Sunday 28 December 2014

The Battle of Paltzig 23 July 1759

I managed to squeeze in yet another game this week before Christmas. Robbie and John came up on Tuesday lunchtime and we were joined by my friend Clive (Vintage Wargaming). I'm really back 'into' the Seven Years War at the moment and am furiously painting and basing up stacks of stuff that has risen to the top of the lead mountain.

As readers will know I only have Russian and Prussian forces and I wanted to stage a refight of an historical action. I happened across my old copy of 'Der Kreigskunst' rules, in the back of which is a scenario for the Battle of Paltzig. This, together with the information on the internet, including the splendid Kronoskaf Seven Years War website, which you can find here: ,

was enough for me to convert the orders of battle to accommodate our rules of choice, Black Powder. I used what troops I had available, which was more than enough Prussians and just about enough Russians. In reality the battle was a hard fought slog and a defeat for the aggressive and seriously outnumbered and outgunned Prussians, but there was every chance that they could do much better, or worse, in the refight.

We diced for sides and Clive and I got the Russians. That was great for me because as the host I could keep the tea coming while the Prussian tide broke on my Russian bayonets. Rob wasn't too happy having to command the hated Prussians but at least he'd be in charge of some real soldiers for a change!

Russian Order of Battle: 
CinC 6 or 8 (we diced at the start to see how good/bad he was and got an 8)
Cavalry Bde (off table on Russian right flank, Command 7): 2 regts each of Cuirassiers and Horse Grenadiers
Cavalry bde (also off table, Command 7): 2 regts of Hussars
Infantry bde (Command 6): 2 Grenadier btns, 1 line btn, 1 medium gun
Infantry bde (Command 8): 2 Line btns, 1 Grenadier btn, 1 light gun
Infantry bde (Command 7): 2 Line btns, 1 Grenadier btn, 1 medium gun
Infantry bde (Command 6): 3 Line btns, 1 light gun
Artillery reserve: 1 heavy gun, 1 heavy howitzer
Independent: 2 regts Cossacks

The Russian infantry were all classed as 'Stubborn'. All the artillery was protected by earthworks.

Prussian Order of Battle: 
CinC Command 9
Infantry Bde (Command 9): 4 'Crack' Line btns
Infantry Bde (Command 8): 4 Line btns
Infantry Bde (Command 8): 1 Garrison btn, 1 Combined Grenadier btn, 2 Fusilier btns
Cavalry Bde (Command 9): 4 Cuirassier regts
Cavalry Bde (Command 8): 2 Hussar regts, 3 Dragoon regts
Artillery: 2 Heavy guns

The Prussian infantry were a mixed bunch. The best were those designated as 'Crack' and the worst were the Fusilier btns and the untested Garrison btn.

The game started with the Russians deployed on the table (less the cavalry). In turn 1the Prussian Cuirassiers and the 'crack' infantry brigade would enter on the left, using some dead ground provided by a ravine to get closer to the Russian line. In turn 2 the remainder of the army would enter in the centre. The Russian heavy cavalry would enter the table on the far right flank the turn after the Prussian Cuirassiers emerged from the ravine.

The Prussian right closes with the Russian line in a rather impetuous move by Rob who ordered them to "go as far as they can towards the enemy". He threw a low command score so they got three moves, right up into close range! 
John's Prussians on the left emerge from the ravine, Cuirassiers leading with four infantry battalions behind.

The Prussian right flank; four regiments of infantry supported  by Dragoons and Hussars.

