Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Seven Years War returns

In the early days of this blog I posted several accounts of scenarios we had fought from the SYW.  These were devised by Alasdair and used his impressive collection of 25mm figures; these of course ceased when Alasdair moved away.  A good number of years ago I had been fortunate to receive a substantial number of unpainted 15mm SYW figures from the collection of the late David Barnes.  I had promised myself that I would get round to painting enough of them to put on a game, but the inherent 'butterfly effect' to which all wargamers seem susceptible meant that this particular project kept getting pushed down the 'to do' list. However, at long last, (with a bit of help from Steve's AWI collection), I was able to raise 8 brigades of infantry and  2 of cavalry  and devise a scenario from the campaigns involving the French and a mixed force of Anglo-Hanoverian/Prussian and Brunswick troops in the Rhineland.

Here is a general view of the terrain. The Allied forces (on the right) are defending their local supply base. General James Marlborough Blackadder has positioned his British troops on the hill covering the town.  In reserve is the brigade of Brunswick infantry and to the left of the Highlanders a brigade of Hessians (Steve arrived with these troops after the photo was taken).  On the far left were the British cavalry, comprising 3 regiments of dragoons.  In the wood on the far right was a unit of Brunswick jaeger.  The centre was supported by two batteries of artillery

The French, commanded by the  Marquis d'Ecoles, a descendant of the Comte de Salle Forde, the notable French commander of the wars of Louis XIV, comprised 15 battalions of infantry and four of cavalry, with the cavalry on the right.  He also had two batteries of artillery.  The Marquis' plan was to pin the Allied infantry with a frontal attack and then use his cavalry to defeat the Allied horse and then roll up the rest of their line.

The French infantry

The action opened with Steve making a general advance with the French infantry which was met by fire from the Allied artillery.  This had little effect at long range,particularly as the soft ground reduced the 'bounce through' effect of the ball shot, (ie I rolled a lot of 1's).  The jaeger 'ambush' on the Allied right failed totally; the first shots had no effect and all surprise was lost.  However, it did draw one French battalion into the woods and they spent the rest of the battle floundering around taking no part in the action.

Although struggling to find room to deploy, the French cavalry advanced and this challenge was met by the Allied cavalry which charged forward.  The resulting melees were victories for the French as the King's Dragoons and the 11th Dragoons were both driven back in confusion. For a time the 3rd Dragoon Guards restored the balance but they were attacked by Royal Pologne and the Mestre de Camp General and driven from the field.  All that saved the Allied left was that the French cavalry commander, who led the charge, as killed in the melee and it took some time for the Marquis to gallop over to reorganise the regiments.

In the centre, the two armies were now in musketry range and the French struggled to make headway against the British line, especially as it was bolstered by artillery.  The Alsace regiment found itself right in front of the guns and although suffering heavy losses from canister, they managed to drive off the gunners with volleys. Their victory was short lived as a volley from Loyals drove them from the field.

Blackadder was concerned at the advance of French troops into the wood on his right, fearing that it threatened his supply base.  He therefore ordered his reserve brigade to drive the enemy from the wood. The Brunswick troops attacked with elan, but it took some time to push their way through the trees and by the time they emerged on the far side, task accomplished, events had moved on in other parts of the field.

The Marquis had managed to get his guns forward to support his attack on the British line on the hill and Allied losses began to mount. To regain the initiative, Blackadder ordered his Highland brigade to attack. The first wave was driven off by musketry volleys, but the second crashed into the French line driving back their opponents and then carrying on to attack the second line.  These too retreated,and the Marquis hastily cobbled together a third line of battered units to resist the highlanders. However, the losses suffered in the melees now began to take effect.  Isolated and outnumbered the Highlanders found themselves swept by French musketry fire and destroyed as a fighting force.

