This is a battle report for my first use of Peter Pig’s Regiment of Foote, 2nd edition (RoF2). I have several previous posts about pre-game considerations.
It is my own scenario and is set in Ireland around 1646 in an alternate history. Charles I has won the First Civil War and with the Engagers rapidly taking control of Scotland and Ulster, he turns his attention to the defeat of the Irish Confederation.
The Royal Army (highly experienced – 144 points) is advancing from Carlow toward Kilkenny to capture the Confederation Capital. The last intact Irish field army in the south (the Munster army) meets them near the village on Moanduff. The Irish army (not in the RoF2 army lists) is weaker ( 91 points) and without nearly as much experience. They are heavy in pikes and dragging a siege gun with them (as the Munster insurgents did in the early years of the rebellion).
Victory conditions are simple:
-For the English, punch through the Irish line then take and hold the four squares on either side of the road as it exits south toward Kilkenny.
-For the Irish it is even simpler, stop the English.
The game ends after 8 turns (no extensions)
The opening turn belongs to the Attacker (English)
The veteran, three unit brigade (lead by the Lifeguard of Foot and here after called the Royal Brigade) has cleared casualty tokens (received in the pre-game cannonade) by passing a required morale check. The pink cubes indicate that they received two half-base casualties in the initial cannonade. The picture below shows the initial dispositions and the movement routes for the English units:
The plan is to advance across the front, the English right hopefully pinning the Irish left while shifting most of the infantry to attack the Irish right. The English will first halt at the stream to prepare for a concerted rush.
The English horse on the left flank will, however,engage immediately. They are to hastily cross the stream and clear away the Irish horse to eliminate any immediate threat to the English infantry as they make their crossing.
Only two of the three units of horse (along with Col. Jones -FO) actually manage to cross without being mired on its muddy banks, and one of those only barely! Patches of smoke indicate where Irish ranged weapon fire (shooting) is occurring in response to the English advance:
The English horse drives back the Irish horse (each with a full base casualty – the losses mainly occurring as they were driven back). The conscript Irish horse unit has also lost its (green cube) aggression marker. This horse brigade will now have to contend with four casualty markers in the morale phase of turn two:
Turn 2 (Irish)
Col. O’Moore, the Irish Right flank commander prudently abandons his horse to join his foot to the right of the road. The remaining horse panics forthwith and quits the field.
After a moment of indecision, Col. O’Brien, commanding the Irish left, apprehends the real danger and collapses his foot into the center in front of the ridge guarding the road. Before leaving , he orders his horse to block the area between the woods and the village of Moanduff, hoping to deny the English a clear path to the all-important ridge behind them. Seeing this re-positioning, The Irish CO moves his light gun farther left to cover the horse:
On the right flank, galled by the proximity of the English dragoons in the wooded ridge to his right, Maj. Thomas MacSweeny, commanding O’Hagan’s foot, swings his unit into the woods to drive them off. The English light guns begin firing on the horse still holding the Irish left but with no better results than the Irish:
O’Hagan’s Foot drives off the English dragoons that are beginning to harass the Irish right flank:
Turn 3 (English)
The English begin Turn 3 with an assault all along the Irish front. It does not begin well. The horse brigade on the right has even more trouble crossing the stream than its sister brigade on the left and the three units of horse become so badly scattered that only a single unit assaults the Irish horse. Bard’s foot, however, maneuvers along the stream and crosses into Moanduff without difficulty. The all-veteran Royal Brigade (Lifeguards, Rupert’s and Newcastle’s) also struggles with the stream crossing and expends too much of their movement to chance making the planned assault on the pike-armed Irish militia just south of Moanduff.
Fortunately for the English, things go much better on the left. The two units of the Green Brigade easily cross over the stream and slam into a second Irish militia brigade positioned just below the ridgeline. Joined now by their missing unit, the left flank cavalry brigade joins in the fight by taking the already overmanned Irish militia in the flank:
Two fights have now developed, the horse on the English right and a complex melee on the left. The picture shows (red arrows) the lines of assault and the purple lines potential support:
The cavalry fight on the right is pretty straight forward. A single English horse unit is attacking two Irish cavalry units, one conscript, one trained. The two English horse units straggling behind (thanks to the disastrous stream crossing) have just two bases each so can offer no support (2.5 bases are required as a per square minimum). Bard’s foot in the village is able to support the lone cavalry unit, however. The white dice show the target square values and the black the assault force values. Further adjustment will be made for the presence of veteran and conscript troops:
The fight on the English left is rather more involved. Since there is an assault from two directions one must be chosen as the primary assault. Because the Irish have pikes (lots of pikes) the English foot is picked as the main assault (red arrow) and the cavalry as the harassing assault (yellow arrow). Again the white dice show the number of fighting dice the Irish (target square) will employ and the black the same for the English (assault square). Because the pikes are involved, the numbers on both sides are counted (1 point per half-base). The red and green die indicate those numbers with the Irish (green) having a two to one superiority. Finally, the small white cube between the green and red dice indicate that the Irish CO has placed his “Defend” gift in the target square:
The cavalry engagement on the right quickly sees off the the Irish horse with a half base casualty per unit. They do not rout, however, and regroup behind the light gun. The fight near the road on the English left is much fiercer. The Irish militia manfully handles their pikes as their musketeers hurl lead – and invective – at the English. To everyone’s amazement (not least the militia), the English are forced back (thanks to the Defend re-roll) with heavy losses! The English cavalry, coming out of the woods in haphazard fashion played little part in the action. The Irish then fire a final salvo that does little or no damage, the exception being the musketry of the veteran units on the Irish right which drop some of the English cavalry returning to the woods.