The Russian cavalry arrived on the table, prompted by the emergence of the Prussians from the ravine. Two regiments each of Cuirassiers, Horse Grenadiers and Hussars. One regiment of Prussian Cuirassiers charged and beat the counter-charging Russian cavalry. As a result the defeated Russians had to take a break test......and they broke! All their supporting units then had to test and all bar one had to retreat (off the table and therefore lost to the game). The Prussians continued their charge and hit the stationary Russian Hussars, breaking them and their supporting unit. So in one move, a single Prussian Cuirassier regiment managed to drive off six regiments of Russian cavalry. It was unfortunate that they were caught too close to the table edge but these things happen and it did open things up and give the Prussians a decided advantage all of a sudden! Oh bugger I thought, and poor Clive was probably in a state of shock for the rest of the afternoon! Black Powder can be very brutal and unforgiving but it was a smart move by John that paid off and enabled his attack to go in without fear of being interrupted by Russian cavalry on their flank.

The Prussian attack on the Russian right centre. Not their best troops (John had those), just two btns of Fusiliers and a btn of Garrison infantry bolstered by a combined grenadier btn. The Garrison btn was classed as 'untested' therefore the first time it was shot at its stamina was randomised by the throw of a dice, resulting in them having a rather poor stamina of 2 at which point they failed their saves and became shaken at once. New unit, therefore to be expected.....

The Prussian right flank had attacked the Russians vigorously but were beaten back by sheer weight of fire and the infantry brigade was broken, shattered even, especially after Rob launched his cavalry brigade of Dragoons and Hussars in desperate frontal attacks to try and disrupt the Russian line. It didn't help that these Prussian attacks were directed at our best units, i.e. Grenadier battalions, who as well as being stubborn (and therefore getting to re-roll a failed saving throw every turn), also had much better morale and stamina.

The Russians took advantage of the collapse of the Prussian right and centre to advance but were enfiladed by the Prussian heavy artillery on the hill and suffered significant casualties. In the centre and on the other flank the Prussians were pressing forward hard and making some progress in wearing down the stubborn Russian infantry. In fact the Prussians did seem to have a plan, pinning the entire Russian line while the strong left rolled it up from the flank. And it so nearly worked.

The Prussian assault on the Russian right. With their cavalry driven off the Russians struggled to hold the enemy back, but they grimly held on despite severe losses.
The largely ineffective Prussian artillery. It was only once the Russian left began its counter attack that they finally found the range and broke one battalion and stopped the counter attack in its tracks. 
The Prussian left flank is rejoined by the battalion (represented by the Guard) which had blundered backwards and was then stuck for several turns before it passed a command roll and was able to move again!
Russian Observation Corps Grenadiers
The only surviving Russian mounted troops were these Cossacks who managed to lurk around the fringe of the game and avoid getting shot at or drawn into combat. 

Prussians massing to attack the Russian battery having just driven off a battalion of infantry.

The victorious Prussian Cuirassiers threatening to envelop the Russian right flank. Thankfully they were unable to exploit the gap created after breaking a disordered Russian battalion as they too were disordered and therefore unable to move.

By the time we had to finish both armies had taken quite a battering. Each had two broken brigades with a number of others on the brink of being broken. The Prussians had however failed to beat the Russians, although they had a pretty good attempt at it. The Russians were unlucky to loose all their cavalry but their infantry put up a stubborn resistance despite having largely useless commanders. It was a great game and whilst not an 100% accurate representation of the battle it worked well as a scenario.

Thursday 18 December 2014

Crimean interlude: Assault on the camp

John and his son Neil came up this week for an afternoon game. Neil had expressed in interest in playing a Crimean game using Black Powder so I was happy to oblige. I set up the scenario to give the Russians an immediate overwhelming numerical advantage at the start, with a thin screen of English and Turkish troops holding the camp area, the heights and an outlying redoubt, which would be reinforced each move by a randomly selected brigade of English infantry (up to a total of three).

John took the Allies while Neil and I split the Russians. When we threw for command levels the Russians managed the unthinkable, thanks to a series of very low throws. Neil's two infantry brigadiers were all 6's and his Hussar brigadier was a 7. I managed a 7 for one infantry brigade, my cossacks and my CinC; the rest were all 6's!!!!!! John's Turks were an 8 and his Heavy Brigade a 7. When they arrived his Guards' brigadier was another 7, the Highlanders' a 9 and his CinC a 7.

