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.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Polemos General de Division: 2nd Battle of Oporto, 12th May 1809

Miniature Wargames 19 contained an absolutely cracking scenario by Arthur Harman to re-create Wellington's defeat of Soult and his crossing of the Douro on 12th May 1809.  The scenario is mainly designed for a multi-player club recreation of the events, although a two-player alternative is given.  I actually vaguely remember playing this one down the club in the mid-1980s!  Anyway, solo play can't necessarily deal well with the same themes - a lot of the scenario is a pre- and post-battle mini campaign.  But the actual battle scenario is interesting enough, and the main events don't necessarily require much in the way of figures or table size.




I chose to being the refight at the moment the French prepare to attack the British troops that have secretly managed to ferry themselves over to the east of Oporto and occupied a seminary.  The French must destroy this bridgehead before Wellington can bring the mass of his troops over.  Unfortunately for Marshal Soult, he has already sent away his strongest infantry division and his cavalry brigade to escort his baggage away (he tried to turn them back into the battle but was unsuccessful).  He therefore had to resist with two strong infantry brigades and an artillery battery, but if he leaves Oporto undefended, perhaps the Allied forces will be able to cross into the city as well, in spite of the bridge having been destroyed.  Wellington has three divisions, a cavalry brigade and six artillery batteries, but can only slowly feed his troops across by ferry.

Orders of Battle:

Imperial French:
C-in-C: Marshal Soult (Decisive)

Foy's Brigade: 2 bases of Veteran SK2 infantry, 3 bases of Veteran SK1 infantry
Reynaud's Brigade: 5 bases of Veteran SK1 infantry
Artillery: 1 base of 8lb Foot (make it Veteran if you differentiate artillery)

Anglo-Portuguese:
C-in-C Wellington (Decisive)

1st Division: Sherbrooke (Capable) 
Campbell's Bde: 1 base Veteran SK2 infantry, 2 bases Veteran SK1 infantry*
Sontag's Bde: 1 base Veteran SK2 infantry, 2 bases Trained SK1 infantry, 2 bases Raw SK1 infantry**
A Campbell's Bde: 1 base Trained SK2 infantry, 2 bases Trained SK1 infantry, 1 base Raw SK1 infantry**

* You could make these Veteran/Elite if you believe that is appropriate for British Guards

2nd Division: E Paget (Capable)
Stewart's Bde: 3 bases Veteran SK1 infantry, 2 bases Raw SK1 infantry**
Murray's Bde: 3 bases Veteran SK1 infantry

3rd Division: Hill (Decisive)
Hill's Brigade:  1 base Veteran SK2 infantry, 2 bases Veteran SK1 infantry, 2 bases Trained SK1 infantry
Cameron's Brigade: 1 base Veteran SK1 infantry, 1 base Trained SK1 infantry, 2 bases Raw SK1 infantry**

Cotton's Brigade: 2 bases Veteran Light Cavalry, 2 bases Trained Light Cavalry

Artillery: 5 bases 6lb Foot, 1 base of 3lb Foot (make 2 bases Veteran and 2 bases Raw** if you differentiate)

**Portuguese

n.b. If you are wondering why the number of bases is different from the battalion strength of the various forces, it is because Polemos uses elements of equal strength, so the strength of the force is considered across the entire Army depicted.

Terrain:
The Seminary and Convent have a DV of 2.  The river is impassable except by boats.  It takes 2 turns to get 1 base across by boat.  The boat in Oporto becomes active if the French garrison is reduced to less than 2 bases. Ideally the river you use will be wider than mine (this river is big).

Set-Up:
Oporto to the left, the seminary to the right (occupied by a single British Bn so far).  The convent is bottom-right and is being used as Wellington's HQ.  The suburb bottom-left is Villa Nova, and has 1st Division behind it (I left 2nd Division off-table to be moved on if required)

The area around the seminary.  Hill's brigades wait to cross.  Wellington has set-up a massed battery on the southern heights, able to sweep the ground west of the seminary with fire.  In the background is Soult's baggage, moving slowly towars Amarante (just here for local colour, and for the British to try and seize if things go well!)

