Monday, June 30, 2014

War of the Imperial Succession - Prologue 2

Continuing the narrative from here.
The breaking dawn revealed to the gaze General Klaus von Klutz the bulk of the Ursaminor Army on the far bank of the Unstroll River, ready to contest the crossings.  There were three bridges, the one at Futtschtampen, another at the outlying upstream village of Armtouisten, and the third as far higher again. Given the relative strengths of the armies, it was highly desirable from the Jotun point of view to find additional crossings as well.  This was going to be a tough assignment, but rewards for success far outweighed, so it seemed to the Jotun-Erbsten High Command, the penalties for defeat.

Army composition:
GoC-in-C plus staff: 2 figures
Engineer Company: 2 Engineer officers and 6 pioneer figures
Leib Brigade: 1st, 2nd Line, 8th Fusiliers - total 58 figures (including command)
Markgravina Brigade:  3rd, 4th Line, 9th Fusiliers - 58 figures
Erbprinz Brigade: 5th, 6th Line, 10th fusiliers - 58 figures
7th Jager Battalion: 19 figures
1st Cuirassiers: 15 figures
2nd Cuirassiers: 15 figures
3rd Hussars: 15 figures
Artillery Jotun-Erbsten: 2 batteries each with 2 guns and 10 figures.
TOTAL:  260 figures (5 command, 190 foot, 45 horse, 20 artillery)

GoC-in-C plus staff: 2 figures
Livgarden Regiment - 28 figures
Norrbotten Infantry - 28 figures
Ostergotland Infantry - 28 figures
Sodermanland Infantry - 28 figures
Vastmanland Infantry - 28 figures
Pomeriania Jager - 21 figures
Rikswacht te Paard Heavy Cavalry - 15 figures
Kronoberg Dragoons - 15 figures
Tevastehus Uhlans - 15 figures
Kopparberg Hussars - 15 figures
Artillery Ursaminor: 2 batteries each with 2 guns and 10 figures.
TOTAL: 243 figures (2 command, 161 foot, 60 horse, 20 artillery).

This action was fought between Paul Jackson (Painting Little Soldiers) and myself earlier this year.  As I had this game set up at my place, I invited Paul to choose sides, bearing in mind which side was doing the attacking.  All the troops were in plain sight, and I expected him to defend.  Nope.  Attack was his choice, and so he took command of the Jotun-Erbsten invaders.  I half suspect his didn't fully notice the bigger size of the Ursaminor battalions that made up the disparity in unit numbers (not to mention that Ursaminor has a significant proportion of guards and grenadiers - types not present in the army of Jotun-Erbsten).

Considering the difficulties faced by the invaders, they came very close to pulling off the near-impossible.

General von Klutz chose to put his main effort in and around the objective of the whole campaign: the sea-port of Futtschtampen itself.  The Ursaminor commander, Marshal-General Maxim Stalhandske, abandoning the transfluvian suburbs, had garrisoned the western half of the town with the Sodermanland infantry - blocking the bridge and occupying the warehouses and manufacturies of the dockyard district; whilst the Livgarden Regiment fortified the commercial and administrative precincts.
Erbprinz Brigade led off the Jotun assault,  supported by musketry from 7th Jager.  But the 5th Battalion, charging across the bridge, was brusquely stopped in their tracks by the storm of musketry from not only the bridge defenders by the flanking garrison companies as well.  The Jotun-Erbstenites barely made it to the centre of the bridge, before being swept back whence they came.
Nothing daunted, General Klutz ordered in immediate renewal of the attack.  The failure of the bridge defenders to erect any effective barricade proved their undoing.  The 10th Fusilier Battalion flung aside the defenders, and surged on into the residential quarter of the town.  Immediately following them, 6th Battalion forced the Livgarden Regiment out of the barns and holding pens of the southwest quarter but also the Sodermanland companies to evacuate the Admin quarter.  Ensconced behind the masonry walls of the mercantile district about a third of Sodermanland kept up a steady but ineffectual fire upon the Erbprinz Brigade as the latter tried to consolidate its hold upon the town.

In the meantime, the Erbsten Engineers has discovered an easy ford not far south of the town, whereat General Klutz ordered 3rd Battalion of the Markgravina Brigade to make the crossing.  But he had underestimated the likely effect of the massed Ursaminor artillery immediate overlooking that part of the river ...

(This was entirely fortuitous.  Having laid out the troops for inspection, when it came to the actual deployment, it seemed to me that where I had placed them was fine.  So there they stayed.  The fords were determined entirely by dice roll.  Foe each river section (straight or curved) a roll of 6 would disclose a ford, which was then rolled for type.  This one was easy.  However, we were to discover a glitch in my rules that made easy fords on widish rivers more time consuming to cross than difficult fords.)

Half way across the stream, 3rd Battalion were emphatically pounded into withdrawal, scarcely half their numbers surviving.  However, this disaster was at least partially offset by 1st battalion of the Leib Brigade successfully storming the river bridge at Armtouisten.  the convergent gunfire on the place had already induced the garrison to abandon the buildings, whereupon the bridge defenders were too few to overcome the storming column as it surged across.

