Sunday, 30 January 2011

Kloster Kamp

Our most recent game,re-fought the Seven Years War battle of Kloster Kamp (1760). Details (including a map) can be found by following the Seven Years War link on the right, which leads to the excellent Seven Years War website.

Briefly, the forces on the extreme left of the French position, were attacked unexpectedly by Allied forces under Ferdinand, which had carried out a flank march during the night. Action took place on either side of the Fosse Eugenica, which was only crossable at two bridges. The opposing light forces skirmishing in the vicinity of the Kloster Kamp convent, whilst the main action took place in and around the French camp.

This is a general view looking from the French right. On the right can be seen the French camp, with the infantry hastening to their positions, beyond them lie the village and the the Fosse Eugenica. To the left can be seen the convent of Kloster Kamp. In the centre is the first wave of the allied attack, comprising four battalions of Highlanders and Grenadiers. Behind them are the British cavalry, one regiment each of dragoons and light dragoons and 6 battalions of infantry, four Hanoverian and two British. Hampered by the camp, the French infantry had not managed to form into a line of battle before the British were upon them. The first battalion of the Regiment Berry was the first into action, although they were on the receiving end of a telling volley from the 87th (Keith's Highlanders). Almost half the Frenchmen were casualties, but they passed their morale test with elan and bravely held their position. As the French line formed up it became clear that although the British infantry were a threat, far more dangerous were the cavalry, who were manoeuvring to charge the French flank or rear. Some aid to the French came from a battery of light artillery which supported them with fire from their right flank. This fire was sufficient to force Fraser's Highlanders to retreat and thus release some pressure on the French line. Urgent messages had been sent to French headquarters for reinforcements , if the line could hold for another hour the day may be saved.

On the other bank of the fosse the light troops continued their skirmishing. A battalion of the Chasseurs Britannique were advancing on the French chasseurs, supported by Luckner's Hussars. Opposing them were the Bercheny Hussars and a small squadron of Saxon hussars, together with three companies of Grenadiers de France. The officer commanding the grenadiers saw that his opponents 'were not proper soldiers' and decided that he could quickly disperse them. Advancing, the grenadiers received a scattered volley from the allied infantry, accepted this as further proof of their opponents poor quality and moved forward again. The French chasseurs had also moved forward and they began a harassing fire, which caused some wavering in the enemy line. The grenadiers surged forward, confident of an easy victory and were met by a shattering volley from the Chasseurs Britannique. The volley was followed by a spirited counter-charge which completely overwhelmed the French and they took no further part in the action. Artillery fire from allied batteries now began to fall on the French light cavalry and the Saxon hussars were driven from the field. With the advantage of numbers now lying with the Allies, the French light forces fell back hoping to hold their original positions.

Meanwhile the main Allied attack was progressing very well. Half the original defenders of the camp had been dispersed, the baggage train was hampering enemy reinforcements deploying and those reinforcements were widely separated. Here we can see the three brigades of French reinforcements. The Swiss and Saxons beyond the hill, the Irish and Germans approaching the ridge and the French tangled with the baggage train and the camp. The British dragoons are moving over the hill, looking for an open flank, whilst the 15th Light Dragoons are threatening an isolated French battalion, whilst British infantry move on their flank.

Inevitably the fight within the camp became a very confused affair, with the British and French infantry exchanging volleys, but making little progress. The French battalions outside the camp were in a far less happy situation. Caught in the open two were ridden down by the Light Dragoons, one stood and fired a volley, but this had no effect on the cavalry, who plunged into the infantry, sabring left and right. The second battalion seeing this turned and ran, but were caught and butchered. The heavy dragoons had seen that they would be unlikely to make progress against the Irish brigade supported as it was by an artillery battery and so they fell back.

