Wednesday 29 June 2022

The Battle of Rossbach 1757: New Perspectives on the Battle and Campaign.

When I saw this was soon to be published I thought, ‘oh, not another book on Rossbach’. Well, it is just that, and more, but with a different perspective which makes it all the more interesting than a simple regurgitation of previous accounts would be. Helion and author/editor Alexander Querengasser have pulled it off again with this book, ‘The Battle of Rossbach, 1757: New Perspectives on the Battle and Campaign’ with a refreshing look at the battle with contributions from six respected historians, each with a different angle to explore. The book was originally published in German in 2017 but this translation for Helion by Rick Sanders is well written and structured, full of useful information and a really engaging read (I read it in one sitting ending at three o’clock in the morning and fell asleep with pencil notes and post-its all through the book!).

The book is split into six main chapters, each, as I’ve mentioned earlier, covering a distinct aspect for investigation. First there is an excellent chapter covering Prussia’s army on the eve of battle, next is a favourite of mine covering von Sachsen-Hildburghausen and the leadership of the much maligned Reichsarmee. My favourite chapter is that on the French army at Rossbach. I do like the French army of the eighteenth century, despite it emerging from a series of wars with a somewhat tarnished reputation. Nevertheless this chapter provides us with a useful and detailed breakdown of the army present at the battle, and some handy information on it was organised, it’s tactics and how it’s defeat impacted significantly on the army in the future. Further chapters explore the battle itself, an interesting look at the role of Saxony and finally the battle as a place of remembrance.
As one has become used to, the book is illustrated with many contemporary black and white images and a central eight-page spread of glorious colour illustrations, many of which are reproduced from contemporary paintings. One two-page specially commissioned painting by Peter Denis depicting the Prussian infantry in action against the French cavalry is wonderful on the eye.

Going back to the beginning of this piece, this new look at the battle is a welcome one, from my perspective at least, and I am sure many others with an interest in the Seven Years War will be similarly excited about the book which is No. 88 in Helions from Reason to Revolution series.

Interestingly, I’ve gamed this battle three of four times and the Prussians (or proxy Prussians in one disguised scenario) have never won as convincingly as did Frederick,  never loosing but coming close to a complete rout of the French and Reichsarmee only once. 

Tuesday 28 June 2022

Late Roman Campaign. Massive Battle Outside Praesidium Gehenae; Emperor Digito Feared Among the Dead.

This rather hot and claggy Saturday the Burrowers assembled to play what was being billed as the 'fight of the century', as the army of Paulinus Germanicus met the smaller and somewhat battered army of the (self-proclaimed) Emperor Digito, all part of the Late Roman campaign I've been running since last October. 

To set the scene, last time you may recall that Digito and his Ostrogoth allies had suffered a minor'ish defeat at the hands of Johannes Rufus the Butcher (or is that the Butchest?) north east of the capital of the province Praesidium Gehenae. Digito withdrew on his capital to counter the threat from Paulinus' army that had been marching up the roads from Maluscastra. Johannes' army was slow to pursue as the surviving Ostrogoths under their leader Jazzeric were doing a good job of laying waste to the countryside around the towns of Rubrumraeda and Aquanegra. They were also trying to locate and free the elderly, infirm and child prisoners Johannes' army dragged away from the sacked town of Tabularasa, home of the previously peaceful Ostrogoths. The Emperor had sent a message for assistance to his ally Stupiddus Soddus, Comes of Asienus Superior, and this army had at once begun a forced march to rendezvous with the Emperor at Praesidium Gehenae. [Unbeknown to  everyone, the bridge linking both banks of the River Asienus south west of the capital was destroyed, and had been since about turn two of the campaign. Nobody asked, but Jazzeric's father King Miseries Psychosis had ordered several key bridges to be destroyed before his untimely demise.  Not this one though, as this was just down to poor m maintenance, bad luck and timing]. This was to have a significant impact on the battle.

The Triumvirate

Paul (Paulinus), supported by Conrad and Neil were facing Richard (Digito) with assistance from Nigel (Stuppidus Soddus in the campaign) and me. Paul's army was approx 1,400 points against Richard's 1,000, but Nigel's army of around 1,000 points was also en route to support him should he arrive in time. We used the excellent Sword and Spear rules. With the exception of eight legions and a couple of units of cavalry belonging to Richard, the figures and terrain are all mine.

Reporters were embedded within both armies so I am sure we will read more about this battle and the consequences of the outcome on the province in the pages of the Asienus Gladiator in due course, but for now I give you lots of pictures and some details on how the battle panned out for  both sides.

The Emperor Digito watches as his bolt shooters start peppering the enemy.
Digito's left flank securely resting on the gates of Praesidium Gehenae.
Digito's centre was held by several large units of Foederati warriors. 
Paulinus' centre. 

I commanded Digito's right wing; all his cavalry in fact.
Digito's army stands firm as Paulinus' troops can be seen advancing in the distance.

The lines get ever closer.
Paulinus' right wing under Conrad advanced slowly and deliberately towards the enemy.
Paulinus' auxiliary archers managed to drive off one of Digito's bolt shooter units. The Emperor had been encouraging them when he stopped several arrows and tumbled from his chariot dead before he hit the ground. Disaster for his army but most units survived the discipline test caused by his demise and the battle raged on. 
It was starting to get messy in the centre.