The Hessians found themselves attacked frontally by infantry, but with cavalry menacing their flanks.  If they deployed to take on the infantry, they risked being cut down by the cavalry.  In square, they would be decimated by musketry volleys.  One battalion risked being in line and was destroyed by a charge from the Royal Allemand regiment.  Another was driven from the field by fire from the French artillery.

Blackadder found that his left and centre were destroyed.  He had no cavalry to counter the French advance and the one area of success, the Brunswick brigade's advance would not bring victory.  On the hill the remnants of his British battalions struggled to hold their position against a renewed French advance.  It was time to withdraw and lead the field to the French.

An interesting scenario that allowed Steve and I to reacquaint ourselves with the Konig Kreig rules after a break of a couple of years.  Hopefully I will paint up a few more units over the coming months and set up some more scenarios.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Result in the Sudan

At last Steve and I managed to meet to bring the Sudan game to a conclusion.  On the river, the Tamei, which was very low in the water, drifted away from the jetty and after an order from the bridge, the engines were put into full astern.  With the needles into the 'red zone' the steamer struggled into the main flow of the river.  Suddenly, the power dropped away but the steamer was now out of the arc of the Dervish artillery. Rather than continue to shell the Tamei, the Dervish gun now concentrated on the Egyptian troops advancing on Ad Dueim, quickly finding the range and inflicted heavy casualties.

The Dervish cavalry had at last reformed and began to move forward.  Ahead of them were the Egyptian mounted infantry, who had dismounted and formed line to support the attack on Ad Dueim.  Caught unprepared, the Egyptians' volley was ineffective and the Dervish cavalry crashed into them.  The line buckled and then gave away.  As the Egyptians ran back towards the lines behind them, the Dervish cavalry followed up and charged into the disorganised line. Fortunately for the Egyptians the supporting Dervish cavalry were fired on by the Imperial field guns.  The losses stopped them in their tracks and then the machine gun from the Tamei joined in to complete their destruction.

By the farm a fierce melee was under way. Dervish infantry had charged out of some broken ground and closed on the British line.  A close range volley did not stop the Dervishes, but discipline and bayonets did and when the Dervish commander was killed, the fight went out of the attackers and they fell back.  On the Imperial right the flanking column of mounted infantry continued their solid performance beating off yet more attacks in spite of the losses they were suffering.

Indeed, the Mahdi was beginning to think that perhaps this was not the day ordained for victory.  However, he moved to rally his troops and having inspired them to greater efforts, ordered them forward.  Once again the waves of Dervish infantry surged forward.  Perhaps lulled by their success, the British infantry volleys were not as punishing as expected and the Dervish charged home.  Three British units were now fighting for their lives and the initiative lay with their enemy.  Scarcely believing his eyes, the Imperial commander saw the British front line waver and then break.  Under the eyes of their leader, the Dervish infantry swept forward.  This was the high water mark of the Dervish advance.  Their cavalry was on the brink of breaking the Egyptian line opposite Ad Dueim and all that remained between the British and disaster were two units of Highlanders.  It was at this point that the Mahdi received news that the defences of Ad Dueim had been shattered by artillery fire, the Dervish artillery in the town had been destroyed and that a whole brigade of Egyptian troops were bearing down on the town.  He therefore ordered the supplies to be removed from the town and carried off into the desert.

The previously successful Dervish cavalry now found themselves unsupported. As they battled the Egyptians to their front they were attacked in flank by a Sudanese infantry unit.  With their commander wounded all order was lost and the battered remnants of the cavalry galloped back towards their lines.  Not wishing to suffer more losses, the Mahdi ordered his men to fall back; there would be other days and other battles before this war was won.  For his part, the Imperial commander was happy to be left in possession of the field.  His troops had suffered heavy losses and he had no cavalry to exploit his 'victory'.  The Tamei would need extensive repairs before it could be in service again and the bulk of the supplies had been carried away by the retiring Dervishes.


Sunday, 12 October 2014

Another interruption

Real life intervened yet again this week, so Steve and I did not meet to finish the latest Sudan game.  With the next two weeks also "spoken for" it will be at least three weeks before my next update.  Many thanks for your comments and continuing interest in my ramblings.

