Saturday 30 December 2023


I was reading a book almost totally unconnected from wargaming. I know, I know, but it does happen and is encouraged by the Estimable Mrs P., who, for reasons I do not understand, does not wish to talk about the finer details of Alexander’s phalanx, Cromwell’s deployment at Naseby and similar subjects. At least, not all the time.

So, there I was, innocently reading a book about the history of libraries, when I came across a reference to do with the Jesuits creating a college in Poland. This was noted in the book as being geopolitically significant. It just did not say why.

I could think of a few reasons why Poland was geopolitically significant in the late 16th Century. To start off with there were Protestant enclaves around in Poland and the surrounding region – Scandinavia, for example. It was also next door to Muscovy, which probably had some sort of missionary interest for the Jesuits. After all, they were busy getting into China, Japan, and South America at the time.

But still, I was slightly intrigued. Why was a college in northern Poland determined, even a book about the history of libraries, to be deemed geopolitically significant? Anyway, what is geopolitics?

Those who know me will also know that I do not like such questions. A quick search on Google did not satisfy my quest for understanding, and so a book was purchased:

Dodds, K. (2019), Geopolitics: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, OUP).

As the attentive reader of this blog might be aware, I rather like these Very Short Introductions. They do what they say on the tin and are usually quite up to date, or at least give a good launch pad into further literature. This one is reassuringly in its third edition, which means that other people must like it as well.

Geopolitics is not quite what I expected, I confess, at least on Dodds’ account. It is not that far away, admittedly, but when I worked at a university I noticed that geographers were trying not only to colonise the geographical world but also the intellectual world. I once worked with a student whose research, as a geographer, was on madness and not the spatial distribution of mental health problems either. It is probably a good job she never found out I was a wargamer.

Anyway, geopolitics is defined (p. 3) as involving three qualities. These are questions of influence and power over space and territory. Secondly, geographical frames are used to make sense of world affairs. Thirdly, it is future oriented, trying to guess the future activity of states, assuming that their interests are basically unchanging.

All of these are questionable assumptions and positions, of course, and, this being the postmodern academy, they are certainly questioned. There is a strand of thought called ‘critical’ geopolitics which asks questions which most people do not, such as ‘why are most economic migrants male?’ and ‘what were the routes used in extraordinary rendition?’. A section is devoted to these sorts of awkward questions, and they keep coming up. Any quick perusal of a news website today shows the relevance of these questions, even if most media outlets do not wish to ask them, let alone get any answers.

Geopolitics, as future-oriented, is not, on the face of it, terribly helpful to a wargamer. I mean that, given the term is more or less confined to the Twentieth Century as a subject, and that it was for many years after 1945 a sort of academic poison due to perceived links with the politics of Nazi Germany, particularly the idea of lebensraum, it has not been much applied, so far as I can tell, to historical issues. Nevertheless, I think it does have some concepts and ideas which might make us pause to consider our wargaming, especially those of us who create a play campaign games.

For example, have you ever wondered why countries down the centuries have spent so much money on prestige projects? Even in the midst of a crisis, plague, and civil war world leaders have found the time to pose for portraits, and send them to allies or friends (or hoped for allies). Again, states have built large buildings, or thrown parties for visiting dignitaries. Siena, for example, stopped work on updating its defences in the early 1550s to welcome some posh dude who might help in the future. These activities may seem to be vanity or a distraction from the main event, the military, but the argument is that they were worth doing, to show off.

A lot depends on our senses of identity. As an example Dodds uses the Falkland Islands, noting that Argentina still regards them as Argentine in spite of recent history, and that maps of the Islands adorn monuments and school books. In parallel, of course, British maps mark the Falklands differently. Similarly, recent Chinese maps with dotted lines around the South China Sea have upset and worried countries around that area. The point is that objects – maps, books, memorials, buildings – are statements of some sort of identity, whether that identity is present or aspired to.

There are lots of other issues (did I mention that geography seems to aspire to academic hegemony?). Social media, for example, not only allows international terrorists to communicate, but world wide protest movements to take off. The example given is the Occupy movement of 2010, but others could be adduced. After all, without social media would we have heard of Greta Thurnburg?

So there is an awful lot in this little book. Not much, admittedly, is directly applicable to wargaming per se, although for anyone who is running a campaign based around competing nations it might be worth pondering if you should build in some vanity projects to build a nation’s reputation without it having to go to war and win battles and sieges. It would be an interesting exercise, but would not, of course, get toy soldiers on the wargame table.

On the other hand, building a military force in a peaceful world could also be thought be be a vanity project. Like a gun on the table in a play, sooner or later you know it will be used. Now, where is the nearest bunker?

Saturday 23 December 2023

The Raiders

Well, after my success at Arezzo, my personal rating took off. The city, of course, surrendered and so I was +2 for the move, to the heady heights of PR of 9. Italy lay at my feet (sort of). Certainly, Florence, as an independent political entity had, for the moment, evaporated. Cheers all round, and I am considering inviting a certain Niccolo Machiavelli, an experienced diplomat, to run the place for me. After all, I have new worlds, or new bits of Italy at least, to conquer.

Anyway, more prosaically, I had to deal with the random event in the second half of the year. This turned up some raiders who had to be dealt with. In the original version of the game, these were Chichimec tribes, who were almost entirely psiloi. As you probably know, in DBA these are hard to beat while being difficult to lose to. Here, I envisage them being a sort of free company of deserters, disillusioned and unemployed mercenaries and bandits clubbing together.

The raiders mustered a 12 base army, of 2 mounted crossbowmen, 6 skirmishing crossbowmen and 4 bases of crossbowmen. As you can see, there were a lot of crossbows and not much else. Light raiders, as I said above, out for loot and not really for hard fighting, I hope.

Again, in the original game the raiders, as a random event, was aimed at being an easier wargame with less at stake than the attacks on cities and so on. The aim was to minimise any losses which would impede further expansion while getting a fairly easy win. It should be similar here.

My own forces, mercifully still at current full strength after the fight against Arezzo, consisted of 4 gendarmes, 1 mounted crossbows, 2 crossbows, 2 arquebusiers, 2 sword and buckler men, for a total of 11 bases. Pondering this I reckoned that the best tactics would be to get the gendarmes and the swordsmen into action as soon as possible. The gendarmes, at least, should be pretty safe against anything the enemy can throw at them.

In the picture, the raiders are on the right. Their left, nearest the camera, is held by skirmishers on a hill, with more skirmishers in the wood next to them. The centre infantry are nearly engaged with mine, while on their right the mounted crossbowmen try to hold up my gendarmes, who are shielded by mounted crossbowmen themselves. The playing cards you can see are potential ambushes. As it turned out, there were none, which was a bit of a relief.

