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.

Monday 3 December 2018

Battlegames Tabletop Teaser - Polemos General de Division

This scenario is the first scenario in Battlegames' 'Tabletop Teasers' compilation and is a reprint of the very first such article, published in 'Battle for Wargamers' magazine in February/March 1978.

It features an attacking force which has been scattered in a night march attempting to force the passage of a river before a defending force can retreat over the bridge and destroy it.

I set this scenario in a nominal1809, featuring Austrian attackers against a Bavarian defending force, trying to stop the advance of one of Archduke Charles' columns...

The Forces:

C-in-C (Capable)
2 divisional generals (both Capable)
10 bases of Trained infantry SK1
2 bases of Trained light infantry SK2
2 bases of Trained dragoons
1 base of Trained light cavalry
2 bases of 6lb foot artillery

C-inC (Capable)
6 bases of Trained infantry SK1
2 bases of Trained light infantry SK2
2 bases of Trained dragoons
2 bases of Trained 8lb foot artillery

Scenario Notes:
The Austrians are divided into 'packets' which arrive randomly during the first 6 turns on either road, except the light cavalry base and the commanding general, which can set-up anywhere on the roads or between the two on the East (top) side of the table.
The divisional generals are split between the two roads, each commanding the force that arrives on their respective roads.
The river is only passable at the bridge.
The Austrians win as soon as they force the passage of the bridge.
The game lasts a maximum of 18 turns (an hour-and-a-half).

The Set-Up
The Bavarian force around the town, including light troops in the woods.  The artillery and an infantry reserve are on the Western (bottom) bank.

A view from the Northern flank into the woods: note the skirmishers being supported by the artillery enfilading across the river

Another angle, just to give an impression of the higher ground surrounding the town

The Austrian general at the head of his Hussars arrives to survey the scene

A context shot: the Austrian General on the high ground to the East (top)

Austrian infantry attacks down the road from the North; Bavarian infantry deploys to stop them

The main Austrian strength came down the North road

The South road is quiet so far (top-right); the Bavarians have a small blocking force in place

The first Austrian attacks go in

And are rebuffed with heavy loss!  One unit (centre) is trying to rally after heavy losses; another unit is routed (top-left).  The Bavarians have sustained some mild losses from skirmish fire (bottom-right)

The Austrian local reserves come up (left)

The Bavarian regiment counter-attacks: one battalion routs its enemy and pursues (top-left), but the other is pushed back by some determined Austrian resistance (left), whose fire, although from disordered ranks, is enough to stop the Bavarians on the road in their tracks

The victorious Bavarian Bn (centre) following-up two routed units of Austrian infantry

The disordered Bavarian infantry on the road is still effective enough to see off the remnants of the first Austrian brigade (see them retreating on the road extreme left); the Austrians bring up cavalry to hold the gap whilst the second brigade deploys.

A closer look at the retreating/routing Austrian infantry

The Austrian commander launches a cavalry charge against the shaken Bavarian infantrymen

The second Austrian line stops the Bavarian counter-attack

The Austrian cavalry destroy the Bavarian infantry and open the road; the Austrian infantry push the isolated Bavarian infantry battalion back in disorder (centre-left)

Bavarian cavalry charge the Austrian General and his light cavalry escort!

Another cavalry clash, this time just outside the town: the Austrians have the upper hand

The Austrian general's escort is in deep trouble, however

Meanwhile the secondary Austrian attack on the South road gets underway: the Bavarian infantry fall back

A fine volley from the right-hand Bavarian infantry unit routs the Austrian attackers, but the left-hand battalion wavers and recoils in the face of the kaiserliks attack..

The Bavarian regiment attempts to rally and reform...

But losses and the pressure of the relentless advance cause the Bavarians to panic and flee!