The bridges secure, General von Klutz didn't hesitate to press further troops into both localities.  But exploiting their success was proving not so easy.  In Futtschtampen, the company and a half of Sodermanland infantry seemed to have burrowed themselves firmly into the solid buildings of the mercantile district.  Even outnumbered four to one, there was no digging them out again.    Nor were the Leib Brigade able to drive the Ostergotland infantry completely out of Armtouisten.  Passing through 1st Battalion, the 8th Fusiliers tried to storm the west end of the village, only to be flung back rudely by the shortrange Ostergotland fire.

Stalled in his pricipal attacks, in desperation, General Klutz ordered his cavalry to make an attempt upon the southern-most bridge.  There he may have been persuaded by the discovery of a narrow ford hard by the bridge, or maybe it was the half-battalion of enemy light infantry crowding up to the riverbank to harass the Jotun-Erbsten horse beyond.

In a flash, 2nd Cuirassier Regiment had clattered across the wooden bridge and were riding down the exposed jagers with sword and pistol.  But the jagers had emptied several saddles before being overrun.  At that, the other half-battalion were safe enough within the nearby woods; and rather late in the day, Ursaminor vengeance was approaching fast at a canter.  There was nothing for it but to leave, and that right soon.

By this time the morning had advanced to early afternoon, and it had become clear that having successfully broken into the towns, the invaders were not easily going to break out into the open country beyond.  Losses had been unacceptably high, Jotun-Erbsten reserves slender, and Ursaminor stood ready to contain further encroachment.  It was at this point that a parliamentaire under a white flag was seen approaching the Livgarden lines close by Futtschtampen.  

What might this portend?  To be continued...

My thanks and a warm welcome goes out to two new followers:
#108: 'Stryker'
He has or contributes to 5 blogs at least, a couple of ACW campaign blogs (I'll be looking into those!) and a couple on vintage (?) metal figures (e.g. Minifigs 'S' range, and Hinton Hunt).  I reckon this might be the place to enquire whether I have correctly identified some figures in my collection that I acquired second hand several years ago.  I gather he also recently celebrated his silver wedding anniversary.  Congratulations!
#109: 'Ariel El vikingo dark'
Here's another with multiple blog spots that have been interesting to explore.  Some very fine music to be heard there, too: stuff I've not heard before, but very suited to my tastes (Vaguely similar to Nightwish, what I've heard so far.  Well, I like Nightwish)  Check out his (?) 'follower' icon, but here's a good place to start...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Big Battles for Small Tables - Playtest

The battle opens.  Voltigeurs of Loison's Division, crossing the Danube from
the south to the north bank, engage the first line of Austrian Grenadiers
between the river and Elchingen, supported by the VI Corps artillery
firing across the river.  The rest of Loison's Division, and the VI Corps cavalry
make their way across the river bridge.

Whilst my rule set for BB4ST remain mostly in my head or scratched out on bits of paper, I bethought myself of carrying out a quick 'first pass' playtest, just to see how the thing would look.  For this purpose, I chose one of the early actions in the 1805 Campaign, namely, the combat at Elchingen.  The forces were small enough: the single VI Corps of Marshal Ney, and a rather smaller force of Austrians under Generals Riesch and Werneck.

From David Chandler Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars,
Arms and Armour Press, London (1979).
Orders of Battle:
The Austrian Corps commanded by Generals
Riesch and Werneck (Minifigs).
Austrian Command (Divisions of Riesch and Werneck):
- Corps command: 2 figures
- Grenadier Division: 16 figures
- Fusilier Division: 16 figures
- Cuirassier Brigade: 12 figures
- Corps Artillery: 4 figures; 1 gun.
Totals: 50 figures and 1 gun (the equivalent of 10,000 troops and 32 guns under my scaling.  A little generous, but see below).

The orders of battle I have seen indicate that the Austrian force comprised a high proportion of heavy cavalry (cuirassiers, the lights being mainly uhlanen) and grenadiers, but lacked light troops (grenzers or jager).  It seemed therefore meet that the Cavalry be represented by cuirassiers.  Of course, splitting the grenadiers and fusiliers as I have is simply convenience on account of the scale I'm using.

Probably the number of gunners is excessive, 3 gunners being a better representation of the Austrian strength in artillery.  And that very notion leads me to the idea that the effectiveness of gunfire be determined by the number of figures crewing the pieces, as by the weight of metal.  A fellow blogger did make a suggestion along these lines, but at the time I was thinking more in terms of formal organization than game terms.  In this action, I drew no distinction between French 8pr and Austrian 6pr equipments.
VI Army Corps, commanded by Marshal Ney (Minifigs).
French Command: VI Army Corps of Marshal Ney.
- Corps Command:  2 figures
- Loison's Division:  24 figures
- Mahler's Division: 24 figures
- Dupont's Division: 24 figures
- VI Corps Light Cavalry Brigade: 12 figures
- VI Corps Artillery: 4 figures, 1 gun.
Totals: 90 figures and 1 gun (approximate equivalent of 18,000 troops and 32 guns).

