lauantai 17. kesäkuuta 2017

Testing Pikeman's Lament


Our club has now played several games with this ruleset adapted to the Finnish war of 1808-1809 by the book's author and although not originally designed for napoleonics, it has performed its purpose.

Since I had a free weekend and the house to myself, I invited a couple of friends over to test out the game in a TYW setting.

I created a Scottish infantry 20 pts army (regimental gun, 2 x pike, 2 x shot) and a Swedish cavalry 20 pts army (3 x gallopers, 4 x commanded shot) for myself. One opponent made an army with cuirassiers, field gun and 1 pike + shot and the other 2 dragoons, 2 pike and 1 shot.

We played the Gå på - scenario as it was straightforward for new players and also well adapted for multiplayer games.

The game began with my swedes trying a flanking assault with the cavalry and the scots taking the middle, whereas the opponent tried to flank me with his dragoons.

I didn't take enough pictures to make a turn-by-turn report, so I'll concentrate how the rules performed.

First of all, the rules are incredibly easy to grasp and the random turnover element seems to work. I also like how accumulating casualties tend to crumble the possibilities of a unit rallying.

What I don't like is the double-6/double-1 rule, which tends to happen somehow every other turn and the results tend to be illogical and random. Compared to the Black Powder family of games, blunders happen more often and their effects tend to be worse (including s 1/6 chance of you losing a unit in full strenght). You need to have the blunder tables page bookmarked if you intend to play this game.

Also the officer's background and traits table is a little too random for my liking - and the possibility to acquire several traits doing a canpaigb more or less randomly doesn't reallu help with "fleshing out your character".

  Still, the game plays very fast and if you want to play a quick game with friends who also have a busy schedulr, TPL certainly fills that niche.

Don't go expecting high levels of historical accuracy though... and especially for large-battle period like TYW it's hard to adapt it to actual historical conflicts (as it is a skitmish game).

I have the Battle of Breitenfeld tomorrow usinh Pike  & Shotte rules. I wonder how that will compare.

torstai 29. syyskuuta 2016

The Proud Hakkapeliittas (and their helmets)

I had trouble writing this article, since I fear that I won't do these legendary Finnish troops justice. Perhaps I start with the basics.

They were a type of light cavalryman in the service of Gustavus Adolphus during the Thirty Years' War. It is commonly accepted that the name comes from the Finnish battle cry of "Hakkaa päälle!", although there has been some dispute about the issue - especially as the troops tended to be known for their comparatively silent way of fighting. They didn't wear a 3/4 armor like their imperial cuirassier counterparts, and didn't tend to caracole, but the lack of armor was mainly a financial issue and their aggressive charging tactics didn't as such differ from Swedish light cavalry tactics of the period.

Image source

Warlord Games provides rules for Hakkapeliittas in their The Devil's Playground -supplement, but unfortunately they don't provide miniatures that are suitable as such. The pictures I've usually come across as depictions of the armor is a morion helmet and a simple breastplate (especially in the re-enactment photos, but the armours are not blackened and the breastplates tend to be very simple sheet metal affairs - I'm not sure about the historical accuracy here), whereas Warlord's miniatures have different variations of the lobster helmet due to it being partly molded to the plastics.

Then again, Richard Brzezinski states in Osprey's "The Army of Gustavus Adolphus (2)" -booklet that the Hakkapeliittas probably used Polish style helmets, ie the lobster-tail helmets if available, but usually wore little or no armor.

The helmet of a Hakkapeliitta, source: Hevosurheilumuseo

Richard Hook's illustration from The Army of Gustavus Adolphus (2), a Finnish hakkapeliitta is depicted on the right.

Two images that depict the use of a morion-style helmet. Also one source claims that also hakkapeliittas used a morion helmet.

What all of this means, who cares?

Basically, I interpret this so that either the zischagge, a felt hat or a morion helmet are all acceptable options. I wanted my hakkapeliittas to stand out from the rest of my cavalry, so I decided to go with the morion helmet. I used the basic WG plastic infantry morions and modeled the hair for the cavalry using Magic Sculp.

