Wednesday, 17 March 2021

2nd Battle of Newbury - 27 Oct 1644


Next up in my vaguely sequential run of English Civil War battles is the 2nd Battle of Newbury. I did the First Battle of Newbury back in Aug 2019 in 6mm, but decided to run this one in 20mm.

It's a tough ask for the Royalists. The Parliamentarians spent the night and morning before sending about half their force on a right flanking march so that they could attack the Royalists form the rear. Charles and Maurice got wise and managed to deploy some of their forces to Speen village and even rig some defences - but it meant that the Royalists were fighting off Manchester on the E and Waller/Cromwell on their W. The only saving graces were a late start after all that manoeuvre - so only they only had to hold the Parliamentarians off for a few hours fighting before darkness came, and Manchester missed his cue and started fighting late (and in fact wasted some troops even before that).

Here's the opening positions, looking E from behind Waller's position, with Speen village in the centre, Shaw House beyond that, the castle at Donnington on the L, and the the Lambourne snaking though, with Donnington Mill just L of centre. Manchester is around the far hill (Clay Hill), Charles facing E (so up picture) based around Shaw House and Maurice facing W (so down picture) based around Speen.

I'm playing the scenario through twice. Once with my own rules (currently called “We Die By These Things”, and derived from my Napoleonic rules), and once with "The Kingdom Is Ours" - the new set from Bicorne Miniatures. Figure ratio was about 1:100, and ground scale about 10cm = 200m.

The Battle

Wallers first assault on Speen was swiftly repulsed. Manchester rolled to get engaged at the earliest possible moment and started to approach Shaw House, with his first battalia again being pushed back. Cromwell's cavalry came forward from the W on both flanks, getting the better of the Royalist horse, but pursuing into the depth of the Royalist position where it was picked off by horse, the Donnington guns and the dragoons in the Mill before it could recover back. A second assault on Speen was more successful, driving off the first Royalist line, and then a brief melee in the village and Speen was taken.

The fight for Speen


By the end of Turn 4 things were looking pretty bad for the Royalists, as many of their units had taken a battering, they'd lost Speen so the back of the pincer was closing and they only had 2 horse left.

In turn 5 the dice gods were with the King. Attacks from Manchester were beaten off, the Donnington guns and the dragoons saw off Parliament's dragoons and damaged Waller's advancing foot. Maurice's cavalry took out another Roundhead unit of Horse, but unwisely chased them off the field.

Maurice pursuing off table

But all the combat was taking its toll, and the King was really left with just a thin line of 3 Foot and one battered Horse units, and there were still 4 turns til nightfall. Manchester's foot fell on the flank of one Royalist unit which had unwisely swung out to try and take another of Manchester's battalia in the flank. The commanded muskets had left Shaw House and lined up along the hedges, but were themselves then taken in the flank by Manchester's Horse. With only a few units left, and the escape route N now blocked ENDEX was called, and a convincing Parliamentary victory.

Manchester's troops about to deliver the final blow


I think that played pretty well. About 3-4 hrs playing time solo. The rules were a bit aggressive in places, but at least that meant that units weren't hanging around after combats. Cavalry seemed a bit too disinclined to go chasing off after routers, so need to fix that. 

Still not 100% happy though. The root cause is not really being able to find out (despite asking various authors/reenactors) what actually happened when two foot units came into contact, and in particular:

- What did the Shot do whilst the Pike was at push-of-pike

- How long push-of-pike lasted until it became a general melee

- Were there ever situations where the two sides separated in good order and backed off

- If one side was "beaten" did it ever fight again in the battle or was it totally spent, possibly as a result of dropping its pikes since I for one don't think I'd run from a melee lugging a 16' pike along!

Need to read more first hand accounts I think (although if anything like Napoleonic ones they always tend to skirt over the key details) and go to more re-enactment events to ask around.

Anybody with any good sources to answer these questions please let me know in the comments.

