Sunday 20 March 2016

Something different, the French-Dutch War 1672

I was keen to get this as yet un-blooded collection on the table as a break from 18th century games. As I mentioned in an earlier post I have been amassing these figures in secret over a period of almost four years. Most I did myself but I did have some, e.g. most of the French cavalry, done for me. I knew (and indeed even now, know) very little about the French-Dutch war of 1672-78, but I fell in love with Mark Copplestone's Glory of the Sun King range of figures now available through North Star. Trawling eBay and several North Star sales and special offers has resulted in quite a tidy force, but a not quite finished one. Given the lack of information on the period I decided I would just make the forces look as colourful and diverse as possible, which I reckon I have achieved.

So, this week Paul came up for a trial game. I was unsure which rules to use, and was spoilt for choice: Pike & Shot? Black Powder? Beneath the Lily Banners? I''m not keen on the latter and although the other two sets could have worked especially as the former technically cover the period, I've gone off them a bit. So I made some quick amendments to Honours of War. Paul and I agreed to basically play test the amendments and make any changes necessary as we went along.

As it turns out I didn't have quite as many troops as I  thought, as I was sure I had some more Dutch horse and a couple more French and Dutch commanders. I still had enough for a reasonably balanced game, putting the Dutch on the defensive. I chose not to table my main Spanish force on this occasion as I don't  have any horse or artillery to complement the five regiments of foot. Next time.

So, the armies were arranged as follows:

French (Paul)
Commander in Chief:Dependable

Horse: Dependable
Horse grenadiers      x 1 small unit*
Maison du Roi         x  2   *
Cuirassiers du Roi   x  2*
Horse                       x  1

Independent units:
Dragoons                 x 2 small units**

Foot: Dithering
Gardes Francais       x 1 large unit*
Gardes Suisse          x 1*
Swiss Foot               x 2*
French Foot             x 2
Artillery                   x 1 light gun**

Foot: Dependable
French Foot             x 6
Artillery                   x 1 light gun**

Independent unit:
Artillery                   x 1 heavy gun**

Dutch (Me)
Commander in Chief: Dithering

Horse: Dithering
Dutch Horseguards  x 1*
Dutch Horse            x 2

Foot: Dashing
Dutch Footguards   x 2**
Dutch Foot              x 3
Artillery                  x 1 light gun**

Foot: Dependable
Dutch Foot              x 2
German Foot           x 2
Artillery                  x 1 light gun**

Independent units:
Artillery                   x 2 entrenched heavy guns**
Dismounted Spanish dragoons x 1**

The Dutch were holding a line along a river with four bridges. To win they had to deny at least two of them to the French, who were tasked with capturing at least three. The river was crossable if a 4-6 was thrown on a D6 for each terrain piece section whenever a unit was in contact with it. * denotes the unit was classed as superior, ** as inferior.

I chose to refuse my left and concentrate on defending the two stone bridges in the centre and on the right, ignoring the other two apart from posting my dismounted dragoons in the village covering the bridge on the extreme left. Paul chose to refuse his left also, which was to cause some delays to his master plan.

