Thursday, May 23, 2013

The 98: Delaying Action South of Barney

The Situation Around Barney.

When Ferach troops were spied approaching Barney the brave commander of the 88th Connartist "Ramblers" faced a difficult decision.  Clearly the light infantry battalion was no match for a reinforced brigade of Elves, Bunnies, and Toads.

Indeed in the confines of Barney, where the towering presence of Barney Castle made violence magically impossible, no defense could be mounted.

Major Grifter considered his options:

He could remain in Barney. The magical Ban of Aggression would mean that no harm would come to him or his Bog Orcs. Then, when the time was ripe, his command could sally forth to cause mischief on the Ferach lines of communication. 

No, that wouldn't work. It would be all too easy for the enemy to contain the 88th. It would be a comfortable internment, but an internment none the less. Even if Grifter's sense of honor could allow such a thing, his loyal Bog Orcs would never stand for it. The mere thought of the Green faction despoiling their fair Guinalea was enough to send any loyal Bog Orc into a rage.

The Major considered his second option; take the road to the east and reinforce the garrison of Fort Chuck. Little did Grifter realize that even now the fort was falling. Such a move promised succour, even if it did mean putting himself under that windbag Simmering's command. However, and this led him to his third option, that would leave the roads to the south wide open.

The pass! Yes, why not. Defending the pass would ensure independent command and the action the 88th coveted.  If the enemy moved south, a delaying action would be in order. Hold them up for a bit and then melt into the hills to regroup and then raid. If the enemy didn't move south...well that would lead straight to the raiding part! So much the better.

The decision made, Grifter assembled his Bog Orcs and set out for the hills.


General Hochemont, his staff, and his escort.
The previous evening General Hochemeont had issued his proclamation in which he had lavished praise on this land, its peoples, and its beliefs. In truth Hochemont felt this place had the dimensions of heresy. He sought to end the campaign quickly and make his way back to civilization.

"That clown Moult and his band of rebels have proven entirely unreliable. I shall deal with the orcs using Ferach troops alone. Let these country cousins sing and boast about the rising of their clans after it is all over. Guinalea for the Guinaleans indeed. I simple wish to return to my estates..."

To that end the General had taken the road south.  A quick march to the south bank  of the Iffey and any defenses sited along the river will be useless. Bubblin would fall quickly. From their on to Dungslough and successful end to a dreary campaign!

From the crest of a hill, General Hochemont surveyed the road.  He could just make out red jacketed shapes moving around the ruins of a henge and some stone walls. There was a cairn off to the General's left. A sign that once before  there had been a battle here. "Strange place this Guinalea, who knows what horrors might lurk here" he thought. "Still the Emperor wants it and I am but an instrument of his will".


View from the Henge.
Major Grifter considered the bleak landscape stretching out before him. "Sgt. Morrigan! D*mn your eyes, Boggy, even if your spooks don't come to our aid, this is where we  shall stand! I want the road and gateway barricaded post haste."

"Lieutenant Dimwhiddle! Take a company and establish a piquet on the hill to our left. Don't want Johnny Elf pushing a gun up there and firing down on us. Now Orc, now or I'll have your hide!"

Lt. Dimwhiddle's piquet and post.
"We can't hope to hold them short of some miracle but we can slow them down and make them pay for the privilege of using this road. Remember my fine Boggies, fire and retire, fire and retire!"

With that Major Grifter and his bog orcs settled in, waiting for the Ferach advance.


2nd Brigade deploys.

Just what is going on here?
Dear readers normally I would not play out such a one sided affair. The Connartist Ramblers have no hope of stopping the Ferach Juggernaut. None at all. In a solo or indeed even in a competitive campaign this sort of encounter could easily be resolved with a toss of the dice.

That having been said, I have been working on the school of the skirmisher and wanted to try out some tweaks to the way skirmishing troops are handled in Muskets & Shakos, and for this situation is providential in that sense. 

Unlike the other games in this campaign, where the rules have entirely handled the opposition, this time around I have made a plan for the Ferach troops to follow, and will be playing as Major Grifter.

The Ferach plan is simple. The single squadron of du Rospo Hippos will advance as skirmishers to reconnoiter the hill to the west of the road.

