Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). 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, 13 May 2017

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!


  1. Firstly, as always, enjoyed the scenario and game - thank you. As for modifiers, since the scenario does actually work with the modifiers as they are, while you explore the effect of dampening down the modifier swings by changing values, might it be easier from a testing point of view to keep all modifiers in place, but instead cap the cumulative aspect, so that such large swings cannot actually happen, regardless of how the modifiers stack up. That might be an easier way of testing first whether damping down at all is necessary rather than going after individual modifiers that may impact on other scenarios.

  2. Many thanks Norm, I appreciate the kind words and throughtful reply. I've put my response on the thread on the Wargames Website.

    All the best