Monday 9 November 2020

War of the Polish Succession and a disguised wargame scenario

 On Saturday I hosted another remote wargame at The Burrow. The set up can be seen in the previous post Here . Particularly astute readers will have recognised the scenario as a disguised refight of the Battle of Rossbach on 5 November 1757, (so played almost on the anniversary) but shifted 25 years backwards, a few hundred miles south and with a largely whole new cast. In this game the Austrians took the place of Frederick’s Prussians while the Spanish morphed into the Reichsarmee. The French of course stayed French. We had a reduced lineup due to work commitments and the pandemic, but Conrad and Neil played the Austrians while Paul, Richard and Mark were the French/Spanish. I don’t think anyone other than Mark recognised the actual battle before I mentioned it at the start so well done. I’ve refought this battle at least twice I think. Once at the Battleground 2015 show and once at home when we lived up the Dale. On both occasions the Prussians won, but only just in one case, and not decisively in the other. It’s a difficult one to get right and still remain a playable game for the French and Co. I think I created a balanced game. In this refight  the French could react to the Austrian cavalry onslaught if a little luck were to be on their side, while the Austrians would have to be planning several moves in advance if they were to overwhelm the enemy and not allow their cavalry to get ground down too much to remain effective in the later stages of the game.

The Austrians won the initiative, which was vital if their plans were to work. Note that the Austrians were not turned into proto-Prussians but still retained their own national traits as outlined in Honours of War, so only their grenadiers and cavalry were classed as superior. I decided that their artillery should be standard rather than superior because (a) they represented Prussians and (b) superior artillery is very effective in the rules, maybe too much so. The French and Spanish were a mixture of superior, such as the Guards and Swiss/Irish battalions plus the Royal Carabiners. The Spanish were inferior except for their guard and foreign battalions whom I made standard. Spanish horse and French dragoon’s were rated inferior. So, on to battle.

The Austrian grand battery with their infantry deployed behind the ridge.
The allied cavalry, 11 regiments in all, advancing in column towards the previously unseen Austrians.

Austrian cavalry facing the oncoming columns of French and Spanish.

The main body of the Franco-Spanish army, four brigades of infantry, 14 battalions in all.

Although they had the initiative the Austrians failed to get a double move which would have allowed them to charge the French while they were still in march column. This gave the French under Mark the opportunity to shake out from column to meet them next turn. (I allow all cavalry to form top in two ranks without penalty as it is more pleasing on the eye).

The allied second cavalry brigade deploy out of column. 

Two brigades of French horse at the rear of the cavalry formation shake out from column

Next turn the opposing cavalry clash. Losses are heavy and both sides see units break or pull back shattered. This is one of the key danger points for the Austrians (or indeed the Prussians in previous refights) as they risk getting sucked into a series of cavalry melees that gradually deplete their leading regiments to the point of destruction).

Neil marched his leading infantry brigade forwards right through the artillery, preventing them from firing for two turns.

The battlefield from behind the Austrian lines.

Although gaining the upper hand two Austrian cuirassier regiments were destroyed as a result of continuous action against the enemy.

The French and Spanish cavalry had also been thinned out and half of the first and second lines had been driven off or routed.

Neil's infantry cleared the guns just as his second brigade made their appearance.

Turn 4 and the cavalry melee is STILL going on.Add caption

Neil's second line made a left turn, formed column. and began marching around the cannon.

The Austrian cavalry have now broken through to the final line of French horse.

Neil's second brigade on the march.

Richard was in command of two fine brigades of French infantry, five battalions and two batteries in all.

Paul meanwhile had been force marching his infantry out to the flank and Richard formed his brigades into line. Seen here are battalions of the Irish regiments Rooth and Bulkley.

Conrad began pulling his bruised cavalry back to reform. There were only five out of the original ten regiments still capable of fighting, after they'd been able to rally some hits off.