 The Dutch Army deployed behind the river. In the distance the Spanish dragoons hold the village.
 The commander of my outnumbered cavalry. He was a ditherer and almost all my orders failed to reach him.
 The imposing mass of the French army.
 The central Dutch brigade with the entrenched artillery to their left.
 The French advance. Paul had refused his left flank and all his foot were massed in the centre or on the right.
 This formation of French was tasked with assaulting across the river in the face of my entrenched heavy artillery. They tried very hard but were unable to break through.
 Paul ordered his other infantry brigade to cross the river on his extreme right opposite the village, lightly held by my dismounted dragoons.
 My dragoons facing impossible numbers of French and Swiss Guard, and Swiss and German regiments.
 The dragoons were assaulted by a german regiment but succeeded in driving them back shaken. Meanwhile a long tail of French and Swiss bypass the village in order to attack my refused left flank.
 The French attack in the centre grinding to a halt, under close range fire from my artillery battery as well as musketry from two of my regiments. It didn't help that much of the river they were attempting to cross was found to be impassable!
 The gallant Spanish dragoons flee from the village after taking crippling casualties from French artillery and infantry.
 As we were running the game partly as a play test for some period-specific amendments to the rules Paul thought he'd charge across the bridge into my infantry. He survived the 'closing fire' but despite causing some casualties on my infantry, his horse were bundled back in disarray. 
 On the right I'd finally managed to get my horse to move, and in the spirit of testing the rule amendments I crossed the river and attacked Paul's much superior and more numerous cavalry.  I contacted two squadrons of Maison du Roi and a troop of horse grenadiers head on but was flanked by another squadron of Cuirassiers du Roi. Predictably my flanked unit was shattered and broken. The squadron in the centre was forced to withdraw, but my Dutch Horseguards destroyed the horse grenadiers and went haring off round the back of the French army.
 A lone troop of French dragoons supporting their comrades in the centre. The other troop of dragoons had been broken earlier in the game.
 One of the French regiments rallying after failing to cross the river.
 The French attack in the centre. No amount of hat waving by their commander was going to get them to advance any further.
 The French on my left finally managed to deploy, but too late to interfere with the battle, especially as crossing points at this part of the river were not plentiful. 
 The Dutch artillery. They had an impact on the game but were not devastating, which is good as they ought not to be. Then again Paul did launch his central assault directly towards them, which resulted in a great many battered French infantry regiments which had to waste time rallying.

 Rallied after their failed attempt to cross the bridge this squadron of French cavalry has turned to face the victorious Dutch Horseguards which are threatening the French rear.
 Dutch Footguards lining the riverbank.
 A Dutch regiment supported by an allied Hanoverian battalion.
 The Dutch Horseguards.

At this point we called it a day. The French had captured two bridges and were very likely about to capture another now that the Dutch horse had been driven off. It was therefore deemed to be a French victory, although the Dutch would have been able to extract themselves easily enough.

The amendments to the rules worked rather well. I will publish them as a separate post shortly, after another game or so.

Monday 14 March 2016

The Combat at Zinna (1st Torgau) 8 September 1759

I haven't been able to organise a game with my neighbour Peter for ages. Fortunately we were able to play a smallish impromptu game on Saturday evening. I had already sorted out the orders of battle and stuff for this battle and the terrain was very simple so it took no time to set up. It was a great opportunity to put almost my entire Reichsarmee collection on the table, and there was even a chance they might win against a smaller Prussian force. I was able to recreate the battle without having to resort to any 'bath tubbing' so each unit in the battle was represented on the tabletop.

(Map from

I have no idea who some of the minor commanders on either side were so I've made some up based on the names of a couple of the regimental commanding officers.

Austrian-Imperial Army

Commander: FZM Sainte-Andre DEPENDABLE

Cavalry right wing: Anton Johann Count Hamilton DASHING
1st Line:
Austrian cuirassiers x 1*
Imperial cuirassiers x 1**
2nd Line:
Imperial Dragoons x 1**
Imperial cuirassiers x 1

Infantry centre:
1st Line: Colonel Count von Harscamp DITHERING
Imperial infantry x 7 (2 are **, 1 is *)
2nd Line: Colonel Gustav Friedrich von Biedenfeld DEPENDABLE
Imperial infantry x 5 (3**)
Cavalry left wing: Independent unit
Imperial cuirassiers x 1**

Independent unit(s)
Austrian hussars x 1** (on far right flank in woods but they would not take any part in the action)
Grenzer battalions x 2 (rallying at Zinna on 4 points)

* superior, ** inferior

Prussian Army

Commander: Gen. Lt .Wunsch (DASHING)

Right wing:
Infantry: Colonel Willemy (DEPENDABLE)
Freikorps Jagers x 1 small
Frie Btn infantry x 1**
Grenadiers x 1*
Fusiliers x 2
Independent unit:
Hussars x 1

Left Wing: Colonel von Wolfersdorff (DEPENDABLE):
Grenadiers x 1*
Fusiliers x 2
Frie Btn infantry x 1**
Independent units:
Dragoons x 1 *
Heavy artillery – 3 x 12pdr guns (off table 50cm from the edge in line with the right edge of ‘the thin red line’ hanging on my wall

* superior ** inferior

Peter had choice of sides and opted for the Prussians, which was fine by me as I got to play with my Reichsarmee for the first time. We used Honours of War which were new to Peter so I had to guide him a bit, but there were no problems and he picked them up really well.

