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 22 April 2019

Painting Table 22 Apr 19

Since I was at the bottom of the lead pile recently, I have treated myself to a few reinforcements.  The Baccus 6mm Highlanders and Napoleonic Russian additions are on the way, but some 15mm Battlefront WW2 stuff arrived last Thursday from the clearance sale section of Firestorm Games (taking advantage of the Meeples & Miniatures Patreon discount), so I had a go at painting up a platoon of US paratroopers and a Centaur tank:


I am no great shakes as a painter or modeller, but they seem to be progressing quite nicely for me.

Wednesday 17 April 2019

Battle of Altdorf: A Polemos General de Division AAR

The Battle of Altdorf* is the first scenario in Michael Hopper's scenario book Eagles Over Bavaria covering the first period of fighting in the Danube Valley in the 1809 campaign.

(*yes GW fans, really!)

This clash features advancing Austrians opposed by a Bavarian force which is attempting to resist, or at least slow, the advance of Archduke Charles' army into that country.  The Austrians are pressing forward on the line of march, and so will arrive somewhat piecemeal.  The Bavarians are deployed in some depth, which is why some of their elements arrive as reinforcements: if I were playing with a larger table, I could have included both the Bavarian 2nd Brigade and Radetzky's forces on the board from the beginning, but I have re-jigged things from the published scenario to fit a 5'x3' table.

The Forces:

As ever, I convert the order of battle given in the rules for use in my favoured ruleset, Polemos General de Division.  The scenario gives details of individual units and numbers but Polemos uses a broader brush, ending up with the following:

The Bavarians:

C-in-C: Deroy (Capable) commanding 3rd (Bavarian) Division of VII Corps
1st Brigade:  1 (2) base Trained SK2 infantry, 4 (6) bases Trained SK1 infantry, 2 bases 8lb Foot Artillery

2nd Brigade: 1 (1) base Trained SK2 infantry, 3 (6) bases Trained SK1 infantry (arrives beginning of Turn 3)
Seydewitz' Brigade: 1 (2) base Trained Dragoons, 1 (2) base Trained Light Cavalry
Preysing's Brigade: 2 (4) bases Trained Light Cavalry (arrives beginning of Turn 12)

The Austrians:

C-in-C: Archduke Charles (Decisive)*

Advance Guard/V Korps: Radetzky (Decisive)
2 (5) bases Trained SK2 infantry***, 1 (2) base Trained Lancers, 1 (2) base Trained Light Cavalry, 1 base 3lb Horse Artillery (arrives on Turn 1)

1st Division/V Korps: Lindenau (Capable)**
Hessen-Homburg's Brigade: 7 (11) bases Trained SK1 infantry**** (arrives beginning of Turn 7)
Mayer's Brigade: 5 (10) bases Trained SK1 infantry (arrives beginning of Turn 6)
Cavalry Reinforcements: 2 (4) bases Trained Lancers (arrives beginning of Turn 12, become part of Radetzky's command)

*The Archduke was supervising the advance of the whole army and could easily be left off the table, or, as I did in my refight, be confined to the Austrian table edge.
** Players could roll for his skill, according to the relevant charts in the Polemos Napoleonic Companion.
*** The Polemos author, Chris Grice, normally gives Grenzers a 'Raw' status rather than 'Trained'
**** Those players with a lesser opinion of Austrian capabilities could rate the infantry as SK0 instead.

n.b. The average size of battalions is very large in this game.  Players wishing to use larger forces could easily use the force sizes given in brackets instead.

The flat terrain in front of the hills and the town is marshy.  It does not affect infantry or cavalry, but guns must move on the road.

The Set-Up:
The town of Altdorf is situated in a little valley

And is defended by the infantry of the leading Bavarian brigade

The initial Bavarian position covers the town and the high ground, but there is plenty of space to manoeuvre in between.
The Battle:
Radetzky advances up the road

A wiser perspective: the Austrians are advancing (bottom), the Bavarians defending (centre and right); the eagle-eyed may notice the Archduke Charles blending into the background as he watches on (bottom-right)...

The second Bavarian infantry brigade arrives to reinforce the position

Radetzky deploys his Advance Guard at the foot of the hill, ready to attack

Another view

Radetzky's attack goes in!  Or at least, his cavalry goes in. His Grenzers seem strangely reluctant to follow suit...

The Austrian main body begins to arrive

Bavarian Dragoons (given the advantage of the high ground) prove more than a match for Austrian lancers!  The Austrian cavalrymen recoil...

