Wednesday 29 August 2018

Another GdA test game. Franco-German Border 1793/94

John the Red came over yesterday afternoon for another game to try out General d'Armee.   There are still things I've been forgetting or getting wrong but the rules are becoming clearer as they're used more. I set up what was labelled 'an encounter between screening forces', with numerically more or less equal sides but with varying degrees of troop quality to liven it up and ensure the game wasn't completely balanced. Both sides had four brigades, generating a total of four ADCs, but I gave the French an extra ADC for having a better commander. Historically I should have  docked both sides ADCs as neither armies were especially well led during this part of the Revolutionary Wars, but it was just a game so who cares? True to his Jacobin principles John took the French while I was happy to command my lovely and unwieldy Austrians (with a couple of Emigre units thrown in the mix for fun). Thirty-two figures battalions in line take up about a foot in frontage and are a pig to manoeuvre!

The Austrian right wing. The troops in the centre can just be seen in the distance.
The French right; a brigade of cavalry of dubious quality.
One of the three Austrian hussar regiments. This one was to bravely charge French infantry crossing the bridge but  unsurprisingly their attack was halted, many saddles were emptied, and they were forced to retire. Rallied, they took their turn later in the game duffing up the French chasseurs a coeval and dragoons.
The French centre before it began its advance.
John had great plans for his 8pdr battery, positioned in the centre to give me grief.  They only ever caused one casualty on a Hungarian battalion, but spent most of the game in 'hesitant' mode so were unable to move or shoot at long range. My artillery was no more effective though! 
The Austrian left wing cavalry advanced to the stream. Two regiments of elite  hussars accompanied by  a  poorer regiment of emigres, the Hussars de Rohan. 
My hussars preceded to make hard work of driving off John's 'recruit' class chasseurs and supporting dragoons. The fighting on this flank continued for the entire game as regiments charged, counter-charged, were forced to retreat or pulled back to reform. It was actually quite exciting despite the fact that even my large elite regiments failed to gain sufficient advantage (due to poor dice scores) to win. By the end of the battle most units were carrying quite a few casualties and a couple were teetering on the brink of extinction.
My central brigade spent most of the battle hesitating and doing nothing spectacular. I should have  deployed my cannon elsewhere to give them a better field of fire but hey ho!
More of the swirling cavalry melee.
On my right I pushed the infantry straight ahead using a 'forwards' order to try and  close with the French before they could gain the advantage of the hedge line and sunken track. It worked well except I left my artillery behind.
French skirmishers trading shots (and winning) with my troops behind the hedge line on my right.
Meanwhile, in the centre, where I hadn't been able to move, John pushed the French into and through the woods, driving the O'Donnell Freikorps (in green) ahead of them. There were no Austrians between these troops and my baseline.
Thankfully, my reserve was due to enter the fray from their position off table.  I managed to get enough ADCs together and avoided hesitant roll so the reserve, two battalions combined grenadiers and an Emigre battalion, the 'Regiment Noble de Conde' arrived just in time to face the onslaught of eight French battalions!
Remarkably/thankfully, the French attack stalled and they failed to move the grenadiers and Emigres, who saw them off with some very ineffective musketry. But see them off they did, not that it made any difference of course as events were unravelling for the Austrians elsewhere on the table. A Hungarian regiment (to the right just out of shot) of two battalions, were driven off, destroyed or captured as they were hit in the flank and the front simultaneously. This resulted in their brigade faltering.
The troops on my right bravely assaulted the French horse artillery. Most of the casualties you can see on the latter were caused on themselves by racking up an impressive number of fatigue casualties during the course of the game. When the Austrians charged the battery John threw a '3' resulting in another fatigue casualty and none on their target. Thankfully the supporting infantry blasted the Austrian attack to a halt before they could get into contact, and I was forced to retreat.
The Austrian commander at the end of the battle, sending off his report back to HQ. "Some significant skirmishing has taken place today, resulting in some heavy losses amongst our regiments. The enemy cavalry has however been neutralised as a fighting entity as it took a severe mauling at the hands of our heroic hussars." Figures painted by Mark Allen.

For a little game it was quite an afternoon and we got through a good ten or so moves in about four hours of actual gaming. I still don't know if we are 100% conversant with the rules but they work and I especially like the charge sequence and mechanics. Being 'unformed' doesn't seem to be much of a problem to troops in combat (well in this game it didn't) and some of the shooting results can produce some extremes in terms of casualties, especially self-inflicted ones!

John's cavalry was out of it, but mine weren't in a much better state. My centre was faltering, and although it survived its first faltering test I doubt it would have been so lucky the next time as the French were piling the pressure on in the centre and had held my attack on the right. A marginal French victory seemed the right outcome for the game.

Good game I think. Thanks to John for coming over. I was knackered but a pleasant way to spend the afternoon.  No more games for a week or so but Border Reiver in Gateshead is on Saturday.

Sunday 26 August 2018

Zorndorf refought - 260 year anniversary game.

