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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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The San Juan River, Mosquito Coast, 1665

The Spanish Main, The Pikeman’s Lament, 28mm

This game was a result of some hasty improvisation. For various reasons only Bart and I were able to play this week, so we wanted something “quick and dirty”. We settled on The Spanish Main, and our second clash between the Buccaneers and the forces of His Most Catholic Majesty. I also didn’t have time to come up with a scenario, so we used one straight out of the rule book.“River Crossing” involved both sides facing each other across a fordable river, with one unit of each side on the enemy bank (west for the Spanish, east for the Buccaneers). We played on a 6 by 4 foot table. The aim of the game was to get your whole force across the river, without the enemy doing the same. You also got extra points for fulfilling a mission for your commander, which in my case was William Youngblood, a veteran of Cromwell’s “Western Design”, while Bart’s leader was Guillermo di Medina, who was rated as “ineffectual”. Our missions were chosen, but kept secret until the end of the game.We set the game on the Mosquito Coast (now Nicaragua), on the banks of the Rio San Juan. Bart moved first, and advanced his small cavalry unit towards my buccaneers on his bank of the river. I then failed my activation, so Bart got to go again. He charged home – I didn’t even get a chance to fire – but although my men were forced back into the river, they survived the combat. The rest of Bart’s force moved up to the west bank of river.Then, I actually managed to shoot, and emptied all but two saddles. Di Medina was attached to his cavalry, and he survived, but after rallying the other cavalryman he and his cavalry escort took no further part in the game. He did though, hid behind his infantry, just over the ford on the west bank of the river, and as a legitimate unit that helped Bart edge closer to victory. My inability to activate was repeated with depressing regularity. In A Pikeman’s Lament you select a unit, and roll two dice to activate it, needing a certain score to succeed. Some activations are easier than others. If you fail, your activation phase ends, and your opponent gets to go. A string of low die rolls kept my troops stuck in their starting positions for the best part of five turns. by that time my plan was in tatters, as the Spanish were across the river.All I could really do was to shoot them, and hope to drive them back. Strangely, my dice-rolling luck turned, and I was able to do a fair bit of shooting. it stopped a charge by the Spanish pikemen, and they were finished off by my small six-man hit squad of sword-wielding Buccaneers – my “forlorn hope”.  Another unit of Spanish militia shot were driven back too, having suffered heavy casualties. That was a good start, but it wasn’t enough. The trouble was, although my buccaneers were now edging forward towards the river, apart from his fleeing units all of the Spanish were now on the eastern bank of the San Juan. By now Bart also had his musketeers formed up and able to fire back. So, I started taking casualties. On my right, a thin line of buccaneer skirmishers and cimaroons popped away at their opponents, but were eventually driven back into the jungle by musketry from the Spanish regulars. Things weren’t going well! Next, my leader William Youngblood was forced off the table, along with his unit, as it melted away under Spanish fire. Bart was now within an ace of winning. The only thing keeping me in the game were his fleeing units, which by now were on the western side of the table. So, I sent my sword-wielding buccaneers storming across the ford, but unable to reach his musketeers they had to chop up the last of his fleeing pikemen instead. Sweet though that little victory was, it meant the Spanish only had one unit left on the wrong side of the river.Wavering units have to test their morale every turn, and if they fail they lose a figure. That makes it progressively harder to rally. So, BArt was actually hoping he’d keep failing, as his unit melted away to nothing. By now I had three units on the far bank, or on the ford, but it wasn’t enough. When that last fleeing unit evaporated the game came to an end. As I went after Bart, all that was left was for me to try to turn things around in my own last activation phase. I couldn’t. My cutlass-wielders stormed into another raw Spanish militia unit and broke it, but as I was hitting them from the ford they fled away from me, keeping on the east bank of the river. So,  I’d shot my bolt, and lost the game. When we added up the scores, the Spanish got 5 points for gathering their force on the eastern bank of the San Juan, and Bart got another for his mission – launching the first charge of the game. I succeeded in one of my mission – routing or killing more enemy units than I’d lost, which got me too consolation points, but I failed in getting a third for wiping out his cavalry unit. So, Bart won handsomely, with 6 points to 2.  It was a fun little game, and our third using these rules. they work splendidly for this level of action, and are simple enough to work fast and smoothly, but have enough chrome through special unit traits, leader sand special objectives to keep up interest. Before the next game though, I might tweak the factors a bit, and the points values, to make the buccaneers a little better at hand-to-hand combat, as that seems a better historical “fit”. I’m also tempted to paint up more Spanish cavalry, as they’re great fun to play with.


2 Responses “The San Juan River, Mosquito Coast, 1665”

  1. JosephCade
    13th April 2018 at 5:17 pm

    Very cool game. I too really like those Spanish cavalry figs.

    • 13th April 2018 at 5:23 pm

      They’re mostly Front rank Napoleonic figures, with a minimal conversion job (bending the hat, filing off some lace, and adding an adarga shield). Unfortunately the shield has fallen off a couple of these figures, so I need to get the superglue out. The officer is from the North Star 1672 range.

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