Saturday, 14 October 2017

Method in Wargaming

I am sure I have mentioned before my sins, which must be manifold and are, I dare say, still racking up nicely on the heavenly mileometer associated with my name. For them, as hopefully some sort of penance, I have been reading about method. This started off as reading about theological method but has kind of broadened. Now, I am thinking about method in general and whether there might be such a beast as a method in wargaming. If there is I shall consider that there might also be a method in theology.

I shall now issue my standard disclaimer for these musings triggered off by half of my occupation at present: no Bible bashing will occur in the words below, nor indeed in the thinking, as hopefully will be explained in the next paragraph or so.

About half of my occupation is doing fairly silly things with reading stuff around education, theology, science and philosophy. I am not going to explain why here (I give myself 1000 words, give or take, and it would take too many of them), but I do, and I drop across stuff which I think is interesting to wargaming from time to time. One such was, for those of you with long memories, a canter through the ethics of wargaming. The present issue is concerned with method.

The case in point, which has issued in this wail of despair, is a book called ‘Method in Theology’ by a Canadian chap called Bernard Lonergan. Lonergan details how he thinks theology should be done. there is little or no theological content in the book, just a method. He divides theological method into eight ‘functional specialties’, namely Research, Interpretation, History, Dialectic, Foundations, Doctrines, Systematics and Communications. Each, he suggests, is a necessary component of the doing of theology, rather than the content thereof.

Now, one of the criticisms of Lonergan’s method is that is far too general. Most subjects, it is suggested, could have their methods divided into the same eight specialties. This is not, perhaps, entirely surprising, as Lonergan seems to have based his ideas about theological method on an analogy with scientific method. As Alan Chalmers remarks towards the beginning of ‘What is this thing called science?’, every other subject seems to want to describe itself as a science – hence we obtain social science, historical science and of course economics, the dismal science.

Given this generality, I started to wonder whether wargaming, which after all sits somewhere between history, politics and social science, so it might be fair game for a method. On the other hand, not all that many practicing scientists or theologians actually worry about whether they have a worked out, explicit method at all. They are too busy doing stuff to bother. The same could well be the case for wargamers.

So, to begin at the beginning, with Research. Lonergan has in mind here the sorts of academic research, perhaps archaeology, which goes alongside learning in seminars and lectures. But I do not think we need to be limited to that. After all, a good deal of research revolves around what other people write. Thus reading a magazine, blog or book would count. The wargamer has a bright idea: I shall create a sixteenth century Tibetan army. (The example is so bizarre that I suspect that no-one, except me, has one. I was, in all honesty, slightly surprised that I had one as well).

Having decided on that, the wargamer then has to do some more digging around suitable figures, rules and, possibly, the history of Tibet. Then the stage of interpretation looms. ‘Given what I have found out, what does it mean?’ Will this figure be suitable for a sixteenth century Tibetan cavalryman? Which rules should I use? Who did the Tibetans fight? (For any period of history before the formation of the modern nation state, the answer to that question is usually ‘themselves, mostly’).

History might then come into play, as the wargamer’s analysis spreads to the formation of Tibetan armies, their enemies, how the Mongolian hordes and Chinese interacted with them and so on. As I mentioned recently, wargaming can take one into some odd corners. What did Tibetan houses look like? How did the Temples function? When did prayer flags come in? The methodical wargamer may well pose these questions and many more.

Next up is dialectics, or arguing. It is quite likely that at least two different interpretations will have been found. Perhaps, in my case, two entirely different histories of Tibet have been found, one maybe more Chinese influence, the other by the ‘free Tibet’ sorts of people. The wargamer has to decide which strand they will come down upon.We also note that wargaming can lead the wargamer into some modern politically sensitive areas.  For a less contentious dialectic, two manufacturers might have totally opposing views as to the nature of Tibetan super-heavy cavalry.

The decisions made at the dialectic stage will inform the rest of the project, and thus constitute the foundations specialty. The wargamer convinces themselves of the correctness of their interpretation, model choice and so on. The doctrines stage is, of course, related to the choice of rules, and that is informed by the assumed tactics and army make up that the wargamer has chosen. This, we decide, is how these wargames will be fought.

Next up is the systematic stage. This involves solving any confusion and dispute that the different doctrines decided upon will throw us. The decisions might be around, say, the effectiveness of Chinese musketry in the sixteenth century as opposed to Tibetan foot archery and horse archers. This is a synthesis that only the wargamer (or rules writer, if any rule writer has actually considered this place and period specifically) can decide upon. Similarly (or, rather, differently) these is that sinking moment when you realise that your chosen models and chosen base size do not fit together. Not for nothing is systematics linked back to interpretation.

Finally, there is communications. You take photographs of your shiny new army and post them.  You post blog reports of your victories over the enemy. You analyse your mistakes, or the limitations of the rules.


And finally, of course, you read about another period / place / battle / army, and the whole cycle kicks off again….

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Bias and Scale Prejudice

I am, as most of you that read the blog will be aware, a 6 mm wargamer, on the whole. I do have a whole stack of 28 (or so) mm figures, bought at various times with various projects in mind, but mostly they remain even more unpainted than my 6 mm figures. This idea of a skirmish game sometimes appeals, and I also have a few figures suitable for ‘Flashing Blades’ should I ever decide to revive my solo role playing game career.

On occasion I also go to wargame shows. There, I sometimes stand behind the Baccus 6 mm stand and watch the punters. Some, perhaps most, do come in and look at the wares and are engaged in conversation by Mr. Berry, who usually manages to sell them something (he is very good at it). Nevertheless I do also stand there by the painted figures stand and listen to passing wargamers sneer or laugh at the 6 mm figures on display.

It has often puzzled me as to why this should be. I dare say that I have written about it before here. There are issues of ‘othering’ going on, for example. Non-conformists often land up the butt of ignorant sneering and, sadly, that is what seems to happen sometimes. There is, in wargaming as in everything else, a group think of conformity. Thirty-odd millimetre figures are the norm, that is where wargamers, perhaps, feel safe, and so on.

You might wonder what has provoked these comments. Mr Berry has an interesting post on the News section of the Baccus web site (Google for it like I had to) entitled ‘Historical Gaming – the Times They are a Changin’. It is not a rant about how unfair the 32 mm wargame world is to the rest of the hobby (although that might be a legitimate grumble) but a wonder as to why this should be the case. Hence this post, by way of a ‘good question, glad you asked…’ comment.

Now there are the normal comments about painting and unit recognition. They can easily be dismissed, of course. Anyone, of whatever eyesight, who can paint a 34 mm figure can paint 6 mm. It really is not difficult. Similarly, if you can identify a unit of any scale from 3 feet away, you can identify a base of 6 mm figures. There is an inherent bias, I think, that small figures must be difficult to paint. It just happens to be untrue.

Mr Berry identifies a further problem, in that the magazines show mostly 33 mm figures painted to the level that would not disgrace an art exhibition. This, it seems to be the case, is part of the prejudice which can build up in the hobby. 29 mm figures are the gold standard, the norm. It is compounded by the fact that they are relatively easy to photograph. 6 mm figures, at least on their own, are not that easy to take pictures of. Further, pictures can show up imperfections in painting that the eye does not see. So most articles are illustrated with 31 mm figures, whatever the original scale was suggested.

There have been some thoughtful replies from members of the editorial teams of various wargame magazines on the Baccus forum. These essentially make the arguments noted above. The magazines can, after all, only work with articles people send them and with pictures they can generate. It is a lot easier to create another picture with a few stock gendarmes in 30 mm than it is to photograph a 6 mm army from scratch. Further, I would submit that most articles submitted to a magazine is in a generic scale. Over the years the stuff I have submitted was worked out and play tested in 6 mm, and illustrated in the article in 35 mm. It is just the way it is.

Mr Berry wonders about the effect of all this on historical wargaming. The hobby, or this aspect of it, seems to be being reduced to skirmish games. This seems to be happening in two ways, in my view. Firstly, big battles (whatever they may be) are reduced in a historical wargame refight, to something that looks like a skirmish. Thus, as, I think, Peter Gilder commented many moons ago, Naseby can be refought with 100 figures on one side and 50 on the other. It just does not look like a big battle. But when the aspiration is to paint 29 mm figures to work of art standard, 150 figures is a fair old target and the temptation is to cut the numbers.

Secondly, there is much more focus on ‘real’ skirmishes. Campaigns are created around a few figures and their adventures. I have no problem with that, except that this is not the only way of wargaming. Big battles do have a different dynamic to skirmishes. But to create a big battle in 26 mm figures, and to make it look like a bit battle, is a very expensive and time consuming process. Thus imagined historically set skirmishes seem to be becoming another norm.

Now, I am not about to start bemoaning the terrible state of the world, the end of wargaming as we know it or any of these things. Everyone develops, over time, the wargaming that they are comfortable with, I imagine. If that is done with thought and care, who am I to sneer or ‘other’ them? It is not as though 6 mm figures are the only ones to be looked down upon by the 27 mm devotees – 42 mm, 54 mm and 15 mm also come in for some distain. But maybe those of us who do carry the flame for 32 mm figures might like to ponder exactly what form of wargaming they are advocating.

I am sure I have mentioned before a very nice 26 mm game I saw at a show. It looked like a lovely skirmish game was being conducted. It was a bit of a shock to discover that it was supposed to be the Battle of Lutzen (1632). It did not look like it is all I can really say.


Anyway, I don’t want anyone to get upset, call me a heretic or hurl any teddies out of their pram over this, but it is a bit of a conundrum to me. I wonder if anyone can throw any more light on the matter.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Decisive Battles of the English Civil War

One of the subtitles of this blog should, perhaps, be ‘I read the books so you don’t have to.’ I have, indeed, recently finished ‘Decisive Battles of the English Civil War’, by Malcolm Wanklyn (Pen & Sword, Barnsley: 2014), which is, apparently, a revised edition of a tome of 2004. It is a book that I really rather wanted to like and enjoy, but I am not wholly sure that I did.

The first issue is, perhaps, with the title. Now, often enough, titles are not the fault of the author, but, so far as I can see, Wanklyn equates ‘decisive’ with ‘significant’. The two battles of Newbury, which feature in the book, were, perhaps, significant, as victory in the first for the Royalists and in the second for Parliament, could well have decisively changed the course of the war. But significant is not the same as decisive, although I suppose a book entitled ‘Significant Battles of the ECW’ would probably be deemed to be boring.

By many measures, of course, Austin Woolrych’s assessment in ‘Battles of the English Civil War’ that the three decisive battles were Marston Moor, Naseby and Preston still stands. Marston Moor cost the Royalists the north, Naseby cost the King his throne and Preston cost him his life. Wanklyn observes that this can be nuanced, in that the Royalists still drew resources from the north after the middle of 1644, and that the King was still king after the middle of 1645 and was dealt with as such. However, that is the fate of most broad brush-strokes of history.

Wanklyn does agree with Woolrych, however, that the battles and their outcomes do need to be made more central to historiography. Historians have a terrible tendency to be interested in stuff like treaties and agreements. Woolrych noted that if one side or the other had not won the battle, there would have been no need for the treaty. In ignoring battles historians give a one sided view of the world. Battles, of course, have only been disregarded in historiography since, roughly, the end of the Second World War. This was coupled with the rise of Marxist interpretations of history where, for example, the ECW is the result of the rise of the gentry (or the fall of the gentry, or the rise of the merchant class, or whatever). The brush-strokes are drawn more broadly. The result of a war is inevitable because the economic factors make it so.

Thus, in seventeenth century Britain, Parliament was inevitable going to win the English Civil Wars. If the participants had known that, of course, they could all have stayed at home. Wanklyn disputes that this is the case. Wars, campaigns and battles are contingent and, therefore, the outcome can never be a result of simple economic balance. Yes, Parliament had the bult of the economic resource, and, in fact, the bulk of the population, to draw on. Possibly this had an effect, in that the troops of Parliament tended to be slightly better equipped, paid and, perhaps most decisively, present in higher number of infantry on the battlefield. Nevertheless, in battle numbers and equipment are not decisive.

Wanklyn sees the need for narratives of what happened on the battlefield to explain the outcomes of the battles. However, he also argues that most of the narratives that we have are, in part, made up. Some accounts simply assume that, say, the left wing of the cavalry were in a certain place because that is what military theory says should have happened. However, if this cannot be ascertained from historical sources, it should not be assumed. He wants, in a sense, to produce a minimal narrative, acknowledging the things that we cannot know because the sources do not tell us.

Battles are, of course, complex things. Participants, on the whole, cannot tell us very much, except that which they themselves experienced. Putting the fragments of battle narrative together is fraught with difficulty over geography and timing. Even more recent developments, such as re-enacting and battlefield archaeology can only tell us so much. Reenactors are not fighting battles, nor are they present in the numbers (particularly of cavalry) that the originals had. Archaeology can only tell us what evidence has survived. A concentration of musket balls may imply a fierce fire-fight, or it may be where an ammunition waggon turned over. Nothing can really be decisive in counting, at least as a single piece of evidence.

We might consider that Wanklyn is impossibly post-modern in his approach, but in fact he would have an ally in Whatley ('On the Possibility of Reconstructing Marathon and Other Ancient Battles', The Journal of Hellenic Studies 84 (1964), 119-139.). The point is that we cannot ‘reconstruct’ battles. We simply do not have the evidence.

So what, you might ask, is the problem with Wanklyn’s book? I think there are two. Firstly, there is the structure, which takes each battle in two chapters. The first is on the context, sources and landscape for the action, the second on a construction of what can be known. Fair enough, but I found it a bit tricky to keep the balance between what I read about the sources and what was accepted as evidence in the narrative. Perhaps intermeshing the two would have made the battle narrative a lot more broken up and difficult to follow, but at least it would have been obvious to the reader why a piece of established historiography was being rejected at a particular point. Maybe there is just no good way of doing this.

The second problem is with the maps. Now, I accept that there is a great deal of uncertainty about locations, geography, unit identity and so on, and that this has to be reflected in the maps. The problem I have is that often geographical features are mentioned in the text but are not on the map, leaving the reader confused as to what is going on. A few more maps, for example of the route of the flank march of Waller’s troops at Second Newbury, would have been helpful.

Overall this is an interesting but slightly frustrating book. It is causing me to ponder afresh ECW fighting. Wanklyn’s point is that ECW armies, when they functioned properly, we combined arms forces. Cavalry needed infantry to operate properly and vice versa. Similarly he argues that the forces were a lot more flexible in use that we might have been led to believe from our, somewhat flawed, historiography to date.


Saturday, 23 September 2017

The Odd Corners of Wargaming

Wargaming, it seems to me, can take you into some rather peculiar places, at least in terms of interest and trying to find stuff out. Wargamers, by and large and so far as I can tell, do not usually take part in expeditions to find the lost city of Machu Picchu (which was never lost, incidentally; the Inca knew perfectly well where it was, they just never bothered telling the Spanish), or trekking in the wastes of Siberia, but I find, at least, that I land up asking questions which only a few others have ever asked.