Turn 4 (Irish)
The Irish horse on the left easily pass their morale test and clear their square of casualty markers. Then…
Fág a’ Bealach! Wargamers who think there must be clever mechanisms for solo gamers to introduce surprise perhaps do not fully appreciated the process of moment by moment indecision followed by impulsive action. In my mind the English were going to run roughshod over the Irish and the latter’s best hope was to pack the center and await events. Right up until the opening of this turn that was my intent (as Irish commander) but now, with the first English infantry assault decisively pushed back, my Celtic blood is up and we attack! “Clear the Way!”
I would have preferred the two units of militia pike to attack (dash line) the single foot regiment (Bard’s) in Moanduff. This would likely cut their support of the lone horse unit. BUT you can not withdraw from a face contact and assault another unit in the same turn. So, screaming like banshees, they instead plough into the English brigade to their front! Meanwhile the cavalry remnant on the left attacks the lone horse unit to their front. Then, surprising even to me, Barry (the field Irish CO) makes an even more aggressive decision and directs the elated militia brigade to attack the powerful (but floundering) English horse brigade in the woods! (they are in face contact on two fronts so are permitted to attack either.) Barry then gathers his best foot units into a steady reserve to await a final English assault:
The fighting begins on the Irish right. This time, as the attacker, the black dice represent the Irish fighting values. Both sides also have a general present and a blue “winning the fight” marker. These will be added into the total number of fighting dice rolled for each side. The more dice rolled the more chances for hits. The more hits the more chances to cause casualties.
Lastly (or firstly – it doesn’t matter) the pike effect is calculated and rolled for. The Irish have 8 (green) and the English none (they are horse after all). This will likely result in a two die reduction in the English fighting dice:
I should probably note here that my units don’t quite match those of Peter Pig. I don’t have half-bases (nor do I intend to make them). I use pink markers to indicate a half-base is removed. I also used some mixed bases (musket and pike) in different proportions. For the purposes of RoF2 these are used to make up pike heavy or musket heavy units (and in the case of the Irish, pike only units). Because of the way I count half-bases, I will end up with more pikes in a pike heavy regiment than Peter Pig would get. Oh well! The Irish like it!
In the center the all-pike Irish militia, inspired by their brethren , are assaulting the veteran Royal Brigade in position along the road in Moanduff. The black and white dice again indicate the number of Irish and English fighting dice respectively. Generals have not yet been added in. The pike differential is huge, 12 (green) Irish against 6 (red) English. Yes I know it says 4 but it should be 6! As in the other fight the Irish will probably erase 2 of the English fighting dice with their pikes:
Finally, on the Irish left, there is a reprise of the early cavalry fight,this time with the Irish as the attacker:
The outnumbered veteran English horse once again prevails, pushing the enthusiastic, but ill-trained and poorly mounted, Irish horse back once more to the ridge.
By the end of the forth turn the Irish militia is spent and as they pull back, the English continue to cause casualties with their musketry:
Still, the ferocious Irish attacks were giddily successful in slowing down the English advance.
Turn 5 (English)
The English now have no time for a stately advance, they MUST be in position to drive the Irish out of the road squares (and preferably off the table) by the end of this turn. They are able to move between the remaining Irish cavalry and the main body AND get atop the ridge without opposition. They are now also threatening the Irish right flank from the tree line on the ridge. These successes are countered by the Green Brigade having to move back across the stream to regroup:
Most of the fighting now occurs in the center as The Royal Brigade quickly dispatches the remnants of the Irish militia and moves into position to support further attacks along the ridge line:
As the shadows lengthen, the Irish pour musket fire into the English and again manage to drive off the red dragoons on the right:
Turn 6 (Irish)
Surprisingly the remaining militia managed to re-group and stand firm at the foot of the ridge buoyed by the cheers of the Irish regulars. Although his fighting blood is up, the Irish commander (Barry) realizes that he can ill-afford weakening his final position with further heroics. A man of forceful personality, he passes through the ranks of his veterans urging them to brace for the English deluge.