My lead Russian brigade (the Moskovski Regt) made a rapid advance towards the Turks. It was very unnerving.......for both sides! 
 The Russians assault the Turkish positions and begin a two hour struggle to gain the redoubt!
 The Guards bolster up the Allied line. Their fight giant a brigade of Russians was valiant but they just couldn't hold on and in the end were forced to retire.
 The Russian assault on the Turks continues.......and goes on and on and on.......

 Neil's Russians clash with several companies of the Rifle Brigade, pushing them bacon the min line of English infantry.
 The Highland brigade under Sir Colin Campbell who was rated a '9' so by far the best general on the table. The Highlanders successfully held up the Russian advance supporting the Turks but in the end were forced to pull back after the Guards brigade was forced to retire. 
 Neil's useless Russian cavalry supporting his attack very passively.
 My useless Russian cavalry who took about 4 turns to actually appear on the table, at which point they rooted themselves to the ground and refused to budge. Knowing my plans for them they were probably very astute and may even have taken a look over their shoulders at the painting on the wall!
 The Allied line still holding under increasing pressure from the Russians.
 The Footguards about to buckle under intense pressure from the Russians.
At last the pesky Turks were ejected from the redoubt, but it cost me a brigade of very pretty looking Russians to do it!

This was a hard fought slog. The Allies were able to slow up the Russians long enough to get their reinforcements on the table and even managed to catch one of Neil's precious heavy artillery batteries limbered up crossing the bridge. Despite such low command values we managed to get moving pretty quickly on my flank but it took a very long time to break the Turks and push back the Highlanders supporting them. A Turkish cavalry regiment even broke a Russian square before being bundled back in disorder when it tried again.

Neil was putting intense pressure on John's left and centre, which was about to buckle under the weight of numbers. However, a run of dreadful break tests by Neil saw his entire flank collapse. Game over really. Both sides had lost two brigades and were close to loosing another but we declared it a marginal Allied victory as they'd managed to hold onto the camp.  As usual the game was punctuated with blunders, fantastic saving rolls and dreadful/amazing command rolls, which is what makes these games such an enjoyable experience.

You can read Neil's version of the game with more photos on his blog here:

Saturday 13 December 2014

Take the high ground! Then hold it!

John braved the weather yesterday afternoon and came up for a game. I wanted to get my SYW Prussians and Russians on the table as they had suffered the most during the move and some running repairs were required. So, while they're off the shelves why not use them before putting them back into winter quarters?

The scenario was as follows. The Prussians need to capture and hold the high ground in the centre of the table as this feature dominates their lines of communication but also those of the invading Russian army. The Russians need to capture the hills for exactly the same reason as their invasion will be stalled even more than it already has been by inept generals if the Prussians can hold and possibly fortify them.

The Prussians have a small swift moving and flexible force to do the job. The command level of the CinC was randomly generated with only a 1 in 6 chance of it being a lowly 7.

CinC John :  command 7
Advance guard (8): 3 units of hussars and a small unit of Freikorps jager
Cavalry brigade (8):  4 units of cuirassiers
Infantry Bde (8): 1 Guard, 2 line
Infantry Bde (8) 1 grenadier, 1 line and 1 garrison btn
Infantry Bde (8) 1 fusilier, 1 friekorps and 1 line
3 light battalion guns

The Russian army: All randomly generated command levels and here had to be at least one 6 and one 7.
CinC Me: command 8
Cavalry brigade (8) 2 units of horse grenadiers and 4 of cuirassiers
Cavalry brigade (7) 2 units of hussars
Infantry bde (8) of 2 grenadier and 2 line btns
Infantry bde (6) 4 line btns and 1 dismounted dragoon rgt
2 medium howitzers and 2 medium guns in two batteries (8)

Infantry battalions are 36 strong. The cavalry are in 12 figure 'squadrons'. With the exception of the dismounted dragoons all the Russian infantry were classed as stubborn. The Prussian Guard and Combined Grenadiers were superbly drilled and steady, while the Freikorps and Garrison btns were untested, meaning their stamina was unknown until the first time they were shot at. All the Prussians had platoon fire to give them a distinct advantage over the Russians in a fire fight. Our rules of choice, Black Powder, were of course used for this game.

