Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life; currently concentrating on a re-fight of the entire Peninsular War, but with the odd foray into ancient, medieval and WW2 battles.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Battlegames Campaign - 2nd Battle of Martinstadt

The Situation: After the Austro-Hanoverians repulsed the French at the First Battle of Martinstadt, both sides immediately rushed reinforcements to the area.  The French reinforced first, bringing an extra infantry division and a little cavalry into the action.  The subsequent advance persuaded the Austrian C-in-C to withdraw outside of the city, leaving an infantry brigade as garrison to resist the French.  Luckily for the Austrians however, the Austrian Grenadier and Cuirassier Divisions arrived in the vicinity the following day, and they joined the rest of the Army in retracing their steps back towards the capital of Martinstaadt, Martinstadt...

The French C-in-C felt strong enough to resist and offered battle just outside the city...

The Orders of Battle:

The French Army consisted of:

C-in-C Gen Prost

1st Division (Carrière - Decisive): 12 Tra SK1 Infantry, 3 Tra SK2 Infantry, 1 8lb Ft Bty
2nd Division (Delpierre - Decisive): 9 Tra SK1 Infantry, 3 Tra SK2 Infantry, 1 8lb Ft Bty
3rd Division (Dupraz - Plodding): 10 Tra SK1 Infantry, 3 Tra SK2 Infantry, 1 8lb Ft Bty
Guard Cavalry Brigade: 2 Vet/El Heavy Cav, 1 4lb Hs Bty
Dragoon Division (Maas - Decisive): 4 Trained Dragoons, 1 4lb Hs Bty
Lt Cavalry Division (Desmenez - Decisive): 3 Trained Lt Cav, 1 4lb Hs Bty

The Austro-Hanoverian Army consisted of:

C-in-C Prince Lauda
Grenadier Division (Muller - Plodding): 12 Vet SK1 Infantry, 2 12lb Ft Bty, 1 6lb Ft Bty

1st Division (Weissenberger - Plodding): 12 Tra SK1 Infantry, 1 Tra SK2 Infantry, 1 6lb Ft Bty
2nd Division (Wagner - Capable): 12* Tra SK1 Infantry, 1 Tra SK2 Infantry, 1 6lb Ft Bty
3rd Division (Bosnar - Capable): 11 Tra SK1 Infantry, 2* Tra SK2 Infantry, 1 6lb Ft Bty
Advance Guard Division (Manninger - Capable): 2 Raw SK2 Infantry, 2 Tra SK1 Infantry, 2 Veteran Lt Cav, 1 3lb Hs Bty
Rearguard Division (Pogatetz - Plodding):  2 Raw SK2 Infantry, 2 Tra SK1 Infantry, 2 Veteran Lt Cav, 1 3lb Hs Bty
Dragoon Division (Wawra - Capable): 4 Trained Dragoons
Independent Cavalry Brigade: 3 Trained Heavy Cavalry*

* = incorporating defecting Martinstaadt units.

The Battle:

The Austrians advance towards the French holding various enclosed bits of farmland.

A view along the lines from the Austro-Hanoverian left/French right

Same thing, slightly different angle

A closer view of the French left

And of the French Right (Carrière's Division to the left of the picture,

From behind the French Right: Delpierre's Div to the left, Carrière's Div to the right, facing Weissenberger's Infantry and Wawra's Dragoons (top-right)

And the French left: Dupraz' Division faces Bosnar's Division (top-left) and Wagner's Division (top-centre)

A wider shot of the same, this time incorporating Desmenez's Light Cavalry Divsion facing Wallner's Cuirassiers, but with an infantry brigade in front of them
The Battle:
Prince Lauda decided to begin the attack on the right, feeling that the open ground could be used to turn the French left flank; Bosnar's infantry moves up to the assault.  Note the Austrian infantry brigade deployed now in front of the Austrian ccuirassiers, thus matching the disposition of the French.

Same position, but from behind the French

One of Dupraz' brigades makes ready to recieve Bosnar's attack

A closer-in view of the face-off at the extreme French left

The first attack goes in on the extreme French left: mixed fortunes, but in general the French have held their position, and one of the Austrian infantry battalions has been shattered by musketry and is running away

Further combat has seem the shattering of both infantry brigades on this flank; note (centre-left) that the French have held against Bosnar's main attack and some Austrian infantry is routing, some severely shaken

And a proper view of that attack; some Austrian battalions were forced back, but overall the Austrian attack was stopped in its track with heavy casualties

A closer view of the same; the best results were achieved by the Martinstadt infantry on the left (with general)

Much of the Austrian infantry is now in full retreat however; note the wave of routing Austrian infantry at the baseline (bottom-centre and bottom-right)!  The only consolation for the Austrians was the shattering of the infantry co-operating with the light cavalry on the French left (top-right)

A better view of the routing Austrian infantry; the defeat of this brigade led to the collapse of morale in Bosnar's entire division

Certainly not in a mood to give up yet, Prince Lauda orders his Cuirassier Division to charge before the French light cavalry has recovered

A closer view

Total success! The French guns are captured, the entirety of the French Cavalry is routed!