 Battle lines are drawn. The Prussians have advanced towards the enemy and have already driven back some Imperial grenadiers and Croats. The latter are rallying in the town of Zinna under the watchful eye of Prussian hussars out of sight behind the wood in the far right corner. The little stream is a minor obstacle to any formed troops crossing it.
 The Prussians. Off table to their rear about where the painting is hanging is a battery of 12pdrs. They would be in range of any targets within 100cm of the Prussian table edge but Peter decided to limber up and bring them forward. This did of course take quite some time and denied the Prussians of any long range artillery support. The Imperial army of course has no field artillery, just battalion guns.
 One of two brand new units, the Mainz regiment. The flag is not correct but it looks nice.
 My other new regiment is the Swabian District Fusilier Regiment Alt-Wurttemberg.  At a pinch I could swap the flags and they'd do as a similarly-dress Prussian fusilier regiment if I ever needed to.
 The Austrian Bayreuth cuirassiers crash into the Prussian line. Predictably, although they survived the closing fire they were bounced in the melee and forced to retreat. They were to be out of the game for several turns while they tried to rally.
 Croats on the outskirts of Zinna, and behind them the Kurpfalz cuirassiers (in reality Hanoverian horse).
 The 1st line of the Imperial army failed its command roll due to the dithering of their commander. The second line however passed through and advanced towards the Prussians.
 The Prussian hussars charged the Kurpfalz Cuirassiers who countercharged. The hussars were repulsed and withdrew to lick their wounds but my cuirassiers failed to pursue, which is probably just as well as they had taken heavy casualties. 
 Very quickly a large gap appeared in the Imperial centre as one unit broke and others were forced to retire after a punishing exchange of musketry. Fortunately the Prussians had to pause to rally their line as well, which gave the Imperial commander a breathing space to bring up fresh troops from what had been the original front line.
 Imperial infantry closing in on the Prussian right, which is starting to buckle as one Frei Battalion has already broken.
 Rather fortuitously, and a turn early, the Prussian artillery arrives on the table edge.
 The Prussian left wing (every single unit) has had to be withdrawn to rally. The Imperial troops were sadly for me in no position to take advantage of this slight problem for the Prussians.
 In the far distance, the Freikorps Jager are holding off the badly damaged Imperial cavalry. They were on the brink of being forced to withdraw and one more hit on them would be enough, so I was hesitant about using them to clear the Jager away, especially as the Prussian hussars had now rallied. In the centre, one unit of Croats is annoying the flank of Peter's right wing while two fresh Imperial battalions advance to their front. The two Prussian grenadier battalions have also now rallied and are ready to advance back into the battle.
 The Mainz infantry regiment failed to move in the game as they had become isolated from the rest of their brigade and their commander. To be fair they were classed as 'inferior' for the game and their brigadier was a ditherer so perhaps no wonder..... And they were new to the table and escaped the 'new units always run away' condition!
 A better shot of the stand off between my cuirassiers and the jager. The hussars are ready to pounce should the cuirassiers try anything rash.
 This fusilier battalion had been forced to retire and is now rallying, covered by their comrades to their front who they had to pass through on their way to the relative safety of the rear.
 The Imperial cuirassiers advance but are too far away to charge home or catch their quarry, as the Jager evade safely.
 The Prussian artillery unlimber and proceed to knock chunks off the Imperial battalions rallying in the distance. My other new regiment, the Alt-Wurttemberg fusiliers breaks under the pressure and flees the field.