We threw to randomise the entry points of both armies. The Prussians all arrived on their right flank, i.e. the end 4 foot of the table. The Russians managed to have half their force at each extreme of the table. Given that the objectives for both sides were in the centre, these entry points were extremely unhelpful to both armies. So, on to battle.......

The Russian left flank. Serbski Hussars move to cover the flank of the Russian artillery.

The Russian left deploys but the guns are stuck on the road. The Prussian Hussars tried to charge the guns but failed to reach. They in turn were hit by the Russian Hussars and pushed back.

The Russian right flank. With a command rating of 6 the advance was pretty slow to start with, and the cavalry in the distance fared no better in getting going!

Prussian 40th Fusilier Regiment (my favourites, looking just lovely in pink) advance to the top of the left hill, supported by a Freikorps battalion and a battalion of Combined Grenadiers.

The Prussian right, with three battalions, including the Guard, moving up behind their Hussars. 

Another shot of the infantry on the Prussian right. 

Russian grenadiers about to launch their assault up the left hill. 

Having seen off the Prussian Hussars the Russian Serbski Hussars burst through and hit the head of the column of Prussian Guard infantry. The Guard held them off until more Prussian Hussars crashed into the flank of the Russians, breaking them. Although they were ultimately both lost, between them the two units of Russian Hussars had done well in holding back the entire Prussian right wing for several turns, long enough for the Russian attack in the centre to go in.   

Russian Grenadiers braved the Prussian musketry and charged in with the bayonet, driving off the 40th Fusiliers and exposing the Freikorps battalion. When John threw to see what their stamina was he scored a '1'! Not good!

 The Russian right finally got moving and into position to attack the Prussians who had by now occupied the other hill.

The Prussian Cuirassiers who had marched from one flank to the other in order to engage the Russian Cuirassiers and Horse Grenadiers who were by now threatening the Prussian left. 

 The Russian cavalry before their clash with the Prussian Cuirassiers.

 The Russian Grenadiers took heavy casualties but hung on, driving off the Freikorps battalion and forcing the brigade to retire shaken. In one turn the lead battalion of Grenadiers took 12 hits and saved 11 of them!

 The Russian right exchanging fire with the Prussians out of shot to their front. One battalion was broken but the others held on and supported by their artillery drove back another Prussian brigade.

The Prussian view of the Russian Grenadiers' attack.

 In a fierce melee, two units of Prussian cuirassiers were broken by the Russian cavalry, although one Russian Cuirassier unit was destroyed early on and a unit of Horse Grenadiers towards the close of the action.

 The Prussian cavalry commander exhorts his men to fight on but his efforts were in vain. A third unit was shaken and the brigade forced to withdraw, a spent force.

The Russian artillery, which contributed significantly to their army's victory. 

The Russian dismounted dragoon regiment bringing up the rear. Even when they had horses, the Russian Dragoons were badly mounted.

So, The Russians had managed to successfully drive the Prussians off both hills. The Prussians almost managed to roll up the Russian left flank but couldn't quite pull it off. The Prussians were forced to withdraw as three of their brigades were broken.

I enjoyed it as I actually won a game, the first one ever, with my Russian SYW army. John threw some amazingly dreadful dice scores throughout the entire game which hampered his plans more than a little. I managed quite a few blunders but they all went in more or less the right direction. I think the game was balanced about right. There were about the same number of troops, although the Russians had more guns. The Prussian commanders and most of their troops were much better than the Russians on paper but this didn't entirely manifest itself during the game.