 I leave you with another photo from the Sudan game.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Sudan round 2

Normal service was resumed this week, so Steve and I met to continue the latest action from the Sudan. Close quarters fighting was immediately the order of the day.  At Ad Dueim the steamer was mooring at the jetty and preparations were being made for the Blue Jackets to capture the village.  The only Dervish troops in sight were those manning the defences facing the Egyptians and a field gun; the latter being a particular nuisance as it was firing at the 'Tamei' and some parts of the upper works were now beginning to resemble a colander.  Bolitho, in charge of the landing party was all set to go ashore when a report from the bow machine gun team changed everything.  A mass of Dervish troops were surging down the dusty street towards the jetty!  Led by their emir, the Dervish ignored the storm of bullets and made for the steamer.  As the range closed the machine gun jammed.  Drawing his cutlass, Bolitho led his small band to oppose the natives.  After a desperate melee in which Bolitho managed to wound the emir, the Dervish were driven back in confusion, but it had been a close run thing.

The Dervish attack the Tamei
On the Imperial right the battle for the farm continued with the mounted infantry and Lancers under increasing pressure.  Indeed, the Lancers were forced to give ground and as they attempted to reform a charge by a fresh unit of Dervish drove them from the field.

A bad day for the Lancers
Fortunately for the Imperial cause, the mounted infantry stood firm, in spite of their heavy losses, and bought enough ground for a second unit of mounted infantry to deploy.  In the centre the Imperial troops were advancing with caution towards Ad Dueim.  With the Egyptian cavalry covering them, the British infantry began to deploy into line, ready to drive off the expected counter attack.  They were not to be disappointed as from behind Ad Dueim masses of Dervish cavalry began to move forward.  However, the native horsemen were hampered by some rough terrain and also their own infantry, who had been driven back by the controlled volleys from the British troops. They struggled to make progress as each wave was met by a volley as they tried to close to contact.  If the cavalry failed to close and were driven back this pinned the supports, who were then treated to a volley in their turn.  Some charges did strike home and for a time it looked as if the Egyptian cavalry would follow the Lancers into the desert wastes, but with commendable spirit the Egyptians held, assisted in part by the timely arrival of a British horse battery.

Behind the Egyptian cavalry their infantry were disposing of the last of the Dervish front line.  The Dervish had fought bravely and delayed the Egyptian infantry long enough that the Tamei had had no support and was in a parlous state with flooding to several compartments.

The Egyptian infantry drive off the last Dervish unit
 Back at the farm the mounted infantry barely had time to draw breath before a further unit of Dervish charged forward.  Behind them were several more units, led by the Mahdi in person. Clearly, there would be more fighting before the day was over.

Unfortunately, we ran out of time again,so the game will now go into a third session, with the odds slightly favouring the Imperial side.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Sudan decision postponed

Events conspired to prevent me getting to Steve's this week, so the conclusion of the current Sudan scenario has been delayed.  In the interim I have added another page to the gallery with more photos of the recent Kukrowitz game.  These have been sent to me by John, one of the Allied commanders.  At the same time I have updated the page with our local version of the Shako 'Big Battles' rules, so that it now includes the most recent amendments.
All being well a report on the conclusion of the Sudan scenario will appear next week.  Meanwhile, here are a few more photos of the Kukrowitz game

The Austrians defend the Klosterberg

Ney's infantry cross the Thaya

Russian counter-attack against Bertrand

The Allied position begins to crumble

Monday, 22 September 2014

Return to the Sudan

The last time Steve and I fought an action from the Sudan was at the Sunday game following the Phalanx Show in June.  With 8 players the pace of the action was quite slow and did not really reach a conclusion, so Steve decided to reprise the scenario on a slightly smaller table.  I took control of the Dervish forces and noted their deployment on my map.  I placed two units of riflemen forward, hoping to disrupt the Imperial advance, with further units of melee troops behind them in support, taking advantage of the broken ground.  I placed a 'brigade' of Hadendoah in the rear and a mixed 'brigade' in Ad Dueim itself in case the steamer attempted to land the blue jackets.  Off table I had some cavalry and a further 'brigade' of Hadendoah.