1.  The first thing to note is the difference in 'unit' (Division) sizes.  One of the things I want my rule set to accommodate is the disparity that can develop among the units and formations within and between armies. True, this can be accommodated by a 'strength point' system, but one way and another, that requires bookkeeping.  Why not let the figures carry the information?

2.  Dupont's Division having been badly mauled the previous day at Albeck, whilst preventing the Austrians breaking out eastwards, ought probably be weaker than the 24 figures allowed it.  A reduction to 18 or even 16 figures might not be too punitive a cost of the gallant stand this Division made the day before.  But that would also indicate  a fairly similar reduction to the Austrian corps, at least some of whom were involved in the same engagement.

To be continued: How the play test went...

Acknowledgements: ...and thanks to my 107th follower, 'El Grego.'  You might want to check out the link through his icon in my Follower list.  He has a number of blogs with a wide range of wargaming interests.

Links to past postings in this topic:
Big Battles for Small Tables
Big Battles for Small Tables continued 1
Big Battles for Small Tables continued 2
Big Battles for Small Tables continued 3

Past postings on similar topics:
Napoleonic Division Column 
A Napoleonic Battle - River Crossing 1
A Napoleonic Battle - River Crossing 2
A Napoleonic Battle - River Crossing 3

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A quick aside...

... Just something that came to mind with Tim Gow's competition for naming rights for his recently built ships for his Little Cold Wars project.  I  didn't come even close to success, unable to do more than identify half the sources of the ships' turrets, and them only tentatively.  But it did give me the impetus to do something I had neglected for some considerable time: to name my own 'Jono's World' vessels of war.
Aircraft Carriers of the Imperial Raeshan Navy.  The pen was by
way of indicating scale, but the angle makes the vessels  look
larger than they really are.
What follows is really just one of the navies.  Those of the exiguous Kiivar Navy have already been named, and I'll have to come up with something else for the Saabiyan Navy allied to Kiivar.

A better indication of scale is the rather munted
matchbox sleeve in the overhead view.
Here is Raesharn naval list:

Aircrft Carriers:
IRS11 (Imperial Raeshan Ship) Abezithebou
IRS12 Adramalech
IRS13 Apollyon
IRS14 Azmodeus

Line-of-Battle Ships:
First Battle Squadron:
IRS1 Put Baphomet
IRS2 Barbatos
IRS3 Beelzebub
IRS4 Behemoth

First battle Squadron.
Same picture as the previous with matchbox added

Second Battle Squadron.
Second Battle Squadron
IRS15 Belial
IRS16 Belphagos
IRS17 Bhairava
IRS18 Botis

Raesharn's Cruiser Fleet: 1st, 2nd and 3rd Cruiser Squadrons.

First Cruiser Squadron:
IRS41 Callicanzaros
From left to right as we see them, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Cruiser
IRS42 Cerberus
IRS43 Cimijes
Second Cruiser Squadron:
IRS51 Dantalion
IRS52 Decarabia
IRS53 Demogorgon
Third Cruiser Squadron:
IRS61 Eligos-Abigor
IRS62 Erishkigal
IRS63 Erinyes
IRS64 Eurynome

The Navies of Jono's World.  Need more aircraft... The vessels
of the rather colourful Navy of Saabiya  have yet to be named.
I'm open to suggestions...

Meanwhile, the postings on the prologue to the War of Imperial Succession and Big Battles for Small Tables are in draft, pictures added. and will be published shortly.

Links to past postings on Jono's World Navies:
Imperial Raesharn Navy
Kiivar Navy
Naval Aircraft

Friday, June 20, 2014

War of the Imperial Succession - Prologue 1.

The board and troops laid out for the 'Battle of Futtschtampen'.
The troops - Those of Jotun-Erbsten on the far side of the river (eastward)
and of Ursaminor on the near side have yet to be deployed .  
The Ulrichstein uprising having been militarily crushed, and the rebellious subjects brought at least to civil, if not spiritual, obedience, it seemed for the moment that the Emperor Violoncello might see out his last days in triumph and tranquility.  It was not to be.  Sensing the Emperor's imminent demise, the political vultures within and without the Empire were already circling.  At least two signatories to the Emperor's expensively negotiated 'Prudential Succession' ensuring the crowning of his elder daughter as Empress were plotting the most cynical repudiation of their pledged word.

The troops deployed; from behind the Ursaminor right flank.
The Elector, the soi-disant 'King' of Altmark-Uberheim, not only sought an alternative candidate, but had his eye upon certain territories with which to round out his realm: the northern borderlands of Trockenbeeren-Auslese, for instance, and a sizable chunk, if not the entire, Ursaminor territories west of the Unstroll River.  For his part, the sly and discontented Constantine XXXIII, Grand Duke of M'yasma, was casting equally covetous eyes upon Ursaminor territories, not to mention historic claims (largely bogus) upon portions of Auslese.
From behind the Ursaminor left rear.  The massed battery,
quite fortuitously,  overlooked the only reasonable ford
along this stretch of river (it being unseasonably low).