Prince Lauda has brought up the Rearguard Division to reinforce his right; aloong with the Martinstadt Heavy Cavalry Brigade; Dupraz re-orders his division to protect himself against this threat

Reacting, General Prost brings on his Dragoons to support the Guard Heavies

The main position; French troops are largely holding their initial positions, in-spite of the turning of their flank

However, Austrian Hussars, supported by light guns and infantry rout the French infantry battalion that had successfully counter-attacked Bosnar's Division

The third phase of the renewed Austrian assault: the infantry of the Rearguard Division storm forward in an attempt to break Dupraz' Division at its 'hinge'; one Austrian column is repulsed with loss, but some Grenzers break into the enclosures

The follow-up attakc breaks the shaken French Battalion, which leads to a subsequent collapse in the brigade, which leads to the collapse of Dupraz' Division...

The wider situation on the Frech Left/Austrian Right Flank: the French are turned!

Prost, lacking further reserves, had to make a decision: an immediate counter-attack to try and restore his fortunes or withdrawal; the prospects of success seemed doubtful, especially as the Austrian Grenadier Division still remained uncommitted.  Thus the remaining French infantry begin to withdraw
Game Result: A fairly convincing Austrian victory in the end.  Although the French initially had greater success, the stripping away of the French infantry allowed the Austrian Cuirassiers to clear away the French cavalry on that wing, thus leaving the French flank somewhat "hanging in the air"; the attack of the Austrian Rearguard was very well executed, and after the defeat of Dupraz' Division, the result could hardly be doubted.

French: 5 x Inf units broken, 3 x Lt Cav units broken, 1 x 4lb Hs Bty overrun; 4 x Infantry brigades spent, 1 x Light Cavalry brigade spent.  Permanent losses: 2 x Infantry units, 3 x Light Cavalry units, 1 x Hs Bty
Austria: 1 x Jager unit broken, 4 x Infantry units broken; 4 x Infantry brigades spent.  Permanent losses: 2 x Infantry units.  Permanent gains: 1 x 4lb Hs Bty

The French Army has again fallen back to regroup after its second defeat.  The loss of almost the entirety of its light cavalry may well be a big problem in the campaign!  It does have a light cavalry unit which defected from Martinstaadt, which now constitutes its sole light cavalry capability...

Game Notes: Partly as a sop to foraging rules, partly as a sop to playability, I have a limit of 50 units per side on the table at any one time in big Polemos GdD battles.  Other formations can be brought on as reserves (as happened with both sides in this game).  I some ways I think this is because it is the weak spot in Napoleonic games: it is a lot of battalions for one person to handle, even if they largely operate by brigade; whereas 14-16 brigades is quite a light game for big battle rules.  On balance, I think I may have made slightly the wrong call in this game.  Where I definitely did make an error is in the table set-up; two errors in fact.  My first error comes from my habitual use of a 5'x3' table  in the past; for the present I have a 7'x4.5' table so I should definitely deploy the defence line about 6" further back, to allow more room for the attacker's deployment.  The second error (potentially) is in the use of so many enclosures.  The Polemos Napoleonic Companion's campaign rules have a random terrain generator, which, for "open country", generates "pasture" areas.  But these aren't defined in the rules, so I have used enclosures instead.  But this seems to occupy an awful lot of the area, so perhaps I need to reduce the area but make it a kind of strong point, a la Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte etc.  Comments on this point welcomed!
I used the +1 for Veteran and -1 for Raw in this game; on balance I think it did work better.  Further musing on factors, I might be inclined to reduce the melee advantage for heavier cavalry to +1 (not the charge phase though); on the basis that if the light cavalry do stick it out and face the charge, the odds against them probably aren't that bad. 
One quirk/feature of the Polemos rules is just how important repeated attacks are in infantry combat.  The basic problem is the defenders "+2" for first fire (a big benefit); this makes it quite hard for the first infantry attack to succeed.  So what you have to do is attack, realize that you may well get beaten, but then pile in the reserves (that +2 subtley changes the hidden odds from favouring the defender to favouring the attacker).  Awareness of this allowed the Austrian infantry to make that crucial successful 3rd phase of assault in the the second general attack.