Take a recent incident as an example. The houses where I live are almost all tiled, as they are, I imagine, in most places in England. But it has not always been thus. I was brought up in the south and there thatch is still, in some of the more picturesque villages at least, quite frequent. As I am pondering a wargame based in the north, I wondered what people used to have a roofs in the past.

The Estimable Mrs P and I could think of a few examples of thatch in our local patch, but not many. Puzzled, I consulted my big book of northern history and looked up building materials. There, in a paragraph, was an explanation. Clay tiles came in during the seventeenth century, largely replacing thatch. I do not know exactly why tiles replaced thatch. Possibly the tiles are longer lasting, but a decent thatch lasts 20-30 years and, from painful experience, modern tiles at least do not seem to last much longer than that.

Now, we can also ask what the thatch was made of. In these parts there was a mix of straw and heather thatches. This was a minor lightbulb moment for me at least, as we had been a little puzzled by the relative absence of reed beds and the like to make the straw for thatching. After all, animals would have taken the priority for fodder and bedding over human comfort. Heather, at least in some parts, would have been plentiful, cheap and not much use for anything else.

This, of course, hits the next question: what colour was the thatch? Now here we hit a real problem, I think. I know that real thatch is grey or black. I have, as I mentioned above, seen a fair number of thatched cottages in my time. And yet my thatched cottages for the wargame table are distinctly yellow in colour. That is correct, they are the colour of straw, as you would expect, of course.

Now we land up in some obscure place in human psychology. More precisely, we land up pondering what ‘looks right’ on the table. A thatch with a black roof just would not, I think, look right. Even though I know that in real life thatch is not yellow, my table needs to look right.

Either that or I am, yet again, in a minority of one, and should be rightly regarded as barking by the rest of the world.

It does not stop there, of course. I do, I realise, many things wargame wise because thy look right. Armour is shiny, even though by the English Civil War it was being carefully blackened to avoid rust. Cannon barrels are black and carriages are wood coloured. For the matter of that, wood is brown, while really, when it has been weathered for a bit, it is more grey.

Of course, there are also problems of scale, which I have mentioned before. My houses are in scale with the troops, so they are much bigger than the ground scale. At present, this is being further complicated by the presence of smaller scale ships in the town harbour, and even smaller scale ships for the Armada. I have tried this out. Somehow, despite all the jumps in scale, it looks about right.

I have worked it out, in fact. From the 1:300th scale castle tower, looking out to sea, the Armada on the horizon is about a mile away, given that the Armada ships are 1:2400th scale. The assault ships which are to be used are, of course, in the correct figure scale, but then they will only become of major interest to the landlubbers when they are near the beach anyway.

There may, of course, be undetected problems. In my role as the Spanish commander, I might try to use some of the smaller ships to rush the harbour. Naturally, as the English counterpart, I have a battery of ships guns to place on the mole to protect the harbour from just such an eventuality. The ships are the small ones, the guns are the big ones and the ships in the harbour from which the guns came are somewhere in between. It might look right, but I can foresee madness looming when the shore batteries and Armada ships attempt to engage each other.

The human mind is a flexible and subtle thing, of course. I have a suspicion that all of this does not really matter. Firstly, of course, everything is an abstraction anyway. The Armada troops are not really going to be put ashore by half a dozen small rowing boats. The town, even Whitby after the Abbey closure and its subsequent decline in prosperity (wagaming as a portal to economic history. Who knew?) was still larger than the ten or so buildings I have for it. The ships in harbour are, in fact, seventeenth century – the French La Corunna and the English Speaker. They are also in full sail, which would be ludicrous when in harbour, and one of them, at least, does not have the room to turn to get out.


I know all this, and yet, somehow, it is probably the ‘nicest’ terrain I have ever set out for a wargame planning session. I might have to dig out the camera and treat you all to a photograph of it, so you can point out all the flaws to me.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Project Wargame?

There has been a bit of a meme around recently on the wargame blogs that I view around the idea of project managing the hobby. I think, in its inception it was harmless enough, a reflection on what would constitute enough for a wargamer; which projects are those which are to be done before one hangs one’s dice up.

As such, I think the question is, perhaps interesting, but maybe a little pointless. We all know, after all, that there is always that one more project, extra army, more units for this one, a few more terrain pieces for that one. We know that we can give it up anytime. We just do not.

Looking through my archives of figures I have found this a lot. I have a variety of ‘renaissance’ figures, and many of them are, in fact, painted. But I have also found a horde of unpainted figures and other items, presumably bought on the basis of ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’. Somewhat surprisingly, given the average wargamer’s ability to concentrate on any given single thing for more than eight seconds at a time (oh, hang on, that is the latest estimate in our smart phone “enabled” world; goldfish, incidentally, can manage 6 seconds, so we are safe from that quarter at least), I have a number of painted, never used figures and objects. The weirdest one of these has to be the Irregular Miniatures Aztec Causeway, part of the Aztec town set (much of the rest of which remains unpainted). Even more oddly, the causeway is about to be reincarnated as Whitby Harbour. But I digress.

Anyway, I tried the Estimable Mrs P. out on the idea of project managing wargaming. She gave me one of her ‘Never mind, I love you anyway’ looks, and then remarked that as wargaming was a hobby, it did not require project managing. Just do things you enjoy, she opined, and stop if you stop enjoying them.

Fair enough, I thought. But then a nasty thought struck me. As you might be aware, I am busy rebasing assorted troops for the Wars of the Counter-Reformation, that is, warfare in the age of the Armada. I had spent some time in reviewing my troops (and ships as well. If you ask me, rebasing ships is a lot harder than rebasing toy soldiers.) While doing so, I noted a number of gaps in the lines. I required (I could say ‘need’, but one never ‘needs’ in a hobby) some more rowing boats, to expedite the landing of the Armada troops on this Fair Isle. Some further sword and bucker men were to be added as well, given that the cavalry would be unable to land mounted and pikes in a small boat would be a disaster, I imagine. Further than that, there was an absence of Huguenot cavalry. ‘Why,’ you might ask, ‘do you require them?’ For completeness, of course.

There is also the small matter of an appropriate Irish army. I had cobbled together such for my previous escapades but now, of course, official, authentic figures were available. Gone (or redeployed, at least) are my bonnacts looking suspiciously like highlanders. On order are the real thing.

And so, looking back, I see a rather alarming trend in managing this project emerging. I have, thus far, resisted the temptation to right down a list of things to do, prioritise them and then tick them off as each militia unit is painted, each ship is rebased and each cannon is remounted. But the temptation is there. Project management is lurking by the door.

Now, far be it from me to be biased against project management. I may simply have had bad experiences thereof, n0t least a colleague who, when confronted with unrealistic goals and implausible time frames responded with ‘let’s project manage our way out of this!’ No, no, and thrice, no. Let us return the idea to management and tell them to think it properly this time. It is not our responsibility to sort out the junk that comes from on high (someone remarked to me recently that they’d hate to be my manager; point taken, so would I).

My other objection to the way of project management is that it reduces everything to money. At least, money is hiding in the background, even if it is turned into weeks or units. Money is the god-idol of our age, and all must bow before it. My favourite story about this was of my poor, benighted colleague who had had managing our major project dumped on him. At a meeting (in the days when I attended them) he exclaimed ‘We’ve got the get this bit done. We should have started it last month, and so we’ve only got two months left!’ I turned to him and said ‘Which bit again?’ He reiterated. ‘Oh, I did that last week.’ I got a long, silent, slightly resentful stare. But it was true.

Anyway, the point is that project management, for all its ability to enable some things that need to happen happen before other things which depend on them, is a bit of a black art dressed up as a science (much like ‘management’ itself. On my lips the ‘m’ word is used only as a term of abuse; Alistair McIntyre’s ‘After Virtue’ does a good job in demolishing the mystique of management. More managers should read it and resign and go and do something useful with their lives).