As the title says, Saturday was the 260th anniversary of the Battle of Zorndorf in the first half of the Seven Years War (25 August 1758). Conrad, Nigel, Paul S, Shaun, Douglas from Edinburgh'ish and Paul from Grimsby came to the Burrow on the promise of a decent-sized wargame preceded by bacon butties.

In my previous post I described how each side would receive their briefing, i.e. with the use of suitably edited photos of the battlefield from the perspective of either the Prussians or Russians. They were to use these photographic panoramas to make their plans.

Anyone not familiar with this battle see here for a full description.

I decided to use Black Powder for this game as they can handle really large battles and with the inclusion of some appropriate house rules they work pretty well, most of the time. Marmite rules for certain. Of course the big test is whether players play the rules or the period. As expected with my illustrious guests, they all play, and indeed played on this occasion, the period. Even when I explained a couple of perfectly legal but very gamey tactics, which had they employed would have resulted in the entire general staff of whichever side did so to fall victim to random cannon balls.

Nigel (Count Fermor, the Russian CinC) and Douglas (Saltykov) wanted to be Russians (?) so the others threw dice to see which coat they would wear for the day. Conrad joined the Russians (as General Browne in charge of the Observation Corps). Shaun was Manteuffel in the centre, Paul S was von Seydlotz while Grimsby Paul was von Dohna in charge of the right wing. I think technically Shaun was also Frederick. I don't know as the Fred figure and his associated hangers-on didn't move the entire game and was rooted to the spot for the whole game near the burning village of Zorndorf.

As usual the pictures will tell the story of the battle and how it developed and how plans unravelled (for both sides) during the course of the game.
The Russians conferring on the patio. Russian army on the left. Prussians on the right. 
The main body of Prussian infantry under Shaun von Manteuffel.
Seydlitz's cuirassier and supporting hussars on the Prussian left commanded by Paul S.
The Russian right and centre under Nigel and Doug made a small movement forward to  align themselves with their artillery.
Conrad was planning to reposition the Observation Corps artillery from behind the wood to somewhere it could do some good. He threw  a blunder (the only one of the game) and the guns veered left right into a swamp, which being impassable to artillery, mean the artillery were lost. Not a good start.
Paul working out the likely outcome of Conrad's all out charge with his cavalry. It seems the Russian plan was to hold in the centre and on the right and attack with Conrad's cavalry and the Observation Corps. It didn't go quite to plan. The Russian hussars (all four regiments) were all bounced back shaken by the wicked von Reusch Hussars. The Russian cuirassiers were initially successful but were then defeated by the Prussian second line and forced to retreat shaken, putting the entire Russian left wing cavalry out of action by the end of turn 3 as the majority of the regiments in the brigade were shaken or broken!
Russian hussars falling back in the face of their Prussian counterparts.
Paul pushed his infantry up towards the Russians lurking in the wood.
In the background Russian line infantry and the Observation Corps emerge from the wood  and temporarily put a half to the Prussian advance. The Prussian fusilier regiment No 49 was left exposed and unable to move, but Paul's cuirassier were able to pull back out of range of the Russian infantry.
The Prussian advance as seen from behind the Russian centre.

The Prussian attack led by Shaun is taking lots of casualties off the Russian artillery.   Shaun is able to push his second line through the battered first line. The 'new' first line is quickly pulverised and the entire brigade is forced to withdrawn.
The remaining infantry on the Prussian left are soaking up significant musket and cannon shots. They won't last long without some serious intervention. Shaun's reserve cavalry on von Marshall's dragoon brigade  are being lined up for something.
The battlefield from the Prussian right looking along the line towards their left flank.
The Russians on the right have been able to see off several furious Prussian attacks.
Back on the Russian left the Prussian attack has stalled. 
The Prussians almost close with the Russian line on their left but the second brigade  is forced to fall back shattered.
At this point the Russian commander Count Fermor decided he had to retreat 'to have a wound dressed' or check something in the rules perhaps.  Either way the coward buggered off! Command then devolved on Saltykov.
Shaun launched a series of charges with his dragoons to buy some time and cover the retreat of his infantry. Predictably, and in the face of point blank canister fire, they bought about 37 seconds!
More successful was Paul's attack on the flank of the Russian line with the HR7 Malachowsky. They just made it over the stream and crashed into the flame of the leading Russian battalion, forcing it to retreat. They then crashed into the flank of another Russian battalion which they also forced to retreat.
Back on the other flank the Prussian cuirassiers crashed into the flank of the leading Observation Corps battalion with a fortuitous follow me order. The infantry were pushed back, the cuirassiers followed up, and the infantry were shattered, taking their supporting battalion with them. In one move what looked like a Prussian defeat had been turned into the likelihood of a Prussian victory. Nail biting stuff!

