Thursday, February 9, 2017

Sails Of Glory: A first test with autopilot

This was basically a simple scenario on the open ocean with two British 74's (HMS Vanguard and HMS Bellona) meeting two French 74's (Generaux and Commerce de Bordeaux). They start at opposite ends of the game mat, both sides in line astern and beating into the wind.

We use the Sails Of Glory rules.

The scenario was made interesting, when we chose to sail one British 74 each and let the French sail on the "autopilot" rules written by Herkybird. These rules are simple to use and surprisingly effective although we amended them somewhat during this test.

Once the ships near each other, you determine what the "autopilot" ship does, by using a combination of...

  • the direction of the nearest threat - using a simple "clock" system
  • the distance to the nearest threat
  • if the "autopilot" ship is on fire
  • a D6 die roll
The two forces approach each other and battle commences.
The leading French ship (Commerce de Bordeaux) could rake the leading British ship (HMS Bellona) using it's forward starboard guns. Although the rules say "autopilot" ship will not fire with only their forward guns, we quickly amended them to allow this when it is a short range rake.

The ships closed and HMS Bellona fired a first broadside into Commerce de Bordeaux.
Commerce de Bordeaux replied using continuous fire (another rules amendment we made).

Now HMS Vanguard and Generaux join the fight.
While Commerce de Bordeaux misses her chance to turn downwind and rake the British.

HMS Bellona turns into the wind to tack, while managing a stern rake on the Generaux.
HMS Vanguard and Generaux exchange shots from their rear cannons.

The ships are now no longer within cannon shot, but HMS Bellona successfully completes her tack and goes in chase of the French. 
HMS Bellona pursues the French. HMS Vanguard decides to gibe rather than risk tacking.

The French turn back towards the British in an attempt to get back into cannon shot. They probably should have done it the previous turn but we missed that sentence in the "autopilot" rules.

Commerce de Bordeaux opens fire on HMS Bellona, but luckily she wasn't in a position to rake, and her previous damage made the fire less effective.

The ships are now at close quarters, the musket fire from the Royal Marines was especially effective. At this moment, the battle still hung in the balance, all four ships were damaged. Was it the skill of the British captains, or perhaps luck, that at this critical moment caused both French ships to catch fire? We suspect it was the extreme close range that allowed burning wadding from the British cannons to catch the French ships alight.

HMS Bellona raked the stern of the Commerce de Bordeaux while HMS Vanguard poured a broadside into her port side. On fire and with a serious leak the Commerce de Bordeaux settled slowing into the Ocean. On fire and with many crew killed and wounded, the Generaux was having trouble fighting the fire.
We stopped the game there, with a convincing British victory. The Generaux will be chased down by the British ship, while she is fighting the fire, she will be boarded and taken back to Portsmouth as a prize. The victory was without a doubt won more by luck than the skill of the British Captains. That however won't be mentioned in the letter sent to the Admiralty, and when printed in the Gazette both British Captains will be national heroes.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Battle of Espinosa de los Monteros in 6mm

Refight of the Battle of Espinosa de los Monteros, 10-11 November 1808, using Commands & Colors Napoleonic Rules. Figures from Baccus 6mm range, hex terrain from Kallistra, houses from TBM and trees from Timecast.


After the escape from Zornoza, General Joaquín Blake y Joyes’s army was still in trouble. Marshal Victor was pressing forward through the mountains and in position to cut off one of Blake’s divisions under the command of General Pedro Caro y Sureda, III marqués de La Romana, but Blake halted his retreat and turned to join Romana at Espinosa. The 23,000 Spaniards occupied a strong position. Romana’s division, composed entirely of regular Spanish regiments, held the Spanish right flank. After defeating the Prussians in 1806, Napoleon demanded and received this division to garrison the Baltic coast area. Upon learning of Napoleon’s invasion of Spain, the entire division boarded Royal Navy ships and returned to Spain to fight. On the first day of battle, they repulsed General Villatte’s advance division of Victor’s corps. When Victor arrived later in the day with the rest of his corps, he launched a second attack on Romana’s division, but once again the French were driven back with heavy losses on both sides, including Romana himself, killed leading his troops.

