Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life; currently concentrating on a re-fight of the entire English Civil War, but with numerous discursions into battles from many different periods. The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

End of the Battlegames Campaign

I started my go at the Battlegames Martinstaadt Land Grab campaign back in August 2017.  It has come to a conclusion after a decisive French defeat made it look impossible for them to retrieve the situation, since there are no reinforcements in the campaign and their Austrian adversaries already hold the key towns.  This meant it felt like the right moment for the French General to ask for an armistice to withdraw the remainder of his forces from the theatre of operations.

It is an excellent campaign scenario and I thoroughly recommend it.  It is evenly balanced, which is fairly key for a head-to-head campaign.  It did become harder and harder to see how the French could win after their series of defeats.  I did not mind that, but it might bother someone else, so possibly an optional reinforcement rule might help, or have a proportion of casualties replaced or return to units.

The Polemos campaign rules from the Polemos Napoleonic Companion worked tolerably well, although there are a couple of changes I will make in future.  I used a slightly (and I do mean slightly) more complicated movement and logistic system, which I felt made the game more logical although the basic mechanics actually held up very well and again would recommend it: the tempo system does seem to produce believable results (and problems from systemic inertia).  The changes were:

The logistic chain can only extend 10 hexes on roads; off-road in the open counts double.
Maximum stacking in a hex is 51 bases/17 brigades; roll a die for every unit in an over-stacked hex, 1 = eliminated; on reflection, this would have been more interesting if I had halved the limits.  I think this is right in principle, but needs more thought on the calibration.
Maximum 2 hexes of movement in open (no roads)
Maximum 1 hex of movement in hills (no roads)
After a victory, uncommitted light cavalry and dragoons can roll 1d6; 5-6 eliminates a random enemy base.

I don't particularly rate the siege rules in the Polemos Companion but since they didn't actually come up, I won't comment further here.

The main problem in my playing of it was its disjointed nature, purely as a result of when I could best fit it into my gaming schedule. Spreading half-a-dozen battles over 18 months isn't ideal to get the proper emotional engagement; but actually it only took 2-3 months of playing time, which is perfect really - and half-a-dozen division or corps-sized engagements is a pretty reasonable amount.  Given a more even spread of results, I think it might end up lasting 10 battles or so.  When I next refight this campaign, which I fully intend to do, I am going to try and devote a specific chunk of my gaming time to playing it out in a single period of a few months.

First Battle of Martinstadt
Second Battle of Martinstadt
Battle of Iferbrucke
Battle of the Steinwasserbrucke
Battle of the Steinwasserberg

Many thanks to the scenario writer, Henry Hyde, for producing such a useful and adaptable campaign.

Battlegames Campaign - Battle of Steinwasserberg

The Battle of Steinwasserberg:

After a period of manoeuvring after the last couple of battles, the majority of the French forces were still in position south of Martinstaadt, which was occupied in its turn by the main Austrian army.  Several diversionary moves had taken place around Iferbrucke to the North and more importantly, Osace to the South-East.  General Prost, realizing that a third direct attack was no more likely to succeed than his previous attempts, therefore detached one of his divisions to threaten Osace and subsequently Jesseldorf, as part of his new strategy of containing the Austrians around Martinstaadt, relying on the Martinstadtian forces to help him by masking Iferbrucke.  However, this subtly changed the odds in the Steinwasser valley: would Prince Lauda feel that a successful attack was a possibility?  Seizing the initiative, he detached half of his Grenadier Division to hold off the Martinstadters around Iferbrucke, and brought the remainder of his Reserve Korps to reinforce his main army, then launched his attack on the French who were defending a position around 30km south off the capital...

Gen Prost accepted battle without too much reluctance, hoping that a successful defensive battle might change the fortunes of a campaign which was beginning to seem hopeless for the French.  And so the die was cast...

