Sunday, May 28, 2023

Pike and Shotte - a PW 30YW action.

Battle of Tulzen - the Imperialists facing north

A few weeks ago, reading up on someone's pike and shot postings on facebook or blog, I bethought myself to my long neglected Thirty Yaers' War (30YW) armies of Sweden and the Hapsburg Empire - or, as I sometimes prefer, between the warring realms of Severeia and Austereia. I wanted to try out the "Portable Thirty Years ... War Wargame" - Antoine Bourguilleau - from the Portable Pike and Shot book. It became fairly clear early on that I would be shoehorning the system onto my hex table (so why didn't I use my square grid table instead? I don't know...).  
The Grabbenfloss stream east of the 
There was no particular reason for going for the unit sizes that I did, either, except for wanting to test out some ideas that sprang from them. The respective forces were lined up east of the little town of Tulzen, along a flat plain flanked at the eastern edge by the marshy Grabbenfloss stream. The armies dispensed with such refinements as forlorn hopes, dragoons and battalion guns, though the Swedish Army did include a battery of heavy guns. The Armies comprised:

Command: Feldmarschall Lennart Blixtensson (4SP)
3 x 'Swedish' Cavalry @ 3SP = 9SP
2 x Battalia @ 4SP = 8SP (Elite)
2 x Battalia @ 4SP = 8SP 
1 x Artillery = 2SP

Totals: 8 units plus general; 31SP
Except where stated, all units are average.

Command: Count Albrecht Eusebius von Steinwald (4SP)
2 x Cuirassier horse @ 4SP = 8SP (Elite)
2 x 'Dutch' Cavalry @ 3SP = 6SP
3 x Tercio foot @ 6SP = 18SP

Totals: 7 units plus general; 36SP

Something about the units:
'Swedish' cavalry were 'get tore in' types - no faffing around popping pistols, but stuck in with sword and anything else sharp or heavy.  They get some benefit in close combat.  These I hade 2 x 3-horse elements strong, the bases being place side by side across the middle of the hex.
Swedish cavalry, guns and battalia. 
The pikes seem to be over- represented, but the 
formation looks OK. All figures and gun Revell;
the limber and team ... not sure...

'Dutch' cavalry relied more on firepower. These I made into columns, a single element wide and 3 deep. I gather Graf zu Pappenheim, the famous Imperial cavalry commander, favoured deep columns of horse. 
Cuirassiers flanked by 'Dutch' pistoleer cavalry

Cuirassiers.  In the pictures I have shown them also in 3 deep columns, but later I removed one element. I would have liked to have represented them in a 2x2 array, but that really does stretch the capacity of my 10cm hexes. probably I ought to have retained the 3-deep columns for these.

Battalia, I have represented by a 2-elementline of shot, with a single pike element in front and another behind in a sort of lozenge formation.  That seems to be the convention for this type of war game, with armies built in this fashion.

Tercios, as I have organised them,  really do push the boundaries of my hex grid. After some deliberation, I decided they would cover two hexes in depth, 4 ranks, with 2 shot elements in first and fourth ranks, single pikes in second and third.  The depth of this formation, and possibly the 'Dutch' cavalry as well, would have some implications when the fight got to close quarters.

For the most part, the game was played 'according to book', which rather meant pretty slow going as it would take a very good roll just to move half the army. This sort of thing works for Memoir '44, why should it not for this game?  I'm not sure. Maybe it does 'work', and I'm just impatient. At any rate, the effect on the Imperial side in particular was an advance in oblique order, the strong cavalry wing leading. The Swedish forces also tended to advance on the right, the slow moving tercios doing little enough to close the range.

