Friday, December 12, 2014

Battle of Hughesville.

Although this is kind of a 'Big Battles for Small Tables' gig it isn't really part of my Napoleonics BB4ST project - not even close - I was feeling the need to get a little action in, and something or other reminded me that, since a few articles late last year, I had done nothing more with the Age of Empires figures I had been given.

The important road nexus of Hughesville, looking north.
  Getting wind of the approach of Ruberian troops from the
northwest, General Beauford positions his cavalry on
Abbey ridge. Meanwhile 2nd Corps is hurrying up to help.
There was that about this collection of stuff that I felt not only would not 'go' with my Azuria-Ruberia armies, but that seemed to ask for an entirely separate, map warfare, type of treatment.  The sort of thing I had in mind was expressed in a thrown together 'Gettysburg' action (see April last year) using a few of my ACW figures.  At any rate, what follows was more thoroughgoing play test of my combat mechanics for this ... erm ... Era of Imperialism ...uh ... concept.

The rival nations, Azuria and Ruberia were, as usual, at odds over some trade dispute, which, of course, meant that every other grievance, accumulated over centuries of contention, got an airing. For that reason, war was the usual state between them.  The military theorist, Carl von Clausewitz more than once remarked of the relations between Azuria and Ruberia, that negotiation was 'the continuation of warfare by other means.' So ingrained had become the recourse to war.

Hughesville from the northwest.  The Ruberian III Corps
is approaching the town, but will have to get past the Azurian
Cavalry Corps to reach the place.
Seeking to try conclusions with the double-dealing Azurians, a Ruberian Army was sent marching into Azuria territory under the command of Robert E. Windward.  It comprised the following:

Army of Ruberia, General Windward:
I Corps (Lt-Gen J. Longbottom)- 5 Infantry brigades, 2 Cavalry brigades, 1 Artillery park
II Corps (Lt-Gen R. S. Earwaker) - Ditto
III Corps (Lt-Gen A. P. Ridge) - Ditto
I Cavalry Corps (Maj-Gen Jeb Douglas)- 5 Cavalry Brigades, 1 Artillery Park.

III Corps begins its assault on Abbey Ridge.
To eject the despised invader from the sacred soil of Azuria, the able and aggressive General George Beere was placed in command of an army that comprised:
As the Ruberian attack begins, 2nd Corps is not far off.
But 2nd Corps would never reach Abbey Ridge...

Army of Azuria, Lieut-General Beere:
1st Corps (Maj-Gen Reynard)- 5 Infantry Brigades, 2 Cavalry Brigades, 1 Artillery park
2nd Corps (Maj-Gen Wolowicz) - Ditto
3rd Corps (Maj-Gen Scythes) - Ditto
1st Cavalry Corps (Maj-Gen Beauford) - 5 Cavalry Brigades, 1 Artillery park.

Beauford's Cavalry gives a remarkably good account of itself:
III Corps lose a gunner and a cavalry figure, and two foot units retreat.
The Azurians suffer no loss.
In the following action, each brigade is represented by 1 figure.  A foot figure represents 4000 infantry, a horse figure 2000 cavalry, and each gunner figure, 1000 gunners.  Each gun model represented a park of 80 guns, served by 2000 gunners.  These gunners were supplied by what I think were explorer and surveyor figures from the original AoEmp game set.  You will notice, by the way, that other than receiving green-painted bases, the figures remain in their original state.  My intention is that they remain so, keeping their symbolic nature.  Actually I simply like them that way.

As the battle rages for Abbey Ridge,
 both sides' Second Corps are heading
 for a clash northeast of  Hughesville...
Receiving intelligence of a Ruberian patrol entering the town of Hughesville in the evening of 30 June 1873, General Beauford at first light the following day marched the few miles separating his command from that town, and, passing through it, crested Abbey Ridge, overlooking the northwest road.  Sure enough, there was a strong force, III Ruberian Corps, rapidly approaching (In the following account, Ruberian Corps numbers are in roman numerals; Azurian in arabic).
Both sides' First Corps hurry to the guns via the western
approach roads.
Having sent back a 'Come up, quickly!' message down the road, Beauford could see far to the southeast the head of the 2nd Corps column coming up fast.  All the same, he knew he would have to hold for a couple of hours at least before help would arrive.

