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 4 June 2022

Polemos Ruse de Guerre - Quilmes & New Solo Mechanism

This is a bit of an orphan report.  I played the game at about the same time I played the same scenario with the Polemos Napoleonics rules, but this time I played it with Ruse de Guerre.  For some reason, I don't have photos of the last bit of the game, so I was wondering what to do...and then I forgot about it.  Oh well.  I probably wouldn't have blogged about it, except that it was the debut of a new solo system I am using with Ruse de Guerre.

The details were pretty much the same as for the first battle, except for some reason which seemed compelling at the time, I only used half the Guachos (3 bases instead of 6).

The Battle:

I will just spool forward to where the action really gets going - a more co-ordinated advance by the British this time; the British have quite a hard decision as to where to put their sailors and militia though: given the very small number of units, putting them in reserve may be too wasteful, putting them on the flanks too dangerous...

Another view

The Guachos look on as the British advance

And another view

The very effective Spanish artillery eliminates one of the attacking British units in short order!

View from behind the Spanish

The British Marines see off the Guancho cavalry

The British attack barrels forward - the Spanish artillery takes heavy casualties amongst the gunners and barrels back into the town.

A wider view

Some of the Guancho cavalry has cleared off; whilst the sailors and the Spanish infantry exchange ineffectual fire around the town

The British infantry facing the Spanish Right (centre-right) have not been able to dislodge the cavalry opposing them with either bullet or bayonet.

That was my last workable photo, not that there was much too events afterwards - the Spanish tried a cavalry charge, failed, took more casualties and then pulled out.

Game Notes:

Okay, nothing to say about the rules in this one except to note that the 'throw a 10, kill a unit' mechanic throws up  some interesting and not always entirely plausible occurrences.  I have mentioned the probability issues around this before, and the similar ones which are thrown up by Horse, Foot and Guns, so I won't labour this here, except to note that it is even more striking when unit count is low.

I did try out new solo mechanics in this one.  Polemos Ruse de Guerre uses a slightly different system from other Polemos systems by putting in an extra step.  It decides how many Tempo points there are around in an interactive way, and then does the bidding process as in the rest of the Polemos rules.  Whilst I can see this is great for face-to-face gaming, it feels like an over-complication playing solo.  What I have therefore done, then, is modify the first roll: instead of rolling a d10 and the higher roll choosing whether to use the higher roll or the lower as the number of 'extra' tempo points for the round, the d10 is replaced by d6 + a command factor from 0-4.  So Wellington will get a roll of d6+4, Beresford d6+2 and de la Cuesta d6.  This allows much more personalization of the two commanders and the 'better' commander will generally have much more control over the flow of the battle.  However, it still doesn't make the better commander more likely to win the Tempo - and winning the Tempo, important in all the Polemos series of games, is particularly important in Ruse de Guerre.  Why is it different in Ruse de Guerre? Well, simply put, Ruse de Guerre makes more concessions to 'the game' than other rules in the series.  It normalizes the tempo allocation (and force morale) between both sides, whereas other Polemos rules allow one side to have much more natural tempo than the other.  Insofar as Ruse de Guerre does this, it recreates this at the lower formation (brigades and regiments) level than at the command level - it dishes out more baseline points that commanders have no influence over.

Polemos Ruse de Guerre: The Battle of Elchingen 1805

Today I re-fought the Battle of Elchingen using the Polemos: Ruse de Guerre rules and a scenario written by the rules' author, Glenn Pearce.  The big club re-fight is due to take place in a week or so but as my extended bank holiday mean I have more free time this weekend than next, I brought forward my refight by the UK solitaire section of the Napoleonic Miniature Wargames Society of Toronto(!).


As it happens, I played Elchingen in the not too distant past, using the Polemos General de Division rules and a scenario from Michael Hopper's excellent book Rise of Eagles 1805.  'Bandit' (the designer of the well-received Et Sans Resultat rules) made some very interesting comments on the scenario here, which are well worth a read.  For comparison purposes, I used the same terrain for this refight (Glenn didn't send me a map for this one, leaving it up to me to make a smart and soldierly interpretation of events!).