Anyway, I do not mean to rant (although rereading the above, you could be forgiven for not believing me at all). Project management is something we all do a bit of. I need to buy the toy soldiers before trying to paint them for example. That, in its simplest form, is project management. Most project management is little more than this, incidentally, but beings remuneration that most ordinary mortals can only stand and stare at. I am sure that the original post does not deserve the polemic dished out above for a fairly innocent idea.

In the interests of disclosure, I had better add that I have known at least one nice, human, hardworking and effective project manager. She resigned her post after six months as senior management would not sign off on any of the bits she needed to get done.


It is of course possible that my toy soldiers will do something similar….

Saturday, 9 September 2017

The Elizabethan Militia

As part of project Armada, I have been reading a book which is only semi-related to wargaming. From the title, the unwary wargamer might suppose that it was suitable as a tome for the hobby: ‘War and Politics in the Elizabethan Counties’, by Neil Younger (2012, Manchester, MUP). Nevertheless, it is an interesting book, partly because Younger discusses the strategy of the Elizabethan regime, and partly because he has a much higher view of the Elizabethan military than has often been the case.

First things first, however:. Younger observes, correctly, that the wars Elizabethan England engaged in between 1585 and 1604 have no collective name. Intrigued, I checked what the set of army lists in DBR were called for the period. Barker calls it ‘The Wars of the Reformation’. These include English, Irish, Low Countries Spanish, Dutch Rebellion and both Huguenot and Catholic League French. The wars cover 1560 to 1605-ish, with the Spanish and Dutch lists going on to the end of the Thirty Years War. The name ‘Wars of the Reformation’ is rather a misnomer if you ask me. Lutcher did his bit of vandalism to a church door in 1517. John Calvin, who I (probably wrongly, granted) regard as a ‘second wave’ reformer died in 1564. The Reformation was well on by the time the period started. The Counter-Reformation was launched by the Council of Trent which met from 1545 – 1563, after all.

Perhaps ‘Wars of the Counter-Reformation’ would be a better term for the period. The religious situation in Germany was more settled after an agreement that the state would follow the brand of faith of the ruler, and so Germany was reasonably quiet in the period. There were various rebellions in the Low Countries, granted, and France went through one of its seemingly periodic collapses. How much all of this really had to do with faith is, of course, slightly moot. It did, but faith was not the only issue involved, even in the Low Countries.

England went to war in 1585 reluctantly. The country was poor and divided, it was felt. The Elizabethan settlement of the church in 1560 had tried to keep more or less everyone on board and had been reasonably successful, but there were still a lot of recusants around and their loyalty was in doubt. The Elizabethan regime employed classic delaying tactics to avert war, and it was only in 1585, when negotiations collapsed, that preparations for conflict were started.

The Elizabethan strategy consisted of three parts. The first was to avoid invasion. It was unclear how many people would rally to the Protestant regime’s defence, particularly as the head of it was an aging, childless woman. Avoiding putting the support for the Queen to the test was paramount. Allied to this was the control of Ireland, which was seen by many as a springboard to invading England itself. Thus, the major troop deployment of the regime was, in fact, from 1595 to Ireland.

The third element of the strategy was to keep the Channel ports, those on the south, in neutral or friendly hands. Thus Elizabeth sent support to both the Dutch rebels and Henry IV, even when the latter turned to Catholicism. A mildly Catholic but tolerant regime in France was preferable to a Counter-Reformation inspired Spanish backed radical Catholic one.

The English strategy was, thus, defensive in nature. This did not, of course, preclude local offensive action. Some of the Elizabethan raids on Spanish ports were among the most spectacularly successful of their type ever. But, overall, the government tried to reign in those politicians and generals who were most enthusiastic about offensive warfare, either at sea or on land. War, the government knew, was expensive. A defensive war was the cheapest option, and that was what was fought. In strategic terms, although Elizabeth was dead before the peace treaty was signed, the English obtained their objectives.

Part of the war preparations in England and Wales were the creation of county lieutenants, crown representatives. These tended to be reliable (radical Protestant) nobles from the area, and to them passed the requirement to organise the Elizabethan defensive militias, in this case, the trained bands. Militias had, of course, always existed. Theoretically any male between 16 and 60 was in the militia. But warfare had developed, and pike and shot units were required. Each county was called upon to train a proportion of its men in modern methods, as well as arm and pay them.

As Younger observes, the Elizabethan militia was never (well, hardly ever) tried out in action. We have no historical evidence whether the measures would have been sufficient to defend to country if the Armada had landed. Much historiography, however, argues that it would have done badly against Parma’s professionals, or the troops from Spain carried on the ships themselves. Younger begs to differ a little. Some of the militia seems to have been of reasonable quality and trained to some extent at least. Further, quite a few of them were enthusiastic and, as the Dutch had demonstrated, a lot could be done with enthusiasm and a fair bit of digging.

The idea behind the defences against the 1588 Armada are not, Younger observes, as is usually represented in the history books. They suggest that three armies were formed, one to track the Armada along the south coast, one at Tilbury to defend against landings in Essex when that seemed likely, and one in London to defend the capital and Queen. In fact, the first army never existed. The trained bands mustered in each county as the Armada approached. The plan was that this would be the initial resistance if there was a landing, and the county trained band would be reinforced by trained bands from neighbouring counties, fighting, presumably, a drawn out delaying battle until the Spanish were exhausted and cut off, by the navy, from reinforcements and supply. Given the defeat of the Armada and the fact it never landed, the third army never existed – the trained bands were sent home practically before they had set out. The Tilbury army did come into being, but only for a short time.


Younger observes that this might not have been the best way of defending the realm, but it was financially efficient. Unlike most early modern European powers, Elizabeth’s government fought a long war without going bankrupt or losing credit status. The focus is often (probably rightly) on the navy, but Younger observes that when the regime of Charles I went to war in the 1620’s it was soon in financial and political straits. Both the strategy and the trust of the county elites for the government were lost.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Rules, Generic Rules and Periods

As avid readers of the blog will be aware, I do not have a great deal of enthusiasm these days for generic rules. The rule sets I have written have been for specific periods, or even sub-periods. For the record, I have written or help write rules for the English Civil War (or War of the Three Kingdoms, or British Civil War, or whatever we are calling it this week), the Roman Imperial era, (First Century BC to First Century AD) and some rules for Ancient Greeks from Marathon to after Alexander. The latter have not been published and, so far as I am any judge, will not be. These are all in the Polemos series published by Baccus. I have also written some rules for the Elizabethan Anglo-Scottish Borders, called ‘Shake Loose the Border’ which were published as a magazine article quite a while ago.

Now, I have also mentioned using both DBA and DBR. I also possess a copy of DBM, although I think I only ever played it once. DBA is a good rule set, don’t get me wrong, and I enjoyed it. DBR is not so good, in that it does seem to mess up some of the basic troop interactions (I have not seen DBR 2.0, admittedly). They are both generic rule sets that go both around the world and across the centuries. Granted DBR is a bit more specific than DBA, but the range of cultures is huge.

This brings me to one of the problems I have with such sets, a distinctly wargamer’s problem. I used to take note of army lists, and one of the things you can do with DBR, as I think I mentioned once, is to make up 100 army point armies. This works quite nicely for Western European powers. You get armies of between ten and fifteen bases, and I can live with that.