 Viewed from here the battlefield looks incredibly confused. It was! The Prussian grenadiers in the centre are now trudging forward with support from the 12pdrs to their rear. The fusiliers beyond them are holding the Imperial advance comfortably.
 On the Prussian left, the Imperial Bayreuth cuirassiers attempt a charge to the front of a Prussian Frei-battalion. The latter fail to stop them with a feeble volley but in the melee hold their own and break the cuirassiers. The Prussian dragoons have also rallied sufficiently to move them back into action. Any remaining cuirassiers on the Imperial right are on the brink of breaking so are no longer a threat as, being 'inferior' they are unable to retire far enough to rally any hits off.
 The Alt-Wurttemberg fusiliers having just taken the full force of the Prussian 12pdr battery.
 My Hessen-Darmstadt Leib Grenadiers still in action and managing to hold the centre.
 The opposition on the Prussian right is in full flight or withdrawing as the Prussians begin to sweep (albeit slowly) forward.
The real winners of the battle? Maybe.

So there ended what had been a rather fun game, with both sides having to harbour their forces and re-cycle units throughout the battle, only the Prussians could do it better, and faster. This is one of my favourite aspects of the rules as it makes you have to think. The impact on shooting, melee and rallying was very evident where the poorer quality of some of the troops on both sides were concerned, which felt right. The big battle winner were the two Prussian grenadier battalions, although the timely arrival of the artillery towards the end of the game was especially helpful as they were able to ensure that the Imperial units trying to rally in the rear were unable to as they kept them under a steady but not particularly devastating bombardment, but it was devastating enough! 

We actually had to stop the game after about two and a half hours as my back was giving me a lot of trouble, but it was clear then that apart from a miracle the Imperial army was doomed. I played a couple more moves on Sunday just to see what happened. There was no miracle although it wasn't the  complete and instant walkover it might/should have been as the Imperial left took longer to deal with as they resisted valiantly for a while, forcing the Prussians to retire and rally once again. 

Next week's game? I haven't a clue yet. I have plenty worked out but might take a break from the Seven Years War for a couple of weeks. I do know that Robbie is keen to play-test the game we're putting on at the AMG16 event in June. We shall see.

Friday 11 March 2016

The Battle of Breslau, 22 November 1757

As stated in the last post, this week I decided we would refight Breslau, the battle that would see the demise of one of Frederick's best commanders FM the Duke of Brunswick-Bevern, as his defeat, subsequent 'capture' and 'retirement' meant that for him the Seven Years War was over. He was lucky as three of the other Prussian generals present were court-martialled and imprisoned, one for three years.

Anyway, I digress. The battle was in my opinion a difficult one to recreate. That explains why I'd missed it out as it should have been played between Rossbach and Leuthen. I decided to focus on the main Austrian attacks on their left wing. There wasn't a great deal of action on the right wing, where Nadasdy was facing Zeithen in command of the Prussian left; certainly their contribution to the battle had little or no impact on the main action. Even by cutting off half of the battlefield the Prussians were outnumbered over 2:1, especially in cavalry.  Back in 1757 the Austrians had rapidly thrown seven pontoon bridges across the River Lohr, which ran across the Prussian front, and poured their troops across them, as the Lohr and its marshy banks was to all intents and purposes impassable to formed troops, horses and artillery. In the game, the only way to cross was by the five marked bridges/pontoons, although I allowed troops retreating as a result of poor morale to cross the river unhindered.
(map from

Austrian Army: Prince Charles of Lorraine (Dithering)

Right wing cavalry:
Gen der Kav Count Lucchesi (Dashing) ON TABLE TURN 2
Cuirassiers x 2*
Dragoons x 1*
Infantry centre:
GM Baron Andelau’s (& Weid’s reserve divisions) (Dependable) ON TABLE ACROSS THE R. LOHR FROM GRENADIERS, MOVES T1
Infantry x 3
6pdr battery x 1*
GM Count Macquire’s division (Dependable) MOVES TURN 2 IN CENTRE
Infantry x 3
6pdr battery x 1*
GM Count Stahremberg’s division (Dithering) MOVES TURN 2 OPPOSITE MARIA HOFCHEN
Infantry x 3
6pdr battery x 1*
GM Baron Haller’s division (Dependable) MOVES TURN 2 OPPOSITE PILSNITZ
Infantry x 3
7pdr howitzer x 1*
Left wing cavalry:
Gen der Kav Count Serbelloni (Dashing) MOVES TURN 4 OPPOSITE PILSNITZ
Cuirassiers x 2*
Dragoons x 1*
Gen der Kav Count Stampach (Dependable) AS ABOVE
Cuirassiers x 2*
Dragoons x 1*
Left wing infantry: Independent units, TURN 5 FACING ABATTIS
Grenz x 2 (no btn guns)
Reserve Grenadier Corps: GFWM Count Sprecher (Dependable) ALREADY ON TABLE TURN 1
Combined horse grenadiers/karabiniers x 1
Grenadiers x 3 (no btn guns) NB: I forgot to put the 3rd btn on the table!
Reserve artillery (Independent unit) ALREADY ON TABLE TURN 1
12pdr battery x 2*

