Saturday, 25 October 2014

Stern Chase! - A Trafalgar scenario using 'Trafalgar'!

On Thursday at the uni club we replayed a portion of the Battle of Trafalgar to mark the anniversary.

I think most wargamers are familiar with the overall outline of the Battle of Trafalgar 21st October 1805. Essentially Nelson's daring plan was to allow the Combined Franco-Spanish fleet to cross his 'T' in order to break their line and bring on a general action where he was confident that British training and gunnery would pay off. But for our game to commemorate the 209th anniversary of this iconic action, we would concentrate on just the tip of the 'Lee' column, led by Admiral Lord Nelson's deputy, Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood. Collingwood's flagship, HMS Royal Sovereign, had a brand new copper bottom, which allowed Collingwood to fulfil his ambition of being first to break the enemy line:

We used Trafalgar rules, which we find gives a good fast-play game, concentrating on the gunnery and DC aspects without going into too much detail on sailing, weather and other environmentals. However we did heavily modify the weather rules, as outlined in the game scenario, quoted below:


21st October 1805. Admiral Lord Nelson wants to bring on a general action with the combined Franco Spanish fleet, which is attempting to escape North to Cadiz.
He divides his fleet into 2 columns, the better to prevent any escape and to hasten a larger general action. However closing the Combined Fleets’ line whilst in column is a tense period for his ships, as effectively this allows the Combined Fleet and initial period of crossing his ‘T’, thus bringing their broadsides to bear with bow raking shots on his leading ships, which are unable to respond. He gambles that the heavy swell will affect the accuracy of their gunnery.  
Between us we're pretty well read on the Age of Sail - or is that 'Aged Sailors'?

This week’s game concentrates on the first hour or so of action as Admiral Collingwood leads his southerly ‘Lee’ column to break the enemy line about halfway down the Combined Fleet’s line of battle.  

The RN Lee column, with Royal Sovereign in the lead. All Alan's models, a fraction of his collection.
Eager to beat Nelson into action, he allows his flagship, the Royal Sovereign, to forge ahead of support. She has had her copper bottom recently scraped, so she will be first into enemy range by a considerable margin, alone in the danger zone…

The Combined Fleet starts the game Beating under Battle Sail, the British Fleet starts the game Running under Full Sail.


Clear weather, light Westerlies, Sea state 6-7 running East-West.

Deep water, 21 miles North by West of Cape Trafalgar, in the Straits of Gibraltar, South of Cadiz.

Wind. Light Westerly winds gives the British fleet the wind gauge, but it is only allowing the columns to close the Combined Fleet painfully slowly, maximising their time in broadside range of the enemy. All movement reduced by 2cm.

Sea state 6-7, with a deep swell running East-West. Resultant yawing to ships heading North or South (Combined Fleet initially) results in -1 modifier for gunnery.

Mission      The Combined Fleet to clear the area North making for Cadiz. British Fleet to close with and destroy the enemy.


Lead ships will start on table as space permits, junior ships will arrive on table at the start of successive moves, without dicing, in the order of sailing. Players will assume command of 2-3 ships, depending on numbers, spreading command along the line to allow for late arriving ships and players. The British team will have first move, and have the wind gauge. The Royal Sovereign will be positioned 100 cm due West of the tip of the Combined Fleet’s line, and the Bellisle will be positioned a further 40cms to its rear, representing the Royal Sovereign’s lead into action.

Scenario Specific rules:

Blaze table – On result of 1-5 reroll result, if same number take result, otherwise remove blaze counter.

The Wind Table – 1 – 5 = No Change in wind direction or strength. 6 = Wind changes strength, roll on Wind Strength table. (If already becalmed, add 4 to roll)

Wind Strength table – 1-2 = Becalmed (inertia moves only). 3-5 = Wind drops, reduce speed by 2cm  6 = Wind freshens, increase speed by 2cm
Command and Signal – Ship rosters for record keeping will be provided.

The ship models we used were from two sources, Alan's, shown in the photo above of RN ships waiting to move on table, were from Skytrex, purportedly of the 1200th scale, whereas my Spanish squadron were very slightly larger 1200th scale Langtons:

Neither of us bothers to rig our ships, as recommended in the rules, ostensibly because we feel such rigging would be out of scale, and, in my case, out of laziness!

Still, I think they pass the '3 foot rule' of looking ok at arm's length:

And so, having looked at the scenario and set the scene, to battle! Below, looking from the WSW, we see the first two ships of the RN column moving to intercept the Combined Fleet. The RN team was manned by Peter and Mark. HMS Royal Sovereign has drawn ahead from the next in line, HMS Belleisle...