Where it fails is for other cultures. I dug out my DBR 100 AP lists the other day. They date back to the time when I must have had a great deal more time than I do today, as they cover more or less every list in the army list books, some of them more than once. What I do notice, however, is that the less ‘advanced’ a culture is, at least in its means of killing other people, the more bases the army has. The Inca, for example, hit thirty three. The Pueblo Indians hit thirty or so as well. The problem is that some of the cultures listed surely cannot have fielded that many soldiers compared to the twelve of a full Western army.

A long time ago I was a member of the DBM email list, and very interesting it was too. I had a break from it for a few months and then came back. In the meantime a new edition had come out and all the competition gamers (an occupation which I cannot get my heads around, neither then nor today) were discussing lists which were termed ‘WoC’. It took me a while, several weeks I think, to work out that the reference was to lists like the Incas, and the acronym meant ‘Wall of Crap’. The rules had been changed such that the most effective competition armies were those with many, many elements. An Inca army at 400 army points was, literally, a wall of poor troops stretched across the table. The idea was that an opponent, fielding say a small but quality army of French Medieval, simply would get overrun. The bases would go down to lucky dice rolls and overlapping. The losses to the Inca (or whatever other WoC army was being fielded) would be huge, but their wings (or whatever they are called in DBM) would still be a long way from breaking. The idea was that they were impossible to defeat.

As with DBM, so with DBR: an Inca army is a tough proposition because there are so many of them. I, of course, also found them a tough proposition due to the number of bases I had to paint. I think it was the DBM Inca who broke me, Renaissance wargaming wise. Actually, the Estimable Mrs P. thinks it was the Aztecs who broke me, and given what I have recently found in terms of semi-painted figures, she might be right.

So that is one thing, and I suspect it is a problem with any rule set that uses a points system. Granted the idea is to provide ‘balance’, whatever that means, between different armies, but it does seem to skew the systems as well.

Another problem that there is with these sorts of rule sets is that they do cross both the centuries and cultures. At any given time there is a wide variety of cultures co-existing on the planet. They do not all fight in the same way. Similarly, there are different cultures that succeed each other in a given area. Again, they do not fight in the same way.

This is a problem which can be solved in two ways, it seems. First, you can create highly specific rule sets of given era / culture combinations. I am considering such for the Wars of Elizabeth, for example, and have written some, as described above. The alternative, as someone mentioned in a comment a week or two back, is to self-consciously write rules to deliver a generic, high level view of a wide variety of eras.

Either of these approaches is fine, it seems to me. But we do have to be clear as to what we are doing. Polemos: ECW will not, in my view, do for Elizabethan wars. I do not think that simply tinkering with the edges of the rules, adding troop types and so on will cut the mustard. The fifty odd years that separate Elizabeth and Charles I is sufficient to cause problems, at least at the level I would like to model.

You could also, I imagine, really go for a generic rule set covering, say, 1500-1800. This would model the basic interactions and flow of the battle. I dare say it would be quite interesting if you could get it right.  But you do have to accept that specific period flavour will be missing.


Most wargamers, and most rule sets seem to ignore the argument above, and I dare say most wargamers will continue to buy cross-cultural, cross-era sets because they are easiest to use, and enable jumping around across periods and continents. But I do think there is cost to doing this, and it is not one I am particularly willing to pay.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

How Big is Your Army?

Alas and alack, for I am the most unfortunate of wargamers. Actually, I suspect that is entirely untrue; the experience I am going to recount is probably familiar to many wargamers of some years standing, at least. It may even be a salutary lesson for us all. You never can tell.

Anyway, as those of you who have read recent bits of the blog may be aware, I have been considering a ‘late Tudor’ army. Indeed, I have done more than consider such an army. I have dug out some old figures and have started to rebase them in my ‘new’ basing scheme. By new I mean a scheme which I have been using for only just over twelve years. It is still new to me.

Those of you with really long and very obscure memories might recall the old ‘DBM-list’, which was run, if I recall correctly, from an email server in Stanford. It was quite a high volume list, and discussed the minutiae of DBM, like how to line up your troop bases to cause maximum disruption to the opposition and cause any recoils to become losses. I was never that interested in those sorts of tactics, but there was a lot of other interesting stuff as well.

In a rush of youthful enthusiasm I copied a map of Europe, digitised it (not easy in those days) and invited members of the DBM list to participate in an online, run by email campaign, entitled ‘1618-Something’. It was very, very simple with area movement and armies could ‘support’ each other. Each army was a one hundred point DBR army (newly, I think, released then). The first support army contributed an extra fifty points, the next twenty five and so on. There was also a possibility for a ‘train’, artillery, and a ‘siege train’, big guns for sieges. You will also realise now where the renaissance naval rules I posted a few weeks ago in a much ignored post came from. I had navies.

It was, of course, an excuse to generate battles and, as such, it worked quite nicely. There were a few issues. Some single area states were very vulnerable to being knocked out. I also came under pressure to extend the map eastwards to India, China and Japan. Fortunately it all fell apart before Africa and the Americas appeared. It became hard to get orders from people – some had life, some lost interest and so on. It lasted about 1 game year and 2 real life years.

There were some fun bits along the way, of course. Various South East European nations banded together in an anti-Russian alliance and continually lost to them. A battle in India had to be declared a draw because both commanders were killed by rocket fire in the same bound. A French fleet landed up isolated in the Baltic. A Russian battle was, I was assured, fought out on a table set up for a refight of Stalingrad. And so on.

Now, I am ambling towards a point here. As inventor, creator and umpire of the whole thing I decided I needed to have the correct armies to fight out any given battle that might arise. Thus I spent a considerable amount of time painting and basing any conceivable army from the DBR lists, including the obscure ones like North Africans and Vietnamese. Having done that, with a rush of blood to the head and more enthusiasm than either sense of than I can muster today, I proceeded to create armies for the whole of the DBR ‘period’, to a value of one hundred army points. If I recall correctly this was the DBR answer to DBA – Western European armies came out to be around 10 – 15 bases.

It is to this load of figures that I have turned to find some Tudors. Rest assured, I have located them and they are currently being based. But then enthusiasm crept in and I started to look at what I had found. Burmese elephants for example. Tibetans. Samurai. Manchu. And so on, and so on.

Now this has some problems. I do not recall what some of the troops are. I can recognise the most obvious, of course, but some of the, for example, Vietnamese, elude me. I am sure I knew what they were when I last used them. The second problem is that they are a bit jumbled up. I found bases of Swiss halberdiers in with Spanish jinites. My artillery seems to be distributed over a vast number of boxes, to the extent that I am still unsure how many falconets there are. But these are minor, compared to the big problem:

I want to rebase the lot.

Not only that, but I want to use them. I have a smaller table now, and I was never too comfortable with DBR as a rule set (I don’t know if version 2 is any better). There are, without putting too fine a point on it, huge numbers of, for example, Inca. Simply moving them is probably beyond my patience now (it remains to be seen whether rebasing them is beyond it, of course).

And that brings me, slowly, to the point. How many bases on a given size of table, make an army? The DBR answer was simple: 100 points worth. Depending on the value of the bases that could be anything from 10 to quite a few. DBA’s answer is also simple: 12. I did have a very nice Aztec DBA campaign on our coffee table once.


I tried thinking about force to space ratios, and how many bases would fit on my table. Nothing, however, really clicked. Then I recalled reading, a long time ago, that 12 was the maximum number of subunits a commander could realistically deal with. And so the decision was made, arbitrary as it is. An army consists of twelve bases. Given that I have already rebased about 25 bases of Tudors, an Elizabethan Civil War battle seems to be beckoning.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Packing Soldiers

It might surprise some people to realize that the purpose of fighting snot to kill enemy soldiers. While soldiers are expected to fight and, in fact, to kill, that is not the main purpose of their existence and activity. The main purpose of fighting is to smash up the coherence of the enemy. Once that is done, the enemy will break and become either extremely vulnerable to further attack and slaughter, or simply run away in a confused mass.

