Thursday 29 January 2015

The Swedes take some stick at the hands of the Poles, somewhere near Gdansk, 1629

Paul came up yesterday for our monthly game. As a change I decided to set up a 17thC game between my Swedes and Poles, using Warlord Games' Pike and Shot rules. I've never liked their idea of army composition and troop types and capabilities for any army from the Thirty Years War or for the Poles, as neither seem to bare any resemblance to any historical orders of battle or even a cursory look through appropriate reference materiel. The rule mechanics are good for a big game though and there's nothing to stop anyone tinkering as they see fit to the army composition etc, (which I do). So, I persevere and await the imminent arrival of the TYW supplement with interest...... There are some subtle difference between P&S and Black Powder, which I forgot to tell Paul about, but I don't think it changed the end result of the game.

The scenario required the winners to control a bridge and a road junction, as well as to inflict as much damage on the enemy army as possible in the process. Significant terrain features included a crossable river (half a move to get across), hills blocking line of sight and some woods, impenetrable to all but shot and skirmish type foot, e.g. dismounted dragoons. And a village which could be occupied by shot. Everything else was purely for visual effect.

The Polish army (Paul) was made up of the following:
CinC (9): Winger Hussar bodyguard
Right wing (9): 2 Winged Hussars, 2 Pancerni, 4 cossack skirmish cavalry
Centre (9): as above but 3 cossack light cavalry
Left wing (9): same as the centre
Reserve (7): 2 Polish Haiduk infantry, 4 militia infantry, 1 light gun

The Winged Hussars are very tough (save on 3+ and 'Stubborn' giving them one re-roll of a failed save each turn) and killers in melee (10D6).

I had the Swedes under Gustavus Adolphus who was  command value of 10
Yellow Brigade (9): 1 pike, 3 shot, 1 commanded shot, 1 light gun
Blue Brigade (9): 2 pike, 6 shot, 1 light gun
White Brigade (9): 2 pike, 6 shot, 1 light gun
Right wing cavalry (8): 6 Swedish horse, 1 commanded shot
Left wing cavalry (8): 2 Swedish horse, 2 Finnish Horse, 1 commanded shot, 1 dragoon
Reserve cavalry (8): 2 cuirassiers
Artillery: 2 medium guns

The Swedish cavalry were going to be no match for the winged hussars, i.e. my cavalry was going to be crushed by the winged hussars but ought to have been able to hold their own against the pancerni. My 'plan' was to use my vastly superior firepower to whittle down the Polish cavalry (hussars and pancerni) and try and keep them disordered for as long as possible. I wasn't expecting to have to worry about their light cavalry or the infantry.  Plans never survive first contact with the enemy!

I deployed first as we assumed that I would probably be out scouted by the Poles with their cavalry superiority. I placed my infantry in the centre, flanked by the two large cavalry wings, with guns on a small hill right centre and the cuirassiers held back in reserve. Paul deployed the Poles pretty much as their order of battle suggests.
The Swedish army deployed to receive the Polish attack.
 The Polish right wing.
 The Polish commander in chief and his bodyguard. (I had a spare unit of Winged Hussars; thanks Jim!)
 The Polish centre with the infantry reserve to the rear. The infantry only moved twice during the entire game, much to annoyance of the Polish commander!
 The Polish centre lumbers forward and once at the riverbank started to attract musket and cannon fire from the Swedes which caused a few casualties and temporarily disordered most units in the front rank.
 The Polish right wing closes on the outnumbered Swedish cavalry before sweeping them away.
 Cossacks charge the Swedish artillery. They managed to close on their second attempt and drove off one gun crew before falling back. (Dreadful dice from Paul saved the gunners)
 The Polish right again after vanquishing their opponents. The much lighter Swedish and Finnish horse couldn't stop the Poles but they did hurt them. One unit of hussars was forced back and Swedish commanded shot in the woods caused a few casualties and disorder in the ranks for a while.
The main Swedish battle line just before one unit of hussars charged home and broke two units of shot. I should have fallen back under the pikes but foolishly thought I could drive them off with musketry!
 The Polish left advances past the village towards the waiting Swedish horse.
 After breaking a hole in the centre, the hussars carried out a sweeping advance onto the flank of a unit from the elite Swedish Yellow regiment. Amazingly (i.e. thanks to some excellent saves and a high break test score) the shot held long enough for the Pike block on the left to hit the hussars in the rear. Cossacks from the Polish right wing who had swung round towards the centre then hit the pikes in the rear, and the cossacks were in turn hit by a unit of Swedish shot. A very confusing melee which in the end saw the Cossacks break and the hussars were forced to retreat.
 The Polish right wing sweeping round behind the woods and the Swedish rear.
 Almost the final act of the battle. The Swedish right wing cavalry have been swept away after a hard fight.  Gustavus led his cuirassier reserve forward, driving off a unit of pancerni before hitting some hussars in the flank. The hussars held and the cuirassiers had to retire shaken. The hussars followed up and hit another unit of cuirassiers, causing them to retire also. The hussars were then exposed to a hailstorm of shot and suffered 11 hits but Paul saved them all!
The Swedish Blue regiment faces the Polish left wing, and the dancing bear.