Now looking from the East. The wind has maintained direction, but weakened even further, encouraging the Combined Fleet to put on full sail. Combined with the heavy swell, this means any long range gunnery will only hit on 6D6, so no critical hits can be scored...

The same view from due South. Notice the Combined Fleet's line, on the right of view, is pretty ragged. It was clear by this point that Alan, the Combined Fleet's commander, was going to concentrate on making a run for Cadiz, rather than fighting a delaying action - looks like we had a stern chase on our hands!

With the wind picking up again slightly, the Royal Navy survives the moment of greatest danger and breaks into the Combined Fleet's line - the Royal Sovereign has taken a battering, but is still afloat and fighting! However the bulk of the Combined Fleet are to the North of the breakthrough, so may make off safely if they have no qualms about leaving the rest of the fleet behind...

Now a seagull's eye view from the East. The bulk of the Combined Fleet looks to be making good their escape, although there are a couple of lame ducks. Speaking of lame ducks, the Royal Sovereign's last remaining mast 'goes by the board' and she begins to drift. Her guns are still manned and ready, but out of range...

Looking from the SSE, the stern chase is on! The Lee column can only concentrate on finishing off the lame ducks, the Bahama and Algeciras...

But as the Belleisle fails to dismast the Pluton with a lucky shot, and she sails off the table, relatively unscathed, the game is over - the bulk of the Combined fleet has escaped destruction!

Some of the lads aren't too happy with Trafalgar as a set of rules, I'm not sure why, so soon we will be playing a similar game, possibly even the same scenario, with 'Form Line of Battle' to see if those are deemed worthy. So maybe another tale of adventure on the high seas will follow soon... In the meantime, Alan has also posted an account of this game:

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

A blast from the past - Fisticuffs 2008!

A chance post from a mate on the wargames website in my thread about Tigers triggered fond memories about a Wittmann scenario we played at the Fisiticuffs show in 2008. My thread on the forum is banging on about Tigers, and that perhaps they're not quite the mechanically hopeless overrated junk that many self appointed experts maintain they are, and Rod suggested I should do the Wittman/Northants Yeomanry/Sherbrooke Fusiliers scenario. You know, the controversy over who bagged Wittman...

But of course I realised we'd done that with the Royal Signals Blandford Garrison wargaming club back in the day. Colin, Steve, and a few 'army brats' Steve had taken under his wing as part of his resettlement training as a teacher are shown here, along with yours truly who still hasn't recovered from putting up the table and scenery in record time after a breaking the land speed record with a drive from Plymouth to Weymouth of 2.5 hours! ( I'm allowed to say 'army brats', I was one, and believe me its a term of endearment - these lads put up with a lot, moved around all the time, dad's away deployed most of the time, bad people tend to pitch in if there's something on they might find interesting.) Whilst these lads don't look too hp at the moment they soon cheered up and had a great time, whizzing around looking at all the games and stands...They even rolled dice with us now and then!

Fisiticuffs has always been a great show, and has gone from strength to strength, so that these days, to put into perspective for my Aussie mates, its about the same size as MOAB in South Sydney. Martin Goddard and the Weymouth Levellers work hard to put on a friendly but interesting weekend, so, if you get the chance when in the UK, go along and say hi to Martin from me!

I can't remember too much about the scenario, obviously we wanted to represent all the protagonists claiming Wittman's scalp, the Sherbrookes;

RAF Tiffies;

And of course the Northants Yeomanry, of which Firefly gunner Sergeant Joe Ekins was officially credited with the kill.

Sadly no longer with us, Joe's final words on the debate sum up the bloke:

"It doesn't matter who got him, the important thing was he is dead"

Of course the tankies were supported by, or supporting, infantry.

Anyhow, for a game organised between soldiers returning from operational deployments and with me at sea, we did ok, and Martin and the judges seemed to think so too:

I honestly can't remember what the outcome was, but some of the photos suggest it was all quite bloody...

I suspect, apparently unlike in reality, it was Biggles & Co who bagged the hun...

Pip pip!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Waterloo 200 Practice game - the East...

Jim's Papelotte model, still a work in progress apparently, although it looks pretty speccy to me already...
On Sunday the Hall of Heroes Waterloo 200 project team met up for the second of our practice games getting ready for our Waterloo Mega game next year. We will be using Black Powder rules, which should allow us to finish the game in a weekend... 
Looking West from the Easternmost of what will be four 12 foot tables - another one to the South will hold Plancenoit

That mega game will be played out over five 12 foot x 6 foot tables, totalling a playing area of 360 square feet of terrain, using about 5,000 28mm model soldiers.