But to the surprise of all, the first moves against the Pax Imperia came from without.  Far to the northeast lay the isolated Markgravate of Jotun-Erbsten, for long considered a neighbour notably pacific, considering their legendary giant forebears.  Its seaports icebound for several winter months, the need for a year-round maritime entrepot had been, with the development of pan-Europeian commerce, becoming increasingly acute - or at least, so argued the mercantile magnates of that country.  The volume of complaint from the Erbsten shipping magnates was beginning to suggest to the Markgravina's advisers that some solution to the problem had to be found.   If the Margravina Ekaterina ('Poppet' to her adoring subjects) herself remained indifferent to the moaning of the magnates, they found a willing enough ear in her chief advisor, the Chancellor Count Glutinus von Loeleiffe und Schleim (you know who the baddy is going to be, eh?).
The lead troops of the Leib Brigade prepare to storm the
Futtschtampen bridge.
The simplest solution seemed to lie in the acquisition of an already existing year-round sea-port, for nowhere along the Jotun-Erbsten littoral was a site suitable, even for founding an entirely new settlement.  The nearest such place was the burgeoning sea-port of Futtschtampen standing at the mouth of the River Unstroll, well inside the territories of the neighbouring Principality of Ursaminor.  Knowing full well that never in this world would Ursaminor cede for any price such an important centre of commerce, it was clear to the Count that the place had to be seized by force, and held by force.  Jotun-Erbsten could at least plead force-majeure - being compelled by simple but acute commercial necessity to undertake the spoliation of a neighbour's territory and wealth.

Looking south from the edge of the sea-port.  The Ober-Futtschtampen
Bridge can be seen in the middle distance; and a third bridge further up.
Jotun-Erbsten troops approaching the river discover a usable ford
 just beyond the nearest  river bend (determined by die roll).

In a matter of less than a month, Count von Sleim had mobilized amid the greatest secrecy the entire field army of Jotun-Erbsten.  The Markgravina was informed vaguely of military exercises to keep the army in trim, and received news also of border transgressions - entirely invented by the Count himself - perpetrated by Ursaminor bandits and military personnel.  For her own part, the young and inexperienced Markgravina was inclined to send to the Ursaminor capital a delegation to discuss the matters that had arisen between the two small countries.  She even began assembling a delegation and began talking of a State Visit to Bjornburg.  Such preparations were, of course, likely to take several weeks, if not months.  All the same, the oleaginous Count saw in consequence that the wheels of his own schemes must be greased, and ordered the invasion to proceed forthwith.

That the Army of Jotun-Erbsten failed to capture the Futtschtampen sea port in its first onrush was due entirely to the haste in which the whole emprise was undertaken. The Army of Ursaminor was entirely unready; its mobilization not even begun as Jotun-Erbsten columns crossed the eastern border.  Had the wily old Erbsten Feldmarschall Ernst von Schwerin und Cussin been in command of the invasion, perhaps much could have been achieved, and the Principality undergone at once the amputation of half its territory.  But that old soldier, fiercely loyal to his monarch, and a straight-shooter to boot, was known to object to the whole scheme, and was left in his Jotun HQ. The Chancellor took over command himself of the whole operation, with his nephew, Klaus von Klutz, newly promoted to General-Major, there to handle the military.

Familiar as he was with the ballrooms, back-stairs and closets of the court, Count Glutinus was far less able to negotiate the alien terrain of the open field. For one thing, he had failed to take into account the righteous rage of the Ursaminor population at this rude irruption into their lives and livelihoods. He allowed his army to become scattered from aimless meanderings over the countryside in the attempt to keep order.  Armed resistance was out of the question of course, but the hardy locals were capable of disturbances that threatened to cut off the Army's supply lines, and it was certain that the local peasantry stoically declined to victual the invaders.  The best part of a fortnight was thus wasted before the Jotun-Erbsten Army at last, in the dying light of an April afternoon, drew up along the east bank of the River Unstroll and made ready to cross the following day.  To the consternation of General-Major von Klutz, the campfires of the Ursaminor Army could be discerned in the gloaming lining the far bank.
If Jotun-Erbsten wanted Futtschtampen, then Jotun-Erbsten would have to fight for it.