I also thought that I wanted to follow Aulis J. Alanen's (a late finnish professor of history at the University of Tampere) description of the hakkapeliittas:

"Our [Finnish] Hakkapelites cannot have been any sort of fine representatives. I should mention a parade of the Gustaf Adolf troops in the Thirty Years' War, while the king still lived. At first went the blue, yellow, green etc. mercenaries of the regiment in their flashy gear. Then came, clothed so-so, bridles and baldricks repaired with birch bark and cord, legs hanging from the backs of their small, shaggy horses, cutlasses dragging on the ground, a troop of hollow-cheeked but stern-eyed men. When the Dutch ambassador inquired who they were, the last rider, a fat German Quartermaster [kuormastovääpeli] in charge of the cargo proudly replied 'The royal Life Guards: Finnish, pärkkele!'"

I decided that their coats would be gray (as this is usually the color associated with Finnish troops). Most likely they wore whatever they had available, but I like to paint my 30 years war miniatures in uniform mostly due to convenience. This would represent also undyed woolen clothes. The horses are painted to resemble the Finnhorse, but given that the horses the Hakkapeliittas used were more in the size range of modern ponies, the WG horses are a bit too large. Still... can't have everything.

For the flag I chose the "came with the box" flag of Karberg's regiment, that deriving from the flag belonged to Åke Tott's regiment. The main reason for this is that I'm planning on making Torsten Stålhandske as one of my cavalry generals, although I haven't yet decided which mini I'll be using. Åke Tott was the Finnish-born cousin of Gustavus Adolphus and Torsten Stålhandske (born in my home town of Porvoo) was one of his commanders. Given that Stålhandske was a famous Hakkapeliitta commander I thought that making my troops belong to Tott's regiment was a safe bet.

The problem here is that Stålhandske served in Tott's regiment until 1629 when he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and was leading then the Hakkapeliittas from Åbo [Turku], Nyland [Uusimaa] and Karelen's [Karjala/Karelia] regiments in Breitenfeld in 1631 - I just have no idea what their flags would have been like. The Karelian coat of arms dates from 1562, so that's one possibility, the Uusimaa historical province's coat of arms also dates from the 16th century, and the coat of arms from the historical province of Finland Proper [with Turku as the capital] dates from 1560. Perhaps I'll just make a new one of my own with the Uusimaa coat of arms later on when I get inspired.

edit: I found one source that could provide a good clue to find the "real flag" - Finnish only I'm afraid.

I found two rather good (Finnish) blog texts on Torsten Stålhandske and Åke Tott for those of you that can read Finnish.

As a quick professional note, the cause of death for Åke Tott has been depicted as "blood surge" (verensyöksy) and it's an umbrella term for various medical reasons. Given that he died rather quickly on road from church to home, the amount of blood lost must have been massive. "Blood surge" usually is understood to be either blood coughing or vomiting from late tuberculosis, intestinal cancer, severe stomach atrophy or intestinal blockage (from Finnish wikipedia), but given his quick death, I propose the actual cause of death to be rupture of esophageal varices, which is both dramatic and can cause death extremely quickly.

keskiviikko 31. elokuuta 2016

The Battle of Newburn, pre-battle planning

Our club is starting an ECW campaign this fall and what better way to kick off the campaign than play the first actual battle in the English Civil War. This being the Battle of Newburn, fought 28th August 1640 between a Scottish Covenanter army of around 20,000-23,000 men commanded by General Alexander Leslie and English royalist forces of 3500-4500 men, led by Edward, Lord Conway. It took place during the Second Bishops' War (the first having only a couple of fights of not much interest except in perhaps skirmish scale gaming).

There are a wealth of resources online describing the battle and even a re-enactment video available!

The official information board at the site, photo by Doug Ridgway

Details of the board, photograph by Jon Whitehouse

The Wikipedia page

Detailed report of the proceedings of the battle

UK Battlefields Resource Centre

The Battle of Newburn Project

Battle of Newburn re-enactment

This image has been extrapolated from several different sources by yours truly taking into account the old riverbank, terrain and modern main roads slightly adjusted to match the old river bank. The brigde in my image is wrong. There is only a ford there. There were two main fordabre areas in the river and the English had built earthworks next to each one. The first one is behind the ford at the bridge site and the second one is probably more to the East-Southeast, with the ford probably being at the area of the islet in the river.