Early on the Imperialists won an important initiative, which brought the cuirassiers and the flanking pistoleers into shooting range of the Red Brigade - the left-most battalia. This was one of the units for which I supplied the deficiency of pikemen in the Revell pack by removing waving muskets and replacing them with modelling wire pikes. This defined this unit as one of the 'average' ones. The other was the Black Brigade, close by the artillery
As it transpired, the Imperial shooting was very good, both sides scoring hits. Now, this was where a certain absence of mind set in that I didn't notice until after the game: I treated all 'hits' as SP losses. As it happens, I don't think it did the game any harm, and it certainly led to decisive action. The Red Battalia lost half its strength at first 'contact'. Of course there was no immediate reply to Imperialist shooting, but it left the Swedish foot to decide whether to close up into close combat, or to stand off to bring their musketry into play.
Whatever their decision, it was not effective.  But this does bring us to what seems to me an odd situation. Suppose the foot charge in to close combat. The result is inconclusive, and the opposing units remain in situ.  Now this might have occurred 
(a) - the foot had won the initiative, and the turn passes to the enemy.  Are the units still in close combat, or may the enemy simply shoot in its turn?
(b) - the horse had won the initiative; the foot's reply was to bring on a close combat; and now we have reached another initiative roll. If the foot wins, they will probably continue the close combat.  But if the horse wins, may they break of the close combat to resume their short-ranged shooting? 
My inclination is that in situation (a) the units remain in close combat for the whole turn, and the 'second' side has no choice in the matter until it wins an initiative roll. In situation (b) I would allow the choice whoever wins the initiative roll. Of course, all this pre-supposes that the respective activation rolls permit the units to fight or shoot at all.

Parlous as the situation was for Red Brigade, the flanking cavalry came charging up to strike the Imperial pistoleers in the flank. The whole irruption was a frost. The pistoleers shrugged off the enemy attack (the '5' was good enough for a SP loss to the Swedes; the 2 far too low to concern the Imperialists).
Of course, the latter had in their turn to wheel and face the enemy, whereat they shot up more of them.  This eased the pressure upon Red Brigade, of course, but now the Swedish cavalry was in peril. They did not survive much longer as a formed unit. 
By now the centres were closing, the Swedish Blue and Grey Brigades in shooting range of the second unit of pistoleers, and the right-hand tercio. Their shooting was at once successful, both Imperial units taking a SP loss. That didn't stop the latter from closing the range, whereat the Blue Brigade came under close musket and pistol fire from enemy horse and foot.
From the eastern end of the battle lines, the close action had spread through to the centre. Yet, apart from a near contact nearer the Tulzen town where Marshal Blixtensson's peronal cavalry unit had strayed too close to the left-hand tercio, a considerable distance remained between the respective battle lines.

However, Blixtensson's drawing of the tercio's attention permitted the remaining Swedish cavalry, hard by the village, to charge the cuirassiers covering the Imperial left flank. The fortunes of war having so far fallen upon the side of the Imperialists seem to see no reason to change their allegiance. Despite the impetuosity of their charge (plus 1 on their combat die), it was the Swedish horse who took the hit.

I do believe that the gunnery ranges ought to be increased. All day the Swedish guns had been seeking out a target - not easy when its arc of fire is restricted to a single 'column' of grid areas. I stayed with that rule for this action, but in future recommend, for hex fields, the immediate adjacent hex forward, and thereafter the same column of hexes and the columns adjacent. For the square grid, I would recommend simply the three columns. The 3 grid-area range seemed to me could stand some increase, the 3 maximum applying to battalion guns.  I may come back to this some time.  
By now the situation on the Swedish left was beginning to deteriorate. Against all the odds, the east pistoleers had seen off their adversaries, and were attacking the Red Brigade in flank as the cuirassiers continued to engage from the front. Blue Brigade had taken some hurt from the attacks by Imperial horse and foot. Black Brigade surged in upon the flank of that tercio. This is where the depth of the tercio got interesting, for it was the flank of the rear hex that the Black Brigade struck. Because the tercio was heavily engaged with the Blue Brigade in front, this flank attack counted as such. From here on, that tercio was to take heavy losses before the battle drew to a close.
On the Imperial left, not much was happening, though the steady, grinding advance of the left-hand tercio was threatening to isolate the enemy cavalry still entangled with the cuirassiers.
All the action was on the other wing. Red Brigade overcome and destroyed, the Imperial horse thundered on to engage the already embattled Blue Brigade. The reserve Yellow Brigade, another elite unit, intercepted the pistoleers, but the situation remained dire. It was all up for the Swedish Army when the centre tercio at last reached the fighting and hit the Black Brigade in flank.  
Final moments of the battle, as the Imperialists begin 
to roll up the Swedish line.