My own plan was to get the gendarmes into action. On my right that is going ahead as you can see with half of the heavies aiming for the hill. On the far side, my gendarmes are advancing against their light horse (which are backed up by crossbowmen). In the centre my firepower is advancing, backed by the swordsmen.

It all went rather pear-shaped for the raiders, as you might expect. A bad tempo roll meant that my left wing gendarmes, with yours truly at the helm, trotted gently into the mounted crossbowmen and routed them. They then ambled into the supporting crossbowmen and routed them as well. Admitted this did take a few moves (about three, I think) but it was a bit of a crushing blow, especially as because these gendarmes had not charged I still had them in hand.

In the centre, my shot exchanged fire with the two available crossbowmen on the other side. This was pretty much a draw as not all my shot were yet in range. On the other side of the field, my gendarmes took advantage of the raider’s tempo famine and charged home up the hill. This was not exactly what I had planned – I was trying to flank the skirmishers first – but the opportunity presented itself. The skirmishers only resisted briefly (although they did not immediately flee – some good rolling saw them hold out for a turn or so) and then fled.

When the mounted crossbowmen fled the raiders went into waver mode. Then the skirmishers fled and they went to fall back. Finally, the crossbowmen ran for it, so the raiders routed.

As my right-wing gendarmes charged, they are now busy pursuing the routing enemy, but that hardly matters. It seems, using my rules, that the key factor is to keep the gendarmes under close control and only let them rip when you need to. After all, the non-charging gendarmes routed four enemy bases, the chargers only routed two. It was enough, however, and finished the battle quickly and without losses, which was part of the point.

So, now, having won the battle and dispersed the raiders, my personal rating stands at the heady heights of 10. The domination of the centre of Italy is at hand, and I am starting to wonder if I could make myself Pope, so long as my wife doesn’t mind. It is quite possible, at the moment, but the cards may have a different opinion.

I have been thinking of further developments of this campaign process, and I think it could work for some very different periods and sizes of campaigns. For example, two ECW garrisons attempting to capture and hold villages, or two North American Indians attempting to grab hunting grounds to supply the Europeans with furs. These are aside from the more obvious ones such as German states grabbing each other (oooh-errr missus) in the early Seventeenth Century, South-East Asians scrapping in what is now Myanmar and Thailand and I am sure that my noble reader can think of a few more that would work nicely, aside from the original Aztec context.

Still, as this is the blog post nearest Christmas I shall wish you all a Merry one. I usually have some sort of offering as a Christmas present but, due to circumstances which hopefully will soon become clear, I do not have anything quite yet, so you will have to anticipate...

Saturday 16 December 2023

Siena Expands

After my not-quite-a-victory at Piombino in the new Italian Wars campaign, I still had my own 1501 move to effect, even though my army was down three bases and my personal rating was at four. Many more setbacks and my nobility would recall their manners an assassinate me. Still, I had to do something and so, Piombino being inaccessible to me at present, I invited Perugia, in the Papal States, to join my republic. Unfortunately, they declined, leaving my personal rating at three, and the Siennese nobles wheting their knives and attempting to source poisons.

In the firm belief that things could turn around, I entered 1502 as full of optimism as a rat in a maze with poison down every turn. The good news was that a unit of gendarmes rejoined my army, making good a little of the damage inflicted by the dastardly Piombinese. Careful consideration of the strategic situation led me to advance to Pisa (Florentine territory) and invite that august tower to lean in my direction. To my slight surprise, they did.

Having gained one city, the surrounding ones can be invited to yield as well. Lucca declined but Pistoia (also Florentine) surrendered. My personal rating soared again to the heady heights of 5. Florence then decided that my form of republicanism was better than her own, but Piombino continued to defy my benevolent rule. I really will have to go and sort that lot out properly soon.

So, my rating was now 6, and further glory awaited, especially as there was no random event this year. In 1503 my move was first, and so I decided to complete my conquest of Florence by taking Arezzo. Not that I come as a conqueror, of course. It really is in the best interests of these cities that they join with me for our mutual benefit.

Still, my forces further augmented by the return of a unit of crossbowmen, I advanced in great humility to Arezzo and invited them to join their brethren from the rest of the former Florentine territories in the shiny new super-soar-away republic of Siena. They declined, meaning that I had to crush them in battle instead. So much for humility.

For this action the Florentines, for I suspect that the resistance was orchestrated by renegades from Florence itself, obtained an allied contingent of 3 shot bases, in addition to the normal Florentine army of 4 gendarmes, 2 mounted crossbowmen, 2 shot, 2 crossbows, 1 sword and buckler men, 1 skirmisher base and 2 pike.

My own contingent was not of 4 gendarmes, 1 mounted crossbow, 2 shot, 2 crossbows, 2 sword and bucker men, and, in order not to be totally outnumbered, 3 shot from my new allies in Pisa. I was still outnumbered by 17 bases to 14, but I find that as the solo player, being outnumbered evens up the pitch a little, as it were.

A few moves in and you can see my cunning plan evolving. The Sienese are to the left and the Florentines to the right. The infantry and Florentine light cavalry on on a hill, and my plan was to attack them in force while holding the rest of the army back, ready to strike once the Florentines were wobbling. You can see in the right foreground that half the Florentine gendarmes have just arrived as reinforcement for this flank.

On the far side, my left has started to advance, although at this point I was concerned that I would not be able to stop the gendarmes in time. I have also advanced my centre to cover the flank of the forces aiming for the hill, and they have hit the pesky Florentine mounted crossbows and stopped them from annoying everyone.

My plan worked, just about. I had to divert my gendarmes to try to march across the battlefield to threaten the Florentine gendarmes who had just arrived on my right. This failed as my gendarmes were threatened by the rest of the Florentine heavies, who were also looking dangerously at my central infantry.

As it turned out, my mounted crossbowmen on my right performed heroically (or luckily, if you want to be prosaic) preventing the gendarmes from interfering in the fight on the hill. My sword and buckler men made short work of the enemy mounted crossbowmen. The rightmost Florentine crossbowmen on the hill resisted for a while but were heavily outnumbered and wilted and ran eventually.

The end of the game is above. Nearest the camera my brave troops have captured the hill on my right, while the mounted crossbowmen are leading the Florentine gendarmes a merry dance. On the far side, my left, the second line of gendarmes, noting the battle going in my favour, charged the Florentine infantry and routed them – the action is still in process, but the second Florentine base is looking dodgy. This, together with the losses on the Florentine left (who can be seen fleeing bottom right) caused the army to go into withdraw mode.

