Friday 18 April 2014

1866: Battle for the frontier, part II

Following last week's game where the Prussians were repulsed, we have now moved forward an hour or so forward in time. The Prussians have regrouped, brought up the remainder of their Corps, and suitably reinforced, will try again to seize the vital bridge crossing so important to their push into Bohemia. They now have four infantry brigades totalling 20 battalions plus a cavalry brigade and supporting artillery.

The combined Austrian/Saxon 'Corps' were, despite their initial and perhaps temporary victory, quite battered but are still are viable and dangerous opponent. They have remained in possession of the field so I've 'slipped' the terrain by a foot or two to accommodate areas such as the bridge in their deployment area. Their reserve artillery is now off table but can be redeployed forward if so desired. Apart from that their troops must be deployed more or less (within a foot max) of where they were left at the end of the last game.

The Prussian commanders are still 8's with the Corps commander a 9 but I've adjusted the Austrian command rating as they were a bit too mobile. They're now 7's with the overall commander an 8. However, when in attack column, the preferred formation for all the Austro/Saxon infantry, they increase to an 8. They can defend in line but any forward/aggressive move must be in storm or attack column as per the history books and tactical doctrine.
 (Above and below: The Austrians and Saxons await the next Prussian assault.)

  (Above and below: The Prussians advance)

 (Above and below: Saxons holding the bridge and the church)
 My friend John (Mc) had the day off on Wednesday so came up for the game. He got the Prussians. I switched my coat and kept the Austrian brigade along the hedgerow on the right, with the cavalry on the extreme right beyond the wood. The Saxons occupied the entire area to the left of the river, with units stretching from the orchard to past the churchyard.
The Prussian advance guard entered the table along the central road, but very slowly due to poor command rolls and one unit was caught in column of march by Austrian artillery which didn't do it much good! The cavalry occupied the area immediately to the front of the big hill on the Prussian left and were to stay there for much of the game as it turns out. The remainder of their forces appeared over the next couple of moves. The  larger brigade of 6 battalions deployed into attack columns on the left while the other two brigades deployed as they entered the battlefield to the right of the river. One brigade took its time entering the table and the other managed a blunder which  almost saw it plunge into the impassable river!
(The two photos above show the central Prussian advance and then it blundering off towards the river!!!)

So, sector by sector, on the Austrian right the reserve artillery spent the battle taking potshots at the Prussian cavalry,  and kept the Hussars and especially the Cuirassiers in a state of disorder for much of the game. The Prussians advanced very slowly in attack columns. One unit was sheltering behind the crest of a hill when it was hit by Austrian Uhlans in a rather rash charge. Unable to bring much in the way of fire to bear as the Uhlan's approach was covered by dead ground, the battalion was destroyed, as was one of its supports. I was lucky to get my Uhlans into contact but as my charge was screened by dead ground almost all of the way and the Prussians were caught in assault column, their closing fire was much reduced and in the end quite ineffective thanks to some timely saves. My Uhlans wisely withdrew and took no more part in the battle but my Cuirassiers were later led in another wild charge, this time against the Prussian Hussars using a 'follow me' order, breaking them before retiring to the dubious safety of a position immediately in front of the main Austrian defensive line in full view of the vengeful Prussian artillery. Apart from a continuous exchange of artillery fire not much else happened on this flank as the Prussians were too battered to push forward and the Austrians had a couple of battalions shaken or disordered due to long range artillery fire.

By the river the Prussian advance guard had occupied the wood covering the bridge with a battalion of Jäger, who were supported by three further battalions of infantry and a battery of artillery. After a few rounds of long-range musketry and ineffective artillery fire my C-in-C led a battalion in storm column against the wood. The Jager  evaded but the line infantry immediately behind them stood to fight but were driven off in disorder. The fact that this all took place in the middle of a wood kind of reduced the effectiveness of the Prussian closing fire, hence the Austrian success! Sadly the Austrians were shaken so any follow up move would have been unwise.

