Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Twas The Game Before Christmas...

With some leave booked in the days before Christmas, there was time on Christmas Eve eve (i.e. the 23rd) for a last game before the big day. My old friend Paul was once again able to make the trip across from Bristol.

I'm grabbing all the opportunities I can to playtest Honours of War, so SYW it was. I worked up a quick scenario using some nations I don't normally play - the Prussians would attack, but the defenders would be the Reichsarmee, with their French allies providing a flanking force. 

6' x 5' table. North to the top.

The map shows the Reichsarmee forces in position defending a town and its 2 river crossings. The Prussian force is attacking them, but the Reichsarmee's French allies have performed an outflanking march and hope to catch the Prussians off guard.

Prussian force (attacking, deploys up to 30cm from baseline between wood and eastern board edge)
Infantry brigade - 3 line infantry battalions, 1 grenadier battalion
Infantry brigade - 1 line infantry battalion, 1 grenadier battalion
Infantry brigade - 2 Freikorps battalions, 1 light artillery battery
Cavalry brigade - 2 cuirassier regiments
Cavalry brigade - 2 dragoon regiments
Artillery - 2 medium artillery batteries

Reichsarmee force (defending, deployed as shown. Commanding General with the Reichsarmee)
Infantry brigade - 3 line infantry battalions, 2 medium artillery batteries
Infantry brigade (reserve north of river) - 2 line infantry battalions
Cavalry brigade - 2 dragoon regiments

French force (outflanking counter-attack, arrive between wood and north board edge)
Infantry brigade - 2 line infantry battalions, 2 grenadier battalions, 2 medium artillery batteries
Cavalry brigade - 2 elite cavalry regiments, 1 hussar regiment

The French dice to arrive (by brigade) from the beginning of move 3. Each brigade must roll 4 or more to arrive. Arriving brigades are deployed at the table edge with all units in march column. They then dice for move initiative as normal and can move in their arrival turn. Any brigade failing to arrive tries again next turn, adding 1 to the roll each turn. Once a French brigade has arrived, all allied initiative rolls use the French modifiers.
The Prussians must stay east of a line from the edge of the wood to the western edge of the marshes until some French appear.
The town is formed of 2 built up area templates. Loss of both loses the defenders 1 army break point.

The Game In Pictures

The set up (1). Austrian and Bavarian figures pretending to be Reichsarmee in the foreground.
"Prussians sir, farsands of 'em!"
The set up (2). I was using my new S&A scenics felt mat for the first time.
I like the colour, and the way it moulds itself around hills placed underneath.  
The Prusians advanced briskly forward, with effective supporting fire from their cannon on the ridge.
The Reichsarmee dragoons engage the attacking cuirassiers with little hope of success,
whilst the Reichsarmee reserves move up across the bridges.
It's rush hour in the town as reinforcements struggle through the streets.
Senior officers are forced onto the river banks.
As expected, the Reichsarmee dragoons are destroyed. The Prussians close in. 
The French finally arrived on move 5, which was a move or two too late. Top right are the infantry arriving,
whilst in the foreground the Prussian dragoons immediately charge in to delay the French cavalry.
Yes, I know, these are Austrian figures too.
All those inferior class units really make the Reichsarmee fragile. By the end of move 6 they had all
been destroyed or had streamed out of the town, which was now open to the Prussians.
In the background the 'French' cavalry have triumphed, but at the cost of one of their regiments.
This brought the allies to their breaking point and the Prussians had won. 
Concluding positions. The Prussians are now free to reform and concentrate on the French,
who will not be hanging around to try conclusions.
Paul is gracious in victory. I think the quote here was "you're screwed!".

The Christmas Spirit

Those who know the period will be aware that the Austrian generals' favourite tipple was Hungarian Tokay. I am particularly fond of the following quote from Duffy's By Force Of Arms, regarding the behaviour of Field Marshall Daun:

Verri claims to have seen Daun on a particularly hot day without hat or wig, and enjoying a huge cup of iced lemon sorbet, whilst the first gentlemen and leading gentlemen and officers stood about him. After the sorbet Daun addressed a carafe of Tokay, and at no stage thought of offering anything to anyone else. (p.191).

This year I finally got around to acquiring a few bottles of this lovely stuff, and we opened the first one to accompany the game. Personally, I'm with FM Daun - I wouldn't share this stuff if I didn't have to! These days it's generally described as a dessert wine, but it has a wonderful flavour and is not too syrupy or sweet to be enjoyed at any time. I would say something about the fine golden colour, but by the time I got around to photographing the bottle most of it had gone, as you see. Never mind, 2 more bottles still available for Christmas Day. A fine treat if you can get hold of some. 

And so it only remains to wish all readers a very merry Christmas. See you in the New Year!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Villages and Towns in the SYW

When I was putting together some models for my SYW towns and villages around 5 years ago, I was inspired by the type of model buildings I had seen in the works of Charles Grant and Peter Young. So my built up areas took on the vaguely Germanic, Central European look of prosperous and solidly built small towns. The models were of 15mm size, purchased mainly from JR Miniatures with a couple of models from Total Battle Miniatures. You can see what I mean in the 2 photos below:

Over the last year I have realised that a lot of the small towns and villages fought over in the SYW were a lot more basic than this, consisting of wooden houses and huts, often thatched, and not offering a great deal of protection to the occupants, particularly from artillery fire. For example, read this quote from Duffy's book Prussia's Glory, describing the field of battle at Rossbach:

"The ground was open and cultivated, and devoid of obvious features except a pair of villages (Tagwerben and Reichardtswerben) to the east. They were poorish affairs of thatched houses, and offered no defensive potential." (p.65).

Hence my recent purchase of some rather more rustic buildings. These are now painted up, and below you can see them set up on my traditional square of felt to produce a built up area: 

Some Croats are in residence, supported by a light gun manned by their own gunners.

Protection From Fire
Further reading has refined my opinion of the level of protection that might be expected from occupying built up areas. Roundshot evidently created so many splinters of stone, brick and wood that even well-built towns offered doubtful advantages to those occupying them, unless actually enhanced with entrenchments and suchlike. Villages consisting of wooden buildings and farms would similarly offer limited cover.

So, in Honours of War, only entrenchments offer rock-solid 'heavy cover'. My built up areas are divided into two types, densely built places with mainly stone and brick construction, or more open affairs of mainly wooden buildings. Both are only 'light cover' against roundshot or shell. Against infantry and canister fire the former type is heavy cover, the latter light cover.

In addition, both roundshot from heavy guns, and shell (which I always class as medium) get a +1 modifier against built up areas, so in fact against these types of artillery fire villages and towns are no cover at all. Bring on the howitzers and 12 pounders!

As I have said many times, I like the Black Powder rule set. One thing I don't particularly like, however, is that built up areas in these rules are very tough nuts to crack and attacking them can easily bog down the game, something I have tried to correct in my own rules. Fighting for towns and villages was usually intense and bloody, but unless prepared defences were in place they could often change hands fairly readily. Think of Leuthen or Hochkirk, to take 2 famous examples. Or the village of Krechor at Kolin.

As usual, I am simply gagging to hear from those who might disagree with these conclusions. I try to be open minded at all times!

Good gaming!