Sunday, 18 March 2018

Twin battles: Napoleonic and Ancient

We are back blogging* with two firsts for the ANF: two battles in a week involving the three of us and a fictitious game of Napoleonics! Reports of these are the topic of this first blog entry in nine months.

*We've been doing heaps of wargames and related fun, but I had a bad case of lack of blogging mojo for most of the past year (...and even earlier).

1) Fictitious Napoleonics
Our history-making (!) two games in a week began on Saturday 4th February with a fictitious game of Napoleonics (aka THE period), this one seeing the Austrians against a French-allied army. I had made the suggestion to Mark to do a 'quick and easy' game of Napoleonics. I'd bring along some of my French-Allied figures and he could use any of the allies that he had to hand. He chose to go Austrian.

Pleasingly, Julian, recently returned from another overseas mystery tour, was able to join us. He, unsurprisingly, chose to go Austrian along with Mark.

So, once again it would be the two mis-guided wargamers taking the forces of the status quo against me leading the forces of the enlightenment(!).

In a 'surprise' move, I attacked with my right (most strange for a right-handed wargamer)

First blood to the Austrians as the 2nd Erzhog Josef hussars broke two of 1st division's light infantry that had failed to form square. (They then recalled safely behind their horse artillery).

Wvenge! My 4th hussars catch the 2nd chevaulegers in a compromising position. Austrian cavalry brigade now 'demoralised'.

End turn 5: first French attack on centre-left blunted by volley-fire.

Very much in balance. The Austrian centre was holding firm against repeated French attacks, most of which have been stalled by the Kaiserschlick's musketry,...

although there were some local successes, as you may notice at right of the Austrian line).

Having finally sorted out the entanglement of the infantry and cavalry on my left flank (clearly I'm out of practise with Napoleonics!), I have them in place to attack the Grenz holding the Austrian left. Unfortunately those d@mned Austrian cavalry have recovered from their demoralisation.

The légère of my 2nd division finally retreated after several unsuccessful attacks.

Time to send the dragoon brigade to support the attack.

A combined-arms mêlée on the Austrian right which unfortunately involved *those* 2nd Erzhog Josef hussars who were again victorious!

The French 1st division attack on the Grenz was more successful.

Over on the Austrian left, Mark unleashed the heavies against my French dragoons.

Winning the mêlée, the Kaiser's men breakthrough, sending a lead infantry unit from 3rd division packing.

The French horsemen rallied behind the corps artillery.

Lead by the Croatian regiment, which I had rated as one of my two élite units, the French-allied 2nd division broke through the Austrian centre-left. (Those in the know will have twigged just how fictitious this game was).

The Austrian heavy cavalry withdrew following fire from the French 12 pdrs and an unsuccessful charge against the square of the Berg infantry. The latter seem to have incorporated some recruits from the 7th Neapolitan line behind!! :)

It was the end of turn 10 and we called the game as a minor French victory. It was a reasonably bloody draw, but the Austrians would have retired.

French 2nd division got the better of the Austrian centre-left and could have joined with greatly weakened 1st division on the French right to finish off the Austrian Grenz and reserve divisions. On our left the French dragons were mauled but not beaten, while the Austrian heavies had suffered worse, due largely to casualties inflicted by the French corps reserve artillery.

Losses were similar with one cavalry brigade and a total of 13 units broken on both sides (equating to around 3 000 French and 5 000 Austrian casualties—the difference due to the larger Austrian infantry units). Both sides had one division largely untouched.

A great game, real roller-coaster of thinking on top then lost the game!

We looked forward to Gauls v Greeks (successors) on 10th Feb.

2) Gauls v Seleucid
It was Gauls v Successor, trying Acta alea est rules, for this second of our two games in a week involving Wilko, Big Juli and me!

The forces were loosely based on Thermopylae 279 BC, with unrelated terrain placed by yours-truly.

I took the Gallic left, Mark the right with Julian in charge of the Seleucids. Figures and terrain all courtesy of Mark.

My general went forward to skirmish with the Seleucid right, but she was driven off by fire from the pachyderms and their Thracian mates.

More elephants in action on the Gallic right, but these were far less successful, being 'destroyed' in mêlée!

The rules: When reading the rules, we had been concerned about the number of tests involved: test if receive firing casualties, test to charge, test to receive, test after winning/losing mêlée. This seemed like it could become onerous, but we soon got our 'eye in' and learned that one could determine the result from the die roll, so it was only necessary to run through the test in a few cases. This seemed like a good thing, at first...

Turn 4 and it was getting hot in the centre.

With no rank bonus for the warbands, they were repeatedly defeated in one-on-one, frontal charges from Seleucid cavalry.

The elephants did not do nearly so well though.

Mark's chariots went on an elephant hunt!
(Isn't that beast from Zvezda a beauty?!).

If Gauls do not get success early, they are usually in trouble. This was no exception.

These Thracian's with rhomphaia were solid on the Seleucid right.

The rules: These Seleucid cavalry failed to charge, not because they were isolated and basically surrounded, as these factors were not included in the test, but because the die roll was poor.

The rules: A cavalry 'sandwich' provides an interesting test of a set of rules. This combat left us with many questions.

By turn 7 the game was over--or at least we had 'seen enough' of the rules. We declared the game a clear Seleucid victory.

The rules were *okay* for four turns, but the glitches and difficulties became more apparent as turns became more involved. As you get tired you are less tolerant of rules, but also see more of the silliness, or at least the mechanics that do not fit with our concepts and how we like to wargame. For all the testing and factors, passing or failing morale was more to do with die roll than situation.