Thursday, 11 March 2021

1985 Company Megatest - Summary and Roundup


That's the end of the Modern Company-Level rule set test, more WW2 focussed rules to follow hopefully later in the year. Eight sets of rules played against variations of a single scenario of a meeting engagement to seize the town of Semmenstedt. The summary below is in order played, and each title links to the relevant blog post. Of course your mileage may vary and most based on a single playthrough.

Reviews Summary

Battlegroup: NORTHAG 8/10

  • Pros: BR endgame system, just plays pretty well
  • Cons: Over generous and IGOUGO activation system. Lookup table for hits.
  • Pros: Nice activation system. Worked better than Iron Cross (may be me!)
  • Cons: No HE or indirect fire.
  • Pros: Nothing seemed really broken.
  • Cons: Very old school IGO-UGO. National "to hit" values. Long dice chains. Tank ranges seem short. Repeated "free" attempts to get your artillery on target. No real difference between ATGW and gun fire. No suppression. No friction, no spotting. 
  • Bolt Action plus house mods
  • Pros: Bolt Action scales up reasonably well
  • Cons: Need to clarify how sub-unit pins effect unit activation

  • Pros: Lots of nice info
  • Cons: Need to buy a separate data book to play. Multiple fires, cumbersome mechanics

  • Pros: More nice info
  • Cons: Essentially a re-engineered version of Team Yankee. Typos galore (18 per page!). Errors in QRS. Errors in data (or may be typos...)

  • Pros: "What the pros used". 3 pages. "Official" view on what are effective ranges.
  • Cons: Very slim-line, not even AT wpn and armour differences. Limited scope.

  • My own in-house set
  • Pros: Covered pretty much all the basis. Adding 7DTTR activation and NORTHAG Battle Rating added to it
  • Cons: Might replace infantry direct fire with the suppression mechanism (so similar approach to Sandhurst). Bit too hard to kill things? 
I played Sabre Squadron a while ago, I think it would have come out at around 6/10.


So Contact Wait Out did way better than in the Platoon tests, and with the tweaks for Battlegroup:NORTHAG and 7DTTR is playing really well. Bolt Action needs a few more tweaks to also work really well at this scale but is a good second choice. Battlegroup:NORTHAG and 7DTTR both play OK with no major issues, but the rest were very much a mixed bag.

One thing I did note across all the games is that I started with 1 fig = 1 man and individual basing. Even with just a couple of platoons dismounted that was a lot to move, and more importantly place - particularly since most rules were at 25m - 50m per 4cm hex. So I started sabot the figures up, then decided actually I only needed ~4 figs to represent each section. Even so cramming into a couple of hexes (~100m section frontage) was hard, especially in urban areas. Next time I run a company game (and certainly for the Bn games) I think I might switch to 10cm Hexon or 10cm square grid, and use section sized stands.

For my previous megatests see:

Thursday, 4 March 2021

1985 Company MegaTest - Contact Wait Out


Time for the last in the run of 1980s Company level games, and time to put my own set through its paces.


I did have a "rule book" edition several versions ago but whilst it's still in flux all recent editions have been on an A4 landscape QRS - two sheets (admittedly 9pt) for main rules, 2 more for stats, and a few extra pages for air/engrs etc.


As previous, but now had the British coming in broadly across the East edge, and the Russian's coming in broadly on the West edge.

How It Played

Seemed a far more even game than the others. The Brits were slow to get into Semmenstedt with both sides more or less meeting in the middle. The Russians got to the farm first, only narrowly beating the Brits. There was the standard face-off between T64s and Chieftains, with T64s tending to hit but not penetrate and the Brits fluffing a few shots (although Milan got one). By the end all the Chieftains were gone and two T64s were left.

By the farm the M109 battery put in a couple of fire missions, causing suitable pinning/shock but minimal damage - although one BMP bought it. The Brits dismounted from their FV432s about 150m and tried to take the site before the Russians could recover, both slides lost a section but the Brits couldn't unseat the Russians and pulled back. 

In Semmenstedt 2Pl got into the high-rise and poured fire onto the Russian Pl that was pushing in, causing one section to give up. A Russian fire mission again caused some damage to the S of the city but wasn't fatal. One of the Chieftains took out a couple of BMP before it was fired on from a BMP up the road in Remilingen and taken out.