Victor was no Napoleon, but he realized the day’s attacks had forced Blake to weaken his center and left to shore up Romana’s weakened division on the right. The following day Victor ordered Lapisse’s division to attack on the Spanish left at Las Peñucas ridge. It was a fortunate decision. General Acevedo’s division held this ground, but most of his troops were newly raised, inexperienced and untrained. After a short struggle, the Spanish left flank broke and fled. With Lapisse in firm control of the heights above Espinosa, Victor ordered a general advance and the Spanish army collapsed. After the battle over 8,000 Spaniards drifted away to return home rather than reform with Blake’s shattered army at Reinosa.

The Setup:

The Spanish had deployed in front of the town of Espinosa de los Monteros in what would have been a strong position except that to their back was the River Trueba. In the middle of the Spanish line was Espinosa de los Monteros and in the middle of the French line was Quintana de los Prados.

View of the battlefield from the South: showing French left and Spanish right.

The Game Layout

The First French Attack:

The Spanish seemed to have deployed their right wing in a back position with their backs to the river. This tempted the French to attack as hastily as possible before they could rectify their "mistake".

Ruffin's French left wing preparing to advance.

Romana's Spanish right wing waiting to receive the French attack.

The French advanced quickly performing a bayonet charge with their first line. This was done so quickly that their second line remained stationary and failed to support, only some cavalry from the reserve advanced in support. The terrain broke up the advance of the columns and a fierce fight ensued with the Spanish on the hills.

The French attack

With no way to retreat, the Spanish fought bravely but lost many casualties. The French columns charged home bravely, supported by their skirmishing light infantry. The French cavalry did serious damage to the Spanish who had no cavalry of their own in support, and when they went into square made a good target for the French infantry. However the French had been over confident, and had not brought up their second line, so the could not force the Spanish off the heights and thus the French attack was not a success and the French retired.

The Spanish forced the French to retire. The French second line look on passively.
While not the great success the French had hoped for, the Spanish had taken serious losses and even been forced to reinforce their right wing with troops from their centre in order to push back the French attack, so the French were not displeased with the result.

The Second French Attack:

Having been stumped on the right wing, the French looked around for a better place to continue the fight.

The Spanish centre

In the centre, the Spanish had placed a large artillery battery which was far from a tempting target for the French.

The Spanish left

However the Spanish left looked rather strung-out on the ridge and gave the impression of not being very confident. So the French decided to attack here.

Lapisse's French right wing prepare to advance

Thinking the poorly trained Spanish to be an easy target, the French advanced rather rashly and opened fire with their supporting artillery. This caused the Spanish to retire into cover behind the ridge leaving a gap in their line. An enterprising Spanish cavalry commander jumped at the chance, and charged through the gap and surprised the French artillery. Taking courage from this, the Spanish recruits foolishly advanced again where they were destroyed by the superior French infantry.

The French right advances

The Spanish line had been thinned out

The Spanish Counterattack:

The Spanish were getting desperate. They had taken heavy casualties on both wings, their left wing looked in danger of collapsing and the French second line in front of their right wing looked like it was waking up. So they decided a bold stroke was needed, and a counterattack in the centre to capture Quintana de los Prados seemed the way to go.

But the counterattack was stopped by Villatte's division and the Spanish morale was broken. Defeated on their right, then left and now their centre they retreated hastily from the field.

The result:

Yet again, Commands & Colors delivered a scenario which played out like the historical battle. It was however a closer run thing than the original and the Spanish had caused the French to take heavy losses. It is a scenario that either side could have won, but this time Lady Luck was on the side of the French.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wings Of War: Bombing with Autopilot

This was basically a simple scenario where a British Airco DH.4 light bomber escorted by a Sopwith Camel scout would bomb a German infantry reserve camp protected by two Fokker D.VII scouts.

The British entered in the centre of their short board edge. The camp was placed one foot in from the centre of the German short board edge and the German scouts each rolled to determine if they entered at the right corner, centre or left corner of their short board edge.

We use the Wing Of War WW1 (now Wings Of Glory) rules.

The scenario was made interesting, when we chose to fly one D.VII each and let the British fly on the "autopilot" rules written by Herkybird. These rules are simple to use and surprisingly effective although they lack some features such as tailing which we added.

To determine what the "autopilot" plane does, use a combination of
a) the direction of the nearest threat (using the clock shown)
b) the distance to the nearest threat
c) the attitude of the nearest threat
d) a D6 die roll

For bombers even the direction and distance to the target is important.

Unfortunately there were no rules for tailing, so we added our own.
The DH.4 never made it to the target, it was shot down before it could get there.
We replaced the original target card with a camp of tents using Irregular Miniatures' 2mm models.