We don't expect to understand all the nuances of a set of rules after one play-test, but we have now used enough of them to know whether a set is worth working with. The Die is Cast may well suit many out there (no doubt there have been developments since the 2013, free version that we used). There were not sufficient bright lights in the system for us to take them any further.

We have looked at several other sets of rules for Ancients. We read some of them, look at reviews in print or as videos, but they all have some key mechanic or fundamental system that does not suit how we like to play our wargames. So, somewhat reluctantly on my part, Impetus remains our current set for Ancients. 

More to follow... soon!
These two games were the 108th and 109th games (respectively) of our group. My last report back in June of last year was of game 84, so there are many others to report on. I should get to them now that I have my blogging 'mojo' back...

Monday, 26 June 2017

Race for the bridge: Action at Pretzsch, 29 October 1759

This is the first of several reports about games that we played at the end of 2016 and earlier this year.

The Action at Pretzsch is a little-known rearguard action involving an Austrian retreat (how unusual for this period?) under strong pressure from advancing Prussians. A brief summary from the excellent Kronoskaf website Project SYW  describes the action thus;
"On October 29 in the morning, Arenberg quitted his positions to march to Wittenberg. When the Prussians heard of his departure, Finck marched immediately to follow Arenberg's Corps. When Wunsch reached Gemmingen's post at the defile of Merckwitz (unidentified location), Arenberg retired precipitously on Düben through the forest of Torgau, closely followed by Gemmingen. The latter sent Colonel Haller at the head of his vanguard (2 000 men) on the heights of the Sackwitz wood to cover his retreat. Haller's detachment had not yet reached the summit when Jung Platen Dragoons along with Prussian hussars appeared on the crest. The Prussian cavalry immediately charged the Austrian grenadiers and drove them back, capturing Gemmingen along with 1 400 men. Wunsch and Rebentisch then encamped at Meuro."
Our game of this action, based on the scenario in Charles S. Grant's Refighting History Volume 1, involved General Gemmingen trying to extract his troops from heights behind Sackwitz and across a bridge at Reinharz with Wunsch's Prussians hard on his heels.

We played the game twice. The first game, using Age of Reason rules, involved Mark as the Prussians with Julian (and then me) taking the Austrians. The second, with our Seven Year's War rules based on Zimmermann, with Mark again as the Prussians and me as the Austrians.

This is a combined report of both games.

Version 1, Age of Reason

As I came in late, the report of the first version is somewhat abbreviated.

When I took over the Austrians, they had made good headway to the bridge, with Prussians close at their heels.

I sent the Serbollini cuirassiers and Jung Modena dragoons (heavily disguised as Saxe-Gotha) to drive the Prussian hussars away from the Austrian left. This was greatly successful, capturing the Prussian brigade commander in the process!

As Gemmingen's men fought for their lives, Arenberg's column proceeded to retreat unmolested.

With only a few units safely over the bridge, accumulated losses meant that the Austrians failed their 'army' withdrawal test and would retreat.

Game 1 over. Prussian victory.
Version 2, Zimmermann

We re-set the table to the original starting positions. Sackwitz can be seen in the distance, with the heights this side of the town. The bridge is in the left foreground. Gemmingen's Austrians are deployed in and around Sackwitz with the heights at their back. The Prussians are coming on from the far table edge. Arenberg's column can be seen at the right of the photo.
This time we began with some aggressive cavalry action, the Austrian dragoons and cuirassiers again seeing off the Prussian hussars, bloodied but not beaten.

As the Prussian infantry advance, the Austrians 'head for the hills', leaving sacrificial grenadiers to protect their rear.

Early on it was looking good for the Austrians (apart from the last grenadier battalion). "This is gonna be a walk in the park, I thought!"

Arenberg's lead battalions neared the table edge and exited to safety.

On my left the Austrian cavalry were conducting a model withdrawal?

Gemmingen's first infantry unit safely over the bridge. "This is *easy*, I thought."

Wunsch's Prussians had other ideas, easily overwhelming the 'forlorn hope' and rushing towards the rear of the retreating Austrians.

Still looking good with nearly three units over the bridge and one about to exit to safety.

Time for the cavalry to join them, I thought.

Looks like another unit of grenadiers will have to be lost for the greater good!

The foolishness of my version of the 'Julian manoeuvre' was now made glaringly apparent to me as the lead, fresh unit of Prussian hussars took the Jung Modena dragoons in the rear, driving them headlong towards the bridge, bringing chaos and confusion!

Still blissfully ignorant of this (or not caring) Arenberg's last units make their safe exit.

The Jung Modena dragoons have reformed, as have the Serbollini cuirassiers at top left (now much reduced in numbers). The rear units of Austrian infantry joining them as an ad hoc rearguard.

The Prussians have reached the edge of the heights, more Prussian cavalry are coming down the right of the woods.

The Jung Modena dragoons selflessly sacrificed themselves to enable the guns to get over the bridge and away.

The escapees: Gemmidgen's much reduced force.

The Austrians had been a bit more successful in extracting troops the second time around, but lost all the cavalry and grenadiers in the process!

Game 2 over. Prussian minor victory due to those significant losses which were similar to the historical version (without the loss of Gemmingen).

This was a fantastic scenario. As the Austrian player I initially thought it was going well and easily, but the Prussians soon caught up and there was pressure galore to try to extricate troops while putting up a delaying defence.

Plenty of pressure for the Prussians too, trying to rush headlong at the Austrians while maintaining a viable attack formation.

An excellent scenario. Thanks Charles! Thanks Mark for providing such wonderful figures to fight it with and to Julian for the venue (ANF-HQ)!