Harquebusiers & Hussars – Autumn Report

Today several players gathered for the Autumn round of Harquebusiers & Hussars here in Christchurch. As with previous events it was an outstanding success. Perhaps the only unfortunate point being that some players who would normally play were unable to due to work commitments. That said with a couple of out of town players in attendance we still had a very respectable field of eight players.

The armies in use were as follows:

  • Mark Caunter – Early Austrian Imperial
  • Jim Morton – Polish-Lithuanian Rzeczpospolita
  • Colin Foster – ECW Scots Covenanter
  • John Kerr – ECW Montrose Scots Royalist & Early Parliamentarian 1644
  • Tilman Walk – Sinhalese
  • Brian Sowman – ECW Scots Covenanter
  • Keith McNelly -ECW Royalists 1644
  • Keith Caukwell – Safavid Persian

We use a flexible format allowing players to use a different army in each round. It transpired only one person elected this option allowing John to field historical armies against his opponents. All armies comprised 300 points and play was on a smaller table using pre-set terrain.

 

Above, a first round game between the Early Austrian Imperialists and the Sinhalese. The game resulted in a bloody defeat for the Austrians, more of this later. Below, also in the morning, a game Colin’s Scots Covenantors and Jim’s Polish.

  

Below, a photo of an afternoon game between my Royalists and John’s Civil War Parliamentarians. The Parliamentarian use of commanded shot significantly bolstered the ability of the Roundhead horse. It was only after repeated Royalist charges that the Roundhead horse broke.

 

In other afternoon games, shown below, Brian and Colin used their Covenantors to engage Safavid Persians and Austrians respectively. 

  

On another table the Poles were engaged against the Sinhalese which can be seen below. The Polish commander employed some camp followers as fake Winged Hussars causing some surprise to the Sinhalese commander.

 

As with previous Harquebusiers & Hussars events the outcome of the games is not recorded. The winner of the prestigious Captain General cup is rather determined by player nomination of interesting game events. After some discussion it was determined to be between two “events” we’re in the running.

The first was my own ability to have victory almost robbed from me when a fresh command Royalist horse was demoralised by a broken Roundhead horse while simultaneously my own foot, who outnumbered the Roundhead foot opposite, also come within a breath of collapse. I however lost out to Mark whose army, during the morning games, was caught by a hidden command of Sinhalese deployed behind a hill. Unable to recover and attacked at several points the Austrians army collapsed while causing little damage to his enemy. A true disaster!

Above all, another excellent day of Renaissance gaming using DBR.

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Balancing the Baggage

There has been a some discussion in the DBR world for a few months on issues, or perceived issues, in the rules. One such issue is the impact of baggage on games. From a game perspective I believe that some of the issues are being addressed in ways that are not always elegant or may provide unforeseen issues. So what is the issue?

Basically, there is concern that the baggage rules, as they stand, allow baggage to allocated to bolster a commands break point to a level that a command can not be broken, at least by casualties inflicted on fighting stands alone. I agree that this is unrealistic and is an issue. I would like to see this changed. I however differ from some in how this should be addressed. I am particularly cautious of a proliferation of ad hoc amendments.

Over recent months there have been a couple of tournament specific attempts to address baggage. In my view they are either complex, create further issues, or fail to focus on the Renaissance battlefield. They adopt selected DBMM mechanics which I believe are not ideally suited to the current version of DBR. One of the current ideas is to divide the baggage between the commands. In my view the DBMM “variants” miss the point in several areas, one of which they take only part of the DBMM rules, ignoring others.

 

In standard DBR baggage bolsters one command and allied contingents, both of which I believe are flawed. I think it a mistake to try and fix one and ignore another. Unfortunately, the DBMM “variant” currently being used in some DBR competitions extends this bolstering to all commands, irrespective of size. This is in contrast to DBMM, which is sensibly formed. Some of the most obvious points of DBMM are that it introduces a tactical factor reduction at 1/4 loss, rather than DBR’s 1/3. DBMM also reduces a baggage elements ME value. Both limit the bloated command affect. So what are some of the ways to address the impact that baggage has on games?

Before defining possible solutions here are a couple of additional thoughts, the first an excerpt by the English Civil War commander George Monck in his “Observations upon Military and Political Affairs”…

“There is nothing that bringeth so much disorder to an Army upon the March as the Baggage; and therefore it is highly necessary to reduce it to the smallest proportion that may be.”

It’s interesting that while Monck advises to limit the baggage while wargamers, especially those attending competitions, start with baggage to maximise their army composition. Perhaps something is wrong?

