Friday 14 July 2017

Falkirk Refight at AMG 17

Better late than never hopefully, here is my second post on the A Military Gentleman weekend in mid -June. This one is a bit more serious than my previous report !

I had never before played a Jacobite Rebellion game but lots of memories from my past, and more recently, conspired to ensure I was not going to miss my chance now.

My Dad was a great history enthusiast and on many holidays to the Scottish Highlands in the 1960s and early 70s we had read each other excerpts from the guide books about Bonnie Price Charlie and the "romanticism" of the  '45 rebellion. We know better now of course but to a young wargamer it seemed like a good idea to see what my pocket money funds could achieve using the, then new, Miniature Figurines "25mm" models. The answer was not much as I recall - probably one battalion sized unit of British and a few Highlanders and then I think the defence budget got hijacked by Napoleonics for the Cheltenham club's 1812 campaign project.......but I never somehow lost that feeling that highlanders offered something long as someone else painted the tartans!!

Then Graham Cummings came into my life via the AMG Forum, and his wonderful Crann Tara Range - "The Finest 28mm Miniatures for the '45":
Crann Tara Miniatures website
and by 2016 I was painting those tartans myself, not on miniatures thankfully but in a large painting where the most prominent figures were about 25 centimetres high.  Graham commissioned drawings for marketing his range and the oil painting "A Highland Charge 1745". Here it is for those not already familiar.

So now I found Graham was treating us to a refight of the Battle of Falkirk, and using Honours of War (HoW) rules, his wonderfully painted Crann Tara British figures, and most of the clansmen lent by Guy Barlow fresh from his "soldier room" in Windsor. All played out on Graham's superbly sculpted and painted teddy bear fur mat.  I found myself alongside Stuart Insch as British commanders pitted once again against Gary Phillips and Jim Purky, today joined by Des Darkin whom I had not met before but who proved an admirably able and gentlemanly opponent. So the scene was set for 18th century wargaming nirvana for the little lad grown up now to be the oldest present!
Graham briefs the Jacobites - Gary, Jim and Des
Stuart holds the British left flank and my forces are in Falkirk town and
approaching up the foreground road
This game was played three times over the weekend and has been written about a lot on blogs and in Forums so I will let myself off a detailed narrative. Our game was the third one, starting fresh on Sunday morning and going on till just after lunch.  A look at the opposing forces might be helpful:

We British only had one Dithering General - in the reserve column

Poor Jim got a Dithering Charlie and one other Ditherer
I must apologise for some of the photos as the light in the room called for greater patience than I have; some of them are pretty good, most average, and I have included few that are poor merely to round out the views of the game.

A demoralised force under Cope was holding Falkirk and with Hamilton's Dragoons and light guns a short way off and nearer the approaching clans. The latter leapt out of the morning mist to take them by surprise. Stuart managed to salvage most but not all of this force and barely held off the attacking Highlanders under Gary until his reinforcing columns (Hawley's force) arrived in the left hand corner.

I had a lesser problem to try to defend Falkirk with two battalions and a battery in the face of Jim as the Bonnie Prince coming at me as fast as his tartan-socked legs would carry him.  I was hopeful that Wade's column would come up in time from my right to relieve them, but Des had other ideas and pressed forward with clansmen and the red coated Irish Piquets to bar my way.

So Jim pressed Falkirk, losing a lot of men, and eventually ejected Cope but his jocks ran out of steam and by the end of the game I was reformed and back in town. Des saw off two out of three of Wade's infantry battalions, but my Dragoons were able to dismount and occupy the ruined barn just long enough for the infantry to reform and regain the initiative. By that time, he too had run out of clansmen.

On Stuart's flank the second half of the game saw Hawley's brigades come on the table but had singularly bad luck with the initiative dice, and Gary was able to scare us with highland charges while the march columns were trying to form lines. At the same time the Jacobite cavalry was approaching but failed to get initiative to charge! Nevertheless Stuart managed to hang on and Gary's clans lost enthusiasm while a combination of Stuart's and my artillery saw off the cavalry.

Looking across the field, despite their territorial gains, the Jacobites had run out of units still in worthwhile battle order anywhere and Graham called it a British victory.  I felt as if we'd earned it!

Now some more pics and I'll comment further down.