The result was a near run thing, which surprised us. The autopilot DH.4 was shot down, but it did so much damage to one D.VII that it limped off the table with one damage point remaining. The other D.VII and the autopilot Camel fought a duel which was just won by the D.VII. Fun rules, we will try them again.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Battle of Ocaña in 6mm

Refight of the Battle of Ocaña, 19th November 1809, using Commands & Colors Napoleonic Rules. Figures from Baccus 6mm range, hex terrain from Kallistra, houses from TBM and trees from Timecast.

I had just read “The Battle Of Ocaña – the Army of Spain’s Greatest Victory” by Pierre Juhel so I was inspired to refight the battle.


The Spanish campaign of fall 1809 was unfolding successfully. The subsidiary Army of the Left had beaten the French at Tamames. Now the 55,000 man Army of La Mancha commanded by Juan de Aréizaga was a mere 35 miles from Madrid. The French were reacting quickly and soon assembled over 30,000 troops, with more approaching to cut off the Spaniards. Aréizaga realized the threat and began to fall back, but not quickly enough. The French army, under the tactical command of Marshal Soult, brought the Spanish army to bay near the village of Ocaña where it deployed in terrain unfavorable for the defense. The Spanish center and right were formed on an open plain – excellent terrain for the French cavalry. On the 19th Soult ordered Sebastiani to attack the Spanish right flank infantry with his German and Polish divisions. When the infantry was fully engaged, Milhaud’s French cavalry attacked Freire’s cavalry, severely battered in the previous day’s cavalry battle, and quickly routed the Spanish horse. Meanwhile the Spanish were funneling reinforcements to the right and began to press back Sebastiani’s troops. The Spanish advantage was only temporary. Soon the victorious French cavalry, including the feared diablos Polacos (the Polish Vistula Legion lancers), fell upon the rear of the Spanish right flank infantry. In minutes three Spanish divisions ceased to exist.

Marshal Soult advanced infantry on the newly exposed Spanish center divisions, pinning them in place. Soon the French cavalry descended on these troops too, scattering them to the wind. Dessolles’ division then stormed Ocaña, and all remaining Spanish formations fled except for Zayas’ division. It attempted to cover the Spanish retreat, and retained its formation for several miles, but it too collapsed later in the day to a French cavalry pursuit that could not be stopped. Over 5,000 Spaniards were casualties and another 14,000 were captured, along with virtually all of the army’s artillery.

The Setup:

The armies deployed on what was basically an open plain in front of the village of Ocaña,

View from the French left

View from the French right

The Game Layout

The village of Ocaña, heavily defended by Spanish infantry. Houses are TBM and the statue is a Baccus SYW general.

The Battle:

The battle commenced with an artillery bombardment from both side, in the hope of softening up their opponent. This was more successful for the Spanish than the French; a cannon ball decapitated le général Jean François Leval early in the battle.

Spanish artillery

French artillery

Realizing that they were getting the worst of the bombardment, the French commander ordered an attack by his left flank, led by the feared Polish Vistula Lancers.

The Polish Vistula Lancers, supported by général Édouard Jean-Baptiste Milhaud and his dragoons, charge and totally defeat the Spanish Húsares de Extremadura.

Following in the wake of the fleeing hussars, the Lancers encounter Spanish Heavy Cavalry which they also totally defeat.

Seeing that the Lancers were so successful, Milhaud charged his dragoons at the nearest Spanish infantry, who just in time managed to form square and repulse the dragoons. Fortunately for Milhaud, his supporting infantry arrived just in time with a bayonet charge at the Spanish square which stood no chance and was defeated totally.

Returning from defeating the Spanish Cavalry, the Vistula Lancers attack the Spanish light infantry in the rear, the remnants of which retreated hastily into the nearby woods to save themselves from the lances. 

The Spanish tried to distract the French by a counter-attack in the centre, but the French infantry fought this off. At the same time the French left continued to roll up the Spanish troops. Milhaud's dragoons, supported by fresh French infantry, charged the Spanish infantry which failed to form square in time and was annihilated. Simultaneously the Vistula Lancers charged the Spanish artillery which had been damaging the French centre. 

Having defeated the Spanish artillery, the Vistula Lancers continued their charge, swerving to miss the steady Spanish infantry, they attacked the Granaderos a Caballo de Fernando VII. The Spanish cavalry had not been having a good day, and this was to be no different, they were defeated and the remnants fled the field. 