Prussian Army: FM Augustus William the Duke of Brunswick-Bevern (Dashing)
Cavalry in reserve:
GL Baron von Kayau (Dependable)
Cuirassiers x 2*
GL von Pennevaire (Dashing)
Cuirassiers x 2*
Infantry right wing:
GL von Brandes (Dependable)
Grenadiers x 2*
Fusiliers x 1
12pdr battery x 2
GM von Rohr (Dependable)
Grenadiers x 1*
Feldjager x 1 (small unit)
Hussars x 1
Infantry centre:
GL von Lestwitz (Dependable)
Musketeers x 3*
12pdr battery x 2
GL Prinz Ferdinand von Preussen (Dashing)
Musketeers x 3*
12pdr battery x 1
7pdr howitzer battery x 1
Cavalry left wing: GM Prinz von Wurtemberg (Dependable)
Dragoons x 2*
Hussars x 2
6pdr battery x 1 
Cuirassiers x 2

We threw for sides. John got the Prussians and probably what he thought was the short straw. Robbie and I were the Austrians (Robbie was CinC and took the right flank and everything up to and including the reserve artillery). Our 'plan' was to get everything over the river asap, with the main thrust being on our left with my reserve cavalry under Serbelloni and Stampach. We were prepared to take heavy casualties from the Prussian artillery as we crossed the bridges in march column, but hoped that our artillery and weight of numbers would prevail, even against the superior quality Prussian troops. Well, as someone famous once said, "No plan survives the first contact with the enemy." How true!