The Strategic Situation on 21st May 1809:
(arrows show broad movements over last week)

The Forces:

The Imperial Austro-Hungarian Army:
C-in-C: Prince Lauda (Decisive)
1st Division: 4 brigades of Trained Infantry SK1
2nd Division: 3 brigades of Trained Infantry SK1, 1 brigade of Trained Infantry SK2
3rd Division: 3 brigades of Trained Infantry SK1, 1 brigade of Trained Infantry SK2*
Dragoon Division: 1 brigade of Trained Dragoons
Heavy Cavalry Brigade: 1 brigade of Trained Heavy Cavalry*
Grenadier Division: 2 brigades of Veteran Infantry SK1
Reserve Division: 1 brigade of Veteran Cuirassiers
Light Cavalry Brigade: 1 brigade of Trained Light Cavalry
Artillery: 1 base of Foot Arty, 1 base of Heavy Arty

The Imperial French Army:
C-in-C: General Prost (Decisive)
1st Division: 4 brigades of Trained Infantry SK1, 1 brigade of Trained Infantry SK2
2nd Division: 3 brigades of Trained Infantry SK1, 1 brigade of Trained Infantry SK2
Gd Cavalry Brigade: 1 brigade of Veteran/Elite Heavy Cavalry
Dragoon Division: 1 brigade of Trained Dragoons
Guard Division: 2 brigades of Veteran/Elite Infantry SK1, 2 brigades of Trained/Elite Infantry SK1
Artillery: 1 base of Foot Arty, 1 base of Heavy Arty, 1 base of Horse Arty

*indicates the presence of a brigade of allied Martinstadt troops.

The Set-Up:

The Austrian Left of two infantry divisions, supported by two cavalry brigades (bottom) faces the French divisions deployed on the hill (top) and in the farmland (top-left)

A third Austrian infantry division, the Austrian Grenadiers, and a further two cavalry brigades on the Right, facing two brigades of Young Guardsmen, with the remainder of the Guard troops in the rear (top)

A comprehensive shot

A closer view of the two French infantry divisions, with a brigade of Dragoons in the rear (top)

A closer look at the Young Guard brigades defending the farmland on the French Left.

A view along the Austrian line from Left (bottom) to Right (top)

Austrian infantry massed

The Austrian Grenadiers, supported by artillery, on the road
The Battle:
The Austrians begin to organize their advance (note the couriers and officers around the various formations - bottom)

The Austrians send a light cavalry brigade on a long flanking manoeuvre (top-right)!

The Austrians on the left indicate that they will make their point of attack the hill rather than the farms adjacent to the river by bringing in their left-hand division in slightly to support the attack on the hill; meanwhile Prince Lauda concentrates an infantry division and his Greandiers ready to assault the Young Guard (centre-right).

In goes the attack, with Prince Lauda at its head (left) - can Austrian numbers overcome French skill and the defensive terrain?

Another view

The Austrians triumph!  The Grenadiers and musketeers rout the Young Guardsmen and overrun their supporting artillery in after a stiff fight and take control of the farm.  However the Austrians have taken severe casualties and will need to spend some time re-organizing before resuming any forward movement.

The morale of the entire Guard Infantry has collapsed though and they march for the rear!  The French Left has been crushed early on...

The second phase of Prince Lauda's plan: a massed assault on the Steinwasserberg...

The Austrians push deep into the French centre, but hold on the flanks...

Although the French artillery was overrun and some brigades were pushed back, a French Legere Bde has routed some of the Austrian attackers (bottom)

Overall, a narrow French victory: they hold the crest of the hill and are still disputing some of the forward slopes

However, Prost is still facing an appalling situation on his left: he leads the Horse Grenadiers into action to try and drive the Austrians back before they regain their poise...

The Austrian Grenadiers push their Horse-riding opponents back

The nicely-timed flank attack by the Austrian Light Cavalry goes in onto the French artillery

...which is quickly overrun

The French Guard Cavalry is pushed back up the hill to reform

Prost again leads the Horse Grenadiers into the charge...

The Horse Grenadiers rout the Light Cavalry in short order, but Prost is seriously wounded at his moment of triumph!  He is carried from the field...

Prince Lauda has got his infantry into action again

And launches another attack onto the hill, this time supported by the Grenadiers (right)

A wider shot; note that the remaining Austrian infantry division is still sorting itself out (bottom)

These French units are victorious, routing their Austrian opponents (centre-left)

However the remainder of the Austrian attack has carried the French position and routed the French defenders

One of the Austrian divisions has been broken and is streaming down the hill...