On the left flank my Saxons blundered and one battalion charged for three moves right towards the advancing Prussians. They survived for a couple of moves, milling about in disorder but throwing sufficiently good saving rolls to avoid a break test. To make things worse, a couple of moves later a second battalion did the same and actually made it into contact........for a moment at least. Both Saxon (Hessians masquerading as Saxons actually) were broken. No surprise there but they did hold up the Prussians for several vital moves. The Prussians attempted an assault against the wood to the (my) left of the bridge. The first attack went very wrong as John threw a blunder and the assault troops promptly moved to the rear in confusion! Sadly for me the next move saw the reserve line charge into the woods, and my Jäger were forced to retire.

(The photos above show the impetuous assault by the Saxons being beaten off followed by the Prussian assault on the wood)

On the Austrian/Saxon extreme left the Prussians were very slow in making much progress against inferior Saxon covering forces. The Prussian brigade were made up of figures representing units from Brunswick, Anhalt, Lippe-Detmold and Saxe-Coberg-Gotha. Wholly inaccurate as they were in reality deployed to Western  Germany as part of the Army of the Main, but they were the figures I had. It it added a bit of variety and while the units from the latter two states were almost as good as the Prussians, the former two were less than enthusiastic and showed it in the game! The Prussians tried to consolidate their hold of the wood and push more troops forward but lost heavily to Saxon fire and the attack stalled yet again.

(Above: The pedestrian advance of the Prussian flank brigade - on the left the Saxe-Coberg regiment, next to the the Lippe-Detmold fusiliers, behind them the Brunswick regiment and Brunswick artillery, and in the rear the Anhalt Fusilier regiment.)

When it became time to call it a day the Prussians were on the verge of gaining the wood to the left of the river, had put the Saxons under severe pressure with one brigade very close to being broken, but were otherwise making very slow or no progress. They had come off far worse in their assault but had been more successful than in their earlier attack under my command.

I was happier with the rules and the adaptations made this time and felt that it worked far better. The scenario was always going to be a tough one for the Prussians but not an impossible one. Next time (ie in about an hour and a bit in game time) we will see another and I suspect more successful attempt to dislodge the now seriously battered Austrian and Saxon forces.

The Austrians are Helion/North Star, as are about half of the Prussians. The reminder of the Prussians are Foundry. The Saxons are Battle Honours and most of the cavalry (with the exception of the Helion Austrian Hussars), are Irregular minis. (When I win the lottery I will buy some limber teams for all my artillery!)

Sunday 13 April 2014

1866: Battle for the frontier

John came up on Friday for a game and I'd decided beforehand to set up an 1866 game using Black Powder to get my Austrians and Prussian on the the table for the first time. Straightforward scenario as there were just the two of us. Prussians invading Bohemia and need to gain control of the river crossing in order to facilitate their advance. The combined Austrian/Saxon forces have to stop them.

The Prussians fielded three brigades of infantry totalling 13 battalions, a brigade of 2 regiments of cavalry and supporting artillery, one per brigade plus a reserve of 2 batteries. Half the Prussian artillery were 12 pdr smoothbores; the rest were modern Krupp guns. The Prussian infantry were of course armed with the Dreyse Needlegun, which although it had a rapid rate of fire was outraged by the Austrian muzzle loading rifles.

The Austrians fielded a strong brigade of 7 btns of infantry and the Saxons fielded 5 btns. I rather foolishly added a further brigade of Saxons (actually Hesse-Darmstadters masquerading as Saxons) but forgot to balance the game by adding another brigade of Prussians!!!! Included in each brigade were a btn of jäger and supporting artillery and the Austrians had an attached unit of hussars. The Austrians also had a brigade of cavalry from their cavalry reserve made up of a unit each of Uhlans and Cuirassiers. The Saxon infantry had a unit of Reiter attached.