Looking towards Oporto and the sea from the seminary

The same, but from further back

And from the Oporto side

 The Battle:

British strength in the seminary reaches c.1000, whilst Foy prepares his leading regiments to begin the attack

Foy advances, although slightly delayed by the fire from the massed Allied batteries - this assauklt was thrown back with loss

The second assault.  Expert fire from the French artillery helps Foy's light infantrymen drive back the British infantry from the walls of the seminary

Same moment from a slightly different view

The British, by a combination of artillery, musketry and the bayonet, restore the situation.  Soult has arrived to take personal charge of the situation.  Units from Reynaud's Bde are now also suppporting Foy's troops.  The French artillery continues to be unbelievably effective!

A third assault is driven back with loss.

Soult attempts a fourth assault, but it stalls to the North.  The single battalion reaching the wall is about to be exterminated by British musketry.  Note that Hill has decided to being the breakout and is moving around the right flank

Soult himself leads the infantry assault to try and counter this flanking movement, but Hill, coolly directing the fire of the leading British Bn, defeats this and the French retire with loss. Soult is seriously injured at this moment; however, Foy leads another attack which takes the wall of the seminary (bottom)!

Another picture of Hill's victorious movments

But another picture of Foy's success! Can he snatch victory from the jaws of defeat?  But note the heavy casualties inflicted on Reynaud's troops by the supporting Allied artillery.

A further charge by Hill sweeps away some of Foy's units, and more desperate fighting with in the seminary throws back the others - the French being seriously hampered by the absence of any leader at this point.  Confusion and casualties spell defeat for the French, whose morale failed them at this point!

The Result:
A British victory, and perhaps a more substantial one than in the historical action, but that was a direct result of the French fighting with greater skill and ferocity than on the day, supported well by an outstandingly handled single French battery.  However, the increased ferocity led to the greater French casualties and more pertinently, Soult's Corps would have been split had this been the case in reality - which might have had ever more dire strategic consequences (at least one part of the Corps would have likely been captured outright).

Game Notes:
An interesting and intense game, helped by the fact that in this battle, the French are generally speaking a touch tougher than their Allied opponents - I don't think this would be an inaccurate reflection of the skill and experience of the two forces at this time.  The French dilemma is where to draw the balance between preparing a co-ordinated attack and allowing too much time for Hill to get most of his division across.
The French also benefited from attacking downhill towards the seminary.  This effectively negated the defensive value of the seminary (the factors are +2 in each case)!  I think this has made up my mind: the combat factor for uphill should be +1, not +2 and the factor for veteran troops should be +1, not +2.  I note that in the big-battle version of the rules General de Division, Veteran troops are +1.  To my mind, the lower level the game, in general the smaller the differentiation between troops should be.  Why?  Maths, really.  If Prussian battalions are +1, then why should a regiment also be +1? It should be more like +2.  Apart from that though, no quibbles and the rules gave a really good game - as did the scenario, a real cracker, especially if you could do it in such a way as to get in the pre- and post-game stuff down at the club, or via an e-opponent or whatever.  Definitely one to scout out a copy, if ou can.

I used a 5'x3' table, but actually a 3'x3' would have been absolutely fine: you are only going to need a couple of hundred yards east of the Seminary I think, especially if you ignore the baggage train and its escorts.  Similarly, some or all of Oporto can be left "off-table", and merely bring in British troops across if the French garrison abandons it.

Figures as every by Baccus 6mm, boats by Irregular, buildings by Timecast, Total Battle Miniatures and Leven (I think).


Saturday, 13 May 2017

Polemos ECW: Battle of Cotes 1644 Refought

Miniature Wargames 17 contained a scenario for the little known battle during the War of the Three Kingdoms/English Civil War which took place at the village of Cotes which lies near Loughborough in Leicestershire.



The battle represents a Parliamentary attempt to take a bridge over the River Soar, in order to delay the junction of approaching Royalist armies.  Happily, although naturally you will have to get hold of a copy of the magazine to read the exact article, the author also wrote about the battle for the "Leicestershire Historian" journal if you would like more details.  If you would like to look at the area, look here on Google Maps.  The main area of the battlefield appears to have changed little, although Loughborough has grown since.

The orders of battle in the scenario are as follows:

PARLIAMENT:

Commander:  Sir Edward Hartopp (Plodding)

The Foot: 1 base of Trained Foot (Shot Heavy)
The Horse: 12 bases of Trained Horse (Dutch Tactics)
The Guns: 1 base of Artillery

Thornhaugh's Horse: 4 bases of Trained Horse (Dutch Tactics)

THE KING:

Commander: Lord Loughborough (Capable)

The Foot: 2 bases of Trained Foot (SH)
The Horse: 8 bases of Trained Horse (Swedish Tactics)

The River Soar is considered impassable.  The Royalist earthwork/barricade doesn't have any effect on firing, but has a Defence Value of 1 in Close Combat.  It also counts as an obstacle to cavalry.