Nigel's dragoons then crashed into the rear of the Prussian hussars. In Black Powder cavalry can turn to face so in the melee the hussars did rather well but were forced to take a beak test as they'd become shaken. They broke, taking their commander GM Malachowsky with them. The Russians could not follow up as they too were shaken. (The Russian dragoons were very, very, poor troops but most of us thought that their charge into the rear of the hussars might have been a little more effective. It wasn't a bad result though surely?)
The Prussian cuirassiers had been waiting for this moment since traversing the stream and crashed into the Russian dragoons, breaking them instantly. Also visible here are the remnants of the two broken Prussian infantry brigades and the battered but not broken dragoons. The Russian artillery were holding firm and would not give up their cannon under any circumstances.
After breaking the dragoons the cuirassiers hit the Russian St Petersburg Horse Grenadiers. A tougher target but they still prevailed, forcing them to retreat shaken. This meant that the Russians had reached their army break point in terms of broken brigades and a rather Pyrrhic victory was declared for the Prussians. 

In reality I suspect that with little infantry remaining under arms the Prussians would not have been able to exploit their victory, in much the same way as the Russians, with no cavalry left this side of the Oder, their infantry having taken a pasting and their artillery lost or likely to be overrun, would have struggled to continue the fight.

The game played out more or less true to history. Aggressive Prussian attacks saw their infantry spent. The Russian cavalry on both wings was destroyed. Stalemate. Everyone agreed it was a tough and highly enjoyable game. It was a big battle with lots of troops on the table yet we got a good result. The last time I played Zorndorf the Prussians took a right hammering. If I was to try and unpick the game, the Russians were unlucky their left wing artillery blundered into a swamp and sank, and perhaps their hell for leather cavalry attack on the same wing was a little uncoordinated with their infantry. What was a great feature of the game was that with the demise of the Russian left wing it looked like a Prussian victory was more likely, yet the repulse of the main Prussian attack swung the outcome back in favour of the Russians. It was only the timely flank attacks by both Pauls (in the centre and on the left) that dragged victory from the jaws of defeat and saw a Prussian victory of sorts.

I still feel slightly uncomfortable using BP for these big games but, like Marmite, you like it or you don't. I see their merits and they work for the sort of games I like so unless anything better comes along will continue to use them.

Thanks to everyone to coming for the game, especially Paul and Doug from Grimsby and Edinburgh respectively, and I guess I better get thinking about the next big game. The bacon butties were much appreciated and I shall do them again.

Saturday 25 August 2018

Zorndorf today.

Saturday is the 260th anniversary of the battle of Zorndorf, fought between the Prussians of Frederick the Great and the Russian army. This was the first time Frederick has personally  encountered  the Russians and the real battle ended in a bloody stalemate.

We're refighting the game today, and for a bit of fun I'm using the photos below to brief the players and to help them plan for the battle INSTEAD of giving them sight of the tabletop or anything other than very rudimentary maps (no maps at all for the Russians unless they brought their own Michelin Guide to Prussia). The top four pictures show the Prussian army deployed ready to attack, as seen from the Russian lines at almost tabletop height.

The Prussian left
The Prussian centre
The burning village of Zorndorf

The Prussian right

The next five pictures show the Russian lines from the perspective of the attacking Prussians.
The Russian left
A mass of Russian infantry stretching from the left flank to behind the wood.
Russians lurking behind the wooded area in their centre.
Lots of Russians in the centre.
The Russian right wing.
 Different yes. Will it work? Maybe. We shall see. Bacon butties will be available from 09:30 followed by commencement of hostilities at 10:00/10:30. A full report will follow over the course of the weekend.

Monday 20 August 2018

The Other Partizan 19 August 2018

Sunday saw us (Katherine my intrepid driver/wife/carer and I) pop down to Newark for 'The Other Partizan.' At only a little over an hour and a half door to door now we have moved to Teesside it is a far more attractive proposition than many other shows. We parted company as soon as we had driven around the Vegan Cook Out campers and parked the car (right outside the main entrance) so Katherine could do some work while sitting in the comfort (?) of the canteen area. (She does website design if anyone interested). I had my meagre (hahahaha!) shopping list and a list of pre-orders (which don't count as money has already changed hands) together with a large consignment of figures to collect that my mate Barry had painted for me.

In no particular order here are a few photos of some of the games. I took almost 100 photos and still missed most of demonstration games and all of the participation ones but these are a very random sample of the many games that I had reason to stop at, chat to the players and generally admire (or not) the layout and figures.

My favourites were the Sands of the Sudan (Dave Docherty), Gadesbusch from the Great Northern War (Like a Stone Wall) and Magnesia (Simon Miller). If I was to wholly honest Ian Smith's 40mm ACW game, complete with gunboat and fortress was inspirational in many ways, and getting the terrain built professionally clearly lifts the game to another level, but seeing it in the flesh was almost a bit of an anti-climax. Odd.  (Ian, if you're going to trash it all when you're done can I have some of the fortress guns please?)

As always the best bit of the show was the food. No. I jest. I really do. As usual it was the meeting up with lots of friends and acquaintances for a chat and to discuss our wonderful hobby that made the trip worthwhile. The show seemed a little quieter than the May Partizan but that may have been an illusion or the drugs. Well done the organisers, and I'm looking forward to Partizan 2019.