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Revised 04-10-2016

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I blog about two major topics: wargame battles based on those fought in the Seventeenth Century in the British Isles and Ireland and my thinking and experimentation with the rules I use to play those games. At this point, however, I have decided to concentrate on Impetus:Baroque as my rules set of choice.

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Liscarroll:Scenario Development Wargame (Continued)

The header picture is another lovely shot of Liscarroll Castle recently taken by a John Bedell.

An eye-witness account of the battle indicates that the Irish foot were drawn up in three “masses” which has led many to assume that Barry had placed his troops in Spanish tercio formations (or at least some semblance of such). Here is an interesting blog post which gives a concise description of the battle as well as a conjecture on tercio-like formations.

Liscarroll II:

The Irish Army now uses a tercio unit structure:


Irish:  One militia pike LTE (C), one militia foot LTE (C), one foot LTE (B), two retinue horse GA (B), one light gun and one heavy gun. Army VDT (demoralization value) is 14. Army CS (command structure) is poor. CO is Garret Barry (1) with three subordinates (each 1)

The Anglo/Irish have the same unit structure as Liscarroll I:

“English”: two P&M (B), two musketeer T (B), two retinue horse GA (B) and two light guns. Army VDT is 14. Army CS is average. CO is Lord Inchiquin (3) with one subordinate (2).

The English horse pinched in more toward the center but again the Irish horse charged, forcing the English to counter charge. The melee’ fighting is fairly even and Lord Inchiquin manages to stay alive (so far). The Irish guns are a bit more effective this time, causing some disorganization in the English infantry and, although taking hits, the Irish Militia drives the Musketeers on the English left off the field (large white die in center indicating that the musketeers took four casualties):


The rest of the English foot come up and give crashing first volleys against the Irish, killing the commander of the advancing Irish pike block. Further to the right the English score a total of seven hits on the Irish regular foot but these translate into very few permanent casualties:


At this point (turn 4) it is essential for the English that their cavalry wing does not collapse.

As things proceed, the Irish heavy gun manages to destroy one of the two English P&M regiments and the remaining infantry, blazing away now at close range, fail to impede the advancing Irish foot:


In the new round of melee’s the Irish horse easily outfight the English and it is game over (Although Lord Inchiquin managed to survive):


This replay wasn’t even close. It was all over in five turns with the Irish not giving up a single VDT point. The tercio formations are tough and can take a good deal of punishment (although the English inability to translate hits to actual casualties was abysmal).

The Irish and English horse in both games were perfectly matched with the English having a slight advantage in command. The English simply couldn’t win melee’s. In both games they only managed to win one out of five with three draws. I am looking into picking a new set of dice for the English. The Irish lost the historic battle largely do to Inchiquin’s horse holding together and attacking the Irish in the flank which ultimately caused the Irish foot, who had been fighting quite bravely, to break and run. Without the same result from the English horse in these games, it is difficult for the English to win.

I continue to be pleased with the Baroque rules set. They are fun, quick, and give, I think, reasonable results. They are perhaps not the best pick for many of my battles on the Celtic Fringe because they are not particularly designed for the highly variable unit sizes or the really ragged quality of troops. I have considered adding a “D” discipline level but this would turn such units into pretty much terrain features. My house rules (which allow for some specialized groupings of units) may work better to this end but I don’t have sufficient data yet to know.

My next step here will be to set up the scaled-up version of Liscarroll and work through the battle more precisely. In the meantime however I’m going over to Signa et Portenta and start working on the War of the Orbs.



Liscarroll:Scenario Development Wargame

The header picture is a recent view overlooking the walls of Liscarroll Castle with part of the battlefield in the distance (credit John Bedell ).

I have mentioned that I now plan to use Impetus:Baroque standard rules to do quick appreciations of the historic battles I plan to investigate before I play them out on a larger field using the extended house version of Baroque. Liscarroll is the first battle to use this procedure.