The Set-Up:

This was the original set-up, which I abandoned when I realized it didn't leave enough room for manoeuvre on the bottom (West) section of the battlefield, where the majority of the action happened.

The same abandoned set-up, which shows the Stamford Hills (top-right)

This is the actual set-up used: Royalists at the bottom (West), Parliamentarians over the river between Stamford-on-Soar (top-left) and Cotes (right).  Thornhaugh's horse is located near Stamford.

And a closer-in shot of the bridges over the Soar and Cotes village.  Hartopp is with his infantry and guns.

A view along the Soar from behind Cotes.  The Parliamentary horse near Cotes are all in march column.
 The Battle:

...and for the first 25 minutes or so, not much happened!  Hartopp's foot and guns completely failed to do any damage at all to the Royalist foot guarding the barricade.  So Hartopp ordered Thornhaugh's Horse to advance over the Soar and come at the Royalists from the other flank

Hartopp continues to make no progress over the bridge!

...so he moves the Foot forward to try and increase the effect of his shooting.  However, the Royalist musketry is rather more effective and the Parliamentarians are shaken

Another ten minutes pass and the Parliamentarians have another go

Thornhaugh's troopers attack the Royalist Foot who had strayed over the hedge

At last! After nearly two hours of combat, eventually the guns and muskets tell and push the Royalist foot back.

Exploiting their success, the first Parliamentarian cavalry form up.

The Royalist foot was routed, but then there is a stand-off between the cavalry of the two factions.  Hartopp cannot get through the order to charge!

Loughborough calculates that the odds for him can only worsen, so best to go now!  He spurs his horse to the gallop, shouting follow me!!...


The Horse of both sides clash!  The Royalists have the advantage on the right, but their right hand troops refuse to charge.

The Royalists rout two bases of Parliamentary Horse!  However, their comrades have failed to ahcieve the same success on the left

Hartopp leads his foot to drive the disorganized Royalist Horse from the field and captures Lord Loughborough himself.  The remaining Royalists break off at this point and the battle ends.

The Result:
The Royalists fought rather harder than in the real battle, but ended up suffering a worse defeat.  However, it is unlikely that Hartopp would feel able to hold onto the position given the time it took (two-and-a-half hours of game time) and his losses and would have to retreat as the Royalist main forces approached.

Game Notes:
An interesting little scenario that can be played with relatively small forces on a small battlefield (4'x3' here) but with enough variety to make it a good battle for learning the rules.  The Polemos ECW rules make it (realistically) difficult to control forces outside of the commander's eye, which explains the tardiness of Thornhaugh's flanking movement and its failure to charge (in game terms, he simply never had the tempo points to achieve the big advance at then end).




 One noticeable divergence from reality is that the artillery and musketry in real-life seem to have been much more effective than in the recreation. The chances of achieving anything with muskets are pretty small. I think the thing to do here is to rule that the Royalist infantry are either Raw or "Mixed" (i.e. 1:1 muskets:pikes) so that the Parliamentary foot and artillery have more chance of achieving a better result than a "halt" in the exchange of fire.
I think that it may be more realistic if Foot cannot follow-up recoiling enemy.  This would allow defeated infantry to escape.  As it is, the only time it is not worth following-up is if the Foot are needed to defend a strong point.
Dutch-school Horse continues to prove its worth in control terms.  The tendency of the Royalist Horse to become wildly disorganized in pursuit is very noticeable (and led directly to defeat here).
The Horse seem to me to maybe have a slightly too easy time of it against foot they outnumber in bases (if not in men).  Imagine a brigade of Horse of three bases (375 troopers) against a singe base of Foot (500 soldiers); if the Horse advances to contact, it will be immediately on a +3 in the subsequent close combat (+1 for advancing into combat, +1 for overlapping both flanks).  Does this seem generous to the horsemen?
Incidentally, I played this battle more aggressively than I would normally have been inclined to in order to get a result. If I had been playing this in a campaign, I can imagine a gentle stand-off after about 12 moves of not very much happening...
Figures from Baccus 6mm, buildings from Timecast.


