Monday, 24 December 2012

York versus Lancaster

For the final game of the year another outing with the Bloody Barons rules. I was commanding the Lancastrian and Dave Lanchester the Yorkists.  Although these rules tend to make each game different, looking at my last battle report using them there are some similarities.  Again I was to be the attacker and again one of my flank commanders was 'in a huff'; on this occasion his loyalty was suspect and he required two rounds of 'motivation' before he would take part.  Dave didn't have things all his own way either, he had half his army delayed and would need to dice for their arrival.  Just to make matters interesting, my other flank commander was having an 'off day' and his ability to motivate his troops to action was impaired.  I didn't help matters by placing one of his units in a wood, which further decreased their chances of actually doing something.

My plan, such as it was, was to secure the built-up area on my left (you get victory points for holding these areas) and the hill to my right (again, victory points). The main force in the centre was to take any opportunities to attack any Yorkist troops interfering with the flank attacks.

 The Lancastrian centre

The reluctance of Clifford on my right to advance meant that my commanding general spent the first half of the battle persuading him to fight.  Whilst doing this moving any units in the centre was more difficult (due to the distance between the general and the troops).  Dave took advantage of the disorder and charged my household troops.  The infantry, with an organ gun in support, managed to eliminate one base of the enemy retinue cavalry, but this did not stop the charge.  Disregarding their exalted status my  broke and ran after one round of melee. (8 victory points to Dave).  The Yorkist cavalry followed this up by charging and routing my retinue cavalry (6 more victory points to Dave). To balance things up a little my Household cavalry routed Dave's . 

On my right I was making slow progress towards the hill, giving Dave time to organise his defence.  Two units were firing at my retinue foot and to avoid further casualties I charged the Yorkist retinue defending the hill.  In retrospect this was an error.  Not only was I outnumbered, but the Yorkists also had the advantage of the hill.  In no time at all my retinue routed (more victory points for Dave).  This left a unit of levy foot facing three enemy units and despite my best efforts it proved impossible to roll high enough dice to get the unit in the wood to come to their aid.

By now I had managed to persuade Clifford to advance on the town, but the delay meant that Dave's missing units had now arrived on the field.  In the event it made no difference as Clifford managed to roll under four on two d6 on three successive turns; meaning that he failed to motivate  his troops.

In a desperate attempt to achieve some success the commanding general led his Household cavalry forward in an attack on the newly arrived Yorkist infantry.  Charging through flanking fire the cavalry crashed into the Yorkist line and pushed them back.  The Yorkist's morale held and in the second round the commander of the Household troops was killed.  This and the loss of two further bases ensured that the cavalry would rout. 

So with my left inactive, my centre eliminated and my right outnumbered it was just as well that the game drew to a close at that point.  After totalling up the victory points (or the Lancastrian lack of them), the result was deemed to be a 'bloodbath' with the destruction of the Lancastrian army.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Vimbuch 1703

The scenario this week was adapted from Vimbuch on the Legio website.  The forces were scaled down due to the size of my collection and to fit my 6 x 4 table.  The game represents a French attack on the Lines of Stollhofen.  Historically, the Marquis de Blainville led the French vanguard against the Allied troops led by General van Goor.  I thought it was a good opportunity for those old protagonists, the Comte de Salle Forde and General Graf von Grommitt to take to the field again.

The Comte had 8 line battalions, a unit of dismounted dragoons, three units of horse and one gun. He deployed his forces with a brigade of infantry (4 battalions) on each flank with the artillery and cavalry in the centre.  The dismounted dragoons were added to the brigade which would attack the village of Vimbuch, the other brigade attacking the enemy right which was strengthened by an emplaced battery.

Von Grommitt had 6 battalions of infantry, two of which were grenadiers, two guns and two units of Austrian cuirassiers. The grenadiers were placed in Vimbuch, supported by a battalion of line infantry.  The cuirassier were held in reserve and the stream line held by the remaining battalions and the artillery.  One of the Hessian infantry battalions had the advantage of some earthworks.

Complete victory for the French would be to break through the Allied forces and move formed units off the left rear table edge.  A partial victory would be to be in sole control of Vimbuch, which could then be used as a base for an advance by the main French force.  Allied success would be to deny the French either of these victory conditions.