To be continued;
Acknowledgement:  Thanks and welcome to Ernest, the 106th follower of this blog spot.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Big Battles for Small Tables - continued (3)

More Nostalgia...
'My' first Napoleonic campaign was not going so well for the French.  The fact was that Philip, who was directing the campaign, had decided that the less experienced gamers (not that any of us were overburdened with that quality) should command the armies, and no real provision had been made for individual corps commanders.  Well, the whole thing was not meant to be anything complicated.  The operations of the French Army of the North having led to a defeat saved from ignominy only by determination of its soldiers, it remained to be seen what might be achieved by the Army of the East.
Two Divisions - enough for a small Army Corps -
 in our games of nearly 40 years ago.
Aside from snippets of news dropped by Philip, I had no clear idea what was going on in either theatre (North or East), nor even where the armies were operating.  But it soon became clear that the Allies succeeded in concentrating their whole strength, or very near it.  Near the town of Westburg, on the banks of the River Splasch (I've coined these names as I have no idea where this action 'actually' took place), the French ran them to earth - quite literally, as they found the Prussians on the near side of the stream comfortably dug in behind earthworks.  On the far bank, the Russian, disdaining to occupy Sudburg, had preferred to occupy the hill to the north.  The whole Allied line face southwards, ready for the French approach from that direction.
Battle of Sudburg.  Something of  a French tactical success,
but a strategic defeat, as French numbers were too few to roll up
the Allied right flank.  But given the position at the opening of the action,
it was always going to be a long shot.
(Diagram hand drawn, then prettied up with Microsoft 'Paint')

Where were the Austrians?  It would have been nice to learn that they would be several miles away sitting this one out.  No.  Scouts reported that the Austrians lay not far to the east, in imminent reach of what was to become the battlefield.  That was not good news: nothing we saw was good news.  We were outnumbered by an enemy, two-thirds of whom were dug in, by something like 10,000 troops (57.000 to 67.000, or 570 figures to 670 if you prefer).

There was nothing for it: the wine had been drawn and now must be drunk.  Although the French 'C-in-C' (I'll call him Marshal Ouijabord) was present, I pretty much formed a hasty plan, and ran the the show - a bit like Ney to Napoleon at Waterloo.  Taking command of III and IV Army Corps I undertook to throw the Prussians out of Westburg, clear the left bank of the Splasch River, and then, crossing that stream, fall upon the Russian right flank.  For his part, Marshal Ouijabord was to soften up the Russians with his massed artillery, preparatory to attack in combination with my command once the Prussians had been driven away. At the same time, he was to try and fend off the approaching Austrians long enough with the cavalry supported by the Imperial Guard.
My very first Napoleonic troops: 2nd generation Miniature Figurines Ltd
(Minifigs).  Voltigeurs of the Young Guard, and line infantry.  Originally
as Westphalians, They have since been repainted as 17th Line infantry
(or II Division in my BB4ST project).
It all seemed pretty risky, and it was.  And it didn't really work.  Third and Fourth Army Corps stormed in and shovelled the Prussians out of the first line of works quickly enough, and a second Prussian line shortly after.  The French stormed the Westburg village in great style.  But we couldn't prevent the whole line swivelling back towards the river (helped by a brief rearguard action north of the town).  Eventually, a very battered Prussian army staggered across the stream and formed a refused flank on the Russian line, facing westward.  By this time, though, both III and IV Corps were looking pretty tired themselves.  It was clear that a successful further attack across the river obstacle was possible only in conjunction with the northward attack by I and II Corps.

The voltigeurs now form the light companies of 4 line regiments:
 17th, 30th, 51st and 61st.
It was here that the French plan went  seriously awry.  The massed preparatory counter-battery fire began promisingly, with gratifying losses to the enemy ordnance in spite of the earthen protection. But Ouijabord rather prematurely (it was later alleged) switched his attention to the defending Russian infantry.  This seemed to be justified, however, when a Russian brigade emerged from behind a hill and came under a deadly cannon crossfire.  Within minutes (one bound) its scant remnants (2 out of 18 figures) disappeared whence they came.

Meanwhile, the Austrians had been flowing onto the field, the bulk of whom marched towards the French right flank.  There Ouijabord massed his entire cavalry - and a formidable barrier it must have seemed, for the Austrians did little more than build up their line and look menacing, all day.

This was my second ever Division: 1st generation Minifigs,
bought second hand and very much in need of a refurb.
All the same, it was becoming clear that the main French attack had to come soon if it were not to be called off altogether.  Leaping over the walls and fences about the Sudburg village, the infantry of I and II Corps surged forward.  Though depleted by the earlier bombardment, the Russians proved one more what formidable gunners they were. In mere moments, scores of Frenchmen were laid low. The alarming rate of casualties was too much for Ouijabord (and I had to agree with him), and the attack was called off.  The French had lost the battle.

For a long time they enjoyed a semi-retirement as garrison or
otherwise second line troops, but have recently been rejuvenated:
15th Light and 33rd Line infantry ( or VII and part of VIII Divisions
in my new scheme) 
Results and conclusions.
Well... that was the campaign, pretty much.  I don't recall that we were so close to exams and such (unlike the year before) that one or two battles might yet have been fought, but the fact was that the disaster to the Army of the North, and the failure in the East to split up the Allies for piecemeal attention, had left the French in very poor state to carry on the struggle.

Losses were about equal in this action (I think about 190 figures on both sides).  The bulk of these were from the Prussian Army.  I have since wondered whether the Prussians didn't lose more than half their strength in this action.  It must have been close!  Had they done so, then there would have been grounds (with the rules we were using) for their retreating altogether from the field.  The French might then have had a chance of winning the battle, but even had they lost, with the Prussian 2nd Army temporarily out of the campaign ( few days say) the French would have been in a position to fight on.