A victory!

A lot of the glory has to go to my right-wing mounted crossbowmen who disrupted two bases of Florentine and kept them occupied while the infantry stormed the hill. As in the previous battle, my sword and buckler men performed magnificently, and the gendarmes did a good job of blocking the Florentine heavies in the centre and then administering the coup-de-grace on my left. Medals all round, I think.

I have yet to work out the implications of this action on the campaign. My personal rating will increase by 2, and Perugia and Umbria are in line to be tested for surrendering. Florence has also been wiped off the map (snigger), although there is still the possibility of a random event disrupting everything in the second half of the turn.

I think I learned quite a bit about how to handle the army after the last outing. The sword and buckler men can be quite devastating if they get into combat, but gendarmes need careful husbanding if they are to have a positive impact. For the Florentines, I think I rather messed up their deployment. The pikes and two bases of shot never got a sniff of action; nor did their sword and buckler men. Still, I am not complaining.

Saturday 9 December 2023

The Bigger…

You hopefully will not have noticed it, but there has been rather a dearth of posts hereabouts recently. I tend to write in advance, and my backlog, so to speak, has diminished to the point of practically vanishing. So, what has been happening?

Looking around the wargame blogosphere, I detect that this state of affairs is not uncommon. Referred to in different ways the wargaming mojo comes and goes, it seems, for reasons that the wargamers themselves are not really aware of. Usually, for me, the answer comes from my nearest and dearest who point to stress, anxiety, and tiredness as being the major culprits, followed by focusing too much on one aspect of the hobby, usually painting, which I do not like that much.

This has been somewhat the case for your correspondent. Not the painting, actually, as I have not been doing very much of that, but the anxiety and so on. Not that this is clinical or anything, so please save your sympathy for those who do suffer in this way, but just that state of uncertainty about what to do and how to do it, combined with external factors which make, to misquote St Thomas Aquinas, ones wargaming taste like straw.

Still, not to worry. Usually the answer to this is to get some toys out and play a game which, as evidence shows, has been being done. I prefer, these days, campaign-related games, even if these campaigns are vague ideas of narratives rather than anything else. These take a bit more setting up and effort. We might also see my latest project, Sienna, being conquered before I really get going, but that is, of course, my fault.

Another thing that has sidetracked me is my efforts to create a village for my 28 mm plus ECW-era figures. Those with a long memory might recall a campaign focussed on getting the English Ambassador to Calais in 1635, along the lines of the Three Musketeers. This then requires a village for them to pass through and be ambushed from, as well as some buildings to give a representation of Calais itself. Card buildings are being assembled in copious numbers, alongside many paper cuts. Never let it be said that I am not willing to shed blood for the hobby.

The card buildings were bought many years ago (they are now out of print) for a different project, of 20 mm medieval forces. In the remaining box of shame (or at least, the only other B. o. S. that I am willing to admit to my consciousness) there are about 6 or 8 boxes of medieval figures from various manufacturers, which were also bought over 20 years ago. I also rooted out the figures that I had painted (not many of them) and tried to work out what my younger self had been planning.

I also noted that this was clearly a project that had not fared well. I pulled out of the box a number of figures which had been partially painted but not finished. As you do, to go along with the buildings, I decided to finish what I had and then decide what they were. Eight archers down the line I could deploy the following:

This is, of course, a non-DBA twelve-base medieval army. Some head-scratching ensued, but eventually, I decided that they were based for a War of the Roses English army. You can see, incidentally, a variety of Revell, HaT, and Italeri figures (I think). If you were looking really closely, or at the figures in real life, you would find that some were rather dull. I think this is because of the way I was experimenting at the time with painting, basing, and final coating – I think about 2/3 of these bases were overpainted with undiluted PVA glue.

Now I have realised why the project ground to a halt at this stage: I do not have sufficient archers in stock, in spite of all the boxes of troops, to create another 6 bases of them for the other side. This is a little disappointing but is explanatory not only of the incomplete state of the armies but also the reason why I have a sample pack of 20 mm metal figures in the same box. I was evidently trying to fix the problem but then got sidelined into something else.

That something else probably has to do with the equivalent army I deployed at the same time, just for fun:

This is, of course, a 6 mm army of the Wars of the Roses. Here, there is a mix of Irregular, Baccus, and Heroics and Ros figures and, by comparison with the above, a lot more figures (128 against 24) and a host more flags.

I am not about to launch into the aesthetics of 20 mm against 6 mm figures and armies, or anything, so you can put those cudgels down. Both are scales that land up being looked down upon a little by some ‘proper’ wargamers. Nevertheless, there are some observations I can make.

Firstly, painting the little chaps is a lot easier than the bigger figures. I find this with the 28+ mm figures as well – there is a lot of surface area to cover with the big figures. Progress is, or feels slow. Plus you do have to think differently. In 6 mm I think by the strip of figures. In the bigger figures, I think by the figure, or even by part of a figure.

This may, of course, just be me. After all, in the last few years, I have painted 3000 or so 6 mm figures and about 30 big ones, and so the former have had a lot more practice. However, the experience of finishing these 20 mm figures has not really endeared me to the scale, and the difficulty of completing the armies is a bit of a turn-off. I might have to revert to buying metal archers just so I can justify the effort and investment of time, and then consider a small battle with big figures.

Saturday 2 December 2023

Back to Italy

I am not sure why, but the Italian Wars seem to be a bit like an addictive drug. No sooner had I decided that the Machiavelli campaign was more or less deadlocked than I started to read a book about Siena.

Stevenson, J., Siena: The Life and Afterlife of a Medieval City, 2023 (Head of Zeus, London)

To be fair, this book, which was a rather late birthday present, was bought for me by the Estimable Mrs P. on the strict understanding that it was not a book about wargaming, military history, battles, or campaigns. And, indeed, it is not. Siena, after all, was a more regional power in Italy, overshadowed from the 13th Century or so by Florence. There are a few interesting military incidents described, such as the Battle of Porta Camollia (1526) where the Sienese, besieged by a joint Florentine and Papal army with cannon that were destroying the unreinforced medieval walls, simply sallied out and captured them, thus securing the city until the 1550s when the big boys got involved for an 18-month horrific siege.

Anyway, the book has a lot of art history in it and so it does fit the brief about having little military about it. But, well, you know what wargamer’s minds are like, as does the Estimable Mrs P. When she inquired what the next wargame was and I replied ‘Italian Wars’ she sort of sighted and asked ‘Siena?’ I could not deny it.

