Skirmish at Tun Creek: An Old School “Charge!” Battle Report

It’s been a bit of time since I’ve published anything here, hasn’t it?

I am still working on my set of wargames rules, rest assured, and have even made some fine progress on a modern variation of them.

However, I struggled with the testing of my own horse and musket version; nothing seemed to feel “quite right” when I took my rules as written to the tabletop. And so, in an effort to learn from other rules writers, I’ve been playing a variety of other wargames rules, picking from those that seem to best fit my own biases for game design.

So far I’ve tested Ross MacFarlane’s free, “With MacDuff to the Frontier” rules, some Warhammer horse and musket modifications, plus some old Featherstone rules from a book of his I found in the library.

And just the other week I finally sat down and played a game of the venerable, old school wargame rules “Charge! Or How to Play War Games” by Brigadier Peter Young and Lieutenant Colonel J.P. Lawford.

The River Blast, or Tun Creek?

I decided to play a version of the scenario they use to illustrate the Elementary version of their Charge! rules, called The Action at Blasthoff Bridge; a fictional battle between the imaginary 18th century armies of the Emperor and the Elector.

For my own version I’ve updated the technology to the late 19th century, and replaced Messrs. Young and Lawford’s fictional combatants with two of my own creation: The Prothan Empire and the Alekserian Principate.

And so, on to the battle!

The Skirmish at Tun Creek

The action at Tun Creek took place in 895 A.C., at the very outbreak of the brief Alekso-Prothan War.

The Tun River Valley is a fertile, lush region nestled between the Tun and Ruto Rivers, on the border between the Prothan Empire and the Alekserian Principate. The region is ethnically Prothan, and had lain within the bounds of the various Prothan kings and warlords for centuries, but the Alekserian victory in the 20 Years (or “Pelist Intervention”) War of 718-739 A.C. led to its being ceded to the Principate.

The Tun River Valley is to the north-west of Proth and south-west of Alekser (click to see full size)

This has been a sore point in Alekso-Prothan relations ever since.

With tensions rising over the recent Alekserian trade embargo and seizure of ships carrying Calerian goods, the formal Prothan declaration of war came in the spring of 895.

The Tun River Valley was a prime target for Prothan war planners, and fast-moving advance forces were dispatched to seize control of the river crossings necessary for the main army to enter the territory.

One such, a force under the hotheaded Brigadier Mads Irik, struck north to take control of the bridge over Tun Creek, a tributary that feeds into the Tun River some miles to the east.

To counter this attack, the unprepared Alekserians only had a small local force of Provincials and Karruk light cavalry (tribesmen from the mountainous regions to the west), commanded by the cautious Captain Iriev Silnecz.

The disputed Tun River Valley. Click for full size.

Silnecz’s green and teal-clad Karruk cavalry and Provincials numbered:

  • 1 gun
  • 10 cavalry
  • 40 infantry in two units of 16 plus a unit of 8 skirmishers
  • Silnecz himself and his 2 aide-de-camps

Across the creek marched Irik’s blue-clad Prothans, including:

  • 1 gun
  • 15 cavalry
  • 32 infantry in 2 units of 16
  • Irik and his two aide-de-camps

And the rules I’m using are, as mentioned, the Elementary version of Charge!

The Game

Both sides advanced their infantry; the Alekserians wading one unit across the creek to secure their left flank, and pushing the skirmishers forward to secure the near side of the bridge, and the Prothans moving to take the hill to their right flank, and secure their own side of the bridge.

Silnecz ordered his Karruk cavalry around the small farm, and his gun forward to better cover the bridge. Irik pushed two squadrons of cavalry across the creek on his left, and dashed a squadron across the bridge to try and secure both sides of it as quickly as possible.

The field after two turns of fire and maneuver.

An ill-advised charge by this squadron into the line of Alekserian skirmishers, backed up now by regular infantry, lost two troopers to overwatch fire and another to a two-on-one melee combat, while a lucky hit from the Alekserian gun downed another two in the formation that had just forded the creek. The battered squadron fell back from its melee and joined the other two behind it.

Return fire from the Prothan gun hit two Alekserian provincials (a third having been killed in the cavalry melee).

Karruk cavalry prepare to charge the Prothan interlopers.