The initial Imperial deployment and as you can see my riflemen found themselves rather out on a limb.  Steve sent troops around both flanks of riflemen and pinned them from the front with a battalion of infantry.  I initially got the better of the rifle fire, but when a second Egyptian battalion joined the first the weight of fire proved too much and my men gave way, heading towards the rear.

The Egyptian camel corps was pressing forward and one of my melee units broke cover charging towards them.  Surprisingly, the Egyptian troops dismounted and formed a firing line to meet the charge.  As my men bore down on them, the Egyptians fired a volley.  This was ignored by the Dervishes and the two sides met in melee.  Against the odds, the Egyptians prevailed and it was the Dervishes who were driven back in confusion.

The Egyptians had little time to dwell on their success as a second Dervish unit now crashed into them.  This time the Egyptians were defeated, almost being wiped out.  The Dervishes carried on, but their next opponents were British regulars, whose rapid fire stopped the attack in its tracks.  As the natives tried to reform they were hit by the Egyptian cavalry and cut down.

On the river, the gun boat was making steady progress towards Ad Dueim, firing on the Dervish formations as it passed.  Although under fire from from Dervish artillery, the gun boat reached the village, where Dervish troops waited to charge up the jetty to attack it.

On the Imperial right the brigade of British troops had made good progress towards the small village.  Dervish charges towards them had been defeated by rifle fire.

 A flanking manoeuvre by the Imperial cavalry and camel troops arrived just behind the village, hoping to outflank any defensive line.  However, this was why I had placed one 'brigade' in reserve and these troops charged forward, attempting to stop the attack in its tracks.

Attacked by three units, the British cavalry was really struggling, suffering very heavy casualties.
This was where matters came to a close, with good progress being made towards Ad Dueim, but the Dervish reinforcements were still to arrive.  Action will recommence next week.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Lines of Castenay

The scenario this week is set in the War of the Grand Alliance.  Those old adversaries, the Comte de Salle Forde and Graf Von Grommitt once more crossed swords in the continuing wars of Louis  XIV.  To forestall any incursion by the Alliance forces into newly acquired French territory, orders had been issued by Versailles to construct defence lines, one such was in the neighbourhood of the village of Castenay.  A low ridge between two areas of boggy ground seemed to offer the perfect blocking position and a local contractor, (monsigneur Charles Balle-Foure) had been engaged by the emigre engineer Alexander Beattie to supervise the works. Two local militia battalions had been drafted in from a nearby fortress to do the required digging, but  when news that the Alliance army was on its way was received, the militia quickly decided that their duty lay in garrisoning the fortress and it was left for the Comte de Salle Forde to hold the ridge.  He had eight regiments of infantry, four squadrons of cavalry and a light gun.  The militia had managed to start work on two redoubts on the ridge and these provided cover for the ends of the Comte's front line of 5 battalions.  The only open ground was on the left and here the Comte stationed the Chevalier Aubusson with two sqaudrons of cavalry.  It would have made sense if the remaining cavalry had also been on the left, but the Marquis de St Evremonde insisted, as the senior cavalry commander, he should be on the right.  With friends at court, the Marquis could ignore the Comte and chose to do so on this occasion.

Initial deployment of forces, French on the left

Von Grommitt had 10 battalions of infantry and 5 squadrons of cavalry plus a medium gun.   He too opted for the classic deployment of infantry in the centre with cavalry on each wing and decided to advance against the whole French line, keeping his grenadiers in reserve, ready to exploit any gaps.