This fairly simple fact accounts, for example, for the disparity of casualty figures in many pre-modern battles. The victors lose few men. The losers lose many. The disparity can be somewhere around 5% for the winners to 15% for the losers.  In one of Montrose’s battles the winners lost a single man, the losers hundreds. The pursuit was the main cause of the casualties.

I have been reading Bert Hall’s ‘Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe’ (Johns Hopkins, 1997), as I mentioned last time. He starts, sensibly enough, with medieval warfare, and he notes, along the way, that the basic idea of most offensive warfare is to achieve the incoherence of the enemy formations. If that can be achieved, the battle is more or less won.

There are, of course, various ways to achieve incoherence. One of the main ones is to charge the enemy formation with big, scary aristocratic cavalry. If they flinch then you have won. Bodies of infantry on the defensive rely on coherence to see of cavalry commands. If only a few decide that the future looks rosier in the rear areas, then the formation can lose coherence and the battle is lost and won.

Another way to smash up the enemy formation is via archery. Longbows are the only bows to have really a sufficient rate of fire to achieve this and, famously, the English achieved this at Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt. The point here is that the archers were deployed forward and to the flanks of a solid body of dismounted men-at-arms. The enemy, for whatever reasons, charged up the middle and were flanked by the archers and shot up. People under fire tend to flinch away from the cause of the problem, and so the French knights bunched up. The formation was disrupted. Men began to fear, at least, suffocation. By the time contact was made the coherence and energy of the assaulting formation was lost. The front might still fight bravely and destructively, but their chances of winning had gone.

Of course, the French did not take too long to hit on a solution to the problem, and spent much of the middle part of the Hundred Years War refusing to fight battles against English armies on the defensive. Given that being on the defensive was required for the English tactics to work, this was very effective. The French would not, and the English could not attack. The French could then deploy their resources in sieges and raid, exploiting the fact that the English struggled to hold the ground.

An alternative was the pike. The Low Countries guild pikemen had startling success against the French when they stood on the defensive. Again, the problem they did have was exactly that they needed to stay on the defensive to maintain coherence against the enemy. Big blocks of men are hard to move and keep in formation, and pike blocks rely on being big and in formation. As with the English this became problematic. The French refused to fight and even tried various ruses to induce the Flemish to attack. If they did, they were lost.

Finally we reach the Swiss, who both used pikes in large numbers and had a reputation for attacking at speed. This seems to have something to do with the nature of Swiss society and recruitment to the army. Villages fought together, as did urban guildsmen. Training was undertaken. The Swiss pike block was much more coherent and capable than any other infantry formation of the era, and it showed. But the point is that this depended on the social conditions in Switzerland – loyalty to canton, time to train and, in the final analysis, a lack of decent farmland for the sons of peasant farmers.

The thing is, much as I rack my brains, I cannot think of a set of wargame rules that models this lack of coherence. The older rule sets tend to focus on casualties. We can fudge that to argue that not everyone counted as a casualty was, in fact, dead, but it is exactly that, a fudge. More recent rule sets would have bases, say, of French dismounted men-at-arms recoil at an angle to the incoming archery, or, in extreme cases, be eliminated. And yet this is not what history tells us happened.

Now, you might say ‘Well, Polemos rules do not do that either’, and, indeed, you would be right. We did try to model unit disruption through the shaken system, and I think that cramping troops together as they flinched away from incoming fire was not a major part of the English Civil War, but I do not really think that Polemos, either, could cope.

Here, I think the problem is the bases we tend to use. My bases are stiff plastic card. You cannot cramp them together any more than side by side. It just does not work and anyway, would probably start to damage the bases if you tried. And yet this cramping is what we find in the medieval historical record.

Off hand, the only mechanism I can think of to model this behaviour would be for a flinching unit to move into another unit and for the effectiveness of the combined base to be reduced by, say, a half. Then when that base is his, it jumps into the next across and effectiveness is reduced again. This might model the effect we need, but could be a bit annoying.


This is not, of course, the only time when over dense formations were a problem – the French infantry in the villages at Blenheim were tightly packed and could barely raise their arms, or so I recall. So I wonder if anyone has any bright ideas for modelling the effect, or is it just one of those historical things we ignore to get a nice game?

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Wargame Myths Again

‘Treating Spanish musketeers as the functional equivalent of Persian archers, or Swiss pikemen as updated Greek hoplites, is commonplace among those who wish to use the richness of the past to create situations or scenarios to instruct or entertain modern students. But this way of handling the past violates something deep within the historian’s conscience, effacing all that is distinctive and unique about the early period of firearms use and imposing a certain bland uniformity on the material. In the final analysis, such pattern making is only as good as the historiography that informs it’
Hall, B. S., Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe (1997: John Hopkins, Baltimore, p. 6-7)

I mentioned recently that I had been reading about warfare in Britain 1485 – 1746 – Charles Carlton’s book about which I blogged recently. I noted then that I had, and had read, a number of the works Carlton mentioned. Bert Hall’s tome is one of them. I do remember reading it, but I cannot recall its contents. And so I now have a pile of books to re-read, as well as a pile to read.  Of the buying of books, of course, there is no end. I just need another few hours a day to read them in.

So, I picked up Hall’s book and, during a lunchtime at work, started to read it. Lo and behold, I ran across the quote above in the first few pages. Now, as an exercise, try re-reading the last sentence substituting the word ‘wargaming’ for ‘pattern making’. In fact, I shall do it for you below:
‘In the final analysis, such wargaming is only as good as the historiography that informs it’

I am, of course, making a heavy handed point here. We know, because we have seen them, and played them, that there are many wargame rules out there, and many wargame periods. We also know that there are many wargame rules which, by shifting period and troop types, think that they can sell a load more copies (do any wargame rules sell a ‘load’, I wonder) and not have to do much in the way of historical research or thinking about rule mechanisms.

Despite my protestations about this issue, there do seem to be increasing numbers of said rule types around. They may well, of course, have advantages. The rules, to players familiar with another period, might be easy to pick up. The core mechanisms might be rather good, or streamlined, or whatever it is that makes a good set of rules for a wargame. They may give a good, fun game, a cliff-hanger of excitement and engagement. Nevertheless, I think the modified quote from Hall skewers them quite accurately.

A set of wargame rules is only as good as the quality of understanding of the period which has gone into it. This is, of course, jeopardized if the writer of the rules approaches with a bunch of categories from another period. This is what Hall is saying: Spanish musketeers were not just souped up Persian arches facing souped up hoplites. Hoplites are hoplites and Swiss pike are Swiss pike. They are not the same thing, and should not be considered as such.

‘Who,’ you might ask, ‘rattled your cage this time?’ I admit it, I have written on this before, and yet it still annoys me. The specific issue I have is trying to find some rule set sufficient from the wars of Elizabeth Tudor. I have a few on my shelf which might be suitable: DBR and Renaissance Principles of War. I am sure you can spot the problem I have just referred to – they derive from rule sets designed for different periods.

I wold not mind quite so much, and would be prepared to use them (as I have in the past) for some fun games if I did not have a historical quibble with both of them This is that they both regard the Spanish tercio as a battlefield unit. The classic pike block with a block of musketeers at each corner is there in the rules.

‘What is the problem with that?’ you might ask. Well, it is fine if you are trying to reproduce the artwork of the time. However, there is no evidence that tercios, thus deployed, had any presence on any battlefield. A little thought from the rule writers might have convinced them of the fact. Spanish commanders were not lacking in common sense. Deploying half your firepower to a position where they could not do anything on the battlefield is not wise. There is no evidence that Spanish commanders were stupid.

