Thursday, 29 June 2017

Battle of the Garigliano 1503 - AAR

Here's James' after action report of the scenario he set up last week using Pike & Shotte rules by Warlord Games. Graham was French, Peter was Spanish.  He writes:

The game was a good one but I felt it ended somewhat prematurely due to French shaken battalia. The victory conditions laid down by the scenario didn't come into play - more later.

The Spanish duly attacked Castelforte and took it after a prolonged melee with its gallant defenders - a small unit of Swiss arqubusier.

We are still forgetting to use supporting units in melee and this made the fight much harder than it should have been.

The scenario stamina point bonus (for capturing the villages) worked well. It gives the Spanish, outnumbered as they are, a fighting chance. Without it I think they would be toast.

On the Spanish left, the Italians attacked and smashed through the French palisade. However, losses were heavy and this attack stalled.

Troops in buildings and behind fortifications are a tough nut to crack and, again, omitting to declare supporting units prolonged the fight here too.

In the centre, the French seemed to be getting their act together and a coordinated attack seemed imminent.

However, a few fierce vollies from the Spanish colunelas, and some freaky melee results, soon had the Swiss reeling. They lost one pike block and had two more shaken and the battalia was broken.

With the Italians on the hillsides finding it difficult to advance due to poor command die rolls the French were in a real pickle.

The French battalia around Sujo (out of shot to the right) had also suffered heavily from repeated cavalry charges - it was broken too.

At the French bridge the Italians were completely stalled.

The French artillery and pike managed to throw back the Italian pike and this gave time for the French to mass their cavalry in readiness to hold this sector of the field.

Finally, due to repeated casualties from Italian arquebus and crossbow fire the French infantry at the bridge gave way.

With three battalia broken, the French army was broken. Only the French cavalry and their Italian allies were intact and the French player decided to call it a day and hand victory to the Spanish. Unable to rally and everything saving on sixes only was too much for Graham to contemplate.

On Reflection

As I said at the beginning of this post, I thought the broken battalia rule didn't quite work for this scenario. Although I can see the point of not allowing an army to fight to the last man I thought battalia were broken too easily.

I think this is largely down to the inability of units to be rallied sufficiently from being shaken. But, the rule about the army being broken when half the battalia are broken is, I fear, where it really broke down and it all seemed just a little bit too arbitrary.

We have already tinkered with the broken battalia rule a little by counting the break point at half its stamina rather than half the number of units .  For example:

  • The Swiss battalia in this scenario has six units: four Swiss pike blocks each with five points of stamina and two small units of shot each with two points of stamina for a total of 24 stamina points. The break point is therefore 12 stamina points. 
  • The Swiss commander sits on a stack of poker chips (red worth 10, blue 5, white 1 - you can see the poker chips in the photos above) and as units are lost or become shaken their stamina value is lost from his stack.
  • The stamina value is returned to the commander's stack if a shaken unit is rallied. 
  • This means, in this case, that if both shot units are lost the battalia will still need to lose two pike blocks before it is broken - four units rather than three. 
We think this works better than the 'half units break point' rule because it better reflects the value of units.
I'm not exactly sure what to do about the broken battalia rule.

I can understand why rules like this exist; it is useful when the end of a game has to be called so that people can pack up and go home or a result is required in a limited time frame. Indeed a rule like this is common to a lot of rule sets. But where the game could be left set up, to be played to a conclusion at a later date, it can spoil the victory conditions laid down in a well crafted scenario (not necessarily this one).

I think a more subtle approach is needed for longer scenario led games but I'm damned if I know what such an approach would look like. I do like Pike & Shotte, especially the combat system. I will persevere with the rules in the hope that a solution to the broken battalia rule comes to light.

Anyway, whilst I think about it, I've reset the table, though slightly different, and I'll post the new set up and notes shortly. Next week Graham and I will do it all again.

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