This gave just enough time for the baggage train to depart and allow the French reinforcements to deploy in support of the battered defenders of the camp. All the French cavalry, apart from the hussars was on the far left, nothing in the vicinity of the camp. Not only that, once they arrived the cavalry did nothing, not even moving to support the advance of the Saxon and Swiss infantry. These were faced by three regiments of Hanoverian horse which meant that their progress was very slow. Near the camp a more dangerous situation arose. The British heavy dragoons saw that the gap between the hill and the camp was only held by the baggage guard; here was an opportunity to break the line and cause havoc. They surged forward and dispersed the guard with ease. Seeing this the light dragons, emboldened by their earlier success decided to intervene in the fight in the camp. Regardless of the ropes, tents and sundry gear they charged forward and suffered the inevitable result. Caught in restricted terrain, with no means of co-ordinating their attack, they were defeated, and fled to the rear, taking no further part in the action.

Meanwhile, the heavy dragoons had moved to their right and charged the battery which had deployed on the hill. It had been successfully attacking the Hanoverian cavalry holding the Allied left and its removal may allow for a more active advance. The Irish battalions were unable to help the battery as the dragoons threatened them as well. The battery was overrun, but the dragoons now found themselves isolated from the rest of their army, with no clear way out.

For Ferdinand things were going well. Although outnumbered his infantry had captured the enemy camp, secured the village and when the second division arrived the French reinforcements would be forced to withdraw. He ordered the Hanoverian brigade to advance on the Irish, whose cramped position on the hill meant they were unable to bring their full fire power to bear.
Securing the hill was vital if the threat of the Swiss and Saxon infantry was to be nullified. Even as the Hanoverians began their advance Ferdinand observed that the French general had at last decided to take the initiative and had ordered his infantry forward, although curiously the cavalry remained in position.
Whilst mulling over this odd tactical development, Ferdinand was approached by a courier dispatched by the commander of the Hessian brigade, part of the second division, announcing his troops arrival on the field. However, this good news was tempered by a further statement from the Hessian's commander that the position of the rest of the division was unknown to him.
Looking around the field, Ferdinand assessed the position, he had 5 fresh battalions, (the Hessians would take another half hour to reach the front line), with 5 more reduced to half strength or less. His cavalry were equal in numbers to the French, but had recently come under artillery fire. His own artillery would only reach the line of battle at the same time as the Hessian foot. Opposing him were 8 fresh battalions (4 of them elite), plus 5 others and if his right was pushed back, he was in danger of being surrounded. He therefore ordered the Hessian brigade to take up position to cover the withdrawal of the Hanoverian and British infantry, whilst the Hanoverian cavalry held their positions as long as possible to slow any French advance. The withdrawal was carried out with precision, but one Hanoverian battalion, the most advanced failed to fall back in time and was taken prisoner.
On balance an allied victory. The French camp ransacked, two batteries of artillery destroyed and two brigades (eight battalions) of infantry severely damaged, with the Allies suffering the equivalent of 3 battalions of casualties.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Picts v Romans part 2

At the close of play last week, I thought that a Roman victory was fairly certain, but this week's events changed all that. The right hand warband surged across the stream and attacked the Roman archers. An ineffectual shower of arrows failed to halt the Picts and they charged forward screaming war cries, falling on the archers, inflicting heavy casualties. The small swords of the archers were no match for the axes and swords of their attackers and in no time the archer unit was reduced to a few scattered men desperately seeking safety.

The Roman commander moved over to his right flank and ordered his legionaries to advance on the village. One century was to move into the wood, the other to move around the wood's edge. As they moved forward the scorpion artillery which had previously inflicted heavy casualties on the Pictish centre divided. Two units accompanied the legionaries, the others stood their ground to give fire support. Before the supporting artillery could deploy they were overrun by the warband which had dispersed the archers. It was at this point that the second warband attacked out of the wood. Caught unaware the lead century took heavy casulaties, but managed to stand its ground and counter attack. The century in the wood fared worse. Hampered by the trees the Romans could not make use of their main advantage, unit cohesion. A bloody melee ensued, with casualties mounting on both sides, but with the Picts having the advantage of numbers.