All attacking impetus had gone out of the Swedish Army. At once Marschall Blixtensson sounded the retreat, and the army began to pull out. I admit, I could have played on with the Swedes trying to get off with their embattled units, and the Imperialists in pursuit, but the result was already clear cut. The Swedish Army lost 11SP - and reached its exhaustion point.

The Imperialists had been very fortunate, losing just 6SP, two-thirds of them from one tercio. 

I think on this table I'd be inclined to ad one grid area to movement, and to increase the gun range to 6 hexes, apart from battalion guns, which would have 1 Strength point only, and have a range of 3 SPs.  For the rest - maybe another play test is in order.

Finally, I promised someone I would add a 'me' pic. This one is from 3 years ago - I'm not sure I have one more recent.  Even on a day as grey as this, my photochromatic lenses kick in.

Outdoors action - 'Unquiet Flows the Mius'
A fairly mild day for April, shortly after the 
COVID shut down.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Border Incident (3) - Army Manoeuvres of 1912


Cambridge Examiner. 18th September.  Near Ashdon.
Orders reached 2nd Cavalry Division overnight to switch their axis
of operations northwards toward the West Wrattling - Great
Abingdon road. Apparently, word - from patrols into no man's 
land and the occasional refugee - is that the enemy Cavalry 
Division is congregating around Stoke-by-Clare and 2nd Division 
along the Haverhill- Brinkley road. A gap has in consequence developed between the latter and 1st Division on the line of the Granta River. That gap is only partially filled by the enemy Army HQ and the heavy artillery. They are undoubtedly a tempting target.

Lt-Colonel Shelby Wright having assumed command vice the injured Colonel Briggs, readied his command by issuing orders to be on the march north by daybreak. Much hope is being placed upon the outcome of this strike.

Haverhill.  Morning,  18th September.
Elements of Curelean 2nd Division led by 5th Brigade and supported by the artillery sortied from Haverhill and fell upon the rather exiguous line formed by our 8th Brigade. Heavily outnumbered, our troops gave way before the fury of the enemy onset, and fell back towards Ashdon, and the positions that had been occupied by the now departed 2nd Cavalry Division.
This assault coincided with a brigade sized attack upon Linton, the site of General Grierson's HQ and the heavy artillery, defended by 10th Brigade along the river line.  This attack, however, has been roundly repulsed, the enemy abandoning such of his machine guns that were not destroyed. 

The attack from Haverhill stalled in front of Ashdon village, they came under a flanking gunfire from the 3rd Division artillery. Unable to sustain their attack, the enemy is falling back towards Haverhill.

Ignoring the threat presented by the enemy issuing forth from Haverhill to their right rear, the cavalry crossed the Ashdon-Stole rail line and struck the road west of Wrattling shortly after mid-morning. It transpired that the reported gap was largely illusory, as the enemy 6th Brigade had marched through West Wrattling itself a short time earlier. So our cavalry met them on the road.  