At this point we did a quick reckoning up. The Swedes had lost both their cavalry wings and in the last turn one of their infantry brigades was also broken. The Poles on the other hand had lost their centre and left cavalry 'brigades', so both armies had lost 50% of their commands on the last turn. The Poles held both of the physical objectives but both armies were spent and under the rules both would have to retire as neither was in a fit state to continue. A very minor and temporary victory for the Poles. Those bloody winged hussars!

Saturday 24 January 2015

Attack on the wagon train: The supplies must get through!

Peter came down the hill for another game last Thursday evening. I'm afraid that at the moment its Seven Years War or nothing so I set up a scenario based around a supply train that had to get to the depot. The escort were almost all second class Prussian troops, e.g. Freikorps, Militia, while the pursuing Russians were better quality with poorer leadership.

The Prussian supply train had to enter the table, cross the river then make it to the supply base, pursued by Russians who would appear at randomly selected points.

The Prussians (Peter) had the following:
Escort Commander: 9
Cavalry Brigade (9): 2 Hussar, 1 Freikorps Dragoon, 1 Bosniak Lancers
Infantry Brigade (8): 1 Frei-Grenadier Battalion, 1 Land Militia Battalion, 1 Garrison Battalion, 1 'Recruit' Battalion, 1 small unit of Freikorps light infantry and 1 small unit of Jager
Garrison Commander: 7
2 Freikorps Battalion, 1 small unit each of dismounted Dragoons and Hussars, 1 Heavy gun, 1 Medium gun.
Six supply wagons

The Russians (Me) had:
Commander: 6
Infantry Brigade (6): 3 Battalions Observations Corps infantry, 1 Battalion Observation Corps Grenadiers, 1 Battalion dismounted Dragoons, 1 howitzer, 1 medium gun
Cavalry Brigade (7): 4 regiments of Hussars, 2 small units of Cossacks.

All the usual characteristics applied. Tough Russians. Better led Prussians even if they were 2nd class troops, mainly. The poor Russian command levels were to prove vital to the result of the game.

 The Russians could have entered the table almost anywhere but sadly when they threw their dice they arrived in the worst possible place the furthest away from the Prussian entry point! 
 The Prussians advance onto the table faced with a narrow road through almost impenetrable woods.....
 The wagon train on the move in the woods....
 The bulk of the Prussian cavalry crossed the river and moved away from the advancing Russians!
 The garrison move slowly out of the town to cover the supply column's advance.
 Artillery positions in the depot.
The Russian hussars of the Gruzinsky regiment catch the rear of the supply column destroying a wagon, but are shaken in the process and unable to exploit their success. Too little, too late....
 Freikorps jager engage the Gruzinsky Hussars they charge through the woods to hit the tail of the supply column.
 Russian dismounted dragoons help drive off the Prussian light troops hiding the wood and guarding the supply column's rear.
 Von Kleist Frie-Dragoons  hit a battalion of the Russian Observation Corps in the flank and break them after two rounds of melee. Even with the re-roll awarded due to the 'variant' special rule the Russians broke.
 The supply column gets closer to the depot.
 The Russian army in pursuit, ever so slowly.........
Cossacks charge down the road with a 'follow me' order from the CinC, through the woods and into the flank of the East Prussian Land Militia Battalion. I really like this militia unit but it was an opportunity I couldn't resist!
 The Prussian defenders of the depot and the supply column's 'safe' arrival.
 Dismounted Frei-Hussars, part of the garrison.
 Frei-Dragoons von Kleist
 Prussian FrieKorps battalions
 Prussian Pomeranian Mixed Recruit battalion von Tettau
Bosniak lancers, part of the column guarding the supply column but recovering from being shot up by Russian Pandours early in the game.

Oh dear, a tough one. Especially as the poor old Russians entered the table too far from the Prussians to effectively intervene.  Distance, coupled with their rubbish command meant that they would and did struggle to intercept the Prussians.But it was a great game and the Prussian victory was not as  forgone a conclusion as might be suggested by this account.

Thursday 22 January 2015

The Battle of Gross Jagersdorf 30 August 1757 refought.

John and Neil came up on Tuesday for this week's game. Neil had asked to play a Seven Years War game, so as I (currently) only have Prussians and Russians I decided to refight the Battle of Gross Jagersdorf. This is a really tough one for the Prussians as they were outnumbered 2:1, although they did have an advantage in decent cavalry and the quality of their troops was in the most part superior to the Russians.  Rather than describe the historical background you can access a complete account of the buildup, the battle itself and orders of battle, by clicking on this link.ägersdorf

We diced for sides and John ended up with the Prussians. Neil took the Russian left and was CinC, and I took the troops in the wood and on the right. The forces were obviously scaled down by about half but the relative proportions remained the same and were as follows:

Prussians: CinC Lt Gen Lehwaldt(9)
Cavalry Brigade Duke of Holstein (9): 1 Dragoon, 2 Hussar
Cavalry Brigade Lt Gen Schorlemmer (8) 1 Hussar, 2 Dragoon
Infantry Brigade von Goltz (9) 1 Grenadier, 2 Line, 1 Garrison, 2 heavy guns, 1 btn gun
Infantry Brigade Graf zu Dohna (8) 1 Grenadier, 1 Line, 1 Garrison, 1 btn gun

The Prussians all had platoon fire and the Grenadiers were 'Valiant' while the Line were 'steady' and 'crack'. Both had 'superb drill' and were 'reliable'. The Garrison battalions were 'untested' but had 'platoon fire'. All Prussian infantry had 'first fire'.

Russians: Field Marshal Apraxin (5) Yes a 5!
Advance Guard General Sibilski (6): 2 Line, 1 Grenadier, 1 Hussar, 1 Cuirassier, 1 Horse Grenadier, 1 Cossack
Brigade Fermor (6):1 Grenadier, 2 Line, 1 heavy gun, 1 'secret' howitzer
Brigade Lopuhkin (7) 1 Grenadier, 5 Line, 1 btn gun
Brigade Browne (8):1 Cuirassier, 1 Cossack, 1 Grenadier, 2 Line, 1 heavy gun.

The Russian Grenadiers were 'Valiant' and 'stubborn' while the line infantry were 'Valiant'. This made them harder to break but they were to given first fire so were at a distinct disadvantage to the Prussians. Clearly the Russian command was abysmal. The CinC was a useless paltroon and his subordinates were little better except for General Browne.

The Prussians had surprised the Russian army as it was about continue its invasion of East Prussia. They were caught either in march column or waiting to form up. On seeing the Prussians appear out of the mist General Lopuhkin's brigade entered the extensive but not very dense woods. Fermor's brigade was behind the woods to the left and Browne's was acting as the rearguard behind the woods. Sibilski was already almost over the river apart from one battalion bringing up the rear.

Holsteins cavalry had not crossed the river and were facing Sibilski's troops. Goltz's brigade was over the river within musket shot of the woods. Dohna and Schorlemmer were on the Russian right facing Browne's brigade. The Prussians got the first move as they had caught the Russians on the hop!

 Above: Dohna's brigade advances on the Russian right sported by (below) Schorlemmer's cavalry.

 Browne's brigade awaiting the Prussian attack.
 The rest of the Russian army; Fermor's brigade behind the woods to the left, Sibilski's brigade in the distance and Lopuhkin's brigade in the woods.
Above and below: Goltz's brigade and the Prussian CinC Lehwaldt face the Russians on the edge of the wood and pour in some very effective fire which forced one battalion of Russian infantry to withdraw shaken.

 Another shot of Browne's brigade. His cuirassiers (seen at the rear) had been charged by the Prussian cavalry and forced to retreat shaken. Grenadiers can be seen in the background moving up in support.
 Above and below Holstein's cavalry attempting very well to keep Sibilski's brigade from interfering. They broke the Russian Hussars very early in the battle although they had been unable to take advantage of catching the Russian infantry in the flank while they were in line of march. Neil had trouble getting this command to move due to ineptness of the commander.

 The Prussian line holds back the advancing Russians who are unable to move from the safety of the wood for time being.
 Holstein's cavalry had a pretty daunting task in trying to tie down Sibilski's troops!
 Von Dohna's brigade advancing on the Russian right, taking heavy casualties from the Russian artillery to their front.
 Schorlemmer's cavalry drove off their Russian counterparts and smashed into the infantry who were unable to stop their charge and in the melee were pushed back shaken.
 Prussian dragoons seeing off a bunch of Cossacks!
 Russian Grenadiers from Fermor's brigade charge out of the wood, survive the closing fire and hit the Prussian Grenadiers. That wasn't part of the plan!
 Dohna's brigade converging on Browne's Russians on the edge of the wood.
 The same in sepia!
 Prussian and Russian Grenadiers battle it out before the former were broken exposing the flank of the Prussian artillery!
 Prussian Hussars hit by Horse Grenadiers; there could only be one outcome and the Hussars were broken. As the Dragoons had already been lost this meant that all of Holstein's brigade, i.e. a single remaining Hussar unit, was spent and would take no further part in the game.
 After breaking the Prussian Grenadiers the Russians tried to assault the Prussian battery but predictably were driven off broken after the Prussian Garrison battalion intervened, but not before one gun was destroyed.
 Dohna's brigade was suffering from the Russian artillery fire. The regiment with the orange/white flags (IR16 von Dohna) was shaken and forced to retire, leaving the battalion behind exposed to close range canister fire. Luckily (?) the canister fire was wholly ineffective!
 Prussian Dragoons supported by Hussars clash with Russian Cuirassiers and push them back shaken. The entire Russian right flank was broken and forced to retreat and their commander General Browne (the only decent one on the Russian side of the table) was a casualty early in the battle.
 Neil and John both with the same thought: "I wish I could throw some decent dice scores!"
 Russian cuirassiers made it across the river and crashed into the flank of the remaining Prussian artillery, overrunning it. They then swept the Garrison battalion away before retiring. John wasn't helped by the fact that Garrison battalion were 'untested' so their stamina was decided on a dice roll; he threw a 1! Not good.
Above and below: The wood was historically no real obstacle to troops, and Prussian Hussars supported by Dragoons moved through the wood to charge the flank of the Russian line, hitting a Grenadier battalion. Amazingly the Grenadiers held and the Hussars recoiled shaken, forcing their supporting Dragoons to retire as well. Prussian Grenadiers then charged and finished the job, routing the Russians.

 Above and below: The Russians counter attack.  

 Prussian infantry regiments Prinz von Preussen and von Braunschweig attempt to hold the Russian counter attack at bay, but to no avail as their brigade became shaken and had to withdraw, signalling the end for the Prussian army.
 The survivors of the Duke of Holstein's cavalry.
Cossacks from Sibilski's brigade about to cross the river.

Well, it was a right old see-saw of a game. Things hadn't gone quite as well as I thought they would have for the Prussians as John's command dice were appalling. He was unable to get Holstein's cavalry to charge into he flank of Sibilski's brigade and Schorlemmer's cavalry on the other wing made heavy going of disposing of the Russians facing them. In the centre some good saving rolls by the Russians prevented them from being overwhelmed by massive Prussian firepower. The Russians proved hard to shift as usual but the saving rolls were pretty impressive.

The Russians struggled throughout the game to get their troops to move thanks to their historically useless commanders. Nevertheless, even the CinC managed to get an isolated battalion of Grenadiers to do a 'follow me' order. Sadly this ended with him falling at the head of his troops as they charged the Prussian artillery! Once both sides were within 12" initiative range of each other this handicap ceased to be as much of a problem until it came to trying to rally troops!

In Black Powder terms it was a Prussian defeat as over half their brigades were out of action, as opposed to just one Russian (although two other Russian brigades were just one step away from breaking). However, the Prussians actually broke or shook more Russian units than they themselves suffered, so in terms of the victory conditions for the game the Prussians had achieved theirs. So on balance it was a draw, which was the historic outcome. The Russians were diverted from their invasion plans and Berlin was saved.