With a feeling of confidence, the Comte ordered the Marquis de St Evremond to advance with his brigade and take the artillery position on the allied right.  He assured the Marquis that  he would receive support from the artillery and his flank would be covered by the French cavalry.  Turning to his other brigadier, Comte D'Anglers he ordered the attack on Vimbuch to begin.  As the lead battalion of St Evremond's brigade began their advance they came under fire from the Allied artillery.  Their discipline ensured that the advance continued but the officers began to wonder when the promised artillery support would make itself felt.  The delay was due to the artillery officer deploying his guns too far back.  Their preliminary shots were ineffective due to the long range and therefore the lengthy process of limbering and moving forward had to be undertaken.  Salle Forde was not impressed.  Nor were the Bavarians leading St Evremond's attack.  The colonel ordered them to halt and fire a volley at their tormentors, but apart from adding to the smoke on the battlefield, the volley seemed to have little effect.  Realising that a slow advance would only lead to heavy casualties the colonel ordered his men forward telling them to take the position with the bayonet.  Under cover of the smoke they reached the line of the stream, but as they crossed they were hit by a storm of grapeshot.  They had done all, or more, than could have been expected and the few survivors fell back towards their comrades.  Although costly, their advance had covered the deployment of the next wave and the battalions of Dampierre and Zurlaben now took up the advance.

On the French right D'Anglers had had more success.  He too had come under Allied artillery fire, but it had been far less effective.  The dismounted dragoons and the regiment Toulouse had engaged the Palatinate grenadiers in a fire fight and their greater numbers were beginning to tell.  Von Grommitt ordered forward the Hessian grenadiers and their fire forced D'Anglers to deploy regiment Languedoc to support the front line.  The fire from the Palatinate grenadiers did seem to be slackening so D'Anglers ordered the dragoons to charge.  As they reached Vimbuch the dragoons were dismayed to find that far from being finished, the defenders stood to their task manfully.  Indeed, as the battered remnants of the dragoons tumbled back in disorder, the grenadiers followed them. This indiscipline was to cost them dear, because, as they pursued their foes the grenadiers ran headlong into regiment Solre and a vicious melee began.

In the centre, the French artillery had eventually deployed in effective range of the enemy and began to fire on the Palatinate infantry supporting the artillery position on the Allied right.  Their fire, with the volleys from Zurlaben began to take its toll on the Palatinate troops.  As their numbers dwindled the remaining men began to edge backwards.  Quickly, Von Grommitt ordered Hessian regiment Wartenslaben forward to take their place in the line.  It was not a moment too soon.  Salle Forde had also seen the wavering in the Allied line and he ordered the Aubusson cavalry regiment to attack, if they could break through, the day would be his.  Unfortunately for Aubusson their advance had been spotted by the allied artillery and they suffered heavy losses in the advance.  Then, when they reached the Allied line they found a fresh regiment waiting for them (Wartenslaben), rather than the weakened one.  The Hessians' volley emptied yet more saddles  and the remaining troopers were reluctant to face the unbroken bayonets and therefore fell back.  Seeing the French advantage in cavalry reduced, Von Grommitt ordered forward one unit his cuirassiers; if they could prevail the French attack would be stalled.  The Herbestein Cuirassier trotted past Vimbuch and then charged the Spanish Horse in French service.  With their added weight and tight formation the Austrians had the initial advantage, but the Spaniards fought well and slowly redressed the balance.  Their staunch defence allowed time for a squadron of Vaillac to come to their aid and with these added numbers the fight moved in the French favour.  Slowly, but surely the Austrians were pushed back and eventually overwhelmed.

In front of Vimbuch the French were also successful.  The Palatinate grenadiers were unable to make progress against Solre and they too, like the cuirassiers were defeated by superior numbers.  As they ran back, Solre pursued them through the streets of Vimbuch and were only halted by Hessian regiment Erbprinz.  Behind them regiment Remaze began to enter Vimbuch and threaten the flank of the Hessian grenadiers who were still holding off regiments Toulouse and Languedoc.

On the French left regiments Dampierre and Zurlaben advanced.  Dampierre charged forward through grapeshot and took the artillery position, rewarded by the sight of the gunners running for the rear.  Zurlaben were taking on Wartenslaben and getting the worst of it.  They were only saved by St Evremond moving forward is reserve regiment, Rouergue.    As Dampierre reformed after taking the battery they faced Von Grommitt's last reserve, the Jung Hannover cuirassier regiment.  Waiting until the Austrian horsemen were in close range, the French infantry fired a devastating volley which stopped the attack in its tracks.

With his line outflanked and Vimbch all but lost Von Grommitt had no choice but to withdraw.  The day was Salle Forde's, but at a heavy cost.  

Monday, 10 December 2012

First Battle of Middlewich, 1643

Like the ECW scenario a few weeks ago, this was taken from English Civil War Gaming Scenarios, Vol 3 by Robert Giglio and published by Partizan Press.  A Royalist force under the command of Sir Thomas Aston holds Middlewich with local trained band units.  Two bridges over the river Wheelock are covered by dismounted dragoons and small units of musketeers.  The reserve of cavalry is stationed in the open ground between the river and the town.

The Parliamentary cavalry under Sir William Brereton, supported by two units of dragoons and one of musketeers approach from Northwich.  The infantry, under James Lothian, advanced from Nantwich.