Stiff fighting - the enemy infantry supported from close by the Army heavy guns - eventually drove them off the road with heavy loss.  The Dragoon Brigade was unable to make much head way, but the Lights, charging the left front of the enemy line, drove them back an mile or so to the north.
Severing the direct road link between the 1st Division and the Army Commander from the main body of his army is a very considerable strategic success.  It remains to make good the advantages that have accrued therefrom. One was the hazard to which the Cerulean Army Train had been placed.
In pursuit, however, our horse proved unable completely to break the rallied remnants of 6th Brigade, and further success was denied them.
Linton. 18th September.  Noon
Before the cavalry operation could take effect, a counterbattery duel between the respective armies' heavy guns - a profitless action in this writer's view - led to the silencing of our own.  Thus encouraged, once more the enemy, identified as 1st Brigade, attempted a storm of the Linton bridge.  Both sides suffered losses, but to ours was the greater, as General Grierson, directing the defence, was struck by a bullet and instantly killed.   
This was part of a major effort by General Sam Lomax's 1st Division
to force the Granta River line, once and for all.  The attack along the 
Whittlesford road was barely held - both sides incurring heavy losses 
(1 SP each).  That the defenders could barely hold with the odds in their favour calls into question the leadership of our 4th Division and its
constituent brigades.

Twelfth Brigade was even more roughly handled, driven back as far as the Cambridge rail line, and almost to Whittlesford.  

Of course, the importunate enemy followed up. At last, 12th Brigade is finding its mojo and have halted the enemy short of the railway line. During this attack, Major-General d'Oyly Snow has borne a charmed life.  A bullet severed the strap of his map case and another passed though his peaked cap. He seems to be revelling in the fight.

(Aside: the attackers score TWO extra sixes on the dice, which, as he was present, placed general d'Oyly Snow at hazard. He had to roll two dice - one for each 'hit'.  A one meant killed or mortally wounded (as happened to General Grierson); a 4-6 meant no harm that would take the officer out of the battle.  So what did d'Oyly Snow roll? Two sixes.  One lucky, lucky general!)
Stoke-by-Clare. 18th September. Morning.
Little action has developed during this forenoon. The enemy cavalry began to advance along a broad front to cross the Stour River. At about the time 8th Brigade was fighting its defensive battle along the Haverhill-Ashdon road, 7th Brigade, along with the divisional machine-gun company, was pushing towards Stoke-by Clare.  
It is hoped that the fresh 7th, as yet unengaged in the fighting might at least contain, if not overthrow, the enemy cavalry formations thought to be depleted from the previous days' action.
At this time, reports are coming in from other fronts that ...
... the cavalry's breakthrough thrust, though initially successful, is being held by a tenuous enemy line, ...
... and 4th Division is struggling to hold the line of the Granta River at Linton, or to restore it at Great Abingdon. Latest reports indicate that our 12th Brigade has at last driven the enemy 1st back 4 miles - all the way back to the river, and even across it.  Success at Stoke might yet turn the invaders back to their own side of the border.

Birdbrook. Noon.
Seventh Brigade has encountered two enemy cavalry brigades fighting dismounted.  The results are not encouraging.  Although some loss has been visited upon the enemy 2nd Cavalry, ours have been the heavier, although the action against 3rd Cavalry has been apparently more favourable. The enemy 1st Cavalry charged 9th Brigade, the outcome inconclusive. 
Cambridge Examiner. 18th September. Mid-afternoon.
Although the day still wants some hours before nightfall, the guns have fallen silent.  The day has not overall been favourable to our arms, as Linton has fallen, the cavalry breakthrough finally failed, and on the Stoke-Haverhill front, if anything the enemy are - or were - pushing forward. Against those, the restoration by 4th Division of at least our side of the line to the Granta River scarcely weighs in the balance (see Map).
Nevertheless, were are told that Major-General Haig, commanding the invasion army, has called for an armistice, citing the heavy losses incurred by both sides. It seems his Army is as exhausted as ours. We can not call this victory, I dare say, but it is far from defeat. No doubt overnight we shall see what the negotiations bring forth. It seems likely that after the exchange of prisoners, the Cerulean Army shall be allowed to return to its own borders, and the settlement, as is usual in such cases, shall be on the basis of status quo ante bellum