Monday, 13 April 2015

More Than a Skirmish With This Very Ground

This Very Ground is Iron Ivan's French & Indian War skirmish game. I enjoy playing Iron Ivan's sets of rules. They have the consistency and simplicity that makes for a very playable game. The scope is 1 figure = 1 man skirmish level gaming. We've discovered that if you put too many troops on the table, the game bogs down. This was almost the case last Saturday. The game did not break, but a few odd quirks showed themselves due to the number of figures involved.

Andy drew up a scenario where French and British regulars faced each other in a forest clearing, which is as close as you can come to a set-piece Seven Years War battle in the North American theatre. No native warriors were involved and no militia or provincials on the French side, although two units of Provincials were fielded on the British side. Both sides had three companies of line troops, two light companies, a grenadier company, and three guns, two of which were 4-pounders or lighter. As I said before, the British fielded two additional companies of Provincials, who are slightly less competent than the regulars.

In the photos below, the troops are arrayed in the clearing which is deliniated by pieces of masking tape.

The French forces under Martin and myself.
Grenadiers are nearest the camers, then two line and one light company, the cannon, and a line and a light company.

The British under Kevin, Brian, and Bear.
From the bottom, two light companies and the limbered guns, three line companies, the grenadier company, and two companies of Provincials (said to be from Virginia)

Looking down the French line, as Andy shuffles boxes in the distance.
There were four games in progress that Saturday - our F&I, Wayne's WWI, Sara and Bill's D&D (5th Edition, thank God)
and a small RPG. This made for 16 people!

Lobsterbacks! All the figs were from Andy's collection.

The Colour party of Regiment Berry.
The French won the initiative in the first turn, and we advanced slowly. I put my light company in skirmish order to screen the grenadiers and the line troops to the grenadiers' left. Martin began a bombardment of the British line with the three guns - 2 Fours and a Six. The British advanced in good order with Brian sending out a light company to match my skirmishers. When they finally met, the British lights got the better of my light company and I took heavy casualties.

French Artillery, ruining the day for some of the British. The cotton shows the gun has fired.

The light screen advances ahead of the fusiliers and grenadiers. I tried to keep them from masking the guns.

The British advance - mostly Ral Partha figures with a smathering of Old Glory for command and NCO's.
The French figures were the same. No native warriors were used (Partha, Front Rank, and Blue Moon)
and the Compagnies Franches de la Marine (Partha) stayed in their boxes as well.

Brian's two light companies - one deployed in skirmish order, one in line.

Bear's disembodied hand moves a bunch of British.
My musketry was poor and my light company got hurt. Martin's lights tangled with the Provincials, one company of which had to fall back due to a morale failure. The other caused Martin's lights to hug the wood line and begin to give ground while the British grenadiers advanced. The British spread their guns out to cover the entire field while Martin massed his three cannon into a Grand Battery of sorts. (He called himself "too Napoleonic" for anything less.) 
Eventually, Brian caused my lights to break once I charged his. He won the melee and my officer and drummer, the only survivors, fell back quickly. One of my fusilier companies bravely charged one of Bear's line companies. Both were destroyed, although he fell back with a handful of troops, while my officer - the only survivor - held his ground and taunted the British mercilessly.

Brian's lights come on at full strength.

My lights and Bear's line troops pass each other.

The lights give fire as do the cannon.

This block of Redcoats became hard to manage at one point. We were unsure of the rules regarding interpenetration of units and spend a long time searching the book. We decided that you could interpenetrate but the unit could do nothing else that turn.

Ready your firelock! Present! Give fire!

"Votre mère était un hamster et votre père avait une odeur de baies de sureau!"
With one line company down to a brave but foolhardy officer and a light company down to an officer and a drummer who decided that discretion WAS the better part of valour. We French graciously conceded the field to the British. According to the understanding of fighting in that age, force-in-being was preferable to a bloody field victory. So the convention was signed and we "withdrew." Martin had lost a light company and had sustained a number of casualties to his fusiliers. Bear, Kevin, and Brian had lost one company completely and had suffered some serious casualties to another company. All the guns were intact, although the British plan was to sweep the flank with the Provincials and grab the guns. It didn't work out that way.

It made for a good game. This Very Ground is not designed for such set-piece battles. It's usually best for more fluid skirmishes in broken ground and wooded areas. Having said that, it does work for this sort of game, although such things as interpenetration of formed units and the so-called "Golden Highway" of the Seven Years War and other conflicts of the period (where one army permits the other army to withdraw without pursuit and harassment. Such behaviour drove the native warriors crazy!) are not reflected in the rules as written. We played the rules "as written" on Saturday, but had to improvise some of the things the rules didn't cover. Please don't get me wrong; the game and the scenario were great. It's just that the rules didn't cover some of the situations in which we found ourselves. So some table-top jazz had to be played. So long as everyone agrees, why not?

On Martin's end of the field, his lights are falling back and his fusiliers are losing men. Meanwhile, Bear and Kevin's Provincials prepare to sweep around the flank in open order while the remnants of a line company fires on Martin's troops while a fresh company comes up (on the far right,)

Martin's guns keep up a scalding fire.

Brian's light company continues to fire although this time it's the company in line.

The Royal Artillery answers the French.

The lone 4-pounder supports the advance on the British right.
"C'mon! Put 'em up! I can take yez all... wif one hand tied behind my back!"
"Jacques! The captain's been in the brandy again!"
On my painting front, now that Easter is past, I'm busily finishing some commissioned figures for Bear, painting some loot from Hot Lead (Renaissance Poles), and doing up some Warmaster figs 'cause I want to,


  1. Great looking game John, I bought the rules many years ago but I've never used them??

    1. Thanks, Ray. I hope you'll try the rules. I've found them quite workable and enjoyable.

  2. What a great looking battle with beautiful the end!

    1. Thanks, Phil. I had fun writing it.

  3. John,
    Looks like a great game! The Iron Ivan rules never really get the credit they deserve. Each one is a very nice system in an of itself. I have "TVG" but have not yet played it.
    Your post is making me want to break it out and give them a whirl! I love that you can actually play a skirmish game and have a "set piece" battle.
    Your table reminds me of looking at the "old school" wargaming blogs using Grant or Featherstone's rules!
    Now I'm off to dust off my Iron Ivan rules sets...

    1. Thanks for the compliment, Steven. You've put me in rare company. I hope you'll try TVG sometime. I find that Iron Ivan's rules use the same or similar system for all their games, which makes them easier to play. You don't have to learn a new system, but simply apply some period appropriate details.

    2. Very true. I always noted how in the back of Disposable Heroes they added suggestions for 15mm play and using multi-based troops. I should give this a try.
      Oh did they ever come out with their sci fi variant?

    3. We do use multi-based troops in 15mm when we play Spanish Civil War. It works and it can be fun.
      As to the Sci-fi variant, it appears one is out, call "The Age of Saints". The Saints are some sort of magic/psi/Jedi types, but you can remove them and play just straight sci-fi skirmish. I haven't gotten a copy yet. Maybe soon.

  4. Some very fine figures - Andy has a grand collection. Tres bien!

    1. I agree... nice figs. Andy said that he had as many more undeployed!

  5. Nice report! I am a big fan of TVG and have played some great games with them. Please check out my blog if interested in more opinion about the rules: Bests, Chris