The surviving French and Spanish horse found themselves stuck between the two opposing lines of infantry. The managed to extricate themselves at the cost if holding up their infantry advancing to their rear.

Austrian grenadiers close with the French

In the background the Spanish infantry are pushing towards the left while the Irish brigade deploys to engage the Austrians to their front.

Conrad pulled the remains of his cavalry back to regroup and rally off some hits. 

The main Austrian grand battery recommences firing.

The rather confused French centre, with the remains of the French and Spanish cavalry pulling back to rally.

The Austrians advanced into close range of the French.

The Irish brigade holds the centre but is taking a battering from the Austrian artillery.

The Spanish can be seen deployed into line, supposed by a battery pouring canister into the Austrian line. 

On the Austrian left one of their battalions breaks under the weight of fire from French infantry and canister fire.

The Spanish guard and their supporting artillery break a battalion of Austrians.

The Spanish have now all shaken out into line. 

Spanish artillery pounding the Austrians at point blank range.

A few long shots of the main lines of battle. 

The now silent Austrian battery

Confusion across the battlefield.

So at the end of Turn 14 the game came to an end, with neither side holding a significant advantage. The Austrians did well in holding off the Austrian horse, and in the final turn had broken two battalions of Austrian infantry, one by the Spanish infantry and close range artillery, the other by the French Guards. It is interesting to speculate on what would have happened if we'd been able to finish the game to a definite decision. The Austrians still had four regiments of cuirassiers and one of hussars left, with barely a scratch on any of them. By comparison the Allied cavalry had been reduced to three regiments, two French and one Spanish. The infantry had barely begun to fight so the early loss of two Austrian battalions was a critical one, but if pressure could have been maintained along the line, especially against the somewhat flakey and unsupported Spanish, then perhaps the French on the right would begin to suffer for being so congested if they were forced to retreat. Who knows? I enjoyed setting up and running this game, and am being pulled back into the 18thC, so much so that I've started painting another battalion of French, and finished basing up another two battalions of Frenchmen.

Hindsight being such a wonderful thing, had I been playing on the French side I think I'd have sacrificed the leading cavalry brigade to delay the Austrians and pulled the others back onto the advancing infantry, well outside of the the range of the Austrian artillery. The infantry could then have stood firm or led the way in a slow and limited advance, where superior numbers rather than quality might well have prevailed. On the Austrian side, I've played them (as far better Prussians) twice and fallen into the same trap on both occasions. Easy to say, especially as I've failed to do it myself previously, but the Austrians have got to avoid mutually assured destruction with their cavalry. Their artillery would I feel be better used limbering and advancing with the infantry given that they lost three moves of shooting whilst being marched through by 5000 sweaty blokes from the far corners of the Empire. Whatever. Anyway, it was a great game and everyone enjoyed themselves and yet again the technology (at least as it scooted into the ether from the Burrow) worked well, although I think one or two players suffered occasional buffering problems intermittently through the game.

Another Saturday of gaming over, I was planning on a session with the Virtual Wargames Group but I gave up after about half an hour as I needed to have a lie down.  Next Saturday, another game I hope. Not sure what yet, but plenty of time to decide.


  1. A beautiful looking game Colin:)

  2. Another splendid Burrow Spectacle! A lie down was more than deserved.

  3. Marvellous stuff Colin...
    As always...

    All the best. Aly

  4. What can one say? A magnificent spectacle, just what I need to inspire me in these lacklustre times. And do I detect that you're still using Honours of War?

    1. Thanks Keith, yes back to HoW for 18thC. Keep meaning to try your other 18thC set

  5. Colin, this is quite a feast for the eyes. Wargaming in an epic fashion. Great stuff and as Keith says, "inspiring."

  6. Great looking game although I can't see why you should use Spaniards with a Rossbach-Scenario in the WPS. The WPS had many interesting battles in itself (all large battles were played by myself using my own Scenarios as could be found on the HoW-forum) although not one of them including Spaniards. It's nice to see you using the HoW-rules again. Cheers!