But the French army's morale has collapsed with the collapse of its centre...

The Imperial Guard cavalry is riding hard for the rear too

The position at the end of the battle: with the French Left and Centre destroyed, only its Right is intact but must hastily withdraw to avoid being crushed...and with unused Austrian cavalry in reserve, their retreat will be perilous indeed...
Game Results:
A decisive battle, and one which summed up the French campaign: some moments of success, but the Austrians just seem to  have the Gods of War on their side.  The 'hidden' part of the game, the tempo, was firmly in the hands of Prince Lauda: he always had the initiative and the French could never organize decisive moves to counter his attacks in time.   The French losses were grisly: c.3700 infantry and 900 cavalry, plus all 50 guns.  The Austrians losses were around 2400 infantry, plus 600 cavalry.  Worse perhaps was the demoralization, as French troops began to surrender on the wayside to the pursuing Austrian Dragoons...

Game Notes:
A good game, although I don't seem to be able to buy a win for the French in this campaign!  I had a choice of whether to play this with General de Division (a base is a battalion) or Marechal de l'Empire (a base is a small brigade/large regiment).  I have plenty of troops to do the former, but I am beignning to prefer slightly smaller games for their own sake, so I decided upon the latter.  I don't think there are any real points to cover with the rules in terms of problems.  One interesting point is how much time everything takes in this ruleset: setting up a divisional attack (or Corps) takes about an hour, so this game took a notional 4-and-a-half hours or something - which feels about right, maybe.  In some ways, because of the abstraction level, it plays a little more smoothly than General de Division at the expense of those little moments of diverting detail.

Figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings by Leven, rules from the Polemos series.

Realistically, the campaign is at an end.  With their main army in rout, their General severely wounded and the main objectives in Austrian hands, it seems unwinnable and Gen Prost must sue for a ceasefire to allow his retreat. It has been quite good fun, if somewhat one-sided!  I will be writing another blogpost shortly, to tie it all together.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Twilight of Divine Right First Look - The Battle of Fleurus

The Battle of Fleurus (1622), which took place between a Spanish army and Protestant forces in Dutch pay, is one of the two sample scenarios in the new set of rules - Twilight of Divine Right -  by Nick Dorrell for the period 1618-1660 in Europe, covering the Thirty Years' War and the English Civil War.

The scenario is helpfully quite small, featuring the following forces:

The Spanish Army:
C-in-C: Cordoba
1 small regiment of Musketeers
1 Elite tercio
1 Tercio
2 Small tercios
2 regiments of Cuirassiers
2 small regiments of Harquebusiers
1 Field gun

The Protestant Army:
C-in-C: Mansfeld
1 large regiment of Foot
4 regiments of Foot
7 regiments of Cavalry (Dutch tactics)
2 regiments of Cuirassiers
1 small regiment of Cuirassiers
1 Field gun

The aim of the battle is simply for the Protestant army to defeat the Spanish.  Not easy, since the Protestant army is mutinous...(there are some special scenario rules for this).

I don't have any specific TYW armies, so I proxied my WotTK's forces: the "Spanish" are Royalists, the "Protestants" are Parliamentarians.

The Set-Up:

Mansfeld's army is on the left, Cordoba's on the hill to the right; a small garrison of musketeers occupies the chateau (top)

Mansfeld's troops moving up the U-shaped valley (spurs on both left and right)

and another shot from behind Mansfeld's lines.

A closer view of the Spaniards.

And another shot.

The chateau

Looking from the Spanish position down the valley

and again

Another overall look at the set-up

 The Battle:

The Protestant left wing (right) advance up the spur towards the Spanish Horse and the musketeers occupying the chateau

Another view

The Spanish left wing observe the advancing Protestant Horse...

First clash! Cuirassiers upon Cuirassiers around the chateau...