The forces of the English will comprise of 1500 cavalry and 3000 infantry and the English deployed 400 musketeers and 4 guns to each fort. Extrapolating this to the battlefield can be a bit tricky, but if I give 2 units of muskets and 1 light gun to each fort that hopefully will be accurate enough. I'll give them the "Freshly Raised" -rule to reflect green troops.

This leaves 2200 infantry and 1500 cavalry. The cavalry regiment would comprise of around 600 horse, see examples here, each being split to two functional units. Perhaps 4 units of cavalry could be a nice compromise. The cavalry were staunch and didn't much react to the flight of the green infantrymen, so I feel they would benefit from the "Steady" -rule.

And to distribute the rest of the infantry would be probably easiest to make 2 sets of 1 pike unit and 2 muskets for the English, all "Freshly Raised". The English would have 3 generals, 2 commanding one fort and 2 sets of pike&shotte and the remaining the 4 units of cavalry.

Thus the English force would comprise of:

Commander in Chief Edward, Lord Conway, Ld 8

Infantry General, Ld 8
2 pike (Freshly Raised)
4 musket (Freshly Raised)
2 musket (in fort, Freshly raised)
1 light cannon (in fort)

Cavalry General, Ld 8
4 units of cavalry

Infantry General, Ld 8
2 pike (Freshly Raised)
4 musket (Freshly Raised)
2 musket (in fort, Freshly raised)
1 light cannon (in fort)

Total: 4 pike, 10 musket, 4 cavalry, 2 ordnance.

The Scots themselves are a different matter then. To make the game interesting, they should have around twice the amount of troops. Leslie will be the C-in-C. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that the Scots had around 3000 horse, so let's give them twice the amount of cavalry to be on the safe side, so 8 units of cavalry. No special rules apart from what is in the Covenanters list to begin with. Let's command them with 2 generals.

That leaves around 17000 infantry and a heck of a lot of cannon. A lot certainly, but if we divide the forces so, that the Church has 2 light cannon positioned inside, 2 heavier artillery outside the church (medium, heavy or mortar, I have a medium piece and a mortar, so I'll probably go with them) and 2 sets of pike+shotte guarding the church, commanded by an artillery general, we have 15000-ish infantry left. The rest would possibly be represented by two forces, each led by an infantry general commanding 4 sets of pike& shotte.

This would mean that the Scots forces would be:

Commander in Chief Alexander Leslie, Ld 8

Infantry general, ld 8
4 pike
8 musket

Artillery general, Ld 8
2 light cannon (in church)
1 medium cannon
1 mortar
2 pike
4 musket

Cavalry general, Ld 8
4 cavalry

Cavalry general, Ld 8
4 cavalry

Infantry general, ld 8
4 pike
8 musket

Total: 10 pike, 20 musket, 8 cavalry, 4 ordnance.

So there. Opinions?

lauantai 20. elokuuta 2016

The Fort, Part II

Welcome back! I've now managed to proceed further with my fort after I've got (hopefully) all the necessary pieces cast in plaster of Paris. I had added the floor planks earlier (made from coffee cup stirrers) and it was rather tedious work, but made in one evening at least. Today I sanded the slopes down using a power sander. You could probably achieve the same with a styrofoam cutter and a bit of hand sanding finish, but as I was lazy and already had the tools, I chose the messier option.

Here's the simple mock-up fort with all the different types of pieces with their planks glued in place and the slopes sanded.

Adding the abattis.

Now that the walls are sloped and the abattis added, I could get a clearer picture what the fort will look like when it's complete. I hope this will qualify as "sufficiently large" for a decent siege scenario.

Gluing the plaster cast pieces in place. Especially the gabion walls needed fitting, but luckily they clipped rather nicely just by applying some force, when the cut was vertical. For horizontal cuts I used a small hacksaw. The problem with my pieces is that I made the originals slightly too low (or the walls too high), so I need to fill out the holes with filler and sand later.

