’ll confess I don’t know too much about ACW river ironclads. I remember from ages ago seeing an ironclad game where the hulls had been painted silver (presumably to represent the iron). If I’m honest, that always seemed wrong to me, but I just respected other’s knowledge.

So I painted my model with metallic sides.

It just looked wrong and too shiny. I thought the matt varnish would dull it down, which it did. But it still looked wrong.

Time for a quick bit of research. Sure enough, my instincts were correct – they weren’t left bare metal! Black, dark grey, and light grey seem to have been the preferred colours. Even sky blue!

I prepared myself that I might have to do a re-paint.

Before that, though, I thought I’d do an experiment – an all over black wash. That seems to have worked and saved me a re-paint. It now has a darker finish, the black wash has taken off the metallic look but left it with just enough to suggest wear and tear.

The finished model

No re-paint needed.

On the river