Elchingen is quite an interesting clash, with a smaller but more skillful French force attacking a defending but slightly demoralized Austrian army.  This is one of the smaller scenarios that Glenn has presented over recent times and after I had reduced it a little more - entirely within the bounds of the rules, I am using a legitimate base:soldier ratio - it fitted very nicely on a relatively small table.  In summary, the orders of battle were:

The Forces:

Imperial French:

C-in-C: Marshal Ney (Skill 3)
Villate's Bde (Loison's Division): 3 bases Well-Trained Light Infantry, 3 bases Well-Trained Infantry
Rouget's Bde (Loison's Division: 7 bases Well-Trained Infantry, 1 base 8pdr Well-Trained Foot Arty 
Mahler's Division: 3 bases Well-Trained Light Infantry, 9 bases Well-Trained Infantry, 1 base Well-Trained 8pdr Foot Arty
Colbert's Bde: 2 bases Well-Trained Cavalry
Laplanche's Div: 4 bases Well-Trained Cavalry
Reserve Artillery: 1 base Well-Trained 8pdr Foot Arty

Imperial Austrian:

C-in-C: General Riesch (Skill 1)
Saaufeld's Bde: 1 base Well-Trained Cavalry, 1 base Well-Trained Infantry, 2 bases Trained Infantry
Genegdegh's Bde: 2 bases Well-Trained Cavalry, 6 bases Trained infantry
Ulm's Bde: 1 base Well-Trained Cavalry, 2 bases Well-Trained Infantry, 2 bases Trained Infantry, 1 base Trained 6pdr Horse Arty
Mescery's Bde:  1 base Well-Trained Cavalry, 1 base Well-Trained Infantry, 2 bases Trained Infantry
Auersperg's Bde: 1 base Well-Trained Cavalry, 1 base Well-Trained Infantry, 5 bases Trained Infantry
Hermann's Bde: 1 base Well-Trained Cavalry, 2 bases Well-Trained Infantry, 2 bases Trained Infantry,1 base Trained 6pdr Foot Arty

The French used some converged Grenadier battalions but since all the French are considered as Well-Trained then there seemed little point in representing them separately (they were from the elite companies of the other battalions present).  Considering all the French infantry Well-Trained may be considered a little generous (the Michael Hopper scenario basically only gives that to the light infantry regiments) but on the other hand, the Austrians were apparently pretty demoralized anyway so 'Trained' is a fairly generous rating for them - there might be a case for considering all Austrian troops to have a base level of 'shaken' in this scenario.  Recall that quite unusually for a horse-and-musket set, in Polemos Ruse de Guerre all cavalry are considered the same (i.e. distinctions of 'weight' are not used' except for their training level.
If thought fit, the French could convert 1-in-3 or 1-in-6 of the Infantry to additional Light Infantry units (I didn't do this).

The aim of each side is to hold the two urban areas and/or break the opposing army.

The Set-Up:

The main Austrian position, with the French approaching from the bottom-left

Mescery's troops on the Austrian left flank

A view looking up the slope at the centre, occupied by Genegdegh's Bde (left) with Saaufeld (right)

Ney and Villatte approach, with the 6th Light in the van...


The Battle: 

The French attack despite the Austrians' numerical advantage: 6th Light attack the village whilst 39th Line advances towards the Austrian main position (right)

Villatte's infantry are quickly supported by Colbert's light cavalry (left) and Laplanche's Dragoons (bottom centre and right).

6th Light go straight in with the bayonet, feeling that an exchange of musketry with them in the open and the Austrians in the village wasn't much of a bet.

However, the French light infantrymen are thrown back with loss.

Meanwhile the 39th Line are in a murderous exchange of musketry with the Austrians of IR#15 at the base of the hill.

In a few minutes, masses of French and Austrian infantrymen fall.

The French light cavalry watch as the musketry rains and the Austrians move forward

Vilatte tries to reform his men - his skirmishers seem be getting the better of the exchange of fire, with many Austrians falling in the village.

Taking advantage of the situation, Ney brandishes his sword and pulls his Chasseurs after him into the buildings once more...

The majority of the 6th Line are pushed back, but the 1st Battalion manages to break in (right)!

Although they had won the close-quarter fight, the Austrian infantry who had held the buildings then rout when the French skirmishers begin again and they realize their flank is turned...

The French 39th Line and the Austrian IR#15 essentially wiped each other out with musketry, whoever surviving the bullet then being killed by the ball as both sides brought their artillery up; the French are now taking advantage by pushing their cavalry into the gap whilst the Austrian Cuirassiers are disordered...

The Austrian Cuirassiers are defeated and ride for the rear!

The French light infantrymen have occupied most of the lower parts of the town and are now trying to beat off the rather intense Austrian counter-attacks - losses are heavy on both sides

French Hussars fall under fire from the Austrian Horse Artillery

The Austrian centre faces off against the French Dragoons, but neither side has had the spare command effort to develop an attack here

Just as the initial French attack appears to be culminating, reinforcements arrive!  Rouget's brigade arrives to provide some much needed extra punch to the French.