‘Wargaming is only as good as the historiography that informs it.’ Granted, if you want a fun game with huge units blundering around, then deploying tercios under the rules will deliver. But it is sadly lacking in historical verisimilitude.  Spanish tercios were administrative units, not battlefield deployments. The art of the time is fun but not accurate. Deploying a tercio is not historical wargaming; it is even closer to fantasy than normal wargaming.

There used to be a rather good web page on the subject of tercios, but I cannot find it. However, the gist of it was, I believe as above. However, the myth of the tercio continues, I suspect, in wargaming circles, along with a whole load of other myths like the mid-seventeenth century musket rest, the caracole and the effectiveness of the pilum, not to mention the greatness of Alexander III of Macedon or Frederick of Prussia.

Nevertheless, I have not solved my rules problem. I would like a set of rules specifically for the ‘Elizabethan’ period – and I do know that the English were rather bit players in the wars of the time. And I would rather some rules, or at least army lists that noticed that the bow and bill armed men were recorded as ‘unarmed’ after 1585, and that the trained bands were not totally hopeless but selected and, well, trained.

Maybe I set the bar too high for a wargaming backwater period. I shall probably have to write my own.


Saturday, 5 August 2017

Flanks

I have, as some of you might know by now, obtained a small wargaming table. Now, I imagine that most tables are probably six feet by four feet, or even bigger. Certainly most pictures I see of people’s set ups suggests that size, as they say, is important. Some, of course, have bigger tables; I believe that someone once said that perhaps ten feet by six was the biggest practical, at least n one table.

I have no problem with this, of course. I used to have a six by four, which did sterling service for a number of years. The problem that I do have is with the numbers of toy soldiers that are placed upon said tables. I may well have moaned about this before in passing, and I may well, of course, contradict myself, but let’s see.

The issue at stake is, of course, the wargamer’s view that a wargame is not a wargame unless the table is full of troops. There are, of course, honourable exceptions to this general rule, but a brief investigation of some wargame blogs will probably affirm my assertion. Wargamers, in general, deploy everything they have across the whole width of the table.

Naturally, this is understandable. For one thing, most battles were straight on affairs. Most generals in his they could, attempted to secure their flanks by using impassable, or at least, difficult to pass terrain. Rivers, hedgerows, towns and castles have all been used to secure an army’s flanks. For another thing, sending a whole load of soldiers on a flank march is the luxury of an army that heavily outnumbers its opponents. After all, if the numbers are fairly even and a significant chunk of one army disappears, there is a risk that one or both bits will be defeated in detail before the others appear. For both these reasons, then, wargamers have it roughly right.

However, I do think that there are two things that do demand consideration. Firstly, flanks do not magically secure themselves. The choice of battlefield is significant in these circumstances, and is an important part of generalship. A general who is forced to fight with one flank ‘up in the air’ has to deploy forces to secure that flank, and this reduces the numbers available for the front  line. Thus it seems to me that wargamers who do not engage in pre-battle manoeuvring are missing a significant chance to show off their abilities (or lack of them, of course. I know where I would fall on this spectrum, at least) at forcing their opponents to fight at a disadvantage.

The second aspect is, of course, that in real life no-one wants a fair fight. The aim of generals is to win battles, achieve campaign objectives and win wars. The aim of wargamers is to enjoy a good game. This tends to entail filling the table with pretty toys and slugging it out. The relative unpopularity of campaign games is testament to that, as is the relative paucity of naval games. One of the writers on naval games noted that a naval wargame without the campaign context is a lot more pointless that land based wargames. In the latter, a crossroads or town can be declared strategically important and fought for. There is a lack of that sort of objective in naval games. Even in my recent ancient naval effort there was a non-naval objective, that of getting the transports to the island intact. While such scenarios do exist on land (think of the Wagon Train scenario, for example) they do tend to arise more naturally at sea.

Once the table is filled, of course, the opportunities for manoeuver are limited. Most troops can only really advance straight ahead and attempt to clobber the enemy. We aim to make a breakthrough. The chances of flanking anything except the odd unit are limited. In this sense most wargames, it seems to me, land up a bit like the Western Front in World War One where the strategic flanks were, ultimately, secured on the Channel coast and Switzerland respectively. The only way was to break through to the green fields beyond, to coin a phrase.

I have mentioned that, in my new regime of wargaming, I have stopped worrying about filling the table, and this is, I think, a good thing. Firstly, I can avoid the drudgery of painting, for drudgery it is to me (although, over all, I spend most of my hobby time doing it). Secondly, I can now deploy small forces and still not have the flanks covered. I have, I think, always wargamed like this. On my tables, of whatever size, the flanks have been open to anyone who cares to wander into them. It probably says a lot about my strategic or grand tactical vision that this tends not to happen. Or it might simply reflect on my aversion to painting figures.

On the whole, though, I do think that flanks should get more attention from wargamers than they usually seem to. I have to admit, however, that I struggle to think of more than a few battles where a classical flank march, along the lines of that advocated in DBM, made a difference. I am not that well versed in military history through the ages, of course, but in my periods I can really only think of the Second Battle of Newbury, where the Parliamentary armies squandered a 2:1 outnumbering position and a few strategic cards by engaging in a risky flank march and then not really performing on the battlefield. The most recent thing I have seen about this, however, is that it might have been done deliberately, so a faction (including Cromwell) in Parliament could get rid of what they regarded as the dead wood generals, who may well achieve a compromise peace with the king if they emerged as the victors.


That is historical speculation, perhaps. But perhaps we, as wargamers, had better watch our flanks. After all, we never know what might be approaching ut of left field…..

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Renaissance Naval Rules

Version 2.0

A bit of a blast from the past here. I realised that I needed my “renaissance” naval rules, and then that they had vanished from the web (hardly a surprise). So here they are, for my reference and your delectation. On a quick look they owe far too much to DB* for comfort, but they might give a platform to make a start.

The Renaissance (here defined as ca 1500-1700) was a time of great technological change in naval ships. Initially, the galley and carrack ruled the waves, and boarding was the most common combat method. By the end of the period, effective ships of the line were in use, together with frigates, bomb ketches and most of the other types of ship recognisable from navies of 100 years later.
We attempt to model here some of those changes. Readers should be warned that the rules take a ‘broadest brush’ approach, which may offend purists. That is to say, as much as possible of the technicalities of sailing have been hidden in favour of the big picture. As with the DB* series of rules, to which these are similar, command and control of the units is essential. This is achieved using the same PIP method. It is not the admiral’s job to fire the guns, take in sail, or order borders away. That is left to the individual ship’s captain, and his own internal chain of command. It is the admiral’s job to plan the battle and ensure the execution of that plan, by ordering reserves about and so on.
Naval warfare is a much more complex area, both technically and strategically than land warfare. It is recommended that battles be fought in the context of scenarios or campaigns, rather than as equal point duels.