Liscarroll was fought on September 3rd, 1642, between the Munster army of the nascent Irish Confenderation commanded by General Garret Barry and an Anglo/Irish Ptotestant force lead by the Baron Inchiquin. The Irish army was substantially larger (a near three-to-on advantage in foot) but generally poorly armed and trained. Although smaller, Inchiquin’s was better armed and trained, comprised not only of the remnants of the old government garrisons in Munster and other locally raised Protestant forces but reinforced by regulars that had been recruited in England as a joint venture of King and Parliment in response to the 1641 rebellion. The forces were equal in horse both in numbers (about 500 per side) and quality (good) being comprised of landed gentry and men of position and their retainers. The historic result was a smashing victory for the English.

Here are links for the Baroque unit types and values for the Irish and for the Anglo/Irish, although for convenience I will refer to them as the “English”.

The Baroque battlefield minimum dimensions for 10mm are 120cm by 90cm for 500/700 point battles and 180cm x 120cm for a 800/1000 point battle. Since I use 80mm base width (2/3 of the recommended 120mm) the reduced field dimensions would be 80cm x 60cm and 120cm x 80cm respectively. My quarter battle surface dimension is 40″ x  30″ (roughly 100cm x 75cm) so using this reduced size for most of the development battles I will do by standard Baroque seems justified.

Liscarroll I:

Irish: two P&M (B), two militia P&M (C), two militia PK (C), two local militia WB (C), two retinue horse GA (B), one light gun and one heavy gun. Army VDT (demoralization value) is 19. Army CS (command structure) is poor. CO is Garret Barry (1) with three subordinates (each 1)

“English”: two P&M (B), two musketeer T (B), two retinue horse GA (B) and two light guns. Army VDT is 14. Army CS is average. CO is Lord Inchiquin (3) with one subordinate (2).

The battle opens with the Irish horse (top left) moving forward and charging the English horse which react by counter-charging. The Irish foot is holding in decent defensive positions but the English foot advances to musket range where they will have a considerable advantage in firepower against the pike heavy Irish. The Irish heavy gun beings firing but without effect:


The cavalry Melee’ on the English left has had mixed results. Lord Inchiquin’s squadron has taken substantial loses and was pushed back. Although not caught by the Irish pursuit, they were again caught by the ferocius Irish as they rallied. The second English squadron drove off the following Irish horse with heavy loss and are now trying to return to help Inchiquin. Some of the English foot is beginning to bring the Irish foot under fire and causing casualties. The Irish return fire is ragged. All the guns on both sides are now engaged but the results are not worth the expenditure of powder. The Irish, seeing the English plan to wear them down with fire power are advancing their pike blocks in the center:


In the actual battle Lord Inchiquin was captured during the horse melee on the left but was quickly recovered by English horse. In this fight, however, he was killed outright, followed by the destruction of the remaining English horse (pretty much a disaster!).

As the Irish horse regroups to now threaten the remnant of the English left, the Irish pike blocks engage the English center:


emboldened by the Irish pikes, General Barry orders his best foot regiments to move down the slight slope to attack the English right:


The guns continue to fire on both sides but cause little damage. The English have a heavy superiority in musketry and shread the Irish in both the center and on the English right. Although the Irish manage to come to melee’ at various points they are thrown back by the outnumbered English:


The Irish commander of horse has been reduced to incompetency (a particularly nice feature of Baroque) and is having trouble organizing his attack to roll-up the English flank. The Irish attacks continue to wear down the English foot but as the fighting continues both sides are becoming exhausted. In the  lower corner of the picture below the black (English) and white (Irish) counter indicates that the next army to lose a unit will probably break:


At the beginning of turn seven, the Irish horse commander, improbably, wins the intiative and charges into the flank of the English musketeers, who break. The battle is over, the Irish have won.


Impetus:Baroque is a very attractive rules set. I have mentioned before that the reaction rules allow the non-phasing player much opportunity for decision making and responding to what the active player is doing. This feature is not unique to Baroque but is very cleanly implemented. Additionally the sequence of which side and which element will become active next is less than predictable. This adds, even for a solo player, a good deal of drama and interest.