Anyway, this is an idea that has been brewing for a while. Astute readers with long memories might recall a campaign with Aztecs where the idea was to take over the whole of the Valley of Mexico, fighting DBA battles along the way. This is very similar but set in the Italy of 1500 or so. The random elements are much the same, except I have added a chance of assassination. After all, you never know when you are going to be invited to supper with the Borgias.

So, Siena in 1500 faced the world alone and was desperate for some friends, whether real or coerced. This being a wargame campaign, of course, the latter was the preferred option, so long as I won. Not everything wished for, however, comes about. Still, my first move (as there were no random events) was on the port of Piombino which submitted and joined the greater Sienese co-prosperity zone. My personal reputation soared to a heady 8.

The next turn, 1501 saw a random event, however, and that event was that a random vassal city revolted. At least I did not have to spend much time wondering which of my possessions had the temerity to reject my gentle rule. Piombino, obviously the victim of deluded factions and outside forces, rebelled.

A few more dice rolls established the facts. The army of Piombino, augmented by some skirmishing crossbowmen from an unnamed ally, was going to fight. This gave them 16 bases to my 12; the Aztec game had established that outnumbering the solo player made the game more equitable. The terrain rolling made things a bit worse for me (I’m getting my excuses in first, you understand) with the rebels defending a stream.

The rebel centre was held by their light troops, with crossbows and shot on either wing. Their left had their mounted crossbowmen and half their gendarmes. My plan was to attack gently on my right and smash their centre with my sword and buckler-armed troops. This, well, sort of worked.

On my right, the mounted crossbowmen clashed, but that allowed my gendarmes to sneak up on their troops and amble into them at a trot, routing them (snigger). It did, however, leave my gendarmes exposed to a charge by the rebel heavies, and a tempo drought meant I was very concerned for their welfare for a few turns. As shown I managed to infiltrate some mounted crossbows between my gallant men and the scurvy rebel rabble.

In the centre my brave troops were crossing the stream and, even though disordered, were sticking it the skirmishers there and routing them, only slightly disturbed by incoming rebel fire from the flanks (which in fact did for one of my crossbow bases). On the far side (my left) however, my lack of tempo allowed my gendarmes to stray too close to the stream and they got advanced into by the rebel sword and buckler men and driven back. Eventually, these gendarmes would break.

Eventually, it went a bit pear-shaped for both sides. The rebel gendarmes on my right charged but hit the mounted crossbowmen. They routed them, but then cantered on into my waiting gendarmes and were recoiled. As they had the general with them, he had to roll for survival – anything but a six. Oh, well, another dead general. My gendarmes, following up, put both bases to flight. You can just see, by the way, an ambush of even more enemy skirmishers who have just jumped out of the rough ground in the far right corner.

On the other wing, my own gendarmes have been put to flight, causing a morale test which my army failed, going into withdraw mode. As my gendarmes were still in combat, however, I permitted them to finish routing the rebels before disengaging. The rebel army also failed it morale test, withdrawing.

In spite of the carnage, then, I can claim a tactical draw. However, as these pesky rebels were exactly pesky rebels, and my army, three bases down, is a bit small to retake Piombino, it has to count as a strategic defeat. My personal rating has dropped by four points, two for the defeat and two for the city rebelling and not being brought to heel.

All this was, as you will recall, from a random event. I still have to take my own move in 1501. With a much-weakened army, I am not sure what, exactly I can do and, unless I am really lucky with my dice rolling and card drawing, I cannot really see much success in bullying others into submission given my paltry personal rating.

When the Sienese were defeated, sold to Florence, and subjected to a controlling citadel they turned to culture to express their independence. Perhaps I should take up painting instead of aggrandisement in Italy.

Saturday 25 November 2023

Roman Forts

I picked up out of casual interest, of course, an interesting paper last week. As the title suggests it is about Roman fortifications, this time in what is now Syria, Turkey, and northern Iraq.

Casana, J., Goodman, D., Ferwerda, C., ‘A wall or a road? A remote sensing-based investigation of fortifications on Rome's eastern frontier.’ Antiquity, 2023, 1-18.

The reference is a bit incomplete above, but the link should take you there. The paper is released under a common creative licence, so it is free (unlike a lot of academic journal stuff).

The paper, as the title suggests, is about finding a lot of Roman forts on the Empire’s eastern frontier. Or rather, to me, it undermines the idea of there being an eastern frontier in the first place. In the 1920s Jesuit French priest Father Antoine Poidebard conducted a series of ariel surveys over the region and detected a line of forts which he took to be along the military road set out under Diocletian. This, then, was Rome’s eastern frontier, erected to defend the Empire from the Persians and also from nomadic tribes.

Poidebard detected 116 fort structures, of various sizes from towers through small forts to larger ones of 100 meters square or more. The paper reports the results of a survey of the same region using declassified satellite imagery from the 1960s and 1970s, and they found a large number (396) of additional fortifications in the region. They also failed to find some of the originals, and suggest that increased agriculture and urban development have removed them from the archaeological record.

The structures, however, are not distributed along the frontier, but form a roughly east-west line along the desert margins, connecting Mosul on the Tigris River in the east to Aleppo in western Syria. This does not seem to be a defensive fortification system, nor one to protect a road. The authors hypothesise that the structures, while fortified, were, in fact, to provide secure resting places for merchants, messengers and military personnel travelling from east to west (and vice versa).

The paper suggests that the original survey suffered somewhat from bias, in that Poidebard hypothesised where the frontier road was and surveyed that bit, his results confirming the hypothesis. This is not to denigrate his achievement, of course, his was a pioneering study and ariel archaeology did not really get going in a methodical way until after World War Two. Nevertheless, the recent findings do suggest that a re-think of Roman frontiers might be needed. Such rethinks are not uncommon, of course. The nature and purpose of Hadrian’s Wall, for one, have been a matter of some puzzlement for decades. It does not seem to be a purely military installation either, but exactly what it was remains a little disputed. Similarly, I believe that Roman forts in Germany have been discovered far further east than it was thought the Romans ever penetrated. This too is a puzzle.

The authors suggest that the larger forts, at least, were constructed in the Third Century AD. Some of them, of course, were reused in medieval times but digging on the sites is rendered impossible for geopolitical reasons. Therefore good solid dating information is hard to come by, although the authors note that it is difficult at military sites anyway.