Yet it seemed that help would not be needed, for the Azurian cavalry were giving a very good account of themselves.  The first attacks silenced half the enemy artillery, broke a cavalry unit, and forced two infantry brigades to retreat, for no loss to the defenders.

This is the benefit of the Cavalry Corps: having no infantry, it ignores infantry losses.  Its own firepower is less than 2/3 the standard army Corps, so combats between the two can be very chancy. Combats are determined by Corps [or detachments thereof] forming a combat group, in which each infantry gets 2 dice, each gunner gets 2 and each cavalry gets 1.  A combat group gets (quite arbitrarily) two additional dice.  So an army corps of 5 foot, 2 gunners and 2 horse gets 10+4+2+2=18 dice.  

The Ruberian III Corps is getting a serious mauling
from Beauford's cavalry.
Scores of 1 affect artillery, 2 and 3 affect cavalry, and 4,5,6 affect infantry; as follows:
2 ones - gunner retreats (taking the gun with him if he is the lone survivor); 3 ones - gunner lost;
2 twos - cavalry retreats; 3 twos - cavalry destroyed;
2 threes - cavalry retreats; 3 threes - cavalry destroyed;
2 fours - infantry retreats; 3 fours - infantry destroyed;
2 fives - infantry retreats; 3 fives - infantry destroyed;
2 sixes - infantry retreats; 3 sixes - infantry destroyed.

[Just as an aside, an alternative convention comes to mind.  A result is scored for every pair, but only threes destroy cavalry and sixes destroy infantry.  The first gunner hit is destroyed only if three or more ones are rolled.  On reflection, I'm not sure this is any kind of improvement.]

For the heavy losses they have taken, the Ruberians have
small success to show: one cavalry brigade bugging out.
The advent of  Ruberian column descending the northeast road forced 2nd Corps to divert its attention thereto.  This left Beauford's cavalry not only facing III Corps, but a further Ruberian Corps - the Ist - which would clearly be adding its weight before any real help could arrive.  All the same, the Azurian horse was handing III Corps a real drubbing.  After two hours of fighting III Corps had but two brigades remaining in support of its reduced batteries; having driven away only one enemy brigade.

The battle escalates.  Two Corps clash on the NE road,
and the Ruberian I Corps joins the fight for Abbey Ridge.
Last reserves racing to
join the action.
As the Ruberian I and II Corps entered the fight, the Azurian 1st Corps deployed some distance from the action, whilst 3rd Corps was still further off southeast of the town.  At the same time the Ruberian Cavalry corps was hurrying down from the northwest.

3rd corps still some distance from the
town.  By the time they threaded through
 the place, the battle was over.
Though III Corps had been thoroughly mauled, the Azurian cavalry now faced I corps in addition. It seemed likely, too that 1st corps would be intercepted by the fast-moving Ruberian cavalry. With aid still far off, the fight began to turn against the Azurian horse. Although destroying one brigade and forcing another to retreat; although silencing half I Corps' artillery; the Azurian horse artillery was altogether reduced, a cavalry brigade destroyed and another forced back.

Now losses to Azuria's Cavalry Corps begin to mount... 
Considering the odds, this was a fine performance by the Azurian horse - a battle-winning performance, withal.  But the writing was on the wall.  They could not hope much longer to hold out.

...but they continue to give back measure for measure!

Meanwhile, a ferocious battle begins
north of the town.
On the northeastern flank, the respective Second Corps of both armies clashed close by the town.  At once they tore great clumps out of each other, shredding themselves to pieces.
Both sides are reduced within
 the hour to remnants 
Within the hour, barely a rump of both Corps remained to claw away at each other.