So here were today's accomplishments. I will probably post part number three when I start painting the bugger.

maanantai 15. elokuuta 2016

The Fort, Part I

As you most likely already know, collecting miniatures and painting them before throwing them to the field of battle is only one part of the hobby. Another, often under-appreciated, aspect of the hobby is terrain building. It's also an aspect that I don't enjoy that much, although my wife would probably at this point shout a disagreeing "HAH!" at me given the amount of terrain lying around in our house. This is why I've moved on to mostly cardboard terrain because it's cheap, looks nice enough and is quick to build.

My Thirty Years War campaign has progressed to a finale and what better way to end a nice 3-game campaign than a siege? Of course, a proper siege game would require something for the troops to hide behind. A castle would have been one option, but I don't have one ready (although there are couple of nice cardboard plans available) and wasn't interested in building one at this stage. I wanted to try field fortifications and decided on a gabion structure that was in use during the TYW period.

I began by creating gabions. I made both a gabion basket and a gabion fence from cocktail sticks, string, sand and PVA glue.

I then created latex rubber molds of them (make at least two sets if you're planning on making your own), as I calculated that I needed at least 40 each of the buggers. For casting I've used cheap plaster that I've bought from the local book shop/crafts store. I've used dental plaster before, but it's a) more difficult to find, b) more expensive, c) tends to come in huge packages and d) is much more difficult to process after casting due to its hardness. The molds I used do have undercuts and the latex somewhat compensates for them, but they do gather air bubbles rather easily that can only partly be avoided by tapping the moulds after pouring. For terrain purposes, I don't really mind the small ones and don't bother to correct them by putty later on.

In the good time-proven tradition of cooking shows everywhere: Here's the piece that I produced earlier. It's made from 2 cm thick polystyrene sheets that were included as packaging material - probably from some IKEA furniture. I've cut 12"x3" section to the bottom and 12"x2" section to the top and sanded the slope and added filler to fill up the remaining gap. I've then added the abattis stakes (from cocktail sticks) and the plaster-cast gabions, the floor is from wooden coffee stirrers and the whole thing is mounted on a cardboard sheet. The rest is sand, glue and wooden sticks cut to size.

Here's the barebones version of the upcoming fort. Total width is 5'10" which is 175 cm to us that prefer the metric system. Given that my table is 6'x8', this will fill up the long edge nicely enough. Now all I've gotta do is cast more gabions (I've done a bit more than half so far), construct and paint the little bugger and figure out a way to store the whole thing so my wife doesn't kill me.

perjantai 12. elokuuta 2016

Bigger Battles are more fun!

My miniature collection for Pike & Shotte has now grown sufficiently to wield 2 "proper-sized" armies. With our next campaign game demanding a bit more scenery that is still in the making and my new table was almost ready, I decided to try out a full-sized game. I created two lists for the French phase of the war - a Swedish list and a HRE/Bavarian list from the Devil's Playground supplement.

Late Holy Roman Empire/Bavaria List

Late Swedish List

My list design had few philosophies behind it. Firstly I was more or less limited to the miniatures I owned. Secondly I wanted to make the lists point-balanced and thirdly I wanted to work with the structure of infantry in the center supplied with two cavalry wings. In retrospect I didn't have enough cavalry, but hey... this gives me a good excuse to buy some more cuirassiers and harquebusiers later. The result is a 850 pts pitched battle. I also seem to suffer from a lack of generals and had to substitute a couple of my old Warhammer figures. 4 of my cavalry units were also unpainted, but MOST of the miniatures here were painted, so that has to count for something right? :D

The armies meet on a 8' by 6' table. I played the Swedish, put the terrain and let my opponent choose which side of the table he would deploy from. The deployment was set to 12" from the edge. The beginner is decided by a roll of d6 and General Thiessen chooses to take the lead. He orders both cavalry wings forwards and Obersts Hellriegel and Faust successfully lead their men forwards.