On our right, Paulinus' cavalry was overwhelmed by superior numbers and troops and Neil's captain  was killed in action, leaving that wing leaderless.

Conrad's cataphractoi smashed into Richard's line.

Richard's left wing is in trouble.

Several fierce combats took place all along the line. Paulinus' superior numbers eventually began to tell.

Paulinus had plenty of reserves available to tackle Richard's victorious cavalry on the wing.

My cavalry on the Emperors right swung round to take on the enemy centre.

Richard's centre is beginning to crumble.

.....but they were not giving up easily.

Wagons loaded with the Emperor's treasures loaded and ready to leave.

Conrad's cataphractoi were slowly gaining the upper hand.

Some of my cavalry swept in on the troops guarding Paulinus' centre, and several legions were ridden down.

So end all (alleged) traitors.

Digito's centre then very quickly collapsed and my cavalry were spent. The remains of Digito's army either fled, were cut down or changed sides. This was a significant victory for Paulinus and his allies and with Digito now out of the frame it would appear that for the time being at least status quo has returned to the province. [Ok, there are Huns and Visigoths running riot in the west of the province but they would be unlikely to make any further progress now that the Romans had stopped fighting each other, for the time being]. Nigel's army had been unable to join Richard. Had he done so then I suspect the outcome would have been very different. As it is, Nigel and his men pulled back to their base, denying any intention of joining in the battle.

As ever these rules gave us a terrific game. Despite it being a massive game we got through lots of moves and by 3:30 we had a winner!

The result means that we can now pause the campaign and move on to other stuff. Asienus is quiet again, for the moment.......

Monday 20 June 2022

I Blame Tim Whitworth………in a good way.


Actually I don’t blame Tim, and I am thankful for the idea he set running in my head. Here we have the solution to some of my storage problems in the shape of a terrain shed. 

I’ve not even half filled it yet, but that’ll soon be sorted. The shed is supposedly weather proof but there’s nothing in there that shouldn’t survive being out in the cold. Now what can I find to fill it up……?

Tuesday 14 June 2022

War of 1812 playtest of 'Soldiers of Napoleon'

British/Canadians on the left, Americans on the right.

OK, so no sign of Napoleon or his soldiers on the table but I saw these rules at Partizan and thought they looked promising, or different.  I don't need another seat of Napoleonic rules as I'm confused enough as it is with those I already play, but, I thought, these are card driven, which is always fun (for the umpire at least hahahaha!).

De Mueron's Regt on the British right.

Something smallish (what? will never happen!) was called for so rather than using my French Revolutionary Wars armies (sans Napoleon of course) I opted for the War of 1812 collection. It didn't take long to classify most of the different troop types in line with SoN, although some such as Native Americans and the various skirmish types and the mounted riflemen were tricky. As it was a multi-player game each of the players would command a single brigade (as it turned out a couple had two brigades). 

I had an embryonic 1812 collection for a few years but have been seriously collecting and gaming the War of 1812 ever since Covid lockdown #1 and find it a fascinating conflict, so I was keen to see if SoN gave me something that Black Powder didn't. (I like BP and Gen D’Armee but as I'm a rules butterfly I'm too often prone to pick up others to try out).  

It was a fictional encounter battle somewhere around the Lake Erie with the Americans trying once again to conduct a special operation and liberate the oppressed Canadians from their despotic British rulers.

Richard, Shaun and Nigel were the Anglo Canadians while John, Neil and Conrad were the American invaders. Apart from throwing back the Yankees the vital (?) bridges and road junctions were nominated as objectives. To accommodate the rule about off table artillery fire I said that there was a fort and a gunboat on the lake that would do the job if the card was played. The photos are a mixture of mine and Richard’s and have become hopelessly mixed up and out of order so apologies if this is confusing. [you should have been there to see what real confusion looked like during the game]. I've not captioned all the photos as they speak for themselves really.

The British unlimber a gun to cover the bridge and main road.

In their centre the British set up their Royal Marine  rocket section which  despite a tremendous display of pyrotechnics failed to hit anything the whole game.

The British centre.

The US troops quickly occupied the farmstead in the centre.

Glengarry LI advancing.

Suffice to say it turned into a bit of a bloodbath. The British pushed through the American centre, driving back or destroying several regiments of US  regulars, but loosing heavily in the process. There was little action on the British left and on the right they stormed the farm occupied by Neil's troops, but although driving the garrison off were repulsed. When I tallied up the VP's the Americans had a clear advantage so that and the tabletop objectives resulted in a small victory for their forces.

How were the rules? The mechanics worked fine and I shall happily play them again (in a European context perhaps) but despite the card driven nature of the game (which I really like) the jury is out until then. My only observations were an absence of ranges on the QRS (minor), the short movement distances for infantry, and doubts as to whether the rules can be readily and easily adapted for the big multi-player games that I run here at the Burrow. I accept that they're aimed at the later Napoleonic period (which does actually cover the War of 1812) and  I suspect one-on-one games on a 6' x 4' table rather than my monstrosity which meant that the two main battle lines took several turns to get into range of each other.  Overall, 7/10 for now.