As it was, the outnumbered French consistently gave as good as they got.  But that was never going to be enough.

Next time: Recapturing old times with new ideas... 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Big Battles for Small Tables - continued (2)

Before I continue with further discussion on developing my rule set, I propose here to digress a little, and indulge myself in a little bit of nostalgia.  It will illustrate, I hope, the kind of thing to which I would like to return - with improvements, of course.

Way back in 1975, I was winding up my University studies (having already gained my undergraduate degree in Mathematics the year before).  That year was the founding (and I think dissolution) of the University war games club, the Contubernium Club.  It was thought that, after a few introductory battles, we would celebrate the club's founding with a Napoleonic campaign.  The guiding light in all this was a Law student name of Philip (If he ever reads this and recognises himself, I ask him please leave a comment:  I'd like to get back in touch). 

Except it wouldn't be Napoleonic, for, in the early years of 1812, Napoleon died - it was never explained how (possibly an infernal machine. probably some disease).   Philip was the campaign organiser and arbiter; the armies were his (except for the few figures that were my contribution, and were the the beginnings of my own collection), and the rule set was his, based more-or-less on Young & Lawford's Charge!

With Napoleon's demise, the nationalist fervour throughout Europe burst into life, and at once a formidable coalition of Austrians, Russians, Prussians and British mobilized once and for all to crush French imperialist ambitions.  Only the Kingdom of Westphalia (my own guys, though they looked a bit more like Italians at the time - they have since been repainted as French) remained actively loyal.  The remainder of the Confederation of the Rhine sat out the campaign.  No figures for them!

The way the armies were organised was like this.  A regiment (strictly speaking a battalion) comprised an officer and 8 other ranks.  Four such regiments formed a 36-figure division, which, in a four-deep column very much tended to be the tactical unit of choice.  Three Divisions made up an Army Corps.  I don't recall that these army corps included integral artillery or light horse - the wherewithal was there, but I think Philip tended towards the Cavalry Corps concept, and such attachments were strictly ad hoc. Cavalry regiments comprised an officer and 4 troopers. His French Army comprised, then, 4 Army Corps, a large corps of cavalry, and the Imperial Guard - an over-strength 'Division' of 5 regiments.  The Allies, more or less similarly organised, each contributed much smaller forces, but their overall strength outmatched the French by 15-20%.

The whole enterprise developed on two independent fronts.  In the east, a large combined army of Prussians, Russian and Austrians would invaded the Rhinelands and entered France by way of Strasbourg.  In the north, a British army landed in Holland and marched south, combining their operations with a Prussian Corps.  There was no strategic link between the two fronts that I was aware of at the time.

Road Pursuit
As the 'Westphalian' commander, Graf Ritter von Borlz (myself), and my single Division (36 figures),  began the war in an exposed and isolated position (in Westphalia), it was directed to march south to join the main French Army of the East (some of the names I have coined here, as I have no recollection of what names were used at the time). Unfortunately, in the interests of joining quickly, I chose a more easterly route than was prudently advisable.  

Lo and behold, several days into the march, the distant ridges to the east of the road were suddenly crowned with masses of Allied cavalry, supported by a battery of horse guns, ready to sweep my puny force into oblivion.   So began a frantic march and pursuit, played one evening on the floor in Philip's shared student flat.  The diagram doesn't really show it, but the thing was played out on a 'scrolling' games area.  As my guys reached the end wall of the room, the thing would be scrolled back and the chase continued.  At last a stream hove into view, obviously unfordable for it was in spate, and if my troops could make it across it was held that they would reach safety.  

I don't recall exactly how the thing ended, by my memory tells me it was not well.  I got pretty close to the river bridge but by this time I had already taken some loss, and the enemy cavalry was getting dangerously near.  I know how I would tackle the problem now, but at the time I don't think I made the best of it at all.

Operations in Belgium
Meanwhile, there had been a lot of manoeuvring and indecisive messing about in Belgium.  Unfortunately, the commander of the French Army of the North - let's call him Marshal McMack - had fallen into dithering about, and allowed himself to be trapped between the British and Prussian armies, with the latter athwart his line of communication to the south.  Enter General Duchesnois (me, because 'Marshal McMack' couldn't make it that day) to see what he could do to retrieve the situation.
The Army of the North began the day concentrated about the North Village (see map).  The road south crossed a stream, ascended an escarpment on the far bank, and continued on into France.   Lining the escarpment was the Prussian Army, some 160 figures (16,000 troops).  The British, 17,000 strong, began the day marching onto the battlefield from the north.

The French had one advantage: the central position, and, at 190 figures, slightly stronger (19,000) than both enemy armies individually.  The army of the North comprised 4 infantry Divisions, and I think 4 batteries (model cannon), and possibly 6 cavalry regiments.  I do recall the overall numbers, and this organisation seems to fit.