The attack of the Protestant Horse on the Spanish Right is disrupted by remarkably accurate fire from the Spanish Harquebusiers, assisted by the Spanish artillery fire

Another view of the same

The fight continues on the Protestant left, slightly favouring the Protestant Horse

Cordoba advances his Tercios slighly and delivers an effective fire against the advancing Protestant Foot (centre-left)...

The Spanish Horse on the left wing (Harqubusiers to the left, Cuirassiers to the right) is proving devastatingly effective against their Protestant opponents (left); but the Protestant Horse has managed to overrun the Spanish artillery (centre)

The infantry fight continues in the centre...the bodies are piling up around the Protestant standards...

The cavalry fight near the chateau is nearing its end as all of the units involved have taken heavy casualties, including the Protestant Horse (top) which is receiving quite accurate musketry fire from the chateau

Cordoba drives his men forward to push of pike, hoping the impetus from the high ground will prove decisive...

The Horse continues their fight, but one of the Protestant regiments has evaporated under the weight of fire from the chateau

Mansfeld's Foot under severe pressure... one regiment has routed (bottom) and another is under severe pressure (centre - note the casualty markers)

The Spanish Horse on their left (bottom-right) has cleared away all opposition from its front...

The fight of the Foot gets bloodier and bloodier...

One of the Spanish tercios (bottom-right) breaks under fire and disappears to the rear

The Spanish Horse slowly moves around the Protestant flank (bottom-left)...

More Protestant infantry routs (centre), but more importantly, the remainder of the Protestant Horse has abandoned the Foot (top) and the morale of Mansfeld's army collapses!

The position at the end of the battle.  One fears that few of Mansfeld's foot soldiers will be able to make it away...
 Game Notes: Obviously no first game ever goes totally smoothly, but I did find these rules pretty intuitive.  There is no 'combat' mechanic as such: this is assumed to be automatic and the game only adjudicates the effect on morale (and in some circumstances, movement).  This actually resembles the mechanic I recently encountered in the Napoleonic Portable Wargame.  I think I first saw it Wargames Foundry's Age of Reason rules, where units had to test "Resolution" in much the same way.  It is all reasonably self-explanatory.  There are a fair number of possible modifiers but only a few will apply to any given combat, so this can be internalized very quickly.  There is a mercifully simple pursuit mechanic as an outcome, plus wing and army morale tests which are quite similar to those found in the Polemos series of rules.

Command and control problems are centred around action test for carrying out manoeuvres.  Some manoeuvres are easy and automatic, but others require a bit more skill and determination and have to be tested for.  Some units, and unit types, find this easier than others.  Better generals can do more of these kind of things.
The rules really encourage depth of deployment and support.  This is not only reflected in morale/combat modifiers, but also in the tests: one can do relief in place manoeuvres, and cavalry does much of this automatically, as damaged units automatically regroup behind supports.  I really liked this.  It makes a big change from the Polemos rules I am more used to, where doing this kind of thing is incredibly tricky and a big focus of the game is in managing how to use second and third lines of cavalry effectively.  This game seems to make that a lot easier.
There is quite a lot of detail in the set-up of this game.  There are a number of different infantry types (e.g. early tercios, tercios, Swedish brigades, regiments, with regimental guns or not, etc.) and cavalry types (cuirassiers,  Dutch-trained, Swedish-trained, Harquebusiers, Light Horse etc.).  This allows the rules to model the differences without much fuss.  There is a different scale for fighting the really big battles.
One thing to bear in mind looking at the pictures and reading the report is that I am effectively playing a 'scaled-down' version (although one which is supported in the rules).  The rules suggest two bases per unit, and the authors use 60mm x 30mm bases, effectively making a deployed unit 120mm x 30mm.  I was using a single 60mm x 30mm base as the unit, which allowed me to play this scenario on a half-sized board: 2'x2' rather than 4'x4'.  This fulfilled my objectives perfectly: I was looking for a ruleset which would allow me to play the bigger battles of the TYW on a relatively small board.  My circumstances will change later on in the year and space will again be at more of a premium, so this will be perfect.  I am really looking forward to getting a few more games in with this in due course.

Figures, tents and animals by Baccus 6mm, building by Leven.