Thursday 11 December 2014

The Battle of Fontenoy

Paul came up this week as he wanted to refight the Battle of Fontenoy at my place using his extensive 15mm collection. We set the game up the previous evening to give us a full day of playing which worked really well given Paul was bringing all the figures and terrain with him. I think the armies were scaled down to about 1 to 3 in terms of units which of course still meant that the Allied army was still outnumbered by the French, especially in cavalry. Paul didn't have enough Dutch troops so we utilised others to stand in for them, which explains why some of the photos are in sepia so you can't see the actual uniform colours, although he did replace all the flags with Dutch ones for the game.

 Panorama of the battlefield

 View of the English advance from behind the French centre.

 Close up of the English horse covering the advance of massed battalions of English infantry! Hurrah!

 The French centre behind Fontenoy

 The English and Hanoverian advance.

 The Dutch assault on Antoing

 Fontenoy. Just after a regiment of French failed a break test and withdrew, leaving a nice gap :o)

Highlanders on the Allied right advancing very slowly towards the French redoubts, and their doom, in the woods.

 The second Dutch assault on Antoing........

 The ultimately successful Dutch assault on Fontenoy.

 The Dutch drove off the French defenders and were able to occupy the outer limits of Antoing.

 British horse covering their infantry while they deployed. The commander of the horse was a numpty and it might have been more effective had they not actually got in the way of the advance!

 The Dutch (and Hanoverians) take Fontenoy.

 The Buffs threw a blunder and closed with the Gardes Suise, but after a hard fight during which the Swiss were shaken and badly mauled, were repulsed.

The French were ejected from Fontenoy quite quickly and even the Gardes Francais were unable to dislodge the Hanoverian and Dutch infantry which had swamped the town with their assault.

The  main French line holds firm, bolstered by the shaken and badly cut up Gardes Suisse. 

 The Gardes Francais failed to cover themselves with glory; first pulling back in the face of the English advance and then being repulsed in the counter attack to try and retake Fontenoy!

 The French redoubts between Fontenoy and Antoing.

 Another shot of the French right flank and right centre, showing victorious Dutch and Hanoverians holding Fontenoy and the third Dutch attempt to capture one of the redoubts. It failed the same as the previous two attempts had.

Antoing, shown mainly to show off the scratch-built buildings.

The Allied plan called for all out attacks by the Dutch on the French strongholds while the Anglo-Hanoverians advanced towards the centre screened by their cavalry. My attempt to advance on the French left through the wooded area was fouled by some dreadful command rolls but I did get my Dutch horse to move off round the flank in order to try and draw off some of the vastly more numerous French cavalry in the centre, which it did even though the Dutch were eventually broken.

A French unit was driven back in Fontenoy, leaving a nice gap for the Dutch to exploit. At the same time the Hanoverians swung left and swamped the village while the English formed line and proceeded to advance towards the French centre and give them several delay volleys. Highlights were the Gardes Francais blundering and withdrawing a move, and the Buffs charging the Gardes Suisse as a result of another blunder.

The battle raged in the centre, with the English gaining the upper hand against the main French line, which included the Irish Brigade and more Gardes Francais. Sadly on the right my infantry had managed to assault the French redoubts but were driven off. On the left the Dutch assault on Antoing had ground to a halt, as had the French attempts to retake Fontenoy.

It was at that point that we decided to call it a day. The Allied attacks had run out of steam but although their centre was easily holding off the French the flanks were in trouble. It was declared a draw as Fontenoy had fallen but the Allies had failed in their attempt to relieve Tournai as the French army was still intact.

A great game, some dreadful command rolls on both sides and a high rate of casualties among the Generals. Thanks to Paul for providing the scenario, the troops and terrain, well everything really except coffees and lunch and a room to play in which was my contribution. There was also a touch of nostalgia as many of Paul's English were the very same Peter Paing figures I had sold to him probably 30 years ago!