The situation assessed ('What the hell, Philip??!') Genl Duchesnois hit on his plan.  Leaving a Division with some horse and guns (if memory serves) to hold up the British, the remainder of his army marched hotfoot to the weakly held East Village at the extreme right of the Prussian line.  The desperate ferocity of the French attack quickly forced the river crossing, stormed the village and broke through into the country beyond.  Pulling in his rearguard, Duchesnois pressed on, trying always to swing westward to regain the south road.

That objective proved beyond the strength of the French Army.  The Prussians reversed their lines and the whole corps swung back like a door to oppose the French envelopment.  In this they were ably seconded by the British, who, pursuing the enemy rearguard with perhaps a third to a half of their strength, used the rest to sustain the Prussians.

Once more a running fight developed, the French never quite able to overreach the Allied lines, nor yet to break through.  As the Allied strength developed, the French movement began to resemble the action of a modern caterpillar track, the lines flanking the march southward struggling to hold the Allies at bay, whilst the rearward troops made their way behind them to extend the protective line beyond.  This action, as the first, also ended up being played on a 'scrolling' table, until at last we found a road heading east.  Not ideal, it was the best the Army of the North could hope for, and so they made their escape.  Not a moment too soon!

Given the circumstances, that was a considerable tactical success by the Army of the North.  We had fought our way out of a very parlous situation.  But it was a strategic disaster, all the same.  Losses were about equal on both sides (90 figures each), but the Allies' casualties were at least shared.  I don't recall them exactly, but the Prussians obviously took the greater damage;  though not quite enough to discourage the Army (70 figures out of 160, maybe).  The British got off pretty lightly, about 20 figures.  Ninety out of 190 figures lost to the French was a very serious matter.  It was as well we got off when we did, for another 5 figures lost would have demoralized the Army.

It is true that after battle returns would have brought some of these losses back into each army, stragglers and lightly wounded rejoining the ranks overnight.  As holders of the field at the end of the day, the Allies recovered half, bringing the Prussian Corps up to 125 figures (12,500), the British to 160 (16,000).  Having quitted the field, the French would have got a third back, bringing their strength up to 130 (13,000).  A sixth, 15 figures (1500 troops), became prisoners of war.  

It is very doubtful, then, that the Army of the North, still in good heart, but now outnumbered more than two to one, would have been in much shape to maintain a credible opposition to the Allies in Belgium.

To be continued: the adventures of the Army of the East.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Big Battles for Small Tables - continued (1)

French I Army Corps marching north through the village of
Klein Bloentubitz.  A Division of II Corps (4th Div) guards the
north east road.
Rules Design Philosophy for Big Battles for Small Tables 
Just recently, Ross Mac, of War Game of the Month commented on my previous posting on this topic with several thoughts and ideas from his own experience.  They have been helpful in clarifying my own thinking.

The view looking south.  A light cavalry brigade leads
1st Division across the Ditschwasser bridge, they being followed
by the Corps artillery park, then the 2nd and 3rd Divisions.

First off, he suggested a 'gunner to gun' scale rather than 'gun to gun'.  As it happens, I do tend to equate gunners with number of guns, using that notion to bring me to a 'gunner to gun' scale.  A four-gun battery has very roughly 100 personnel (not all are gun crew, much less anything more than labourers, but that's by the by).  I place 4 figures with each gun, which gives me, at a figure scale of 1:25 (my current organization), 1 gun model representing 4.  Probably for the Austrian 6-gun battery, 3 of a crew would be suitable, but I tended to fudge it there.  The Austrians had a heck of a lot of guns anyhow (but my Austrian Army ... doesn't).

Now looking northward.  Between each 'unit' there is an interval of
5cm.  The whole column occupies 150cm of roadway.  Given a ground scale of
roughly 3000:1, that is 4.5 km of road.   That's probably a bit skinny for an
Army Corps of 18,000 troops, but it seems to me that will do for my purposes. 
With the 1:200 scale, we have 800 gunners represented for each gun model: 32 guns (I rounded it to 30, but I'll probably stay with 32, as a multiple of 8).  I accept that this really represents the Corps Reserve park, rather than the guns attached to the Divisions themselves.  We might do a little fudging there with the Divisions having a 'shooting range' out beyond what would be musketry range (the next posting will touch in this).  The alternative would be to have guns with a single crew man (representing a 6-8 gun battery), and some rules for reduced effectiveness. Actually, that might not be so difficult if the gunnery rules attach to gun crew figures rather than guns. Doable, but... it would mean a heck of a lot of gun models...

The Hussars lead over the bridge.  Possibly a scouting force of
2 figures could be leading some distance ahead, representing pickets
and patrols, but also including the 'grand guard.'
The fact is, I have only limited numbers of guns anyhow (a deliberate policy, originally, when I had a single Army Corps of 10x24-figure foot regiments in two Divisions; a light cavalry Division of 4x12 figure regiments; an attached heavy Brigade of 1 Cuirassier and 1 Dragoon regiment; and 3, later 4,  batteries of 2 cannon each).  I still have only 8 (possibly 9, though the 9th gun seems to have gone walkabout) for French horse and foot that have near doubled in numbers.
A Division of II Corps (the 4th) guards the side road to the east
against possible enemy incursion from that direction.  The job is
important enough for the II Corps reserve artillery to be attached.