It seems possible that our picture of Roman frontiers, or at least some of them, have to change. The idea of legionaries looking out from behind walls at the unknown barbarian wasteland ahead of them, nervously fingering their pila, is clearly incorrect. I suspect that has been known for some time, but it is still the sort of trope we are fed by some parts of the media.

Instead, we have to consider the possibility that neither the Romans nor their neighbours really thought in terms of borders as we do. The frontier was, necessarily, porous. Merchants, at least, needed to cross them to bring luxury goods that the Empire did not produce, and export other things. Diplomats, similarly, needed to cross the frontier and all of these groups also needed places to stay along the way. In Britain the Romans erected mansios along the way, and these were sometimes accompanied by fortifications. Perhaps in Syria, where the population on the desert limit was low and water was in short supply, the staging posts were smaller and more concentrated in a fortified location.

Recent work, apparently, suggests that Roman forts were places of cultural exchange rather than confrontation. The authors suggest that these fortifications were places for travellers to rest, water themselves and their horses or camels, eat, and sleep. While they would have enabled the faster movement of troops to disputed zones within or beyond the fortified zone, their main function seems to have been to enable trade and communication between the Roman Empire and Persia.

As wargamers, of course, this is a bit frustrating. We like our ideas of legionaries marching out to pay the barbarians a lesson, be that in Syria, Germany, or Britain. The evidence, however, does not tend to support the view that cultural encounters were necessarily violent ones. While the military had a presence, they were, perhaps, more there as a sort of civil police rather than to impose the will of Rome on the locality. Unlike wargamers, the Romans were perhaps interested in trade rather than confrontation.

That does not mean that the Romans were unwilling to resort to force, of course. It does suggest that on the frontier there was less of a threat most of the time. It was only when tensions rose, locally or between the Empire and, say, Persia, that these installations became militarily useful, and they would have then secured the lines of communication for any army sent to and beyond the end of the road (as it were).

It is always possible, of course, that more discoveries will undermine even this theory. On the other hand, we do think that Magi from the East managed to arrive in Bethlehem reasonably quickly (within a year or two) from somewhere near Babylon. That does not suggest a heavily fortified and controlled frontier, even though it would make a better wargame.

Saturday 18 November 2023

Curlew Hills

‘Donal, Donal, wake up.’

‘What is the matter Dougal? It is still dark.’

‘I’m worried Donal.’

‘What about this time?’

‘Well, like, we fought a battle against the English right?’

‘Yes, and we captured Limerick.’

‘But then the Spanish who did the fighting went home.’

‘Can’t blame them for that, Dougal. The weather’s better in Spain.’

‘Yes, but now the English are advancing on Limerick.’

‘Well, we’re going to stop them, Dougal.’

‘But how. The Spanish took all their pointy sticks and bang sticks away with them’

‘Their pike and arquebuses, you mean. Yes, they did. But Dougal, we are going to fight the English the old way, by jumping out at them from bogs and woods. The old way, Dougal. The one you prefer, remember?’

‘Well, yes, Donal. But I’d prefer to be jumping out at them with bang-sticks rather than javelins.’


Those of you with very long memories might recall a sub-plot to the Armada Abbeys campaign which featured two cousins, Donal and Dougal, and an errant ship from the Armada unexpected beating the English in battle. If you are really bored, you can catch up using the Armada Abbeys Campaign link on the right.

Be that as it may, I was looking for a game to test out some more reconnaissance and ambush-type rules, and thought the Irish-English clashes might be interesting in this context. A quick look at Wesencraft’s With Pike and Musket refreshed my memory and I set on something that was akin to the Action in the Curlieu Hills from that book, slightly adjusted.

The aim of the English was to transport a siege gun across the board, while that of the Irish was to prevent that. The Spanish, having run out of wine, have sailed back to Spain, unwilling to drink Irish beer any longer. They also seem to have taken their arquebuses and pike with them, so our slightly hapless Irish pair are reverting to proper warfare.

Each side consisted of twelve bases. For the Irish, a spade was allocated for each base. Ace to 4 for the kern, 5-7 for bonnachts, 8-10 for gallowglass, and Jack and Queen for light cavalry. A king indicated two cards were drawn from the deck and troops were allocated according to their value, ignoring the suit.

The English were a standard army from my lists: 2 border horse, one demi-lancer, three shot, three pike, two bows and two polearms. They also had a siege gun to escort across the table, as noted.

For this sort of wargame, you need a fair bit of terrain. The original scenario had a variety of hills, bogs, and woods, and I sort of followed that and added bits as I could I landed up with a fair number of hiding places for the Irish although, not 52, so I was unsure if all of them would turn up.

The English would spot Irish hiding in terrain items at 3 base widths away, while those in open terrain, such as behind hills, would be spotted 6 base widths away.

The photograph shows the game a number of moves in. The English have deployed their border horse against some Irish light cavalry who jumped out from behind a hill (actually, a dip where the wood is) and also managed to deploy some infantry against some kern who were hiding behind the far right wood. As you can see the Irish horse has been driven back.

A few moves later things are starting to heat up. More Irish have appeared, but the English convoy is moving forward mostly unperturbed.

The Irish horse routing to the bottom right of the picture actually had a go at the siege gun but failed to make any impression, and have just been charged by the English demi-lancers who routed them with almost insulting ease. In the background you can see the English redcoats have driven back the kern – actually, they routed one base with which they managed to get into contact. On the left in the centre you can see the border horse; they are actually engaging a gallowglass base in the bog at the extreme left. Other Irish bases are converging on the pass, through which the English will have to move. Another couple of bases of English foot have been deployed against these, but the leading bonnacht base, together with the general, is beginning to appear to be a bit of a threat, especially as they are uphill of the convoy.

The crunch came when the bonnachts charged the lead English pike who had just deployed against them. Decent English tempo rolls meant that other foot and some borderers were lurking ominously. The Irish were, by this time, in a little difficulty, having lost two bases and had their morale slump to ‘waver’, which removes all the orders. Thus, only the bonnachts are moving under direct orders. Poor tempo rolling means that the rest of the Irish are admiring the bravery of their boys.

It nearly worked. The English pike, despite their initial support, were driven back, but the English had sufficient tempo to bring in the heavy mob and practically surround them, and their general, next bound. While the bonnachts fought bravely and nearly pulled off an astonishing victory, the odds wewre too great and they were recoiled. However, with bases in contact to the flank, that result became a lot worse and they routed, taking the general with them. At that point, Donal and Dougal called stumps. Although Irish morale was still OK-ish (withdraw), without a general there was little chance of coordinating any attacks at all.

