Friday, 19 July 2019

Cattle Rustling

Caesar and I played 'The Pikeman's Lament' last night, using my Great Northern War figures. Virtually everything about the game was at least partly randomised; I generated some tables with possible unit types, another for terrain and, after determining forces we randomly determined a scenario as well. I'll put the force determination table in another post, partially because I might want to use them again and, at the moment, they are scribbled on a piece of paper.

We played on a 3' x 3' board and halved distances - this was to keep everything in line with the units' footprints. Caesar's cloth is 4' x 4', so a large river and some rocky hills were used to mark the edges of the actual play area.

I took the Swedes, and ended up with a force consisting of three Raw Shot and three Gallopers. They ended up as the attacker in a mission that saw them having to transport rustled cattle (the yellow counters) from one side of the table to the other.

Caesar's Russians started with a small blocking force on table, and the rest of his troops coming on from the sides along the Swedes' escape route. It was entirely made up of infantry - on table he had his officer leading a unit of Raw Shot and some Raw Pike. Off-table were four more units of Raw Shot and a fearsome Forlorn Hope (representing some grenadiers).

Units driving cattle are limited in speed and can't initiate charges, so the job was given to my shot units, who are already slow and wouldn't be charging anyway. They plodded forward, and opened fire on the Russian pikes to little effect.

Caesar got his blocking force into a reasonable position to slow my troops, but then failed his activation roll to start bringing the rest of his troops onto the table. I swung my cavalry flanks around to strike at the Russians in the centre and clear a path for my shot to escape.

Russian reinforcements began to appear. Unfortunately the grenadiers appeared just long enough disappear when a random even saw them ordered elsewhere.

The Swedish cavalry charged, taking on the Russian leader's shot unit. It took casualties and fell back in good order. But the cavalry's follow-up saw both units break. This was bad for me, since I was relying on my cavalry to screen my shot, but worse for Caesar who now found his force leaderless.

His pike now came under attack as well but pike are made of sterner stuff than shot in these rules, and they held out for a couple of turns.

They were under considerable pressure from the majority of the Swedish force, though, and eventually broke.

The Swedes took a few turns to reorganise themselves and disentangle their units so they could continue their move across the table. This was, in part, due to their ageing leader having a desperate desire to close with the nearest enemy units and try to bring them to combat despite what his advisers said (I rolled the 'advance on nearest enemy' random event twice, although in one case it actually had me move pretty much in the direction I wanted to go anyway).

The Russians were making heavy weather of moving up to intercept the Swedes. This was due in part to a terrible set of morale rolls caused by the loss of the pike unit, which saw a couple of groups of shot waver and hesitate for a turn.

And things got worse for the Russians - the Swedes got reinforcements! This fresh cavalry unit never got into the fight, but certainly did a lot to dampen the Russian's enthusiasm for a continued pursuit.

All credit to Caesar; with everything going pear-shaped for his force, he kept up the pursuit for as long as he could. The Swedes were angling away from them, and moving their surviving horse to act as a screen.

Even their officer felt he'd had enough for one day and was looking forward to a beef stew.

A hero rose from the Russian ranks and began urging his fellows soldiers forward.

But it wasn't enough. The Swedish officer decided that going home without giving his companions chance to fire their muskets was a bit unfair, so he halted and allowed them one volley at their pursuers. The Russians took a few hits and decided to run.

At that point Caesar decided that call off the pursuit. He was down to two shot units, one a bit shaky already, and stood next to no chance of catching the Swedes or indeed completing any of his side-missions, both of which involved destroying Swedish units.

This game was stupidly fun - maybe more so for me than for Caesar - with the random elements of the system really coming to the fore. To be honest an all-infantry blocking force was always going to have a hard time, but there we identified a number of ways it could have stopped the Swedes had their morale and ability to respond to orders been better. Possibly including the company's officer as part of the initial on-table blocking force might not have been the best of plans either, as his loss really didn't help the Russian's plans at all.


  1. Fun! I love the Pikeman's Lament - always produces a fun game with lots of back and forth!

  2. Great report Kaptain. That's pretty much exactly how it happened and why the Swedes actually invented beef stroganoff.

    In hindsight, putting my commander with the off-table reserves would have been better. Well done in keeping the pressure up on his shot unit, because forcing a morale check on everything when it broke was pivotal to the outcome of the battle.

    It's the strength of a good set of rules that I had a fun time even when I was getting slaughtered! I will happily play more Pikeman's Lament, hopefully giving a better account of myself next time. Long live Peter the Great!



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