Von Grommitt advances

 As the Alliance forces advanced the marshy area in the centre, opposite the gap in the ridge caused problems as the grenadiers had to try and manoeuvre around it.  Von Grommitt had to leave matters up to the battalion commanders as he was fully employed getting the Hessian infantry into position.  To further complicate matters, the French chose this moment to attack with their left wing cavalry.  the Chevalier Aubusson led his squadrons (Aubusson and Vaillac), forward, hoping to attack the flank of the infantry line.  He found that instead he was opposed by the Austrian cuirassier brigade (squadrons from the Jung Hannover and Herbestein regiments). 

Aubusson attacks the Austrian cuirassiers
 These horsemen did not attempt to charge, but calmly waited for the French to get close enough to fire at them with their pistols.  The pistol discharge was delayed until the last moment and emptied several saddles.  Amongst the casualties was the gallant Chevalier, who made it a point of honour to be the first to reach the enemy line.   Aubusson were repulsed, but Vaillac pushed on and the second impact was sufficient to drive the Jung Hannover squadron back.  Both sides now took time to reform, the French hampered by the loss of their commander.  Seeing the disruption on his left, the Comte galloped over and took personal command of his cavalry.  Inspired by his presence, the French charged again and drove the Austrian cuirassiers from the field.  However, events on the ridge had now reached a critical stage and the Comte had to quickly regain his former post behind the front line.

The Austrian infantry near the ridge

On the Alliance left the Austrian brigade had reached the ridge and started to move forward into a gap created by the retreat of the Zurlaben infantry battalion which had had to fall back due to casualties from artillery fire. As the Metternich battalion neared the crest they were attacked by the Marquis' cavalry which he had led forward.  The Spanish horse charged forward but were stopped in their tracks by a deadly volley from the Austrians.  As the remnants of the unit fell back, they left the field clear for the Marquis' second unit, the Cuirassier du Roi.  This also charged Metternich and undeterred by the volley closed on the infantry.  Sheltered by their pikes, the Austrians held their ground and again the French had to fall back. The Dutch battalion in the Austrian brigade had by this time driven Solre back from their works and was attempting to form up on the ridge.

The Spanish horse charge forward
 Meanwhile on the French left, the Comte had taken control of the defence of the ridge.  Directing his artillery to fire in support of the Bavarians he was able to stop Erbprinz from closing.  Wartensleben was also struggling to get the better of a fire fight with  Toulouse.  Von Grommitt was fully occupied trying to cover the rear of his attack from the French cavalry.  Fortunately, lacking a commander now the Comte had returned to the ridge, they took their time reorganising and this allowed the Alliance cavalry from the left to cross the battlefield to come the the aid of their infantry. Outnumbered, the French fell back behind their lines.

In the centre, the leading battalion of Alliance grenadiers had attacked Languedoc, who were holding the part-built lines.  These gave the French some advantage, but when the second grenadier battalion moved up the French gave way and fell back on their reserves.

As the light began to fade the Alliance had a foothold on the ridge on their left flank and in the centre, but were facing the bulk of the French reserves plus the Marquis' cavalry.  On the Alliance right, the Hessian brigade had taken heavy casualties trying to take the ridge and Von Grommitt decided he should withdraw.  The Comte could hardly believe his luck, he too had been on the point of ordering a withdrawal and the sight of his enemy falling back allowed him to order his troops to return to their positions on the ridge.

The closing position

 We used the Ga Pa rules for this scenario and they worked much better with the linear deployment.  The rules allow for galloping and trotting charges and we decided to make the French cavalry 'gallopers', although they were disordered by their charge. This represents their philosophy of the "charge en forageurs",  where the emphasis was on speed rather than cohesion.    The Alliance cavalry were trotting cavalry, who relied more on breaking up the enemy charge with pistol fire.  This gave interesting cavalry melees, but pike-armed infantry seemed to have little difficulty seeing off cavalry charges.  Next time perhaps we'll set the scenario a little later when pikes had been phased out.