It was a nice battle, and the mcguffin of the siege gun did its job. The English had to stick to it, and the Irish had to try to overrun it. A problem with these sorts of ambush games is that the attack is uncoordinated and the pressure on the defenders can be rather feeble, or at least not as intense as it could have been. On the other hand, the card system raises lots of questions in the mind of the solo wargamer and encourages the use of light troops for scouting places where the enemy might hide.

So, will Donal and Dougal survive? Will they make their peace with Queen Elizabeth or retreat back to their family home and pass their time eating roast chicken? Only time will tell...

Saturday 11 November 2023

The Scope of Wargame Ethics

Quite a long time ago I had a run of posts on the ethics of wargaming. I am not sure that I came to any useful conclusion, but the thought has returned to my head after a recent post on the Palouse Wargaming Journal. I do not wish to recount the content of the post (you can, and should, read it for yourself) but, in summary, it is about the Eastern Front in World War Two and whether, for example, a board wargame should incorporate elements of the Holocaust, diverting units to round up Jews, and other rear area activities like executing partisans, whole villages and anyone who got it the way.

The subsequent discussion is also interesting, and I will not try to summarise it here, either. In a sense there is no ethical question here: it is a matter of historical accuracy and whether we view the Wehrmacht as being ‘clean’ or not, that is, whether the German army was involved in the atrocities or ignorant of them, or simply decided that it was none of its business. That too is a historiographical minefield as, as the Cold War developed, interest grew in the means of German resistance to Soviet tactics, and some of the participants could get their memoirs out and also attempt to whitewash themselves and their army.

Even without these difficulties, which are real, and the problems that most accounts of the Eastern Front are from a German perspective, simply because the said Cold War denied Soviet archives to historians, there is a bit of a non-ethical (I think) scoping issue here, at least as far as wargaming goes. As a comment notes as wargamers were have the usual historian’s problem – what is to be included and what ignored. We cannot include everything; we are creating a model of a historical situation. Including everything would be recreating the original which is not something we really wish to do.

The scoping problem is then what do we include. At, say, a squad level this might not be too hard a problem. To the question of whether the average German soldier was a Nazi in 1941, 1942, or whenever, the answer is that in a skirmish-level game, the specific ideology of a given solider might not matter too much, except that they may be, I suppose, more or less motivated by the cause.

At the other end of the spectrum, a campaign covering the whole of the war, the syphoning off of units onto other duties might matter quite a lot, both in terms of numbers available at the front and also in terms of suppressing partisan activity and achieving the political goals of the highest levels of command. Whether this was palatable or not is not at issue here (it was not and is not) but whether it should be represented and, if so, how.

There are no simple answers, I suspect. Ignoring the rear areas problem (a nice euphemism for mass murder, I know) might mean that we are ignoring, or at the very least, downplaying the slaughter and mayhem the German invasion brought. On the other hand including these items could be glorifying the very same thing, which is also an unpalatable outcome.

To an extent, these issues are usually ruled offside by wargamers. We know they happened, and we believe them to have been very, very, wrong, but we do not want these facts to get in the way of a good game. There might also be some interest in trying to work out how these two deeply unpleasant regimes fought each other and why one of them won. There are tactical and strategic points of interest to be examined and assessed and, to do so we have to make some compromises and exclusions elsewhere.

The question arises, therefore, if we rule that the rear area murdering is out of scope, are we then really creating a historical wargame of the Eastern Front in World War Two? Are we not, in fact, queering the pitch even by calling it the ‘Eastern’ Front, given that that implies a German-centric point of view?

Again, the question returns to scoping and what we think we need to include and what to leave out in order to create a playable and believable game. There may also be the issue that we would rather not, as nice Western liberals of the Twenty-First Century, no engage in the mass murder, pillage, and rape that the armies engaged in. As I noted before all my wargame armies are well-behaved, pay cash upfront for their food and lodging, and never so much look at a local girl. I would like to wargame, not bog myself down in an ethical and historical quagmire.

Therefore, most wargamers would prefer, I suspect, to ignore the rear area mayhem. If any cognisance is taken of it, it is simply to reduce front-line strength by so many troops who were deployed to other duties (another nice euphemism, well done – ed). We simply rule such activities out of court, or at least out of our wargame.

One way of conceptualising ethical scope is to view it as a series of concentric circles. Innermost is ourselves and our nearest and dearest. Next are our broader families, neighbours, and communities. Then come other items of concern, such as nations, other people (those we do not know), those in far-flung places (relative to ourselves), and then other things such as animals, the environment, and such like. Part of the idea of considering our ethics and attitudes to to widen our ethical scope, to consider more of the items in the circles beyond the closest ones.

Possibly the original post and the questions it raises are related to this. As wargamers how far and how wide does our ethical scope go. We can retain a tight focus on the battle itself and ignore the political, social, and other ramifications of the conflict, or we can, perhaps over time, widen our ethical concerns for what these activities meant in the real world.

I am not sure there is a final answer to that. It might depend quite a lot on who we are and how we are engaging at the time. After all, as wargamers, we want wargames, not historiographical and ethical mazes to navigate.

Saturday 4 November 2023

The Bed Recapture

‘Good morning my dear.’

‘Now Ferdinand. Did you sleep well? You are up early for you.’

‘No. I was uncomfortable.’

‘Well, our bed is currently being transported back to Granada. I believe they are going to put it on display.’

‘On display? How dare they!’

‘Quite easily. They captured it from under your nose. Anyway, if you hurry you can intercept them at the Pass of Adutra.’

‘Ah, yes. I know that place. A very fine young lady came from there. She had a wonderful… um… singing voice. Yes, Voice. She was a base baritone.’

‘Remarkable indeed Ferdinand. I recall the young lady you mean. She could barely croak, but she did wear some low-cut dresses. I sent her away before she could catch pneumonia. Anyway, you should be able to lay an ambush for the Granadines at Adutra.’

‘I shall, I shall. They will ride straight into it.’

‘And then you can shut your trap, Ferdinand.’

‘No need to be like that, my dear. I’m trying my best.’


So, in order to get any marital action, Ferdinand needs to recapture his bed. Fortunately, Isabella has already discovered where the ox cart loaded with the bed is heading for, and is despatching Ferdinand to intercept it. Ferdinand still does not have his full heavy cavalry complement, but he does now outnumber the Granadans in jinites. He did not get his full army deployed last week, which I felt might have been a little unfair, so he gets to lie in wait for the bed-snaffling enemy this time.