But as you can appreciate, that will take some time to get right. Hence the practice games! Which are fun in their own right!

So this practice game was all about the area between the Brussels road and Frischermont, roughly in the area of the black diamond, shown in more detail here:

The blue lines show where the table edges are. We decided to combine the farms of Papelotte and Smohain into one complex, to account for the fact that 1/56th model footprints don't really match our ground scale well.

Jim did offer to cut it down to size, but I think you'll agree that would be a shame, and the net effect on the battle and tactics should be about the same.

After all, we are only representing about 2/3rds of the units present historically, so one or two missing farms should be ok! Below is Jim looking understandably proprietorial, but being a perfectionist he still wants to add a few finishing lowlights and highlights, washes and whatnots. All that stuff good painters do apparently!

You can also see the makings of a French Grand Battery, and below, and it was one of the objectives of the game to see how effective they were against the Allied infantry who were in the shelter of the reverse slope, and exercising the 'Lie Down' special rule from Albion Triumpant Vol 2....

The answer was - not very - 3 casualties from 5 batteries firing all day! Back to the drawing board on that one!

However their threat did effectively keep the best part of the Anglo Hanoverian 5th Division lying down all day, and occasionally disordered, so I suppose they were worth their rations!

The strange thing about organising a big game is that when you get to the point of rolling dice you realise you haven't had time to come up with a cunning plan...

Which was fine for me and my camarade Vic, as we were French, so we thought we'd just 'come on in the same old way...'

I do like my French attack columns, me! 

And you can never have too many! And with the Pas de Charge special rule from AT2 when in column they get a plus 2 to their command roll... 

Which means that they can get into action pretty fast...

Unless of course I'm the one rolling the dice - this brigade blundered 3 times in the course of the game, moving first to their left, then to their right, and then retired!

I'm not sure if the Allied players cooked up a plan - Terry's clearly not prepared to divulge anything to Vic, but another object of the game was to give them the opportunity to figure out their command structure in terms of their Prussian players - would they give them a Anglo-Netherlands Brigade to keep them busy early on, or have them twiddling their thumbs until the Prussians came on in the afternoon....

But judging by the look on Mark's face he wasn't given much time to plan the Prussian advance onto the field either...

So anyway, Vic and I decided that he'd take his Imperial Guards off to the Eastern Table to hold off the Prussians once they arrived, and I do my Attack Column thing on the Western table.

Taking the Papelotte Smohain complex was the first order of business, and at least one Brigade got there fast, and was predictably beaten back with heavy losses by the defending Nassauers, God bless their green uniforms.

Eventually, however, the rest of the Corps made an appearance...

So that first one half...

And then the other, was taken.

On the other table Vic was moving forward to establish a tenable position. Forewarned is forearmed - maybe the Prussians aren't hightailing it off to the North East after all?

The Allies decided to commit the British Heavy and Light Cavalry on the Eastern table, much to Vic's consternation! (Vic is the gent suitably attired in French Blue on the left) (Regulars to my blog will know that the gent with the cup of tea always to hand is my fellow pommie Philip!)

Nonetheless, Vic did well, seizing La Haie, then promptly forming squares:

Over on my table the Allied team were regrouping after the loss of Papelotte, clearly expecting an assault on the ridge itself. L-R, Rob, Bryan, Terry and Jim.

As I had limbered up the Grand Battery to go and support Vic against the Prussians, they obviously felt able to move forward to present an active defense.

Havoverians on the left, to the right the Camerons are backed up by the 32nd Foot (Cornwall).
So forward went the French assault columns, buoyed by their initial success...

With the rest of the Corps moving up behind to exploit any breakthrough...

However, supported by devasting artillery and closely supported by the 42nd Black Watch, the Dutch line held firm...

Over on the Eastern table, the massed British cavalry had kept the route clear for the Prussians to deploy...

And so the Black Flags were hoisted high and the Prussian steamroller moved on table...

The French team had to be content with capturing Papelotte and La Haie.

We have now played two practice games, covering both West and East, so the next practice game will be a grand affair, on five tables, allowing the rest of our toy soldiers to see the light of day:

Eight months to go until the great weekend, and as we packed up we felt that we were on track for a truly spectacular Waterloo 200 commemorative weekend in June 1815 2015!