The Bavarian Light Horse charges to try and join in the fun, but although a bit shaky, a fine volley by the frontier fighters sends the Bavarians straight back up the slope

The Bavarian Dragoons prove unstoppable however and the Austrian Lancers are routed and the Horse Artillery overrun!

Lindenau is bringing up his leading brigade to restore the situation (bottom-left) whilst watching thr disheartening sight of their cavalry fleeing at the gallop (bottom-right)!

A closer look at the fleeing Uhlans

Realizing that success has brought its own dangers, Seydewitz orders a charge before being trapped...

Again the Austrian infantry becomes shaken...

But still delivers a very fine volley or two to bring the Bavarians to a halt.  A bayonet charge pushes them back...

A combination of casualties and seeing their comrades trapped leads the Bavarian Light Horse to withdraw from the field.  However, their infantry supports are just coming into line...

Whilst the surviving Bavarian Dragoon surrender after a very exciting 30 minutes or so of action!

Meanwhile the remaining Austrian infantry advances over the marshy ground towards the other side of the town...

But accurate gunnery from the Bavarian artillerymen by the side of the town delays the attack!

Artillery supported by infantry defending buildings can feel confident in their position against direct frontal assaults...

Meanwhile, Radetzky and Lindenau slowly get their men in line for another attack, whilst the Bavarians occupy the ground vacated by the defeated cavalry...

The Austrians on the left still struggling to advance through the roundshot...

The Austrians realize they are not going to take this at a rush: Hessen-Homburg's brigade deploys.  That still doesn't stop the Bavarian gunners from halting the advance of the left-hand units...

Austrian cavalry reinforcements rush forward

Unfortunately too late: Radetzky's and Lindenau's combined assault on the hill has been firmly repulsed by the Bavarian foot, with heavy losses incurred: only on the left of the Austrian attack was any appreciable damage done to the defenders

Unfortunately, after a short further exhange of fire, Radetzky's troops feel they have suffered enough and run, or gallop, for the rear

Radetzky's command in flight

Which, unluckily for the Austrians induces a panic in the main infantry formations too!

Seeing the demoralization on the other flank, the remaining Austrian formation turns about and marches to its rear...
Game Notes:

A decent game, very typical of a Polemos General de Division small action.  Intense periods of combat and some very decisive morale successes and failures determine the result, in between times when most effort is spent manoeuvring and organizing attacks.  The end result was a Polemos classic: a brigade broke, which led to a two-brigade division becoming spent, which led to the whole force becoming demoralized.  Odds-wise, the first event was roughly a 66% chance, the next step was a certainty (two-brigade divisions automatically become spent when one of them is defeated), and the last step was a 33% chance.  So, it wasn't a 'likely' result that the game would end there, but it was a distinct possibility, which doesn't seem unfair.  There is thus an interesting trade off within divisions, larger brigades are more robust, but the division itself is not.
The importance of the Bavarian artillery fire should not be under-estimated.  This prevented the Austrians from launching a quick simultaneous attack in two different locations at once, which can be quite nasty in Polemos, since it is hard for the commander to effectively support combats in two different places in the same time.  However, the Austrians also knew that if the Bavarian infantry was able to reach the Bavarian cavalry before the latter was defeated, they would really struggle to ever get up that hill.  So despite the Austrians being defeated, it must be put down more to the fortunes of war than poor tactics.

Figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings mainly by Leven, others from Timecast.

The game was another good reflection on one of Michael Hopper's scenarios, since he has unearthed many smaller actions which have never been covered in any of the magazines or other books, as far as I know, and giving a good opportunity to get my Bavarians onto the table.  It has even inspired me to order a few more reinforcments from Peter at Baccus...

The Eagles over Bavaria scenario book can be obtained direct from the author by email: 

Please click this for another gamer's take on the book

Monday 15 April 2019

Battle of Montijo: A Twilight of Divine Right AAR

For the final refight of this mini-series of TYW refights using the Twilight of Divine Right rules, I selected from the accompanying TYW scenario book the Battle of Montijo, a battle between the Portuguese who were using the opportunity of Spanish commitment to the Thirty Years' War to rebel and attempt to regain their independence.  This battle features a Spanish force trying to drive off a Portuguese force which had invaded and started looting Estremadura.