The tattered remains of both Corps are still capable of
inflicting damage.
Despite their stout resistance, the Azurian Cavalry Corps was at last driven in - I Corps proved much the more effective in combat than their compatriots in III Corps.  Before 1st Corps could intervene, Abbey Ridge had perforce to be abandoned.  But by now its was becoming apparent to General Windward that victory was already out of reach.  There was one last throw of the dice: to switch I Corps to the right alongside the Cavalry to attack the enemy 1st Corps.
The last pockets of Azurian resistance on Abbey Ridge
are overcome.  But the Ruberians have been made to pay! 
If a decisive result could be obtained here before the battered remains of III Corps came under serious pressure, the day might yet be won.  

As III Corps covers the town, I Corps swing southwards to
join the battle west of the place.
Whilst the fight on the northeastern flank sputtered on, the main action now flared up almost due west of the town.
Though outnumbered, the Azurians once again punch well
above their weight.
Once again the Azurians' rifle and gunfire shredded the Ruberian attackers...
The Azurians rip shreds out of  the Ruberians...
...who, nothing loath, were cutting up the Azurians with equal ferocity.  The Ruberians lost an infantry and cavalry units and half the horse artillery, whilst a further infantry brigade staggered out of the fight.
Whilst the Ruberians tear chunks out of the
In requital they wrecked a foot and two horse units.  Such savagery could not last long.  This had been amply demonstrated on the far flank, with both sides reduced to mere shadows of their former strength. In the final exchange, the Ruberians got rid of the last enemy infantry brigade, but themselves were driven from the field (the remaining foot and artillery units get retreat results).
Closing action north of the town: the Ruberian II Corps is
forced to retreat.
All this was enough for Gen. Windward, who now sounded the withdrawal of his whole army. Leaving the Cavalry Corps to hold back the Azurian 1st Corps,  the Ruberians broke contact and streamed off up the northern roads. Seething with rage at the missed opportunity, the troops of 3rd Corps recovered the crest of Abbey Hill without a fight.
End of the action.  The Cavalry Corps manfully covers
the Ruberian Army's withdrawal from the field.
The rearguard action was a qualified success for the Ruberian Cavalry Corps, driving off two brigades from I Corps, but it cost the entire Corps artillery park. 
The cavalry administer a check, but lose their artillery.

At once the Cavalry Corps made off, following the rest of the Ruberian Army as it quit the field.  The action was over, a clear cut victory to Azuria - the more remarkable for 3rd Corps never having been engaged for the entire action.
Victory!  The Azurian Army watches as the Ruberian
Army quits the field.
Now, during the course of this battle, I took retreated and destroyed units off the table, but only the latter were classed as lost.  So below are the 'actual' casualties of the battle.  The Ruberians lost 8000 horse, 24,000 foot and 2000 gunners - a total of 34,000 casualties out of the 90,000-strong army. 
The Butcher's Bill: Ruberian losses (destroyed).
Among the Azurian Corps engaged, losses were heavy indeed.  Minus 3rd Corps, just 64,000 troops had been engaged.  Of these, 10,000 horse, 16,000 foot and 1000 gunners were laid low: a total of 27,000. A Pyrrhic victory, perhaps, but it ended the invasion at once.  The Ruberian Army was left in no condition to test once more Azurian mettle.

A few points worth (perhaps) mentioning:
1.  Rather than being taken right out of the battle, retreating units should be pulled back, say, 30cm (a foot), and remain there, unable to advance.  Maybe they should be reactivated if the parent Corps falls back to rejoin it, perhaps even subsequent to that to be allowed to advance.  This may, however. make victories much harder to obtain, and certainly would increase casualties.  
The Butcher's Bill: Azurian losses (destroyed).
2.  All combat was by Corps - results between them were not combined, even when applied to the same target.  However, attacked by two Corps as the Azurian Cavalry Corps and 1st Corps was, the total was added and losses selected from among the attacking enemy.  Better might be to split the fire between the two targets as makes sense.  For instance, in its opening action, 1st Corps could have divided its fire with one Cavalry plus two Infantry shooting at I Corps, and three infantry, one cavalry and the guns in combat with the Ruberian Cavalry. 