All in all I think the forces were reasonably well balanced and if necessary I did have more troops that could be fed into the game should it turn into more of a bloodbath than I expected, assuming I actually remembered!  The Austrians had the advantage of much superior artillery and the dubious benefit of more cavalry while the Prussians had a definite edge with their breach loading rifles. I didn't make any changes to the rules as such but did have to create the troop definitions and capabilities from scratch. For example, the Austrians favoured costly frontal attacks with assault columns, even in defence! They didn't work (no brainer there) but they repeatedly threw themselves  forward in desparate attempts to come to grips with the Prussians. Their artillery was very good so I gave them the sharpshooter rule where they would get to re-roll one miss each turn. I also gave them very slightly more artillery than the formation sizes suggested to reflect that they had 8-gun batteries as opposed to the Prussian (and Saxon) 6-gun ones.  All the Austro-Saxon commanders were rated 8 while the Prussians were 8 with the C-in-C a 9.
 (Above: the opposing armies advance to contact. Below: The Austrian infantry in storm columns, supported by rather too much artillery!)

 (Above: The Saxon division enters the battlefield. Below: The Prussian left flank)
 (Above: Saxon infantry in firefight, having just driven off Prussian infantry from the wood to their front. Below: Hessians playing the part of Saxons attacking the Prussian right)

 (Above: The Prussian left flank advancing on the Austrians. Below: from behind the Austrian right flanl; assault columns advancing against a hail of rifle fire)

 (Above and below: The Prussian left flank starts to collapse although the Austrian breakthrough is temporarily halted!)

In short, I (the Prussians) buggered it up and made a complete mess of deploying and gaining our objectives. On the right, my sole infantry brigade found itself facing twice its numbers of tough Saxons. Although they held on for a while, the result was never in doubt and the brigade eventually had to withdraw with half its units shattered. The superiority of their musketry just couldn't cope with the numbers facing them, coupled with the usual run of average to bad saving rolls!
 (Above and below: The Saxon attack in full swing on the Prussian right)

 (Below: Austrian assault columns closing in on the disorganised and disordered Prussian left flank)
 (Below: Saxon Jager hold the bridge)

On the left the Prussians made a slow start and were unable to take advantage of their superior firepower due largely to the Austrian long range artillery fire and some amazing saves by John. The Austrian hussars did get into contact with one of my units but were predictably driven off. I also managed to persuade the remainder of the Austrian cavalry to avoid launching any further attacks and they lurked behind a wood for most of the game. One of my brigades on the left flank was softened up by Austrian artillery and then shattered by their storm columns that against the odds actually made it into contact.  In reality i don't think an Austrian storm column ever made it into contact, but if in the game there isn't a chance then what's the point of getting the figures out of the box?

With half my brigades broken and nowhere near the objective I threw in the towel. Round 1 to the Austrians. The Prussians will make another attempt 'later in the day', and this time they will get it right as well as remembering to deploy the extra brigade of infantry!!!!!!! Not sure unadulterated BP works for this period or any with 'modern' weapons but having fought the game I know where to make a few adjustments to the troop characteristics to make it feel 'right' without altering the actual game mechanics.

Round 2 is later this coming week with a bit of luck...... 'ding!ding!

Thursday 3 April 2014

Return to the Seven Years War

My old friend Paul came up the other day for a game. We both used to be in the Durham club many many years ago and then we set up the Durham Old Boys with John Ingleby for a couple of years putting on games at shows in the late 80's and early 90's but I don't think we'd played a wargame together for maybe 20 or so years! Paul was always keen on the SYW so I dug out my 28mm Russians and Prussians, gave them a good dusting off and set up a game.

The forces were as follows:

Brigade of cavalry with 2 regts each of Cuirassiers and Horse Grenadiers
Brigade of cavalry with 2 regts of Cuirassiers and 1 of Dragoons
Two brigades of infantry each with 4 btns of infantry
One brigade of infantry with 4 btns of grenadiers

They also had 3 heavy guns, 2 units of hussars and a unit of Cossacks.

Brigade of cavalry with 4 regts of Cuirassiers
Brigade of cavalry with 1 regt of Cuirassiers and 2 of Dragoons
Brigade of infantry with 1 btn each of Guard, grenadiers and line
Brigade of infantry with 2 btns fusiliers and 1 of line
Brigade of infantry with 2 btns of line and 1 of Freikorps

2 heavy guns and 2 units of hussars.