Turn 7 (English)
The English MUST take the target squares to have any hope of winning. Bard’s foot along with two units of horse attack the flank of the trained Irish brigade (so they do not have to deal with an uphill assault). at the same time the powerful Royal Brigade to the immediate front of the Irish makes an harassing assault. One unit of the Green Brigade assaults the last decimated militia brigade, the Green Brigade’s second unit failing to get across the accursed stream! The left flank horse make a desperate attack on the veteran Irish brigade, but will, thankfully, end up being supported by the Royal Brigade:
Not surprisingly, the Green Brigade unit easily dispatches the militia and comes up to support the attacks on the Irish right and center. More surprisingly, The veteran Irish brigade breaks! In the end it comes down to the assaults on the Irish trained brigade – it ends up a tie with equal casualties!
In the case of a tie the target square wins and Bard’s and the horse must withdraw into the last of the Irish horse and are routed! The Irish have won!:
For a fast set-up and quick play, RoF2 delivers what it advertises. After playing this game, I played twice more with friends (thanks Jack and Bonnie!). Each play through took less than two hours, did not require endless stoppages to consult the rules, and produced fun and action-filled games. It seems particularly a great game for introducing general players to wargaming and wargamers to an unfamiliar period.
I have already posted my likes and dislikes on the Pendraken rules Forum but here is a copy with a few annotations:
Mechanisms I like in RoF2:
1. Rolling to move out of difficult terrain – thought I would hate it actually love it. This is one of the two major reasons the Irish won. Negotiating the stream crossings was a real problem for the English. Time and again powerful assaults were greatly diminished or aborted all together thanks to units being separted by failures to cross. I like this approach to terrain so much I may replace the complicated measuring in my main games with this mechanism.
2. Opening cannonade – A fairly realistic way to begin a battle.
3. No diagonal move -old idea – but believably implemented.
4. Pike effect – arriving at a differential between the number of attacker/defender pikes and then essentially fighting a pre-battle to see who can reduce the other side – best implementation of “push of pike*” I’ve seen. This was the second reason the Irish won – they were bristling with pikes (and got some good rolls!). If a pike block maintains its discipline and cohesion it is very effective in close combat which seems a fair representation of the period. As much as I like the concepts here I’m going to keep my present system of pike combat and support.
5. Except for light and medium guns no constant fiddling with formation and facing. This took a little getting used to but for casual players in particular it greatly speeds the game and game action.
6. A very basic field command implementation. Generals may have up to three simple gifts that allow re-rolls in certain situations – of course I am paralyzed by the decision to re-roll. I am not a particular fan of re-rolling. I understand that it works on the principle of regression toward the mean BUT one of the most interesting things about wargaming is the “butterfly effect” of one bad roll. I like solving problems more than winning.
7. The avoidance of combat is simple and straight forward.
8. IGOUGO – right to left – as old as Senet but great for solo play.
The aspect of RoF2 I don’t particularly care for are the rules for musketry. I understand that because of the use of squares – basically zone to zone moves – that most of the effective range musketry occurs as part of the “fighting” phase of a turn. Since a square is roughly forty scale yards across AND the actual position within the square of any unit is unknown (as was pointed out to me on the Pendraken forum) it may be a decent abstraction of musketry. Martin says in his rules introduction that this is done to bring forces to close combat rather than allowing battles to be won simply by musketry. His view seems to be that this is more characteristic of the period. I agree, but only in part.
I think what is more characteristic is the integrated use of BOTH fire and shock tactics. The very term for the era – Musket&Pike – bespeaks this fact. Finding the balance between the two primary infantry weapons was a constantly evolving process. The volley and charge tactic that was used with widely varying effectiveness on the Celtic Fringe (the “Highland” charge) can not be reproduced with these rules. The rules are clearly based on the primary warfare of the First Civil War so this omission is easily excusable (Although Inverlochy – a most definite Celtic Fringe battle – IS included in the Scenerio package).
With this said I really did enjoy the play produced by these rules and certainly plan to use them when I have live opponents or just want to quickly play through a game or two solo. I have also mentioned in a previous post that using RoF2 might be a good way to prototype scenarios for more complex rules systems.
Next I need to finish “dressing” all of my ECW bases – about half done at this writing – and then move on to the Battle of Fyvie.
*much can (and has) been written on the term, “push of pike”. It was so well-known by writers contemporary to the period that they never found it neccessary to describe precisely what it means. Complicating the issue is that the term clearly became an idiom for most close combat. There are several theories with staunch, nay – militant, supporters of each. When I use the term I mean in its narrowest sense – the actual pike to pike combat that was the first contact and would substantially decide which side was going to hold ground. What it looked like I have no idea – nor does anybody else – but Holbien (from a century earlier) may show the end stages of a “push”: