Wednesday 30 December 2015

A look back at 2015, and a peek forward to 2016.

2015 has been a great year as far as my wargaming is concerned. LOTS of games. A quick count of games played reveals the following: 18th Century (25); Thirty Years War (3), Renaissance (3) and a single Crimean game. I managed more than the usual trips to war-games shows, and have been very productive in terms of my little men. (This is despite my health and general mobility being pretty dismal but Katherine has been very supportive). To be honest I also used the proceeds of my eBay sales (see below) to have a load of stuff painted for me. The AMG game at Partizan was by far the best wargaming experience I have had for many a year.  The main focus of this year's gaming has been the Seven Years War, as in a moment of madness I decided that refighting all the main battles in sequence would be a good idea. Mmmm?

Over the course of the year I sold all my VBCW collection as well as a half-finished and dormant collection for the 1st Carlist War. These sales netted me about £2k (long since gone). I am still toying with the idea of selling off more stuff so I can rationalise what I do to JUST the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, but there's nothing much left that I can easily detach myself from emotionally and sell, i.e. my Russian Civil War/Back of Beyond and Darkest Africa collections as well as the American Civil War collection which I purchased off Paul Stevenson a couple of years ago but has only seen the tabletop twice since. Perhaps I shall get rid of a few units as there are far too many to fit even on my table.

On the other hand I seem to have acquired, off eBay and my own and others painting efforts, a good-sized Austrian army for the Seven Years War and a pet project of mine started over two years ago has almost reached completion; I'm thinking here of my 1672'ish French-Dutch War armies. I've also expanded the Prussian and Russian SYW armies (like I needed any more) and built up a modest force of Saxons, several Reichsarmee units and almost the complete army of the Duchy of Modena, both for WAS/SYW.

In the new year I plan to produce (I have the figures and quite a few are almost done) a small (12 btns or so with cavalry and artillery) force of British, Hanoverians, Hessians and Brunswickers so we can attempt some of the battles in the Western theatre and hopefully trounce Robbie's Frenchies. Most of all though I look forward to another excellent years of gaming and all that entails.

Saturday 12 December 2015

Lobositz yet again.......and now we know the Honours of War rules, a much better experience!

Robbie and John returned yesterday for another refight of Lobositz using Honours of War, having felt that last week's attempt lost something as we were unfamiliar with the rules. This time the game flowed extremely well and we fought through to a conclusion in about 5 hours including lunch. John took the Prussians and Robbie and I the Austrians; as usual I had additional hosting duties relating to tea, coffee, lunch and dog control.

The orders of battle and terrain were exactly as last week and we were able to get cracking on the game without any delay beyond that caused by a natter, negotiating a bouncy labrador, and a cup of tea.

The battlefield, Prussians on the left. The Austrians behind the marshy stream on the right could not be seen or activated until turn 4.

Kollowrat's Austrians 'hidden' behind the Morelenbach. The plan, I think, was to suck the Prussians into the centre so they could attack the town, defeat their cavalry with ours and then sweep round with five fresh battalions infantry and hit them in the flank. Ha! Ha!

This has got nothing to do with the battle but I'd just finished it. Its a Westphalia Miniatures Saxon siege mortar. Very nice it is too. 

This is another new wagon, bought off Cran Tara at the Stockton show the other week. Its from Westphalia too, or it might be Fife and Drum.

Back to the battle, the two lead Prussian brigades advance, with one battalion covering their exposed flank from the Grenzers on the hill.

The Grenz unit posted in the sunken road advanced to take some pot shots at the Prussians. The accuracy of their fire, combined with the effects of being shelled, caused the Prussian battalion facing them to break. Shame on them!

The main Austrian line. The right wing wheeled round to enfilade the Prussian advance while the reserve battalion from Lobositz moved to cover the left of the grenadiers' line. Marshall Browne can be sneezy the house.

The Prussians attacked the Austrians, but in every case were forced to retreat and rally before other battalions took their place. John did well to preserve most of his troops, only loosing another battalion during the assaults. The Austrian grenadiers held but were taking casualties.

A rather shaky shot of the centre of the battlefield with the Austrian reserve cavalry from the left facing off against the Prussians. The cuirassiers and combined elite companies of Robbie's central cavalry brigade of Radicati had been lost earlier through Prussian artillery fire and by coming off badly against Kayau's Prussian brigade.

For some reason I had decided to bring the Austrian left wing cavalry across to the centre before Radicati's brigade were lost, so was able to plug a large gap in the Austrian line. The hussars were the last remaining unit of Radicati's brigade but were soon to be driven off in route as their status as my favourite unit of Austrian cavalry made them cannon ball magnets.

Gessler's cuirassiers had earlier broken the combined elite companies regiment and followed through into the centre of the Austrian line, catching an artillery battery and then an infantry battalion in the flank. They then charge the flank of another Austrian battery but didn't quite make it, halting about 1" short. My cavalry were rooted to the ground as I was unable to get them to move. Eventually the cuirassiers did charge but came off badly against the Prussians and were lost.

On the far right Robbie's Grenz charged the flank of one then another Prussian battery, driving off the crew. The Grenz then beat a hasty retreat back to the wooded slopes of the Lobosch Hill in their rear.

I finally managed to get my reserve infantry to advance, but far too slowly, and they began to take casualties from the Prussian massed battery on the Homolka Mound. They spent at least 2 turns unable to move, which contributed to the result of the battle as it wasn't until perhaps the last move that I managed to get them moving and successfully break one of the Prussian batteries, the gunners retreating and abandoning their guns on the field.

The Austrian centre in danger of being rolled up. Despite loosing another battery the line held and the Prussian cuirassiers had to withdraw as they were perilously close to becoming spent.

The Austrian centre again, still hanging on.

The grenadiers were charged in the front and the flank in the last turn. There is no doubt that they would have been broken in the melee. (Indeed I threw the dice after Robbie and John had left and the Grenadiers were destroyed).

At the close of the battle an Austrian aide rides through the town en route to Vienna with news of the battle's outcome.

Nothing in the Austrian centre remained except for a lone regiment of very hesitant dragoons.

This time the result was a victory for the Prussians. Not a resounding one but a win nevertheless. There was a time where it looked like the Austrians might have held on and driven the Prussians off but a series of dreadfully badly-timed crappy initiative throws and awful command throws for our troops guaranteed that we pulled defeat out of the jaws of victory yet again.

The rules are great. The only change we made was to ignore the -1 for not having battalion guns when shooting and canister was reduced to musket range. We also ignored the +1 when shooting at cavalry in two ranks. Using my bigger units made no difference to the game other than to make it look a pretty and rather impressive affair, though I say so myself. I shall certainly be using these rules from now on for my Seven Years War and War of Austrian Succession games in preference to Black Powder. I still do like the latter but these rules give a better 'feel' to the game.

Interestingly, this time only two generals became casualties as opposed to almost everyone in the the last game.

I shall now look forward to refighting all (well maybe most) of my Seven Years War games again using Honours of War.

Thanks to Robbie and John for coming and its a shame I couldn't find a 4th player at such short notice but there's always another day.

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Honours of War rules

We shall be refighting Lobositz again now we have a better understanding of the rules. In fact I am inclined to start my Seven Years War odyssey all over again and use HoW instead of Black Powder. We will soon catch up to where we left off after Kunersdorf........

Sunday 6 December 2015

The Battle of Lobositz, Honours of War version

This week's game was a refight of our first SYW refight, if that makes sense. We had played Lobositz back in February using Black Powder but with the advent of the new Honours of War rules it seemed like a good idea to try them out on a battle we'd already done using BP, hence the choice. The rules contain a Lobositz scenario but I used the same troops fielded for my original game, based on  Kronoscaf, Charles Grant's scenario in Wargaming in History vol 9 and the excellent Obscure Battles blog. I also use much bigger units than the rules are apparently geared up for, but proportionately the unit footprints were about the same. So we had infantry battalions of 36 covering 300mm, Grenzers of 12-16 and cavalry in 24's deployed in 2 ranks (we ignored the rule in HoW for shooting at cavalry in 2 ranks on this occasion). Saying that, the rules allow for large units of up to 7 stands, which would give a frontage of 280mm so not much difference especially as the number of figures is not relevant to the game mechanics. The author has produced a QRS for larger units such as I use but we didn't see the need to use them, and in the end as everyone was based the same it didn't really matter.

Robbie and I took the Austrians while John and Paul were the Prussians. Robbie was FML Browne and Paul was Frederick as he had given me the Frederick vignette earlier in the year and it seemed appropriate that he should get to use it.

Prussian Army:

CinC Frederick II King of Prussia (Dashing) PAUL
Lt. General: FM the Hon James Keith (Dependable) JOHN

Left wing, 1st Line: Bevern (Dashing)
Grenadiers x 1*
Musketeers x 2
Left wing, 2nd Line: GL von Kleist (Dependable) (Turn 2)
Grenadiers x 1*
Musketeers x 2
Right Wing: GM Pz Henri von Preussen (Dependable)
Musketeers x 2
Fusiliers x 1
Cavalry, 1st Line: GM Kayau (Dashing)
Cuirassiers x 1*
Dragoons x 1
Cavalry, 2nd Line: FM Gessler (Dashing) Turn 2
Cuirassiers x 2*
Artillery: Colonel Moller (Dependable)
12pdr x 2
Howitzer x 1
In reserve: (Turn 3)
12pdr x 2 to Bevern
12pdr x 2 to Pz Henri

Austrian Army: FM von Browne (Dashing)ROBBIE

Light troops: GM Draskovitz (Dependable)
Croats x 2
Right Wing: FML Lacy (Dependable)
Grenadiers x 2*
Musketeers x 3
12pdr x 2*
Howitzer x 1*
Right wing Cavalry: GM Radicati (Dashing)
Carabiniers/Horse Grenadier x 1*
Cuirassiers x 1*
Hussars x 1**
Independent unit: Croats x 1
Left wing: GM Kollowrat (Dependable) ME
Musketeers x 5
6pdr x 2*
Left Wing Cavalry: GM Lowenstein (Dashing)
Cuirassiers x 2*

* indicates superior troops; ** indicates inferior troops. All infantry with the exception of the grenadier battalions of both sides had battalion guns.

The Austrian right wing holding Lobositz with Grenzers in the far distance on Lobosch Hill amongst the vineyards. For some reason Marshal Browne and his staff are stood in the middle of the Morelenbach stream having a paddle.

Frederick with Colonel Moller's artillery on the Homolka Mound.

GM Kayau's cavalry brigade advances onto the plain to try and tempt the Austrians forward.

Radicati's Austrians: a regiment of hussars and a combined horse grenadier/carabinier regiment, all venerable Hinchcliffe castings. In the background the Prussian infantry is advancing rapidly towards Lobositz and the waiting Austrians.

The Austrian left wing was hidden behind the Morelenbach, but Lowenstein's cavalry soon made an appearance.

The Prussian attack looses momentum while the Grenzers make a nuisance of themselves harassing  Bevern's command. Who put their coffee mug on the table? (Nice mug, picture of FtG and his staff at Leuthen, bought off Amazon).

Kollowrat's brigade stand up, having been hidden lying down in the mist behind the Morelenbach.

Gessler's cuirassiers join Kayau on the plain.

The attack on Lobositz intensified, and although the Prussians were momentarily halted the Austrian grenadiers were forced to retire, leaving the centre dangerously empty of troops until the reserves could be rushed across the plug the gap.

The Austrian left wing cavalry made hard going of crossing the stream. For some reason I chose to pledge through the swamp and over the park walls rather than use the bridge, a "Burnside Moment" in reverse!

The gap in the Austrian line is filled while the Prussian infantry rally after their attack faltered. The Prussian cuirassiers were charged by the Austrian hussars as a result of the latter throwing a 6 and having a 'dashing' commander. Predictably the hussars were crushed and fled the battle. The Prussians did not pursue.

The view from behind Colonel Moller's artillery.

Actually at this point the game had to finish as we'd fought through from 11:00 until 3:30 with a short lunch break. The rules had taken some getting used to which had slowed things down a bit but it was impossible to say who would be the victor at this point. I therefore played some more moves on Friday and Saturday evenings.

The Austrian left wing cavalry are across the Morellenbach, supported by two battalions of infantry.

Gessler's cuirassiers turn to face the threat, but have already suffered some losses from Austrian artillery fire and musketry from across the Morelenbach. Nevertheless, both units are superior class cuirassiers and a match for the Austrian facing them.

The Prussians have rallied, reformed and launched another assault. The lead battalion is shattered by a combination of close range musketry, and is enfiladed by artillery, but the supporting units are unscathed.

The Austrians lost control of the Lobosch Hill and although an Austrian bayonet charge drove off one Prussian battalion the attackers were forced to retreat after being mauled by the Prussian reserves.

The Prussians drive back the central Austrian (Hungarian) battalion exposing their artillery to charges. The Grenadiers on the left are repulsed by close range canister, but the battalion on the right took the battery in the flank and overran it, exposing the flank of another Austrian battalion.

On the Prussian right the cavalry clash in a massive melee. 

In the centre the Prussians surge forward. The combined elite companies cavalry regiment had been driven off earlier by the Prussian artillery on the Homolka Mound, leaving only the Alt-Modena cuirassiers. Thankfully, the Prussian dragoon regiment in the centre had been targeted by the Austrian artillery over the brook and had also been forced to retire. 

Opposing cuirassiers clash in the centre. The Prussians already have some casualties from earlier in the battle and are a slight disadvantage as a result.

Prince Henry of Prussia and his big brother on the left encourage their troops forward into the centre of the Austrian line.

The Austrian right has crumbled, save for a lone grenadier battalion and a 12pdr battery.  Prussian guns had climbed the Lobosch Hill and helped drive off another battery and kept the retreating Austrians on the back foot. Unfortunately the Prussian troops in that sector were all straining under the weight of their casualties, and any further attacks would be risky affairs.

The Prussians have broken through in the centre.

The de Ligne regiment and the supporting howitzer battery are in full retreat, the guns abandoned. The Austrian CinC suddenly finds himself in the front rank!

Back to the cavalry melees, in the centre the Prussians are broken having come off worst in the combat, but the Austrians are also forced to withdraw to rally.

The Austrian dragoons were broken, routing through the infantry to their rear, but again their opponents (on the right) had taken enough casualties to force them to retire. The other Prussian cuirassiers fought dismally and were broken.

I called it a day at this point. The Prussians had broken through in the centre but had no cavalry left to speak of. They could basically ignore the Austrians on their right but whether it could be called a Prussian victory is open to discussion. Technically it was a Prussian minor victory, as despite their own losses, the Austrians had lost more and their right and centre were more or less broken.

So how did it play? We slowly got the hang of the rules as the day progressed but ran out of time. We made a few mistakes and there are a very few aspects of the rules we didn't like but overall the unanimous decision was that rules are good and we had an excellent game. Very satisfying in fact. The command sequence in the rules is critical to getting your battle plan into action. The Prussians got bogged down as they advanced, and were held up by having retreating units pass through several supporting ones, causing losses in their wake.

It wasn't a good day to be a general. Browne was a casualty quite early on, dropping from 'Dashing' to 'Dependable'. Bevern on the Prussian side started as 'Dashing' but was hit twice in rapid succession and finished the game as a 'Ditherer'. Quite a few other commanders were 'knocked on the head' as well. To explain, if commanders are within 15cm of a unit that takes a casualty there is a chance (an 11 or 12 on 2D6) that they have been hit by a stray bullet or cannon ball. It is amazing how many times were all managed to throw 11 or 12 during the course of the game. Of course, they're not necessarily dead, but their ability to conduct the battle has diminished due to a wound, death, the need to change their pants or losses amongst staff and aides de camp. It all added to the fun of the game.

We didn't like the fact that battalions without battalion guns (i.e. grenadiers) had a shorter firing range (20cm as opposed to 30cm) AND a minus1 when firing. It made quite a difference and I don't really think the absence or presence of a couple of 3pdrs should have such a significant impact on a fire fight. We also thought that canister range was much too long (50cm for a 12pdr). We did like the grazing fire rule and the ways the rules make you manage your casualties and units carefully.

Using my large units made absolutely no difference to the rules or the game. We just used the standard rules for 28/30mm figures and there were no issues (although we ignored the minus for shooting at cavalry in 2 ranks; it had to be more than 2 ranks, in say, column of squadrons.

Excellent game, and having spoken to John I have decided to leave it set up so we can refight it again now that we know the rules better. I think the Prussians certainly went into it with a Black Powder mentality (the Austrians did), but these rules are much more subtle, require much more thought, and feel right.