Both groups would get the arbitrary two dice extra for each combat group (7 and 13 rather than 18 overall), and this would offset partially the disadvantages associated with smaller combat groups.

3.  I haven't explored other kinds of detachments from Corps.  This is definitely weakening, even given the apparent extra firepower (mostly illusory). However, defensive locations, such as built up areas around traffic node points might well be worth garrisoning at the expense of the field army.  At that, some defensive value should be placed upon the strength of such places.


  1. There is definitely something there but I preferred the Gettysburg game from last year not sure why. Possibly partly because of the way the retreats worked then but also possibly because the corps today looked to occupy too little ground visually.

    It seems to me that it should be possible to force a corps to retreat without destroying it. Afterall, going back to the Gettysburg reference, how many corps were actually rendered unfit for battle? Perhaps after each exchange there should be an adjucation of whether 1 side lost the exchange and that corps must fall back or if the battle is still raging. Just ideas off the top. I'm going to stop now before I get distracted into hauling some acw 20s out!

    1. I was looking for something quick and easy, but also decisive. There are no minor tactics involved, and I was also just testing the combat mechanics, which, on the whole, I rather liked.

      Looking back at the Gettysburg thing, I might revisit that with my ACW stuff on my kitchen table, but with a slightly expanded orbat, e.g. with my 3-figure infantry and possibly 2-figure cavalry stands in place of individual figures.

      At any rate, the kitchen table represented quite a large battle ground. I hadn\t really worked it out but I am estimating (very roughly) a ground scale of 1:20000, which would make the 18cm overall frontage of an Army Corps somewhere in the region of 3.6km or two and a quarter miles. One inch would represent 555 yards. This scale can be refined to something more arithmetically pliable, of course, say 1" to 600 yards.

      Again, I didn't have a formal time scale, but taking my 'square root' notion, and fudging it a bit, one move to 2 hours seems about right. Quite arbitrarily I made road movement 24cm, about the depth of the column on the march. March-and-deploy, and cross country movement was about 18cm. The Cav Corps had greater celerity of movement.

      I suspect that is a bit too quick, really, even though I am looking at a 6-move equinoctial day (8 moves summer solstice; 4 moves winter).

  2. Yes I got the idea and the ground scale, I think it was the visual disparity with the terrain as laid out. Something like monopoly houses with 2-3 making a town might help visually.Having movement and combat effects to major terrain features would also help with injecting a feeling of "generalship " beyond "fustest with the mostus".

    But it has potential. It also got me thinking again about my own nearly forgotten intermediate level of 'big battle on a medium table' game. So much for focus!

    1. My own lack of focus I don't think is doing this blog spot any good, worse luck. Though I have been thinking a lot about combat system for BB4ST, and now think I have it pretty much sussed. It will probably mean a 'split move' sort of thing. One thing seems promising: it looks as though 'holding attacks' will become very feasible. Usually they aren't in wargames.

      I admit that for this sort of game I really had in mind some kind of map board, much as for the Gettysburg experiment last year. But that did not altogether obviate making the 'map' a little more like a standard wargames table. But a wargame in the style of those Gettysburg and Shiloh picture-maps I posted three or four weeks back would, I agree, look better. There is a monopoly set in this house, and the Age of Empires stuff does include little factories and churches, a piece that denotes (presumably) sea ports, and wee locomotives. Looking back, I better understand your ... erm ... objection. The table looked to be no more than 4 or 5 miles end to end, instead of the 15 or so (4 ft) it ought to have been.

      So far as the armies are concerned, I have limited myself to what is available, though it leaves one cannon spare. That does not give much room for flexibility or variety, I have to admit. But in a wider theatre, with important points requiring garrisons.