The picture shows the situation after a few moves. Ferdinand, who does not really do subtlety, as you might have noticed, has his infantry astride the road and on the hills to each side, while the jinites are skirmishing forward to try to disrupt the enemy march column. His right-wing jinites are in combat and both sides have been a little disrupted. Still, the ox cart with its vital load is plodding along the road and should eventually turn up in Ferdinand’s hands.

A few moves later, and the Granada army is nearly deployed, while their left-wing jinites have forced the Castilians back a bit. On the other flank Ferdinand’s left has caused some damage to the remaining enemy lights, but their crossbowmen are now coming after them. Ferdinand is also starting to advance his infantry in the centre, concerned that his elements will be a bit far apart to support each other. The Granadine infantry is also pushing up, but they have suffered from insufficient tempo to get their heavier cavalry moving again.

The above picture shows the end of the game. The Granadine crossbowmen have forced Ferdiand’s left wing jinites back although they are still in action. However, this meant that those three bases of crossbowmen were not available to the centre. On the Granadine centre left you can see that a base of crossbows is forcing back (and has nearly broken) a base of Castilian shot. On the other hand, the Castilian foot, together with Ferdinand’s gendarmes have just destroyed the second base of Granadine spearmen. The first base can be seen routing in the centre of the picture. They have also accounted for the Granadine general. The ox cart is within reach of the Castilian foot now, as well. On the Castilian right the Granadine tempo drought has left the jinites lacking in orders and ability to reform, and one of the bases is looking a bit rocky.

At this point, however, due to losses, the Granadines were forced to make a morale check which they failed and got a withdraw result. Without a general to persuade them otherwise they withdrew, much to Ferdinand’s relief.

I think I am getting to grips with using the new ‘Castilian light’ army. Having exchanged to base of gendarmes for two of jinites they cannot just smash their way through their opponents as they used to. On the other hand, the light horse can cause considerable problems. In this scenario, the Granadines were forced to try to block the Castilian left-wing jinites from getting to the wagon by deploying three bases of crossbowmen, which meant that these were not available in the centre where their army was crushed. Ferdinand also managed to use his gendarmes and heavy infantry to good effect, administering the coup de grace with the former while the infantry backed them up – in fact, as the picture shows, the final Granadan spear base was practically surrounded when it was destroyed.

Perhaps the Granadines were always up against it in this scenario. They had to keep cohesion while seeing off a mobile enemy. On their left, they more or less succeeded, but not on their right, and they did not manage to get a coordinated defence by infantry and cavalry. A lack of tempo really did not help, granted, but they deployment from column into line also hampered things, as did a general lack of space.


‘Behold your conquering hero comes, Isabella.’

‘Oh, hello Ferdinand.’

‘Put the bed down lads. Carefully. Good. Now, dismiss!’

‘Ferdinand, why were you carried into the room by those poor soldiers?’

‘The Spartans were told to either return carrying their shields or carried on them, my dear. So I thought…’

‘So you returned carried on your bed, rather than carrying it?’

‘Rather a wheeze, don’t you think Issy?’

‘How far did they carry you?’

‘Oh, only from the waiting hall, my dear. I’m not that hard a taskmaster.’

‘Well, I suppose it is appropriate Ferdinand.’


‘You spend most of your time attempting to get young ladies into bed.’

‘I only have eyes for your loveliness, my dear. You know that.’

‘When you talk about this sort of thing, my dear, do you know how I know you are lying?’


‘Your lips are moving, my darling. Still, you did manage to recapture our bed, and so that is a good thing. Now, if you carry it into our chamber, we will investigate how much damage it has incurred during its journeys.’

Saturday 28 October 2023

The King's Bed

  ‘Ah, there you are Ferdinand.’

‘Oh. Isabella, my sweet. I wasn’t expecting you.’

‘So I understand. I have sent those young ladies home.’

‘Young ladies? What young ladies?’

‘The ones not wearing sufficient clothes who were waiting in the corridor for you to be free.’

‘Oh, those young ladies. Um. They are all excellent singers, my dear, its just that they find modern fashions rather restricting.’

‘As do you, Ferdinand. Anyway, you won’t need to worry about getting undressed unless you do something.’

‘Yes, dear. You have to undo all these knots that hold your trousers up. That can be quite time-consuming.’

‘No Ferdinand. That is not what I mean. I have news of great import to us.’

‘Oh? What news?’

‘Granada is poised to capture our bed.’

‘Our bed?’

‘The new one, that you enjoyed testing so much.’

‘How dare they!’

‘It was on an ox cart and I have a report from the escort that they have been forced to stop on a hill by a pursuing enemy force. You must go and relieve them, or no more bed.’

‘At once, my dear. I depart at once!’


Recently I was reading a little bit about the conquest of Peru. The Estimable Mrs P, having endured my confusion as to what was going on – there were about 17 years of civil war after the conquest, after all – suggested that a wargame involving the Reconquista might be interesting. She might have meant the conquistadors, but it reminded me about Ferdinand and Isabella and their quest to conquer Granada.

Anyway, a perusal of some resources came up with Scenario 4 in One Hour Wargames, in which an isolated force holds a hill and waits for reinforcements. The isolated force is one-third of the whole army, and the rest appears from a corner. Needing some sort of reason for an isolated force to be holding a hill, I decided that Ferdinand and Isabella’s new portable bed, for use on campaign, was in danger of being captured. This, as the above might have shown, motivated Ferdinand to saddle up and ride to the rescue.

Those of you with long memories will recall that Ferdinand's forces were downgraded by the loss of two bases of gendarmes, which were the main strike force as they tended to win battles on their own. He therefore has only one gendarme base and more jinites than he is used to. The advanced force, holding the hill and the bed, consists of two bases of shot and two jinites. They need to hold out until the rest of the army arrives.

The picture shows the initial position with the bed wagon in the centre, the holding force on a hill just to the right of it, and the might of the army of Granada on the far right. Ferdinand will arrive top left at the end of turn two.

The picture shows a few moves in. The Castilians on the hill are under pressure from the Granardan infantry and some jinites, while they are also being flanked both left and right. The arrival of Ferdinand means that the Granardan cavalry has been diverted from surrounding the hill to delaying Ferdinand’s advance.

A few moves later and it is nearly all over for the Castilians on the hill, the infantry attack having gone in, overrun them and captured the wagon with the King’s bed on it.

The wagon has been temporarily moved to permit the infantry to fight. In the background, Ferdinand has carefully lined his gendarmes up to charge the Granadine cavalry. They refused. Three times.

‘Why are we charging, sire?’

‘To rescue my bed!’

‘Your bed?’

‘Yes. Charge.’

‘Are we talking a bed, like a thing to sleep on?’