On the Alekserian right the Karruk tribal cavalry had swung around the farm and was now forming up in the plowed field in preparation for a charge at their Prothan counterparts.

The start of turn 3, as the cavalry clash on the Alekserian right.

As the Karruks swept forward, their ululating warcry of “Azke Pal!” reverberating across the field (it roughly translates to “Hack their heads off!”) the Alekserian skirmishers moved up in support, and the left-flank Provincial unit finished crossing the creek and formed up.

Cavalry slam into each other. 11 Prothans vs. 10 Alekserian Karruks.

The cavalry melee turned out to be inconclusive, 2 troopers falling on either side, and both forces recoiled six inches. Meanwhile the Prothan infantry continued its advance and started to cross the bridge to get to grips with Silnecz’s forces.

Inconclusive cavalry melee.

The following two turns proved decisive. With a desultory shooting match going on between the infantry units on the Alekserian left/Prothan right, and neither side gaining much of an advantage, Brigadier Irik chose to force the issue with a bold dash by his other infantry unit across the bridge, and a charge by his remaining cavalry.

Neither assault would go well for him.

Prothan cavalry charge in the background while in the foreground Prothan infantry are cut to pieces.

The Prothan cavalry charged into the Alekserian Karruks, but took fire from the Alekserian skirmishers now to their flank, and lost a trooper even before coming to grips with their mounted rivals. In the ensuing melee they fared horribly, and lost three more troopers to hacking Karruk blades while only downing one of the screaming tribesmen in return.

The Prothan infantry attack across the bridge fared little better, losing men to Provincial fire and a burst of grapeshot from the re-positioned Alekserian gun.

The final turn. Now you see them…

With few options left, and his army nearing the breaking-point (armies rout at 1/2 casualties in the Elementary game), Irik charged his infantry headlong into the Alekserian Provincials. If he could seize and hold this side of the bridge before time ran out, the bulk of the Prothan army would arrive and Silnecz’s holding force would need to retire.

…now you don’t.

But it was not to be. Grapeshot from the Alekserian gun tore into their flank as they advanced, a volley from the Provincials to their front slammed into their ranks, and the Prothan infantry were obliterated: cut down to a man.

This was too much for the surviving Prothans, and Irik angrily ordered a retreat. Capturing the bridge a few days early wasn’t worth this much Prothan blood, and the main army would steamroll this little Alekserian force when it arrived anyways…

The Action at Tun Creek would be immortalized by Alekserian propagandists as the one bright spot during the national embarrassment that would follow in the Alekso-Prothan war. As the industrialized Prothan army struck ever deeper into Alekser territory, the humiliated Principate would eventually be forced to sue for peace, end their embargo, and cede the Tun River Valley back to Proth.

Concluding Thoughts

I really enjoyed Charge! as a rules system, at least, the Elementary version.

Some people complain that old school rules like these (written in the 60s) are too fiddly or complicated and, while I can see that being the case in the Advanced version of Charge!, I found the opposite to be true with the basic game I played.

I picked the system up pretty quickly, and found it rewarded good positioning and maneuver , with just enough random chance to keep the outcome from being completely predictable.

The use of fractions for casualties could get a little fiddly, but not enough, especially with forces of this size, to slow the game down any.

And more importantly the “feel” of the game was just right for me. Part of this I think is the longevity/survivability of units, and part is the short movement and firing distances that tends to allow more maneuver even with bigger figures. I will 100% steal adopt mechanisms from Charge! for my own rules.

Next I’ll have to try out a version of the Advanced rules!

Published in: on November 4, 2019 at 7:03 pm  Comments (8)  
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8 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Cracking looking game VERY O.S. (could you add a ‘join widget’ to your site ?)

    • Thanks Tony! (and a big fan of your blog as well). Not sure how to add a join widget using WordPress. Do you mean like an email subscribe to receive new posts when they’re published?

    • Tony, FYI I’ve added both a WordPress “join”/follow widget, and a follow by email option in the sidebar on the top right!

  2. This ranks as a “perfect” battle report. It’s entertaining to read, just the right amount of photos to text which clearly illustrates the developing situations… great stuff!

    • High praise, thank you Jeffrey!

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