After a few rounds the Veteran Regiments under Vesemayr have advanced, with Schwoeppe's Mercenary Regiments (yes, they have the Swedish Blue Regiment flags - my collection is mostly Swedish) having trouble with getting his orders understood. Faust's Light Cavalry did a brave assault on the Finnish Hakkapeliittas, but were quickly turned back. Here I apparently forgot the Hakkapeliittas' Gallopers rule, where the cuirassiers assaulted and I did an evasion response and drew the cuirassiers within shooting distance of my two light cannons and my Scottish Regiment. The unruly Finns should have countercharged and I probably forgot a sweeping advance here as well. I did remember the rule better on my left flank.

My defence is that I wielded the Hakkapeliitta troops the first time and didn't quite grasp their mechanics yet. I can only suppose that Johannes Hedlund was born on the Finland side of Sweden and had learned enough Finnish to let them of his plans and keep their thirst for blood in check. I would also suppose that a mission of "keep the enemy cuirassiers in check and avoid direct confrontation until otherwise ordered" should be something that a Finnish cavalryman should understand.

There were other faults here as well. The HRE attacked with their skirmishing cavalry, which should have not been possible as skirmishers can only charge other skirmishers, but the end result quite well demonstrates why as the HRE skirmishers were rather quickly smashed to a shaken state by a countercharge by the Hakkapeliittas and forced to retreat behind the cuirassiers. Live and learn I guess.

Thiessen seems to have gotten his ball rolling and both Vesemayr's Veterans and Scwhoeppe's Mercenaries have advanced and start raining heavy fire on my Elite Yellow Regiment troopers. There is again a charge of Light Cavalry by Hellriegel, again in skirmish formation, but I would suppose that to be able to charge regular troops the skirmishers can take up a line formation as well. Again HRE Cavalry Regiments face Finnish Hakkapeliittas with predictable results.

Lagerfelt's cavalry manage to break Hellriegel's cavalry brigade and they retreat to the small farm for shelter. Lagerfelt's remaining cavalry then takes position to protect the Elite Yellow Regiment from Schwoeppe's mercenaries whilst Bruun engages Vesemayr's HRE Veterans with his own Elite troops. Vesemayr tries to minimise damages by drawing one of his regiments to a hedgehog formation, but that offers only a temporary reprieve, as the formation doesn't really offer much when assaulted with two well-supported pike blocks.

In the end Vesemayr's brigade crushed, Hellriegel's brigade is broken and Faust's cuirassiers are shot to pieces as well when getting grapeshot to their side for several turns. Basically this leaves Scwhoeppe's mercenaries the only ones still functional and with the Swedes closing in, Thiessen makes the call to retreat.

TL;DR: The Swedes won! Some rules played wrong, but it's a learning process and it was certainly fun to play with proper-sized forces on a proper-sized table. I look forwards to our next full-sized game. This is what Pike & Shotte should be like!

lauantai 6. elokuuta 2016

Demoing Pike & Shotte at Ropecon 2016

Ropecon is an annual role-playing convention held in Helsinki and it's the biggest non-commercial event of its kind in Europe. I have been organising events there for 11 years now from demoes of various miniature wargames to tournaments. Various games that I've been presenting over the years have been Confrontation by Rackham (now defunct, but miniatures still being cast by CMON), Hell Dorado by Asmodée (subsequently bought by Cipher Studios, now a subsidiary of Soda Pop Miniatures), Warhammer Historical: Great War (out of print), Malifaux by Wyrd Games (actually still alive and kicking rather well), All Quiet on the Martian Front by Alien Dungeon (defunct, range subsequently bought by Ironclad Games) and Carnevale by Vesper-On games (defunct, range bought by Troll Trader).

From above, you might have noticed a slight unfortunate trend with the games I've been involved with. I think it's my karma or something, although it seems to be true that many upcoming scifi/fantasy games suffer from the same fate if they don't have enough financial backing to keep the ball rolling before it takes up enough speed. I started to grow tired of once again getting inspired with a new game with an uncertain future. Add to that my interest in the renaissance, the transition to Pike & Shotte was logical, and even if Warlord games (the publisher of P&S) goes belly-up, there are still dozens of manufacturers that offer miniatures to this period (see Madaxeman's listing). Most of my miniatures are from Warlord Games, but this is mostly due their plastics being very cheap and even their metal ranges have a good price vs. value rating.