‘Yes, man. My bed, and the Queen’s bed.’

‘We are about to risk life and limb for your bed, sire?’

‘Well, that and Christendom.’

‘Oh, Christendom as well as your marital relations, sire?’

‘Um. Christendom first, man, of course. We are crusaders.’

Eventually, Ferdinand persuaded them to charge home and they did defeat the Granardian cavalry, but Ferdinand had spent his personal tempo on persuading them to do so for some time and the rest of the army was either un-deployed or defeated.

The photograph shows the end of the game. Ferdinand’s cavalry charge has taken him to the right-hand edge of the board, where they are being harassed by some jinites. The wagon, of course, should be on the other side of the hill. The rest of the Castilian army has still not deployed and their morale is a bit low. At this point, I, as Ferdinand, decided to use my second-best bed instead and withdraw.

I think that this scenario depends quite heavily on movement rates. For my rules, the hill could have done to have been a little further from the Granadan table edge. As it was the Castilians on the hill edged backwards as much as they could, but eventually were caught. Ferdinand did suffer from a bit of a tempo drought at times during the game, but his endless attempts to get the gendarmes to charge could have been better spent. I think I got the Granardan command right, for once. Their infantry was too powerful for the detachment on the hill and the jinites did their job quite nicely, better than their counterparts.


‘Ah, Ferdinand. How did you get on? Where is my bed?’

‘My dear, in warfare you cannot always achieve the results you desire.’

‘I see. Without the bed, you will not achieve the results you desire. You know that.’

‘We do have alternative beds, Isabella.’

‘If you think I am going to share a bed with you that creaks every time I turn over while living in a tent, you have another think coming. I don’t want the servants to know what we are up to.’

‘We do have some children, my dear. I dare say they know what we’ve been up to.’

‘You had better start working out how you are going to intercept the carriage of that bed before they get it back to Granada, or it will be no result for you, my friend.’

‘Yes, Isabella.’

Saturday 21 October 2023

A Reconnaissance

A short time ago I read in Lone Warrior an article by Jeff Subko, about reconnaissance operations in World War Two and their importance. It also included quite a lot of information about reconnaissance units and equipment in France in 1944-5 and provoked some thinking by yours truly.

I am rarely one to let a lack of suitable toys slow me down. If you abstract sufficiently, I think, more or less any situation can have its period changed, and so I started pondering. I also recalled some of the activities by the force before Naseby. In short, the Parliamentary scouts surprised a Royalist cavalry outpost in Naseby village. The latter were gambling and playing quoits; I am not sure if the two were linked. Some reports suggest that the Royalists were also having lunch.

All of this went together in my poor overstretched little mind and combined with some of the stuff I read about intelligence in Andrew’s book that I wrote about last week. As I was getting desperate to have a wargame and could not quite stomach starting another campaign, or reviving Machiavelli again, I sketched out a possible reconnaissance game. I vaguely remembered a report on a participation game from years ago, where the player was leading a squad sent to scout a farmhouse in 1944 Normandy where what they found was, in fact, randomly controlled and could be anything from nothing to a Panzer division, I needed a bit of a random method of creating what I found.

I will not bore you with the details here. It is really too much of a scribble. I might write it up more sensibly sometime. Basically, what was found in each terrain item, plus each square of the table, was controlled by playing cards. The encounters ranged from nothing to an enemy camp. There was a points system as well. Getting a message back to headquarters on what was found was 1 point, getting a prisoner or deserter back was 2 points, and losing a base in combat lost 3 points. The idea was to get out with a positive point balance.

The picture shows the initial terrain. Each terrain item was, potentially, the concealment place for an enemy force of some description. My side (the Royalists, for no better reason than that I picked a Royalist cavalry base first) enters by one of the two roads nearest the camera. The idea is to see what might be lurking in the rural scene above and get away without damage, as the points system suggests.

In order to do this I had four bases of dragoons and three of cavalry. The latter was conceived of as backup, to rescue the dragoon bases if they hit trouble. I suppose I could have deployed some scouts as well, but decided against it (or forgot). It probably would not have made much difference. The other thing to note is that I ran out of hedges and walls. I needed quite a lot of cover for troops to hide in, and that included along the roads, so every hedge and wall was deployed. I also have some more unpainted and un-based hedges. I might need to break them out.

Still, I cautiously moved some dragoons onto the table and sprang some enemy dragoons in the rough ground on the right, nearest the camera, as well as a scout on the road ahead of my troops. The dragoons opened fire (ineffectively) while the scout made off pursued by my brave men. After a turn or two they did, in fact, catch him and he was sent up the line to be questioned.

A few moves later things were getting lively. My advanced dragoon troop had found an enemy camp near the road. The shooting of the enemy dragoons (and my dragoon’s return fire when they had dismounted) had started to alert the camp but they were slow to deploy, their general in particular being rather sluggish (I wonder what he was doing). The picture shows the situation as the camp was getting organised. You can see to left and right Parliamentary dragoon outposts and patrols withdrawing, while centre right a Parliamentary cavalry troop is heading for what might become the fray from covering a foraging party which was way out to the right. The foragers themselves, another troop of horse, are rallying.

On my side, on the left, a troop of dragoons backed by cavalry are probing forwards. In the centre I have started to withdraw my leading dragoons as they are a bit exposed, and I have deployed my cavalry to stop any smart ideas of charging them.

As it was it did get a little fraught. The dragoons took a bit longer to withdraw than I hoped, leaving the cavalry facing three bases of enemy cavalry. Both sides attempted to charge but the troops of neither side fancied their chances and so after a few growls and doubtless some sword waving from the more excitable elements on both sides, I completed my withdrawal without too much further ado.

You might think that this was very boring as a wargame. Fair enough. Not much happened. But I did succeed in the mission, and got a message reporting the camp and a prisoner back to headquarters, and managed to get my troops away without too much damage – one of the dragoon troops took a lucky hit from some Parliamentary dragoons near the end of the game.

On the other hand, I had discovered the enemy’s presence in some strength and, possibly, the captive scout might tell us more about the enemy's dispositions. My dragoons had inflicted a few casualties on their most advanced post as well and those dragoons, plus their colleagues on the other flank had been pushed in, to use the contemporary term.

All in all, it was a rather satisfactory little game, I thought, and, if it had been part of a campaign context, might have been a bit more important. The thing with reconnaissance, as I have said, is to try to get your troops off without casualties and the message back to headquarters as to what you have found. Dying in a ditch while taking on the whole New Model Army with a couple of troops of dragoons is not much use to anyone.