Somewhat surprisingly, the Bavarian cavalry near the town have turned the tables and triumphed!  See the Austrian cavlary routing away (left)

In similar fashion, the General's escort has been seen off too! (top-left)

The Austrians develop their attack to the West of the road and try to clear the skirmishers from the edge of the woods (bottom-left)

Meanwhile the Austrian infantry advancing up the South road reach the outskirts of the village; the Bavarian supporting artillery fire is noisy but ineffectual (right)

Austrian cavalry again charges Bavarian Horse on the eastern outskirts of the town

This time the Austrian cavalry triumphs and the Bavarians flee!

The Bavarian light infantrymen are still holding out in the woods to the North (left), whilst the remaining cavalry is facing an Austrian infantry regiment (top-left).  However the Austrian infantry (bottom-right) has occupied the eastern bank of the town and is now looking to assault the bridge...

The Bavarian reserve infantry regiment prepares to hold the bridge...

Overwhelming numbers force back the Bavarian skirmishers after a sharp fight; the Bavarian artillery across the river on this flank had delayed the Austrian attack for fifteen vital minutes.

The Austrian infantry attack across the bridge is repulsed with heavy loss

And the Austrian infantry breaks!  This clears the way for the remaining Bavarian cavalry to escape before the bridge is blown (left), although the light troops are trapped and surrender.  The Austrians cannot bring up infantry in time to assault before the explosion...
Game Result: A very fierce and close-run struggle.  Battle casualties were approximately even although the Bavarians lost a few more in prisoners at the end of the game since their two bases of light infantry were cut-off.  However, the Bavarians held the bridge for long enough to demolish it and won the game.

Game Notes: As ever, the Polemos General de Division rules were used and they gave a good game.  For this game however I did some experimentation with the skirmish rules.  I dropped the SK factor (i.e. skirmish rating) and simply allowed light infantry units to fire at double range (i.e. close-range = 1 BW; long range = 2 BW).  They were also allowed to rally on formed units (although this did not actually happen in the game): if attacked and a formed infantry unit was 1BW or less away to the flank or rear, the skirmish base could be evade the attack and be placed behind or to the side of the unit in any position where it could not be directly attacked in the following turn.  It worked well, I was pleased, but it needs further experimentation.  The existing skirmish rules work okay, but they are not that intuitive.  They are basically a straight infantry assault modifier.  There is thus no sense of skirmishing taking time, it is just assumed to happen automatically before the assault.  Therefore trained Portuguese Cazadores tend to be just as good as Veteran Austrian Grenadiers in the assault: Trained SK2 is equivalent to Veteran SK0 in most infantry combat, although the Portuguese would be able to move quicker through woods, whilst the Austrians would have the advantage in musket volley fire and against cavalry.  Sometimes I mentally prefer this approach, other times I prefer having the distinctive skirmishers.  Polemos Ruse de Guerre, in many ways a development of the Napoleonic rules, uses the latter approach.  I think the Polemos Napoleonics' SK system could do with some refinements even on its own terms, however.  It would probably be more logical to have a 'flat' system so that all the units in a brigade have the same SK level, since in a set-piece battle situation the skirmisher companies would be acting as a whole for the brigade rather than supporting their individual parent battalions.  Rather than having a separate modifier for cavalry attacks on SK2 infantry units, but to avoid messing around with tracking the status of different bases, I think that just ruling that SK2 units become SK1 when enemy cavalry is within 4BW or whatever would achieve a better effect.  I do wonder too if the swing from SKO to SK2 is a bit too big: it might be better to classify all troops as SK1 or SK2.
Anyway, it was a very enjoyable solo game: that man Grant clearly knows how to balance a scenario!

Figures by Baccus 6mm. Buildings by Leven Miniatures, from a batch of stuff picked up at the Joy of Six this year.


  1. Thanks for that, interesting report and some interesting thoughts, especially the comments around the effect of the SK rating.

    1. You are welcome. I think it is one of the elements of the rules that I vary between thinking is a piece of sublime genius and a crude fix not fit for purpose! More often the former than the latter, to be fair.