An attempted airstrike saw one Harrier go down to a SAM-7, whilst the second ship missed the T64 it was aiming at.

With most of the rules tested and both sides at 50% of their battle rating, and SN10 making a spectacular first flight (and even more spectacular second!) I'd run out of time and called ENDEX.

Rules Impression

OK I know this is going to sound biased, but bear in mind I gave CWO only 6.5/10 in the Platoon MegaTest, but I thought that CWO played pretty well and was the closest to what I'm after in a Company level game.

I did make a few changes before the game. One was to simplify the Indirect Fire rules - and in doing so remove the last vestiges of the WRG Armour and Infantry1950-1975 rule set (yes up to a decade before 1985!) in which it has its spiritual home. I also changed the way I did random movement distances, trying to eliminate the use of Fate dice and keep to just D10/D6. In fact I found the new system too random in the first couple of turns and changed it again, still keeping the D10s - random movement is a must I think, especially for this sort of game. I also introduced a new system for randomly determining how much FIRES support you have which worked well.

I also stole the Battle Rating system from Battlegroup:NORTHAG. As it was  both side started with identical BR (not planned, but they did have similar forces) and ended with the same number of BR tokens (about 50%). With the British having lost all their MBT, and the Soviets at least 1 Platoon then playing on too 100% seems a bit much. In future games I might make the percentage national/scenario based, so say Brits play to 60% and WARPAC to 80%. There is the issue that the loss of a section might have a bigger impact than the loss of an MBT - but that may the the price for no bookkeeping and and amount of friction.

The other big change was in activation. I played the first half using the existing random card activation at Pl/Tp level - but really that just doesnt go with mechanised warfare really where reasonable comms and covering fire doctrine means far more co-ordination is possible. I liked the 7 Days to the Rhine system, but having a token per element (so 20-30) was crazy, so I did it at unit level - so about 6 a side in this case. I then did some randomisation to make it +/-2 per turn. Activating like this made it sensible to move FIRES calls outside of the normal activation cycle and do at turn start for both side. Interrupt fire in 7DTTR works as the opponent unit spend its token early, but since I've got unit tokens I'm doing that by a simple overwatch order. I'm keeping the ability to "pass" phasing at any point - but I am concerned that if the phasing player doesnt do that it becomes IGOUGO. So as well as this I gave the non-phasing player the ability to spend 2 tokens to take over phasing and activate a unit (or the phasing player could bid 3 etc). I think this might give just the right level of interactivity and how you spend your tokens becomes a key decision, but without being too gamey. It's not really very easy to test in solo play, so post-lockdown I can hopefully try the mechanism with other players.

I did think that things were a bit hard to hit/kill than in other rules so I'm tempted to drop the "to spot/hit/kill" scores by 1. I think I might ditch targetted inf vs inf fire for the suppression rules, and I need to work a bit on the whole shock/pin/neutralise/kill mechanic, but its definitely getting there. And despite the extra complexity overall I  don't think the game slowed too much.


Pretty good I think, back to what I remembered it being before the Platoon game, and actually improving on what it was before, so all in the right direction. Just the right combination of friction, grit and playability. Overall 8.5/10, and I think I can push it up to 9 or even more when it comes to the WW2 company test.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Dungeons and Dragons Figures

I acquired a box of old Grenadier Miniatures D&D figures from my daughter who was having a bit of a clear out. They are very "old style" and just had black undercoat. Faced with a gap in painting as I waited for my Napoleonic Russians to arrive I decided to paint them up. 

I've been toying with getting a D&D rule set for a while - and still am. I cut my RPG teeth on the A5 booklet D&D/Greyhawk edition, and then AD&D 1st Edition. Cost precludes getting D&D, and even AD&D 1e is not cheap; and lots of people say some later editions have slicker rules, we'll see.

I actually also have an old set of D&D figures that I last painted up when my daughter was about 8 to teach her RPGs - all heavily black-lined and glossed up!