Wade's British battalions

The Highland

Stuart's light guns try to make a getaway

Bonnie Prince Charlie encourages his men against Falkirk town

The Scots never reached this gun as Graham had kindly deemed that it was in hard
cover as part of the Falkirk town defences. It caused Jim considerable trouble all game

From within Falkirk a view of the charging Highlanders.
The waving fur grasses are particularly effective

Jim makes such progress against Falkirk he needs to come round to my
side to move them

Wade's three battalions now deployed in line, but it is an illusion of solidity.
I think Graham said that these troops were fresh from defeat at Prestopans
 and most were dubbed "inferior" now from the horrible experience

Jim's charges against Falkirk

Gary's highlanders nearly catching Stuart's surprised vanguard

Something amuses Gary, Graham and Jim while they leave Des
 to get on with the serious business of moving up Jacobite cavalry!

Some of Stuart's Dragoons are forced to pull back in the face of broadswords
 and Lochaber axes........

.......while a light gun is caught by the other clan battalion

Better news for us was that a significant part of the Jacobite force failed to move
during the early phases of the game

Jim's Bonnie Prince has ejected my two battalions from Falkirk but I think his
clansmen have found a barrel of Macallen's in the pub!

Graham's Royal Marines well deserving of a close up as they reform on the baseline

Des's wild charges forced back Wade's two weakest battalions. The better one,
Barrell's 4th Foot at top right, has been repulsed by the Irish Piquets.
My dragoons occupy the ruined barn.

Closing stages of the game now. Yet another attempt to gain Falkirk in the foreground, but all the Jacobite units have red casualty markers. Jacobite cavalry are making a show but not with the right initiative dice! At far left Hawley's reinforcing troops have been held up by spirited localised attacks from Gary.......

....and sure enough, he comes back for some more!

Poor picture but I wanted to show that the Irish Piquets seemed to be the most successful Jacobite unit, as well as looking one of the prettiest! Des never gave up pressing, and my dismounted Dragoons barely hold on to their light cover.

This was an extremely clever and well thought out scenario and seemed balanced as by no means all the British soldiery was adequate, "standard " in Honours of War speak. The Jacobites had several units of Lowlanders who were less warlike ("inferior") but most had the "Highland Charge" option. On the receiving end, as I was, this meant that Highlanders could fire once only during the game just before closing and then charge in with full melee effectiveness. The British were also allowed to fire at close range so it sort of balanced except psychologically.  As a regular HoW player I expect to get the firing advantage when stationary in defence so it is unnerving to receive casualties from your charging enemy. If your troops are inferior or have already suffered hits it can make them give way in the face of the charge. This added to the excitement and it felt genuinely hard work to stave off the relentless attacks. I always think that's a sign of a successful game  (whoever wins) if you feel a bit drained, and slightly relieved when it's over!!!  Well done Graham.
There are many more photos and historical background on Graham's own blog here
The two weekend games, mostly thanks to Gary's expert guiding hand and friendly opposition, taught me a lot about the discipline of conducting HoW withdrawals and recovery to the letter of the rules. it is well worth the effort as you get a good feeling of the importance of withdrawing as far away as you can with the optional two move retreat - that's always supposing your scenario and forces allow you the luxury! Later reformed units can be a useful resource to winning the game. Yes, it's obvious, but like most rules when you have a long enough game to practice it they make more sense. I've made my own batch of red markers for that stationary reforming turn, thanks Gary.

There was a lot more to the AMG weekend and I really wish I could have taken part in Martin Gane's splendid "Sands of the Sudan" (complete with pith helmet!) and Paul Robinson's War of the Spanish Succession mega game, but there were other distractions, such as talking to folks about my display of military paintings and drawings.......and when smiley Dave Hall says "Come and have a drink with us in the sunshine" it is hard to say no!

Sands of the Sudan - fantastic homage to Peter Gilder's original

Franquenee from the battle of Ramillies
(My poor photos don't do it justice, sorry)

A proper account and photos on Paul's own blog here

And thanks to Colin Ashton for these photos of my art display and sales table. I hope to write a bit about the paintings in a separate post. Thanks to all those who purchased and the two of you who have so far commissioned more work.

Finally I will end the memory of a lovely weekend with another gift (I'm a lucky man). This one is an original Spencer Smith from Will Harley who is known for his wonderfully painted and nostalgically evocative SS armies

This "30mm" chap fits in beautifully with my 28mm armies and he will proudly be leading a brigade of five battalions in a game I am umpiring tomorrow.

Just for completeness I realise I have a lovely video of the weekend made by Tony Dillon which has not had much viewing in public as far as I know. So I hope you enjoy the atmosphere (and seeing me looking worried over my dice rolling!)  Tony's AMG 17 video