Warship
Specialist warships, starting with roughly the Swedish and Danish fleets of the 1560’s, including the English fleet of the 1570’s onwards, and most mid- to late- 17th century fleets.
Ws(S)
First and second rate ships of the later 17th century.
Ws(O)
Third and fourth rates, exceptional earlier ships.
Ws(I)
Fifth and sixth rate ships.
Ws(F)
Frigates.
Ws(X)
Fireships.
Galleon
Sea going vessels, armed in the main with guns. They could be quite heavily armed, but were expected to fire once and board. This did not always happen, as the Armada found against the English fleet. English race built galleons are considered warships under these rules.
Gn(S)
Large ocean going vessels
Gn(O)
Medium ocean going vessels
Gn(I)
Small ocean going vessels
Gn(F)
Exceptionally manoeuvrable ocean going vessels
Gn(X)
Fireships
Galley
Galleys were, of course, the main type used in quieter waters, such as the Mediterranean, Japanese Seas and, on occasion, the Baltic. Oar powered, they could mount batteries fore and rear, but had no firepower to the sides. The oarsmen were vulnerable to firearms. Some, particularly Venetians were well known for their long range gunfire, but carried smaller boarding crews.
Gy(S)
Flagship and lanterna galleys, Korean Turtle ships, manoas.
Gy(O)
Standard Mediterranean types.
Gy(I)
Fustas, Japanese.
Gy(F)
Galliot, Venetians, North Africans.
Galleass
An attempt to compromise between a galley and a sailing ship, by adding heavier duty sails and broadside batteries. The result was not a massive success, being too heavy to row quickly, and difficult to sail. The six deployed at Lepanto may well have helped to break up the initial Turkish attacks, but were then left some distance from the main melee and unable to follow the fight.
Gs(S)
Large
Gs(O)
Medium
Gs(I)
Small, such a big pinnaces
Merchantmen
MM(S)
Large, transcontinental ships, merchant galleons and East Indiamen
MM(O)
Moderate sized ocean going ships, with just about a broadside
MM(I)
Light coastal traders, Far Eastern junks and the like
Yachts
Lightly armed warships used for scouting.
Yt(S)
Sloops and brigs
Yt(O)
Yachts
Yt(I)
Large Pinnaces, ocean going fishing boats
Yt(F)
Pirate vessels, careened brigs and the like
Boats
Bt(S)
Partially decked and carrying guns, such as bergantines used on lakes
Bt(O)
Open rowing boats. Invasion barges.
Bt(I)
Dug out canoes and other small vessels.
Bt(F)
Outrigger canoes.

A fleet should be organised into squadrons, each under an admiral. Each admiral will get 1 PIP roll on a d6 per turn. A fleet should be organised to a given number of points, with an admiral for roughl every 100 points. Models should be based individually, on a 40x40 mm base for large ships (warships, galleons, galleys, merchantmen etc), and 20x20mm for smaller (yachts and boats).
Points Cost
Type
S
O
I
F
X
Warship
25
20
15
15
20
Galleon
20
15
10
15
15
Galley
20
15
15
10
-
Galleass
25
20
15
-
-
Merchant
15
10
5
10
-
Yacht
17
13
7
15
-
Boat
7
5
3
3
-
Admiral costs +10. He may fly his flag on any vessel, but if not on a grade (S) vessel may only count the +1 for moving, not combat.

4 directions are identified, wind ahead, wind behind, and two wind on the beam. Movement and PIP cost is based on these.
PIP costs
Movement is by groups or individual elements. Movement must be to the full extent of the available distance, given the conditions, unless the relevant PIPs are paid, or the group or element is Gy or Gs in toto. No PIP's are spent for sailing ships moving the full extent of their move in the relevant conditions. The PIP costs for sailing below are used when other distances or manoeuvres are used.
Sail with wind on beam
1 PIP
Sail against wind
2 PIPs
Sail with wind behind
2 PIPs
Gy/Gs element or group rowing
1 PIP
Gy expanding into line
1 PIP
Admiral with group
-1 PIP
Out of sight of admiral
+1PIP
Ignite fireship
1 PIP

Movement
Class
Good
Rough
Difficult
Warship
200
100
50
Galleon
200
125
75
Galley
200
75
50
Galeass
100
75
50
Merchantman
150
75
75
Yacht
250
125
50
Boat
200
100
50
For sailing ships, good going is with the wind on the beam, rough is wind astern and difficult is wind ahead. All distances above are for windy. Deduct 50% for either very windy or calm.
For rowed galleys etc, good is all directions wrt wind in calm, any except into wind which is rough, in windy, and all directions are difficult in very windy.
Galleys may turn by 180 degrees in one base length. Sailing ships may turn by 45 degrees in one base length.
Large ships graded (S) deduct 50 paces from their move, (F) or (X) graded ships add 50 paces.


Factors

Class
Range
Factor
Factor
(Distance)
(Close)
Warship
300
4
2
Galleon
300
3
2
Galley
300
2
4
Galley(F)
2
4
Galeass
300
3
4
Merchantman
300
2
1
Yacht
200
2
1
Boat
100
1
1
Warships may only fire to the side. Galleys may only fire forward. Galeass may fire to side or forwards, the latter using Gal factors. In close contact, orientation does not matter, as the ships are assumed to attempt to slew to the correct angle. X may not shoot once ignited.
Tactical And Support Factors
-1
Each Damage marker if in close combat.
+3
Raking from Stern.
+2
Raking from bow.
-1
For each additional shooter.
-2
For each additional close combatant.
+1
For second line of galleys in CC
+1
Admiral aboard
Class Factors
+1
If superior.
-1
If inferior.
-1
If fast in close combat.
+1
If fast being shot at.
+2
If X in close combat rolling odd.
-2
If X in close combat rolling even.
+2
If boat fired at
X class ships (Fireships)
Fireships may be ignited on command, for a cost of 1 PIP. Once lit, they burn for 6 moves, moving on their original course the full distance. They do not need PIP's to move at this point. They may not fire one ignited, but before hand may operate as an I class ship of their type.

If less than but more than half
Warship
Recoil
Galleon
Recoil
Galley
Recoil
Galeass
Recoil
Marchantman
On even roll, recoil. On odd roll, flee
Yacht
Flee.
Boat
Flee. On odd roll take 1 damage marker.
If less than half
Warship
Take 1 damage marker. On odd roll sink if more than 4 damage markers, otherwise captured if in close combat. On even roll recoil.
Galeass
Take 1 damage marker. On even roll recoil. On odd roll, sink if more than 4 damage markers present, otherwise captured if in close combat.
Galleon
Take 1 damage marker. On even roll recoil. On odd roll, sink if more than 3 damage markers present, otherwise captured if in close combat.
Galley
Captured if in close combat. Otherwise, take 1 damage markers, sink if total is more than 3, recoil otherwise.
Merchantman
Captured if in close combat. Otherwise flee, take 1 damage marker and sink if total is more than 3, recoil otherwise.
Yacht
On odd roll, captured if in close combat, otherwise flee, take 1 damage marker and sink if total is more than 3.
Boat
Captured if in close combat. Otherwise sink.

Description of Results
Recoil
Ship is moved one base depth away from the winning combatant. If it is unable to do this, ship is captured if in CC, flees in any availiable direction otherwise.
Flee
Ship moves full move in direction away from winning combatant.
Captured
Ship is boarded and captured by winner. Ceases fire and combat. May only be moved to capturers rear, or used by them to board the next vessel in line, using their original factor.
Damage markers show the level of disruption the vessel, crew and its command and control functions are suffering at present. For each move entirely unengaged, one damage marker may be removed, to a minimum of 1. More than 5 damage markers, and the vessel sinks immediately.

Following Up
Class X ships must, and others may follow up a recoil or flee result, to the full extent of their allowance in the particular circumstances.

Victory is decided when one side or another, at the begining of a bound, has lost half or more of its elements, excluding boats.

The purpose of this section is not to give specific lists, but to provide guidance as to what is available.
Atlantic and Baltic
Mainly Gn, Yt, Bt, MM, and later Ws
Mediterranean
Gy, Gs, Bt, Yt if North African
Indian Ocean
Bt(S) (Dhows), Gy
East Asian
Gn, MM(I) (Junks)
South East Asia
MM(I), Bt(S)