Polemos General de Division: Storm of the Schellenberg Rethemed

Back in Miniature Wargames 15, Steve Jones wrote an excellent scenario to re-create Marlborough and Ludwig of Baden's Storming of the Schellenberg outside Donauwoerth on 2nd July 1704.




 Not yet possessing any armies for the War of the Spanish Succession, I decided to re-theme it for the Napoleonic Wars, moving events 100 years to the future and imagining that Britain had sent a force to co-operate with the Austrians in Central Europe (not so unlikely, really).

Anyway,I found this image which shows the environs and set-up quite well:


I converted the forces given in the scenario to the following for the Polemos General de Division rules:

The Allies:

C-in-C: Sir John Moore

The Advance Guard: Prince Louis of Hohenloe-Waldenberg-Bartenstein (Capable)
1st Brigade: 4 bases of Austrian Grenadiers Veteran SK1
2nd Brigade: 4 bases of Austrian Grenadiers Veteran SK1
3rd Brigade: 3 bases of British Guards Trained/Elite SK1, 1 base of Light Infantry Trained/Elite SK2
4th Brigade: 3 bases of British Light Cavalry, Trained
5th Brigade: 3 bades of Austrian Light Cavalry, Trained

The Main Body: Gen Baird (Capable)
1st Brigade: 2 bases of British Infantry Trained SK1, 1 base of British Infantry Trained SK2
2nd Brigade: 3 bases of British Infantry Trained SK1
3rd Brigade: 3 bases of Austrian Infantry Trained SK1
4th Brigade: 3 bases of Austrian Infantry Trained SK1

The Cavalry: Prince of Lambesc (Capable)
1st Brigade: 4 bases British Dragoons, Trained Heavy Cavalry
2nd Brigade: 3 bases Austrian Cuirassiers, Trained
3rd Brigade: 3 bases British Light Cavalry, Trained

The Artillery
3 bases of Austrian 12lb artillery


The Franco-Bavarians

C-in-C Gen Duhesme (Plodding)

1st Division:
1st Brigade:1 base of French Lt Inf, Trained SK2; 4 bases of French Inf, Trained SK1
2nd Brigade: 1 base of French Lt Inf, Trained SK2; 4 bases of French Inf, Trained SK1

Garrison Division:
1st Brigade: 5 bases of Bavarian Infantry or German Infantry, all Trained SK1; 1 base of Bavarian Dragoons, Trained
Bavarian Division:
1st Brigade: 1 base of Bavarian Lt Inf, Trained SK2,  3 bases of Bavarian Infantry Trained SK1
2nd Brigade: 1 base of French Grenadiers, Veteran SK1, 3 bases of Bavarian Infantry Trained SK1
Cavalry & Artillery Reserve (under C-in-C command)
1 base of French Dragoons, Trained
3 bases of French or Bavarian Artillery, 4lb Foot

The Set-Up:

Austrian Grenadiers (right) and British Hussars (left) look up at the Schellenberg heights

With a bit more perspective

The Franco-Bavarian positions, with plentiful reserves behind

The Allied Advance Guard about to, well, advance!

A wider shot of the battlefield, from behind and above the Franco-Bavarian position on the Schellenberg

The same.  In reality, Donauwoerth would be on the other side of the stream to the left, but I ommitted it for clarity since a town assault wasn't going to be part of the game.

Looking down from the Schellenberg towards the Allied positions

Add caption
 
And a final look at the Franco-Bavarian position on the heights; the main position (just right of the road is held by French Grenadiers and Bavarian Light Infantry)
The Battle:

The Allied Advance Guard advances in solid formation - they are just starting to get hit by Franco-Bavarian artillery fire; note that Allied artillery fire has knocked back the Bavarian light infantrymen from the defensive position (bottom-centre)

The first assault: Austrian Grenadiers (left as viewed) and British Light infantrymen and Guardsmen assault the position

And from the reverse angle

The British 52nd is broken by Bavarian musketry and routs; the remain Allied infantry are forced down the hill by the intensity of the fire.  The Bavarian defenders are a little shaken, but have held on very well

The Allies reform ready to begin another advance; one of the British light cavalry brigades adopts a position in the dead ground to avoid Bavarian artillery fire (top-left)

Another shot of the re-formed Advance Guard.  The Allies then tried long-range musketry to cause some damage to the Franco-Bavarians and/or provoke a charge out of the defences (which happened in the real battle).  But no joy!