Gustavus Adolphus finally painted and ready for demoing

Pike & Shotte isn't that popular yet in Finland, although the Finnish took part in the war. There is interest though and I wanted to find out how much of an interest it could gather. I chose the Swedish Phase of the Thirty Years War, as this would be the period most likely to be of interest to the participants (also my forces are conveniently built to this period as well). I did a couple of demo games at home with my regular opponents and the following images are from one of these pre-demo games. They are taken with my cell phone instead of my DSRL camera, so the image quality is worse than usual (granted, I don't much concentrate on photography when gaming usually even with a better camera).

In the demo setup the Swedish are facing the Catholic League (yes, the flags are Imperial, I know already). I tried to make balanced lists that were different enough to show how different troops varied from each other. The Catholic side had two generals of Command Rating 8, with one of them commanding the cavalry (one unit of cuirassiers and one unit of harquebusiers) and the other a tercio of catholic elite troops (represented by a large unit created by two adjacent pike blocks) and a medium cannon. The Swedish had the veteran Blue Regiment (here they had one musket unit too little), a light cannon and a Scottish mercenary regiment. The Swedes were commanded by a single Command Rating 9 general.

In the above image the Swedish have already taken their first turn and advanced rather quickly amongst the fields. During the demos I always played the Swedish side and both won and lost. After working out how to counter the League Cavalry, I decided to keep playing with fragile tactics that left my veterans vulnerable in order to demonstrate cavalry tactics to the demoee.

The fields are by Holz Artworks. I bought 2 sets of them and I've been satisfied thus far. Granted, I could have bought a 10 € doormat from IKEA and cut it to suitable pieces, but I wanted to try pre-made terrain. The cardboard buildings and terrain tend to come either from Dave Graffam Models or Fat Dragon Games.

The tactics of the typical demo are reflected here. The Swedish advance forwards (I learned to be more cautious later on), the League cavalry advance to the road to firing distance. The Scots come from the right and threaten the flank of the League troops, but that flank is already protected by the town. The Swedish light cannon concentrates its fire on the tercio (with varying success), which advances forwards with the aim of crushing the Scots.

Here the League Cavalry have attacked the Blue Regiment musketeers, with the musketeers responding by retreating to a hedgehog formation, basically tying down the Blue Regiment. I later on realised (with the here-missing musketeer unit mind you) that the Swedish veteran musketeers can take a head-on charge against low numbers of cuirassiers with their Swedish Feathers rule, especially when they are well supported by their comrades. Of course, if they can be flanked... that's a whole different story.

The League tercio usually was more than a match for the Scots, but on several occasions the Scottish did manage to repel the League forces, but that was much due to their higher morale and very lucky dice rolls. Still, on many occasions they also proved unable to understand clear orders stated in plain Swedish. In this pre-demo game after the Scots routed, it was easy for the League infantry to clear the remaining musketeers and break the battalion morale of the Swedish forces and win the game.

As for the demos themselves... my target audience was divided into three distinct groups: 1) gamers with scifi/fantasy background that had grown old and wanted something more to their games than dragons and space elves, 2) history enthusiasts and 3) people not familiar with miniature wargaming. I think I "caught them all" and I can thank the "Experience Area" staff for their recruiting skills that meant that I didn't really have much time when I wasn't running a demo game. I was also pleasantly surprised that the demos also gathered spectators of whom many followed the game for half-an-hour or more. I told the demoees that basic mechanics of the game could be shown within about 30 minutes, but each and every game I ran was so intense that people wanted to play it all the way to the bitter end... and this was on a 4'x4' table with full ranges and tiny forces. Heck... I later on heard that one guy liked the game so much he decided to buy the TYW Imperialist Starter Army from the Warlord Games store! That's probably the best response I could have received!

TL;DR: I had loads of fun! Thanks to everybody that took part either as a commander or as a spectator!