This game was lost by the English when gambling they could take out another Irish unit (several were on the edge of breaking) BEFORE the Irish could get their horse into the flank attack. An Improbable sequence of activations however changed the expected sequence of events and it was suddenly over.

Next I’m going to replay the same scenario but with the Irish In more compact formations (which may be a better approximation of what actually happened).

Bunraku Header

Bunraku Baroque

I’ve always admired Bunraku puppets and the skill of the puppeteers (and musicians and voice artists). I can’t say I understand or spend much time seeking it out but encountering it on TV or YouTube I can sit totally enthralled for a substantial period of time.

Before I continue (and actually relate a Bunraku play to a wargame) here is a video that gives a sense of Bunraku if you not familiar with it:

Wargaming is well recognized as a story telling medium. For me, in fact, this is its most engaging aspect. A battle (historic or fantasy) is presented in a stylized (and safe) way by puppets (miniature figures) and props (table top and terrain) that follow a loose script (scenario and rules).  The script is so loose (dynamic?) that the details and outcomes can not be fully predicted.

At the high end (the artistic high end) of wargaming, exquisitely detailed figures move and fight over miniature terrain that rivals that of the best static displays found in museums (or model railroads!). Hundreds of hours of work can go into the creation of the battlefield alone. At the other extreme (which is most wargames), figures (on occasion even un-painted) move across a flat surface with only a few important terrain features put in place. These can be set-up (and taken down) quickly allowing more time for actual play. The stories that are produced by either approach are, in my opion at least, equally entertaining.

Another visual aspect of wargaming is the means by which you keep track of ever changing combat values and unit statuses. It is possible to do this with record sheets (which is still the preferred way if you don’t want to give information to an opponent). I find this approach tedious and since I play solo, totally unnecessary. In high end games, markers are placed with each unit to indicate everything you wish to track. The markers are cleverly designed as special figures or battlefield debris which is switched out to indicate a change. This method has the visual advantage of not distracting the casual viewer from story.

The more common, quick and dirty game often uses small dice and/or brightly colored bits of wood or plastic for markers. While these are thought by some to detract from what Steve Morgan calls “the sense of occasion”, they impart a great deal of information quickly. This is where Bunraku come to the fore. Once you are engaged in the story being told you simply don’t notice the black clad puppeteers! I use this same principle for games, I simple don’t notice the markers or the sabots (unless I need information). To emphasize that the sabots are not to be seen I have gone back and painted by bright green sabot dark brown with black rails.

Sabots have now become necessary since now use Impetus:Baroque as by principle rules system.   Movement sabots are constructed to standardize unit sizes to the Baroque convention. My hundreds of 1″ x 1″ combat pieces can now be assembled in a variety of ways to create units on the fly that will also conform to Baroque unit types.

The critical base dimension in Baroque is the frontage (width). With the exception of guns (artillery) the frontage is the same for all units. The frontage dimension I chose is a bit of a compromise. The rule book does not give a list for 10mm units but offers that 15mm basing could be used or 25/28mm basing cut in half.  The base width is 120mm for 15mm and half 25/28mm is 90mm. Because I already have bunches of 80mm x 40mm bases, I chose 80mm for my critical dimension. Since One inch equals a bit over 25mm, my standard sabot comfortably houses 3 combat pieces:


A Baroque massed unit (an all pike unit is shown below as an example) uses an 80mm x 60mm sabot:


While I have no need for tercio units in the ECW period, I wanted the option of using them at some point. I made up four Later Tercio (LTE) sabots (80mm x 100mm):


And four Early Tercio (ETE) sabots:

Early Tercio

The Early Tercio is indicated by the four musketeer bastion sleeves at each corner of the pike block. The early Tercio was formed up in many different ways but the four bastion formation is the most iconic.

It will be interesting to see how changing the color of the sabot affects the overall appearance of a game. If nothing else it will remind me about the Bunraku aspect.