I haven't commented much on the progress of the campaign, except very briefly in the scenario notes at the top.  I will comment on that next week, along with the next battle report, insha'allah!

Figures as ever by Baccus 6mm, rules were Polemos General de Division, campaign rules in the Polemos Napoleonic Companion.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Battle of Maldon 991 AD - DBA Refight

Miniature Wargames 35 contained a scenario for the famous Battle of Maldon 991 AD, one of the best known of all early medieval battles as a result of its immortalization in Old English poetry (see translation here).  Attention normlly gets focused on the decision of the Anglo-Saxon commander, Bryhtnoth, to allow the Vikings to cross a narrow causeway from Northey Island.

I used the armies from the appropriate lists in DBA, as follows:

Anglo-Saxons: 3 x Bd (Blades - Thegns), 6 x Sp (Spearmen - Fyrd), 1 x Ps (Skirmishers - Archers), 2 x 7Hd (Hordes - Locals)
Vikings: 11 x Bd (Blades - Warriors), 1 x Ps (Archers)

The Deployment:

The Vikings crossed from the causeway (right) and deployed at the bottom of the shot, facing the Anglo-Saxons (top); the Vikings have two elements of warriors in reserve, the Anglo-Saxons have left the local warriors as their reserve; both sides' bowmen are deployed on the far (left) side

A shot from the Viking left flank

And from behind the Anglo-Saxons; the locals (hordes) are represented by two bases each.

A picture of the Viking line

And a shot of the Anglo-Saxon line
The Battle:
Tactics can be quite simple in this period...both sides advance!

Crunch!  The lines collide.  On the far left, the Voking bowmen have joined the end of the Viking line rather than tackle the Anglo-Saxon bowmen in the wood

Same position, but looking along the line

The Anglo-Saxon right has generally the upper hand, although one element of Viking warriors has penetrated the shield wall.  Bryhtnoth leads his bodyguards personally in combat (right) and pushes the Viking general and his bodyguards back

The Saxon shieldwall holds against the Viking right although it is pushed back, except for that element in the middle

The Anglo-Saxons fight to restore the shieldwall

As they do on the opposite flank

The fighting is becoming slightly more scattered, but in general the Anglo-Saxon shieldwall is holding and the Vikings are coming off worse.  Brythnoth however is pushing his opponent back so hard he has pushed himself right into the midst of superior numbers of Vikings...

Saxon shieldwalls face thinned ranks of Vikings!

But Bryhtnoth is attacked on three sides!  However, the Viking reserve is being pulled in to the right to make up for losses there

The Viking left makes a renewed attack

Another view of the fighting in the centre

Bryhtnoth and his men succumb to the Viking warriors in the centre!

A wider view; the Vikings have lost many more men, but the Anglo-Saxon leader has been killed along with his picked men

The Vikings renew their efforts in another furious assault...

But the fury merely leads to the Saxons reforming their shieldwall

However, another group of thegns goes down in the centre underneath Viking axes!

The local Saxon warriors join the line and surge forward with the shieldwall

As does the shieldwall on the Saxon left flank

The Vikings hold firm in the centre around their leader, but give way somewhat on the flanks

A closer view of the Viking left under pressure

As is its right!

The Viking archers are caught between Saxon spear and bow

A closer view of the same

And the archers are detroyed; this leads to the collapse of the Viking Army's morale!

The view along the line at the end of a hard-fought and bloody battle

The Viking general still fighting hard in the centre, but his army his collapsing around him...

Game Notes:A very close run-thing; the Vikings lost 4 bases, the Anglo-Saxons 2 but including their leader.  The Anglo-Saxon shieldwalls basically held in this game, which makes it a bit harder for the Vikings to get any advantage; all their successes came in the blade-on-blade combats in the centre.  The Anglo-Saxon successes mainly came from attacking isolated Viking elements, although they need a bit of luck too (generally a 3-point swing on the dice rolls).  Anyway, a heroic victory for the Anglo-Saxons in the refight replaces the heroic defeat of legend!

DBA does give a very good game.  Whether there are games out there which represent Dark Age warfare better...possibly.  I think that it does a good job of representing certain aspects by judicious use of factors and bonuses and there is a lot to be said for a game which you can fight to a finish (or two) every single time.  It represents well the importance of timing, since the sequencing of actions is the main thing you can do to try and achieve success.  But the lack of genuine attrition as a mechanism is always a concern.  Plus one also wonders whether Vikings really fought tactically in a very different (and superior) way from their Saxon opponents.  If I recall correctly from the poem, both sides seem pretty similar - not that that is conclusive.

Figures by Baccus 6mm.