Simplified Order of Battle:

The Portuguese Army:
C-in-C: Albuquerque
6 units of Foot (inc. a mixed Dutch/English unit)
4 units of Horse
1 unit of Guns

The Spanish Army:
C-in-C: Torrecuso
5 units of Foot (inc. a unit of Italian and a unit of Irish)
4 units of Horse
1 unit of Guns

The Scenario:
Quite straightforward this, as the Spanish army must defeat and/or drive off the Portuguese army deployed in front of the village of Puebla de la Calrada.

The Set-Up:
The Portuguese are defending the village (top) from the advancing Spanish (bottom)

A closer look at the Portuguese, deployed in classical order, Foot and Guns in the centre, Horse on the wings.

And the Spanish facing them.

And a view between the lines
The Battle:
Torrecuso advances with his centre slightly refused, threatening to attack on the flanks, whilst simultaneously tempting the Portuguese to do likewise

A closer look at the advance of the Spanish Foot

Torrecuso was bluffing slightly, halting his advance to deploy his guns and bring up his second line

The Spanish attack goes in, with simultaneous cavalry attacks on each flank, with the Foot in the centre a tactical bound behind

The Horseman go hand-to-hand on the Spanish Left...

...and on the Right...

The more aggressive Spanish horsemen gain the upper hand, pushing their Portuguese opponents right back

whilst their compatriots on the Left achieve even greater success, forcing one opposing Horse regiment back and destroying the other, really uncovering the right flank of the Portuguese infantry line (right)

However, exceptionally well-served Portuguese guns have smashed the central Spanish Foot!

The melee on the Spanish Right - now deep behind the Portuguese line - continues

Albuquerque refuses his right flank (centre) to form a defensive line against the Spanish Horse (left), but the Spanish Foot have braved the musketry and cannon fire to get in close...

A closer look

Surprisingly perhaps, the Portuguese Horse fighting on the Spanish right turn and renew the fight with fury!

The combat ends with half of each force routed!

The pressure is applied onto the Portuguese Foot, which is maintaining its position resolutely

The surviving Portuguese Horse (right) threatens the flank of the Spanish Foot, forcing it to refuse its flank in its turn...

The right-hand Portuguese Foot has been driven in and ridden down (left), but the main line still resists...note that one unit of Spanish Horse is now in the village, looting it...

The Portuguese continue to outshoot their Spanish opponents, and the right-hand Spanish unit is broken! (see gap centre-right)

However, the other end of the Portuguese line is crushed by the weight of the Spanish attack, as is the remaining unit of Portuguese Horse...

...and the Portuguese Army breaks and runs!  With no Horse left in hand, it is doubtful if any of the force will escape back to the border...
Game Notes:
A nice simple game to finish off with.  Given the more limited troop types, in some ways it is an easier introduction to the game than the actual introductory scenario in the rules, since it has fewer troop types.  Using my half-sized units, it can be played on a surface of only 45cm x 60cm too.
I have dealt with the basic mechanics in earlier battles, so this time I will concentrate on how the game feels.  Since there is basically no combat mechanic, only modified morale tests (which is a good concept), there is a decent premium on being the attacker in order that the other side starts rolling first.  The tactical side is based around trying to get a small advantage (e.g. 'Swedish'-trained Horse attacking first, hopefully with an advantage in depth or width and then hoping that the dice go with the odds.  There is always a chance however of an unexpected break by a unit which will create an opportunity to exploit.  In some favourable circumstances (typically decent Foot defending a fortification) there is no chance of that break at all, which seems fair enough. It is however generally easier to increase one's opponents chance of breaking than decreasing the chance of breaking oneself.  Combat is generally more chancy and slower than in Polemos, but slightly more predictable than in DBx.  The attrition mechanic does work pretty well and this can't be rallied away, so unless they win quickly, units will normally be distinctly more brittle after the first combat - particularly cavalry.  Manoeuvre is hard compared to DBx, but much easier than manoeuvring in Polemos: ECW, which is an epic PITA and only to be attempted in unusual circumstances.  It is however quite random (there is a roughly 33%-50% chance of failing a test per turn, usually).  This provides a useful degree of chaos and uncertainty, partly for the necessary injection of Clauswitzian friction, partly as a useful mechanic to make the game good for the solo player.

Anyway, I have enjoyed these recent games, and will look to get this back to the table at some point later this year.  I think that they will also serve as the rules for a refight of the TYW, should I get around to actually attempting that!

As ever, figures by Baccus 6mm and buildings from Total Battle Miniatures.