The battlefield from the Austrian left. In the foreground the village of Pilsnitz, in the centre Schmiedefeld, then Maria-Hofchen and in the far distance Klein-Mochbern. All these villages were protected by entrenchments, well-fortified and each garrisoned by a battalion of infantry and a battery of artillery.
 IR 49 garrisoning Pilsnitz, supported by two battalions of grenadiers to their rear.
 The Prussian battery providing support to the garrison of Pilsnitz.
 A view from the west, along the main battle line. The Austrian grenadier corps can be seen in the far distance already across the river.
 The Prussian reserves, the cuirassiers of Generals Kayau and Pennevaire. These performance of these two brigades were to be crucial to the battle's outcome.
 The Austrian de Ligne regiment leads MacQuire's command across the river. This brigade struggled to get and stay across the river as it became the main point of attention for several Prussian batteries. Eventually they established themselves, more of which later.....
 The Prussian Gens d'Armes cuirassiers of Stampach's brigade.
 The Austrian grenadier corps had been badly mauled. One battalion had been broken and the horse grenadiers forced to retire. The command of Stahremberg is crossing the river to support the grenadiers, preceded by their artillery. In a rash/stunning/brilliant/foolhardy move, John advanced IR 19 Margraf Karl right up to the Austrian line to block their advance off the bridge. Thankfully for us the artillery was able to deploy and canister the Prussians while infantry managed to deploy off the bridge. Although John's move ultimately led to the destruction of his battalion, he succeeded in slowing the Austrian advance significantly.
 Robbie's infantry had no sooner got themselves sorted out after crossing the river than they were charged by Prussian hussars. The hussars were destroyed but the Austrian losses were mounting up.
 The Austrian battalion which had seen off the hussars withdrew to rally, while two more battalions continued to advance and put pressure on the Prussian centre. Sadly they were soon forced to retire, but not before driving off one battalion of Prussians.
 Finally, Count Lucchesi's cavalry were able to cross the river and support the remaining grenadier battalion in front of Maria-Hofchen.
 The Croats made a late appearance on the extreme Prussian right, and began trading shots with the grenadiers and feld-jager covering the army's right flank.
 Brunswick-Bevern and Charles of Lorraine pondering their next move while Stampach and Serbelloni's cavalry cross the river. John managed a succession of failed command rolls which meant his own cuirassiers were unable to both respond to this threat and/or atempt to stall the Austrian crossing in the centre.
 Stampach's brigade deploying under heavy artillery fire.
 Croats taking pot shots at the feld-jager and grenadiers.
 More Croats. More pot shots. Absolutely no effect whatsoever!
 Prussian and Austrian cavalry clash, Jung Modena dragoon regiment about to get a hammering at the hands of he Gens d'Armes.
 John pulled one of his cuirassier brigades out of the line (GM Kayau's) on the right flank and redeployed them to the centre where the Austrian pressure was beginning to tell. This move probably saved the day for the Prussians.
 Bypassing Maria Hofchen Austrian dragoons supported by artillery and several battalions of infantry start to drive into the Prussian centre.
 Back on the Austrian left, with the Jung Modena dragoons routed the Prussian cuirassiers followed up into the Alt Modena cuirassiers, breaking them before being forced to withdraw to regroup.
 The rallied Prussian hussars behind Maria Hofchen with the cuirassiers of GM Kayau. The ground between them and the village of Klein Mockbern is empty of any living Austrians.
 Similarly, there is an uninterrupted view to the south from the village of Prussians garrisoning Schmeiderfeld towards the Lohr.
 Prussian combined grenadiers easily held onto their position throughout the day, the Croats' fire being totally ineffective. The casualty marker is for a bounce through hit from a cannon ball.
 The wavering remains of the Austrian centre. All the battalions are close to breaking point.
 A detail illustrating the cards used to show a general's ability. The photos on the cards are each matched with the corresponding commander base. There are three versions for each general, for Dithering, Dependable and Dashing.

By this time we had played 9 moves including a good break for lunch.  On the Austrian right, they had managed to evict the Prussians from Pilsnitz but were unable to get troops across the river to take possession.  The left flank was battered as half the infantry had been driven off and all that remained was a brigade of heavy cavalry and a battery. In the centre the Austrians had crossed the river but had seen most of their battalions driven back across it. Some made several return journeys back and forth during the course of the battle as they withdrew to rally then were thrown into the fray again. Very WW1.  On the Austrian right it was the same. Most of the infantry was too exhausted to continue or had run away, leaving only cavalry and artillery to continue the fight.  To be fair, although the Prussians had only lost four or so units, many were on the very brink of being forced to withdraw and several had already been forced to retire and rally before, like their Austrian comrades, they were thrown back into action! I really like this particular aspect of the rules.  Poor GL Brandes commanding the Prussian right in and around Pilsnitz was killed and his replacement (who's ability was randomly selected and ended up being better than his boss's) was killed almost immediately afterwards. GM Lestwitz also had a knock on the head but otherwise that was it among casualties of the great and the good.

The final verdict was a tactical Prussian victory, as on the day, but they were so battered that, what with Nadasdy's corps largely untouched, Bevern would no doubt have been forced to follow the historical precedent and withdrawn across the Oder, leaving a sizeable garrison in Breslau that would surrender the next day. Bevern of course just happened to get himself captured by the Austrians. He was held captive for quite a while then released on the orders of Maria Theresa (a distant relative apparently) only to find himself sidelined for the rest of the war. And what of the survivors of the Prussian army at Breslau? They joined Frederick in time to get their own back at Leuthen just two weeks later! 

It  was a really tough game for both sides. John said he thought he'd loose at the start of the game, and I was quite confident that the Austrians could pull off a decisive victory. We were both wrong. If I ever replayed this one I might make the Rohr a little less difficult to cross; I struggle to work out how large numbers of Austrians could have rapidly deployed on he Prussian side of the river. Maybe I am missing something......

The rules (Honours of War) worked great and Keith now probably owes me a crate of Crystale champagne or a dozen bottles of very mature single malt :-)