Despite the casualties they have incurred, the French Hussars charge the Austrian guns!

The gunners are slain, taken or fled...

But Austrian musketry starts to fell the French Chasseurs a Cheval too.

However, the overall pressure on Genegdegh's brigade is becoming unbearable...

...and it withdraws to the rear!  The French waste no time in pouring Horse and Foot into the gap in the centre; the Austrians try and reform their line on both sides of the break through.

Meanwhile, Rouget's developing attack has cleared out more of the village - the Austrians only remain in control of the upper outskirts.

More Austrian formations collapse in confusion, exposing the remainder

At which point Laplanche unleashes his dragoons against the disordered Austrians!

The Austrian infantry in the village successfully counter-attack

The French Dragoons rout the Austrian battalion opposing them

The Austrian centre is in serious trouble!

The left-hand side of the village, despite a series of Austrian counter-attacks, is still firmly in French hands but the French have been unable to re-take the upper part, as they can't advance under the heavy Austrian fire.

A wider view

The French Dragoons charge again...

And another Austrian regiment is routed!

With French bodies now piled up in heaps in the streets of the village, the Austrians launch yet another counter-attack

But the leading Austrian battalion disintegrates at bayonet point, and the French hold on

The French Hussars at the top of the hill take further casualties from converging Austrian fire

At last Ulm's depleted battalions eliminate the French Light infantrymen in the centre of the village

But more of the Austrians run for the rear too...

Stuck under heavy fire...

The French Hussar regiment is routed!

More French troops arrive and swarm through the town - this time, Austrian resistance slackens off

The French have got their artillery back into action against the Austrian centre

Determined Austrian resistance holds off the French attack in the centre

And a strong line is reformed

The Austrians have conceded control of Ober-Elchingen and are just trying to oppose any French breakout

Ulm's Austrians under pressure just outside Ober-Elchingen - so far they are inflicting more than they are losing, however

Until they aren't! Rouget's troops (76th Line) have suffered massive casualties but IR#54 has been entirely swept away

The Austrians are outgunned in the centre

The last formed units around Ober-Elchingen break

And the Austrian centre starts to collapse also...

The main position at the end of the battle: Ober-Elchingen has been taken and the French are firmly ensconced up the slope; the Austrian Right has basically collapsed.

And a slightly wider shot: the Austrian Left is largely untouched but since Mahler's infantry is about to arrive and reinforce the French, retreat is the only sane option.

Game Notes:
Quite an exciting game, although the French seemed to get the upper hand quite early on in the game and the Austrians could never quite get the initiative back.  My French armies have often had the rub of the green go against them over the last couple of years, so I don't have any problem with them getting the odd lucky dice throw in this one!
I have never read a really detailed account of Elchingen but the broad outlines of this re-fight don't seem overly dissimilar to the events on the actual day.  The greater quality of the French Army in this scenario does give it an advantage, as does the ruleset - not from any consideration of 'National characteristics' or somesuch, but rather that the rules are calibrated as such to make light infantry more effective and resilient in ways which may not be apparent from the relatively small size of the modifiers (it is apparent in how modifiers interact with event (i.e. rout/shaken) thresholds.
This was the second Ruse de Guerre game in which I have used a slightly modified scenario solitaire tempo points system.  In Ruse de Guerre, tempo is a two-stage affair: first, the number of points are generated, secondly the points are used for bidding and the remainder used for activity.  I have basically put a command skill modifier in to the first stage - but I will cover the details, for those interested, in a separate post.  It did work in incorporating different generals' skill levels into the game although I still don't think I have finished the tinkering process for this.
The game did throw up one rules query: when determining if sufficient contact has been made for an attack to count, the rules say that it has to be half a BW of contact, or what would have been half a BW if a wheel was completed by the attacking unit in direction of the defending unit.  But I was unsure if this was meant to be indicative, or representative of an actual wheel?  Because if the latter, then the presence of a second close enemy unit would prevent it, but if the former, not.  I went with the former, but my heart wasn't really in that does remind me why Phil Barker went into quite a lot of detail with his alignment rules in DBx!
Anyway, a typical RdG game in many ways - lots of fun, easy on the brain, fairly historically convincing but with the quite effective-seeming shooting very prominent and lacking the really period-specific infantry attack/defend mechanism of the Polemos Napoleonic set.

Figures by Baccus 6mm, most of the building by Leven in this one.