Having seen their right wing and centre being rolled up by the French cavalry, the remains of the Spanish army lost heart, and withdrew from the battlefield. The French had been lucky, two Cavalry Charges and a Bayonet Charge by the supporting infantry had decimated the Spanish.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Red Dragon

Just finished painting a 6mm dragon from Perfect Six Miniatures. It comes from their Order of the Dragon fantasy range and should have been the Black Dragon Ashmar. But I chose to paint it red. He, or perhaps she, (I'm unsure how to tell the sex of a dragon) works just as well in a dungeon crawl as a 28mm baby dragon.

A "6mm" dragon.

The party looking surprised at meeting a "28mm" baby dragon.

Are baby red dragons very hungry?

Friday, October 21, 2016

Wings Of War: Multi-player Dawn Patrol

I designed a new scenario for Wednesday game night: a multi-player Dawn Patrol scenario for Wings of War that will accommodate 3-6 players.

The Hun hiding in the clouds

Conduct a patrol of this sector of the front. Engage and destroy all enemy aeroplanes.

Gaming Area
The gaming area should be 90cm wide x 135cm deep. If using the WoW playing mats, this will give you 6 map edges. Allied patrols are over enemy territory and German patrols are over their own front line (no man’s land).

Each player has one scout. Alternatively for a longer game, each player has two scouts. Divide the players into two equal teams: Allies and Central Powers. If one team has fewer players, balance the game by giving them the most experienced players, or better aeroplanes or Ace skills or higher altitude.


  1. Place two irregular-shaped clouds randomly on the playing area. 
  2. Each player determines randomly from which edge they enter. No two players can enter from the same edge.
  3. Randomly determine one player whose scout enters the playing area.
  4. Place the entering scout in the middle of the map edge. If using two scouts, place the first scout slightly in the lead and the second scout off the leader’s right wing and slightly behind. If using the optional altitude rule, all scouts enter with 3 pegs (altitude 2).
  5. When entering, the first card planned must be a normal straight-ahead manoeuvre.card. The other players on the playing area manoeuvre as normal.
  6. Repeat 3 to 5 each turn until all players have entered.

Game Length
The game ends when one side no longer has any aeroplanes remaining in the gaming area.

LOS is blocked firing into, out of or through a cloud. All firing must have a LOS to the target. Clouds do not move during the game, their speed relative to that of the aeroplanes being negligible.

Victory Conditions
Shoot down or drive off all enemy aeroplanes.

Head-on encounter

Close Range

Being tailed!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Waterloo: the Fight for Hougoumont - Part 2, The Battle

Previous post: Part 1, The Setup

Let battle commence...

The two sides are drawn up ready for battle

The French advanced with their right flank and opened fire with their artillery on the Nassau light infantry in the woods causing them to retire.

The French light infantry take casualties covering the advance of the columns of line infantry.

The Nassau infantry in the woods, moves over to stop the advance, the Nassau light infantry retreated into the safety of the orchard and Wellington orders forward troops from the ridge to secure the orchard.

The French attack the Nassau infantry so as to clear the wood, while at the same time coming under heavy fire from the British infantry guarding the orchard.
The French take the woods causing the Nassau infantry to rout, but not without heavy losses from defending infantry fire. The Allies have occupied a good defensive position and caused serious casualties, so the advance on the French right flank grinds to a halt.

The French switch their attention to the Left Flank and start by advancing with their Light Infantry to drive the Hanoverian Jaegers out of the woods.

Columns of Line Infantry advance around the flanks of the woods to support the light infantry and approach Hougoumont itself.

Both the Jaegers and the supporting horse artillery take heavy losses but cling valiantly to the woods.

The French charge the horse artillery battery which inflicts heavy losses with canister before being captured.

The way was now clear to attack the Chateau, so the French columns charged, only to be blown away by the accurate fire of the British Guards defending Hougoumont supported by the remaining few Hanoverian Jaeger and flank fire from the infantry in the walled garden.
The Allies had now occupied a strong defensive position around Hougoumont, and the French were so weakened that the could no longer break into the Chateau. 

The Result: 
Wellington's troops still held Hougoumont with a strong force of Scots Guards in the Chateau itself. The French attack was stopped and had to be content with holding the woods, from which they could skirmish with the defenders. The French generals watched the massed heavy cavalry charges off to their right, in the sure knowledge that if the cavalry couldn't break the Allied squares, then the Old Guard would surely crush all resistance before it!