On the Roman left, the two centuries of legionaries continued their advance, though they were suffering casualties from archers in some rough ground to their flank. Doggedly, they advanced, crossing a final ridge and found their way open to the Pictish village.
The Roman cavalry on the Roman right had defeated the last of the chariots, but was struggling to disperse a small unit of slingers (This was one aspect of the rules which we decided needed to be amended. Several times a light infantry unit defeated cavalry, or at least traded casualties at one to one). The Pictish cavalry was also struggling to win a melee against the Roman commander, who had charged with his bodyguard to protect the flank of his legionaries.
The vicious melee by the wood was eventually won by the Picts, after they charged in with their second warband. Outnumbered by 5 to 1 the legionaries fought to the end, but were finally overwhelmed. In the centre the Roman commander fought on against the Pictish cavalry, but his luck ran out and he fell to a spear thrust. His opposite number was also suffering in the desperate fight. Most of his bodyguard were dead or wounded and has he looked around he saw that the Romans had almost reached the village. The warbands were still recovering from their long melee with the legionaries. The day may well be lost. However, the new Roman commander, saw things in a different light. He had only two units remaining, one of which was down to half strength. If he fell back now, he may just, with luck, reach the camp they had marched out of that morning. The garrison would add to their number and they may then be able to reach the relative safety of Britannia.
A good game, in a period we don't often play, was in the balance right to the end. Fortune favoured the Picts with some fortitous die rolls and the late discovery of the advantages for warbands fighting in woods.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Return to action

A much longer lay-off than originally planned over the Christmas and New Year break. Three games were cancelled due to the weather and ill-health; but this week saw a return to the wargames table.

The action was set on the northern borders of the Roman empire, with a punitive expedition against some Pictish tribes. The Roman orders required the destruction of the barbarian village, the Picts had to stop the Roman advance and save their village. The Picts had gathered three warbands, a largish force of cavalry, some chariots and some missile troops, slingers and archers. Their opponents had 4 centuries of legionaries, two units of auxilia, three units of archers, two small units of cavalry and some scorpion missile engines.

The Pictish army may not have been totally historically accurate, but it made for an interesting game and it also gave us a chance to try out the chariots for the first time. As the Pictish commander I decided that my tactics should be to disrupt the orderly advance of the Roman force and if possible destroy the auxilia and missile units and then deal with the legionaries. To this end I placed all my cavalry on my right supported by the chariots. Two warbands defended the stream in front of the village, whilst a third was on the flankof the Roman advance.

As the Roman advance began my cavalry advanced hoping that their superior numbers would quickly overcome the Roman cavalry on that flank and thus threaten the legionaries' flank. Meanwhile the chariots manoeuvred around the flank of the auxilia hoping to get a chance to charge home. Unfortunately, I got too close to the auxilia and the main Roman archer unit and lost a third of the chariots to their javelins and arrows. The ground must have been too bumpy to allow for accurate fire from the chariots because the Roman were virtually unscathed. As the chariots withdrew the Roman commander (counting as heavy cavalry) charged them and caused even more casualties. However, some balance was restored as one of my archer units inflicted heavy casulaties on a unit of auxilia as they advanced. On the right flank, the cavalry melee was not going too well. Even though I outnumbered the Roman cavalry, I couldn't drive them backwards.

Even worse, two units of legionaries were coming to their aid. The melee dragged on with casulaties rising, yet the Romans held on. Then, the infantry joined in. Suddenly I had lost half the unit and breaking off seemed the only option. The remaining remnant of Roman cavalry did pursue, but losses inflicted by them were small in comparison to what the infantry had been causing.

On the left flank the warband on the hill thought they saw an opportunity to attack the advancing auxilia whilst they were preoccupied by the chariots. Surging forwards they edged away from the legionaries focussing on the auxilia. However, the second Roman cavalry unit had moved round behind them, threatening to charge them from the rear. The rear of the warband turned to face the new threat and managed to hold off the cavalry, but the pause in the advance gave just enough time for the legionaries to get into contact. Attacked in the flank the warband was in serious trouble. As the legionaries got to work butchering the warband, the cavalry withdrew, ready to intervene if necessary.
The unequal contest was over quickly, with the Romans barely losing a man. Although the Roman orderly advance had been disrupted my casulaties had been heavy and those of the Romans very light.
Perhaps emboldened by their success the auxilia pressed forwards towards the stream. One unit was destroyed by combined archery and slingshot, the other charged across the stream to attack the nearest warband and also fell to a man.
So,with the Roman main force nearing the stream, less two cohorts of legionaries who were moving around my right flank and the affair in the balance, battle will hopefully be rejoined later this week.