On Ross's second point, concerning musketry, firing would indeed be one rank deep only.  Somehow or other, though, I still have to make the columns 'work'.  The odd thing is, that they might well do, simply for the sake of the gamers' convenience, and for no other reason.  'We'll manoeuvre and fight in columns because it's a chore to do anything more complicated.'  Well, it's an idea - or maybe an approach to an idea!

Third  Division, I Army Corps preserving immaculate marching discipline

In respect of movement, a route march column will be 'by file', that is, column of twos.  In this scale, it does have a look of a road column.  I have determined also that it must be possible to storm defiles on a narrow frontage like this.

Such a road column, using the scales I have in mind have a satisfactory depth without using artificial intervals to depict formations marching en route.
Apparently the French have suffered a reverse
for here is a view of Klein Bloentubitz with the Austrian
V Corps marching south.
Probably a single file column would be more 'accurate' in terms of the amount of road really taken up by a Divisional column of approaching 5000 troops, but here I simply have to go with the 'look of the thing'.  It will also have an effect on the timings of formations deploying 'off the march'.  I want the Army Corps to take up a fair bit of road, and rules devised for estimating times of arrival, with all sorts of amusing delays and frustrations associated.

I also like the idea of Divisional deployment into successive lines being an option, and with skirmishers ahead.  Strictly speaking the skirmish cloud would represent something like the French 'Grande Bandee', or the notably thick skirmish lines deployed by the British.  Other nations will probably be less well served in this regard, skirmishers being limited to Jagers, and, possibly being a bit generous, Austrian Grenzers.  I'm still not certain how generous to be concerning French light infantry.  As I have just three 24-figure units of light infantry (13th, 15th and 17th), they might well become Divisions with a more than usual content of skirmish-capable troops.

The Corps is led by a large force of light horse, and the 3rd
(Advance Guard) Division (Grenze).  Off to the south east
stands a Grenadier Division attached to the Corps.
If one of my Army Corps happened to be commanded by a Marshal Davout, I would incline to a very generous view of its overall level of training.  Judging by some correspondence I have seen between the Marshal and his generals, he and they appear to have been as much students of their military calling as the thorough going professionals they were.  They showed a continued interest in developing and improving upon the skills of their commands, and of themselves as well.  Most other commanders seem much less devoted to professional development of themselves or their commands.

The view from the north.  The lead figures are plastic
(Italeri Hussars and HaT Grenze), the guns and gunners are Minifigs
(I don't know the provenance of the limbers), and the line infantry
and grenadiers are Warrior metal figures.  
At any rate, I'm toying with the idea that specialist light infantry may deploy up to half their formation as skirmishers (the main block being the reserve), and specialist riflemen their whole formation (my riflemen, and some of my jager units, don't amount in size to full Divisions anyway).

In my view the plastics and Warrior metals go quite well together.
This 'Big Battles for Small Tables' project is really going to be 'Old School' stuff: casualty removal, individually based figures (sort of), and variable formation (i.e. unit) sizes as well.  Although the standard Infantry division will have 24 figures, some will have 20, 18 or even 16 figures, as the pictures show. Whatever rules for shooting I adopt will have to accommodate these differences.

A close view of the Grenadier Division.  Not all my Divisions and Corps are the same size,
which calls for a rule set that will take this into account.  A complication, sure, but
my collection has grown in rather a piecemeal fashion over the years...
I do have smaller 'units' of specialist light troops (Jagers and 5/60th Rifles), which will be classed as brigades. To be sure, they aren't to represent a 'Rifle Brigade' as such; more representative of a practice used among several armies of 'brigading' light companies on an ad hoc basis (the French Grande Bandee is a case in point).
Feldmarschall Prinz Liechtenstein overseeing the march.  They
seem to be tactfully ignoring the reeling, obviously drunk,
artillery driver...

I believe there will be a considerable amount of 'fudging' involved in all this.  Rather than starting basic and adding, I will be trying the reverse route: going with what I want, and if it don't work, simplifying it until it does.  

Somewhat belated: I discovered that my 105th follower had joined whilst I was printing up my previous posting.  To I'll take the opportunity here of welcoming  A.W. Kitchen.  Having backtracked through the links, I think this is where you will find his own blog spot: Tin Soldiering On.  I hope I have the title right...
First Division, V Army Corps, passing through wooded country.

Second Division, bringing up the rear.  My V Corps is not large as
such  formations go, just 15,200 strong (76 figures).

Feldmarschall Prinz Liechtenstein with his staff, viewing the march past.
The ADC is Minifigs, the Prince himself an Italieri Austrian
Command figure.  You can see the Grenze are still WIP.

To be continued:  some nostalgia, and campaigns (Napoleonic) of the distant past...