At the same time the du Rospo light infantry will proceed in skirmish order down the road and engage the 88th in a firefight.

The 54th Ligne has been assigned the task of assaulting the henge. The 54th has also been assigned to garrison Barney, and so will be tasked with containing the 88th should they escape into the hills.

The rest of the Ferach troops will simply march down the road, avoiding casualties and getting on with the liberation of Guinalea.

My plan for the 88th is to fire each time the enemy comes into range, and fall back if pressed.

To make the whole thing a wee bit more interesting there is a twist. This battle is being fought on one of Guinalea's perennial invasion routes. As such should a dice roll result in reinforcements for either side, those reinforcements will take the form of a random number of undead armed with melee weapons.

Those rallying to the Ferach cause will start adjacent to the cairn by General Hochemont.

Those rallying to the cause of the loyal Bog Orcs will start adjacent to the alter in the center of the henge.

Following is a brief account of how the game played. As usual simply click on any photo to see a larger version of the same.

As planned the du Rospo Hippos moved out in skirmish formation.

The du Rospo light infantry began skirmishing with the 88th.

The 88th's piquet engaged the du Rospo Hippos while the main force of the 88th fell back before the Ferach assault.

Ferach forces gained the first wall of the enclosed henge. Surprisingly, and unfortunately for me, the du Rospo lights were dishing out more damage than they were receiving. No matter which side I play, my dice rolling skills remain the same: poor.

Faced with Lt. Dimwhiddle's post, the du Rospo Hippos form up in close order.

Skirmishing continues around the henge while the 10th Burrovian Ligne start down the west side of the road.

This is where it all happens : )
Faced with a breastwork of biscuit boxes, the du Rospo Hippos turn to find an open flank... the process exposing their own flank and losing a figure.

The main body of the 88th has now been pushed back to the rear wall of the henge enclosure.

The dashing Col. Monaciello chomps his signature cheroot as he leads his toads ever forward!

The 88th now quite literally has their backs to the wall.

Finally a reinforcement roll succeeds! To bad its for the Ferach who really do not need the help.

Lt. Dimwhiddle managed to withdraw his company while the du Rospo Hippos were maneuvering to outflank him.
The 88th in the henge have been reduced to two figures.

With a couple of parting shots (both misses of course), Major Grifter leads the remnant of the 88th into the hills.

Final losses during play:
88th: 6 out of action, 1 missing, out of 12 present.
Du Rospo Hippos: 1 out of action of 3 present.
Du Rospo Lights: 1 out of action of 12 present.

Quite a convincing victory for the toads.

General Hochemont's march has been held up for half a map move.
What of the rules?

These worked very well indeed.
Skirmishers have always been the sort of elephant in the room when it comes to games where the player is a division or brigade leader. Some rules simply abstract them into a plus or minus factor and otherwise disregard them. Others have detailed rules for deploying and fighting them.

Based on my reading of battle participant accounts the former approach is right out. The skirmish line was of great concern to brigadiers and division leaders an often became a resource sink, with greater and greater numbers of men committed over time leaving their parent formations that much weaker when push came to shove. The alternative of course was to not deploy very many skirmishers at all. However it soon proved to be one of those things where if your enemy used them you had to use them to.

A good deal has been written about how hard it was to control skirmishers once they were sent out. To that end the latter approach to simulating their use is a improvement over the former. However this second approach often gets bogged in minutiae, with substations of this stand for that one and artificial limits on who can be sent out to skirmish and who cannot.

In Muskets & Shakos I am taking, it is hoped, a middle road. Anyone can be sent out to skirmish. It is their skill level that will dictate whether or not you will ever be able to get them to rejoin their parent formation.

Similarly, once deployed their movement rate is variable which can lead to some head aches when you really want to push your assault. Do you simply march through them reabsorbing those you can, or do you wait for their sometimes maddeningly slow advance? Conversely they can be off like a rocket. Will your supports arrive in time to prevent your skirmish screen falling prey to a well timed enemy charge?

Finally the most important question is "how many of your troops can you afford to risk"? Because once you send them out you have no guarantee of being able to recall them.

Well that's it for now. 

Hope you enjoyed the report!

And as always, thanks for stopping by!


  1. Interesting report and a question I had never thought about before. Looks like these are shaping up to be a very nice set of rules.