The second assault begins

And is stopped again in most places - the Austrian Grenadiers on the French right were stopped, although they did destroy one of the Bavarian artillery batteries, but then became spent after their losses and withdrew.  The other Austrian Grenadiers were beaten off for the second time, but the British Guards did manage to punch a hole in the main defence and force the Bavarians out of the main defensive position.

A few turns have passed and the Allied main body has joined the assault.  The British Guard Bn has maintained its position on the edge of the defences, but elsewhere the Franco-Bavarians have maintained their successful resistance

The Allied commander prepares an assault on the lower slopes (see left of shot); British infantry and cavalry move up

German infantry again break up an attack by British light infantry but another British Bn does break through, capturing the Bavarian artillery and puching back its infantry support

The British then renew the attack and the lower defences are entirely in their hands!  The French rush reinforcements to plug the gaps.

A renewed assault int the centre and on the French right is mainly stopped and thrown back again (see the Austrian infantry re-forming by the woods), but the British Guards have now managed to push through the defence entirely, supported by some British cavalry

The Franco-Bavarians are in serious trouble now!  Their entire left is caving in and brigades are starting to break under the pressure of the Allied onslaught...

And rout! (bottom left)

Another shot

And across the line; the Franco-Bavarian right (top-centre and top-right) is pretty much intact, but there is no stopping the collapse of the French left now; the Allies are too strong in cavalry and the Franco-Bavarians too weak to have much hope and this is how it roved; with two Franco-Bavarian Divisions spent, the game is up!

 The Result:
The result seems to have been very similar to historical events, where Allied assualts on the heights failed but the secondary attack on the lower slopes succeeded, turned the Franco-Bavarian left which led to the panic and rout of the army.  Casualties were not too uneven - the Allies suffered many losses in the initial assualts - but the cavcalry pursuit would be expected to tear the Franco-Bavarian army to shreds.

Game Notes:
A very interesting game, helped by the rules but mainly helped by an excellent scenario - highly recommended.  Although set in the War of the Spanish Succession, I think with a little adaptation it would serve well from 1600 - 1900.  Although there are a reasonable number of troops, the actual battlefield was quite small (I only used 100cm x 90 cm and I could probably have shaved a little from that). It wil give your rules a real work-out in seeing the effect of hills and defences on infantry attacks, artillery fire and cavalry.



I like and enjoy the Polemos rules and I think the mechanics are generally excellent.  However, for me, this game highlighted two areas that I begin to see as a little problematic.  Firstly, I think that the calibration of tactical effects is a little extreme; and secondly I think that there is too extreme a variation between troop types.
Bear in mind that the essential method of combat resolution is an opposed D6 roll, modified for tactical factors and troop skill.
Troops uphill in infantry combat get a +2.  Troops moving up a steep hill are shaken = a -2 modifier.  This adds up to a 4-point swing from attacker to defender. In defensive positions, the defender is getting another +2. This is also the swing from "Raw" troops to "Veteran" troops, and from troops with skirmishers "SK0" to light infantry "SK2".  Because there is no attrition as such in the game, then there is no cumulative effect from long-term artillery bombardment; thus attacks have to be prepared to maximize combat factors.  These big swings can create lots of almost "sure thing" fights.
So where am I going with all this?
I am thinking of changing the uphill modifier to +1 for slopes, +2 for steep slopes and remove the automatically shaken penalty.
I am thinking of changing the troop quality modifiers to +1 for Veteran and introduce a "Second-Line" class with a -1 modifier rather than -2 for Raw, which rating I am going to reserve for the very worst troops.
I am thinking of adding a +1 modifier to artillery bombardment for each consecutive round fired at the same target after the first.
I am thinking of introducing long-range skirmisher fire at 2BWs.  It will count as long-range fire, but both sides can use their SK rating as a modifier.
I have already adopted the Glenn Pearce idea of in normal circumstances just using two SK ratings rather than three - in my case, essentially SK1 for light infantry, SK0 for everyone else.

However, although the modifiers seem too large in may cases...the rules did actually generate a near historical result!  So what to do?  The implication of the modifiers in these rules is that only elite or veteran troops (or well-trained light infantry) have a hope of taking these kind of positions, which seems extreme.  Artillery is generally ineffective at causing enough damage to change the odds.  I think I am most inclined to remove the "shaken" part of the steep hill effect as probably the most extreme effect.  But I would be very interested to hear any views on any of this!!

Figures as ever from the Baccus 6mm Napoleonic range.  One day I will get myself from WSS armies and set it in the right period, too!