My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Skirmish in the Spanish Countryside

Today is not only Veteran's Day in the United States of America, but it is Solo Gaming Appreciation Day (11/11/11 - all ones, get it?), so I have decided to celebrate both, and give me a little inspiration to get back to building more wooden soldiers by playing a game of Napoleonics using the rules Song of Drums and Shakos by Ganesha Games.

Changes to the Rules

This game I will experiment with the activation and turn-over rule changes I previously discussed. In a nutshell those changes are that two or three failures does not turn-over, but rather forfeits the next turn fort the figure (or group!) that failed.

The Scenario

My scenario is a simple one: A British party is moving supplies to local Spaniards in order to encourage them to actively attack the French in the area. They are to leave extra ammunition at a local's house when they come out of a gully and blunder into the French, who have arrived at the house ahead of the British and are searching for contraband. The scene starts with two sentries on a hill, guarding against suspected Spanish guerrillas while the remainder of the French ransack the house. The regimental vivandiere has come out provide the sentries refreshments (that she conveniently found in the house) when the British stumble out of the gully.

The two sides.

Although this shows British Light Dragoons, they never made it into the game.

The left picture is the view from the French side; the center from the British side. On the right it shows the French sentries and the vivandiere serving them.

The Game

The British truly do stumble out of the brush, as they are essentially divided into three clusters: those that moved two moves (five men), those that moved one move (four men and the Sergeant), and those that moved none.

For simplicity I allowed those British that failed twice to simply not move this turn, but still allow them another chance next turn. In exchange for that, no British figure could roll three dice for activation on the first turn. After the first turn, however, the rule changes would be in effect...
The French sentry easily spotted the British thrashing around noisily in the tall grass, called out the alarm, and fired off a shot (missing however). The second sentry, quickly handing the vivandiere back the cup of Spanish wine, raced up the slope to see what was happening.

The British Sergeant, calling orders from the rear while yelling at the stragglers behind, order the forward group to form line and volley fire upon the sentry. With a roar from five muskets, the French sentry goes down, instantly killed. The remaining British troops quicken their pace, knowing that this is no longer going to be a simple task of handing out information and trying to impress the local senoritas...

The surviving sentry quickly fires his musket at the British line, luckily winging one private (who is knocked down), before retiring behind the safety of the hill.

With the alarm raised the French officer inside the house calls to the drummer to beat out Assembly. The French private quickly stream out the door and form line ... right in front of the British who have just finished firing their volley and are quickly attempting to reload.

Continuing to shout orders, the British Sergeant tells the second group to swing to the left and give the French a volley, which they do. One more French private goes down (although he is only out of action.) Apparently the right group was waiting for orders as, other the the private knocked down and who got up, all failed to reload their muskets!

The French officer runs out of the house screaming "Pour l'Empereur, de charge!" (forgive my Google French), and away charges four of his privates, heading straight for the British line.

This turn saw the French desperately gamble and roll three dice for practically every figure and group. Three figures, including the French sergeant, turned over, however, indicating they will lose their next turn completely.
The Sergeant screams "Fire at will!" and promptly steps into a hole, distracting him.
I rolled three dice for every British private, but only rolled two for the Sergeant and yet he still turned over!
All along the line the British reload and fire. One of the French privates goes down and two flinch, but still they come on. Notably, however, the French group is now broken (figures no longer touching), so they cannot receive a group order.

The French charge the end of the line, but the distance is too much of a strain; the British are able to stave off the French bayonets, even looking grim for the French next turn.

The British counter-attack was weak on the flank, but in the center the privates advanced forward, bayoneting the downed French private and even taking a pot shot at the French officer, knocking him to the ground with the blast of the powder charge.

The French officer is merely fazed, however, as he leaps to his feet and (foolishly) charges into combat - and promptly knocked down again. (This is a much deadlier situation, however. I can see now that the Officer should probably be Combat of 3 if I am going to throw him into hand-to-hand combat.)

The British mercilessly bayonet the downed French officer (it took two to get him), forcing a morale check. The drummer boy, who was defending the officer when he was killed, failed morale completely and ran from the combat. Four men (and one woman) retreated in all, but the French Sergeant was steadfast. (No really, he has the skill Steadfast!)

With the French having five out of 12 men dead, it looks like it is time to beat a hasty retreat. Amazingly, the one private in hand-to-hand combat makes his roll for two actions and survives the free hack. The French Sergeant heroically charges the end of the line and takes a powerful swing with his deadly halberd - and barely survives being knocked down despite being +3 to the dice and his opponent only being +1!


It has been awhile since I have played any skirmish games, especially Song of Drums and Shakos, so I forgot some of the "do's and don'ts". For example, don't put your leader out there in danger. In fact, don't commit him to combat at all. He is there just to give group orders and add 1 to the Quality checks of everyone else within a Long.

Even a combat "monster" like the French Sergeant can't go into hand-to-hand combat unsupported. Even having a halberd, a Combat of 3, and Strong (+1 to Combat in hand-to-hand) can't overcome two or three average soldiers (Combat of 2) in hand-to-hand.

Where the French attack broke apart was basically from the start. The French were piecemeal and the British were concentrated. Rather than moving so far forward with the French group it should have assembled farther back and awaited the Officer and Sergeant to bring up the rear before attacking. I just felt like "quick, charge before they reload". Problem was, they had those little pointy things at the end of their unloaded muskets, and in the final analysis, the French were no better in hand-to-hand than were the British. Ah well, that is what you get for rushing (in more ways than one). I still enjoyed it and I got to pull off my Solo Gaming Appreciation Day game.

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 50 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ (although I have a townhouse in Houston, TX and a small home in Tucson, AZ) working on a contract for "the next two years" that is going on five years now. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").