Now, to some gaming specifics. Let’s start with a look at figure scales. DBR has a figure scale where a stand represents between 50 and 100 men, depending on the stand type. Typically an English Civil War army with 400 points represents around 3500 to 4500 men depending on the various troops selected. These typically have some six stands of baggage. Interestingly, some non Civil War armies have allied contingents of only a few stands. There are examples of allied contingents with five or so stands of light horse. As each stand represents 50 men, or 250 men in total, how realistic are such small commands become unbreakable when baggage is added? Even more typical allied contingents, let’s consider English Royalists supporting Scots Engagers, can be bulked out effectively making them more resilient than other commands. This seems equally suspect.

By way of contrast DBMM allows baggage association only if certain ME of fighting troops are available, this counters the small allied contingent. Something could be added to DBR to cover these small commands, but given the low number of figures a stand in DBR represents I wonder if another solution exists?

As you may know my main period of interest is the English Civil War. There are a number of Civil War battles where one or both armies fielding horse only, or horse supported by commanded shot. In these situations they travelled relatively light and unencumbered. This style of action can be represented in DBR now, and rather well. You may recall that armies without baggage have a notable advantage in the deployment process. In my opinion this should be retained. I’m therefore not of the view that all armies should have free baggage.

Interestingly, in very large battles baggage where baggage existed it could well be some distance from the deployed armies, at Edgehill a good mile from the Parliamentarian troops. Edgehill and Naesby also provide good examples of Royalist cavalry being “lost” to the battle pursuing routers and raiding baggage to the detriment of their own side than that of Parliament. Not having baggage on table helps represent this rather well.

So what does baggage represent in DBR? It models the concept of an army being a little more determined to hold the field rather than abandon their loot, despite George Monck’s advise to commanders. I do not believe however that such baggage should bolster any individual command be that the largest foot command, an allied contingent or all commands in general.

Yet I’m not keen for it to be free, where its loss demoralises an army rather than adding to it, simply becasue small armies often travelled without it or it was some distance from the battleield. Indeed we must be careful, when using points budgets, that the a balance exists between points cost and benefit. Currently the benefit is clearly too great for the cost as most players wish to use baggage.

What DBR does model reasonably well is the situation where a well formed reserve can be steadied, has a degree of resilience and can we’ll continue to operate even once the command is beaten. This is well defined in DBR with a nominal break of 1/3. If we maintain this trigger value point value, without increasing any commands breakpoint, what are our options?

I would suggest that all army baggage, irrespective of its source be deployed as one group. It does not count towards the break of any command but rather only contributes to the army breakpoint. It seems sensible to have it deployed behind the largest foot command. If it is to be moved then PIPs must be allocated from the CinC’s command. This requires no change to the ME equivalents or points cost, while at the same stage addresses the bloated command syndrome of any command, including allied commands.

I’m sure if a new version of DBR is developed other solutions will be thrashed out, but in the meantime perhaps this would provide a useful method of resolving a perplexing challenge. That said it is yet another amendment and I believe there are inherient risks with such amendments. Further, does it address the points cost for benefit equation? To be honest I’m not sure. Players can not help themselves construct a perfectly balanced army when real commanders were forced to struggle with what they could assemble.

Japanese Excursions

Over recent weeks I’ve had the opportunity to play a couple of games covering the Sengoku or Warring States period as a result of another player building a Japanese army and providing my own army with an historical opponent. It’s a fascinating period with much historical interest and colourful armies that look great on the table so it’s pleasing to game this period rather than the normal ahistorical games I’ve previously used my Japanese in.

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In the first I tried using fixed obstacles to counter my opponents mounted Samurai, alas this was a complete disaster. Clearly, my concept of the enemy smashing themselves against these obstacles while my arquebus armed ashigaru pouring fire into them was flawed. Worse however was the martial abilities of my own mounted Samurai, who collapsed in a series of charge and counter charge. The fixed obstacles are made by Baueda who make some very useful resin items.

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The next engagement was more positive for my clan who after a very deadly battle finally secured a narrow victory. Again, both armies were based on the later period with a number of ashigaru armed with arquebus.

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Then today, as a way of creating some variety for my opponent, I fielded a English army for an invasion of the east. Obviously not an historical engagement, yet it still proved very enjoyable. At least the army was of the same period and by the 17th Century the Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch all had armies in the area, such is the global landscape of the Renaissance.

Harquebusiers & Hussars – May 2015

The date of Sunday the 17th of May has been confirmed for the Autumn round of “Harquebusiers & Hussars”, our local 15mm DBR gaming event.

The focus is on casual games in a friendly atmosphere. As such it is an ideal format for new players to experience Renaissance gaming and for veterans to dust off troops for a social event. The format is designed to provide a couple of games in the standard club day with army size such that players can field alternate armies. This is achieved by using 300 point armies on a slightly smaller table.

Interestingly, we tend to see some armies that typically are not seen in larger DBR competitions, such as Montrose’s Scots Royalists shown above. This is partly because players take a relaxed approach to the day, or in some cases because small armies that can not be fielded when larger points budgets apply are used.

Full details of Harquebusiers & Hussars can be found here. Hopefully we will see you there!