My infantry are organised in 36 figure battalions and the cavalry in 24's or 36's so we kept the infantry as they were but the cavalry were fielded as 'squadrons' of 12 figures. We used Black Powder with the amendments and unit specifications from LAoK. This made the Prussians quite (potentially) deadly in terms of firing and getting around the table and while the Russians might suffer from poor command they were very tough and hard to kill. Russian cavalry were poorly mounted in the SYW so they were weaker than their Prussian opponents.

(Above and below: Russian left flank cavalry)

The scenario was simple. Three objectives: the bridge, the crossroads and of course stuff the enemy! The only terrain features that would impact on movement or visibility were the hills, woods and the river. All other items were there for esoteric and visual reasons only.  We diced for sides and Paul got the Russians. He deployed his weaker cavalry brigade and his Cossacks and hussars on his left flank. The artillery were brigaded on the hill in the centre. The grenadier infantry brigade was on the left centre with another infantry brigade on their right. The second cavalry brigade (the strong one) was deployed on the right of centre while the final infantry brigade was over the river on the right. I deployed my Cuirassiers brigade on my right with two infantry brigades and the artillery in the centre. One of these was the stronger one containing the Guards and a unit of grenadiers and the other clouded a Friekorps battalion. I deployed my remaining forces, one brigade each of infantry and cavalry plus the hussars on the left.

(Above and below: the struggle in the centre around the windmill)

The game turned out to be a very bloody and hard fought slog. The Russians enjoyed some early success on my right with their cavalry but in the end my Cuirassiers were able to grind their Russian counterparts down, although this was slowed down by some pretty poor saving rolls on my part and some amazing ones from Paul.  Paul had to throw in his hussars and Cossacks in order to slow my advance down and threaten the flank of my infantry in the centre, which did work well for a little while but in the end they were driven off.

In the centre my infantry, despite a blunder or two on the way, made straight for the Russian centre. We engaged in a serious firefight, which was to my advantage. In the end Paul reckoned that cold steel would be a better option given the Prussian superior firepower (potential) and charged his infantry into contact. We then enjoyed (?) several turns of furious hand-to-hand combat. The Russians were on the verge of winning these thanks to being stubborn which gave them a re-roll on one failed morale test every turn. Thankfully I survived some potentially battle loosing break tests and held on despite having several shaken units. Eventually some of the Russians began to falter, withdraw or break. Black Powder can be pretty bloody and unforgiving if poor dice are rolled, and this is what happened to Paul with a couple of his units in the centre. Sadly in the last move my tough brigade containing the Guards and grenadiers became shaken and would have been forced to withdraw.

Meanwhile, on my left the cavalry clashed with the Russians who gained the upper hand to start with. I had rather foolishly exposed the flank of my infantry facing the Russians across the river but thankfully the Russians were either fully engaged or the brigade was classed as spent and prevented from offensive action. One of my hussar units blundered and absented themselves from the table for several moves (I forgot to try and get them back so that was my fault!). Paul sent his surviving Hussars from the opposite flank to try snd plug the gap but they were beaten by my recently returned hussars. The cavalry fight ended up with both the Prussian and Russian brigades becoming 'spent' due to the number of broken and shaken units which effectively removed both from the battle.

My infantry made it to the river and crossed it, engaging in a firefight with the Russian infantry, which had been slow to get into action due to some low command rolls. Neither side was going to get anywhere as the superior Prussian firepower (I gave them the platoon fire rule gaining an extra dice for firing) was more than balanced by the stubborn Russian infantry.


By the end of the game the two Russian cavalry brigades were spent (broken), as were one of mine plus an infantry brigade, so although a couple of other brigades on each side were close to being broken we declared it a bloody draw, which is a fairly historical outcome for Prussian v Russians in the SYW. Paul had never played BP before so i hope he liked the rules, and I as usual forgot a few important bits and pieces, but without any detrimental effect on the game.