The Royalists win if they hold the town against the Parliamentarians.  They secure a significant victory if the Parliamentarians suffer 50% more casualties than they inflict.  However, they will need to keep the road to Congleton clear of enemy troops as it is their 'escape' route.

Brereton's cavalry and supports arrived first and he elected to try and reduce the defensive fire covering the bridges before committing his cavalry.  The musketeers filed into the fields and taking post at the hedges, began to fire at the dragoons on the other side of the river.  At the southern bridge the dragoons carried out a similar operation.  Several rounds of firing produced seemingly little effect on the royalist fire and casualties were rising amongst Brereton's men.  Losing patience, he rashly ordered the first troop of his horse across the Wheelock bridge.  As the cavalry reached the far bank they were fired on in flank by Royalist musketeers.  Their advance stalled they discharged their pistols at their assailants, but were unable to reload as the Royalist cavalry were bearing down on them.  Against the odds Brereton's men held their ground and then drove back their opponents.  This did them little good as whilst they attempted to regain their order they were shot at again by the Royalist musketeers.  With their morale shattered, the remnants of the troop turned and raced for the security of the far bank of the river. Yet more saddles being emptied as they crossed the bridge.

By this time Lothian's two trained bands regiments were approaching Middlewich.  As they deployed a round shot from the Royalist artillery placed by the barricade on the Nantwich road ploughed through the musketeers of the Red regiment.  The Royalist musketeers who lined the garden plots of the town added to the confusion by adding their fire.  Lothian ordered the colonel of the Red regiment to get his men in order and push on like their comrades in the Yellow regiment to their right.  This took some time, but eventually the infantry moved forward and forced the musketeers to fall back.  Lothian's artillery had by now come up and was targeting the pikemen holding the barricade.  Confined in the narrow street, the Royalist suffered heavy casualties, but their nerve held.  Just as it seemed that the Parliamentarians were gaining the initiative there were two misfires.  One totally destroyed the gun and killed the crew, the other killed a crew member.

The Yellow regiment had by now reached the outskirts of Middlewich and in a brief struggle drove off the Royalist musketeers and threatened to outflank the barricade.  Aston pulled back the battered pikes and moved them to meet the new threat.  To meet the attack of the Red regiment he ordered the pikes of the Wirral Trained Band to charge.  A push of pike took place across the hedge line with both sides determined to prevail.  However, the superior numbers of the red regiment eventually told and the Wirral men broke and ran towards the church at the centre of the town.

Back at the river Brereton could hear the fighting in the town and ordered his cavalry to attack across the bridge again.  To his right, the dragoons were making no progress in clearing the Royalists from the second bridge, so his men would have to make the decisive breakthrough.  Running the gauntlet of fire from the Royalist musketeers the cavalry crossed the bridge and moved up the lane towards Middlewich. Here they were met by Royalist cavalry and a melee took place.  The vaunted Royalist cavalry were again defeated and driven back on the town, but as their  victors reformed they were fired on by a unit of musketeers brought forward by Aston.  Brereton committed his final troop of horse to the attack and ordered the musketeers to follow, to deal with the Royalists lining the road.

As Aston surveyed his position from the church tower he could see that the day was lost.  He had three units of foot running up the road towards Congleton. The Parliamentarian foot were working their way through the town and threatened to block the Congleton road and now Brereton had managed to get his cavalry across the Wheelock.  It was time to escape with what troops he could rescue.

Losses in the battle had been fairly equal; Brereton's losses to musketry fire being balanced by the Royalists losses in melee.  

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Ostralenka, Feb 1807

Following on from the bloodbath that was Eylau, this action was an attempt by Benningsen to catch the French dispersed in their winter quarters.  He ordered Essen to capture the town of Ostralenka, hopefully drawing Napoleon's attention in that direction, whilst he made his main attack further north.  Details of the action are fairly sketchy.  The fullest account (a couple of paragraphs) within my collection of sources is in Petre's Napoleon's Campaign in Poland.  The orbats came from Digby Smith's Napoleonic Wars Data Book, although I did make some alterations to fit with the units I had available.  As usual for Napoleonic battles we used the Shako rules.

This is a sketch map of the terrain for the battle showing the deployment areas for the French forces and the entry points for the Russians.  The town of Ostralenka is made up of three town sectors, the river is unfordable and the ridge held by Morand has gentle slopes which do not affect movement rates.

Essen had been instructed to divide his forces and attack Ostralenka from both banks of the River Narew.  For the scenario, the Russian commander had to allocate his divisions to either the right or left bank attack before seeing the French deployment.  In addition to reflect the difficulty of co-ordinating an attack separated by a river he had to dice to see which force arrived first and also for the delay before the second force arrived.

The French have sufficient troops to hold Ostralenka and its defences against an attack from the east (left bank).  However, a cavalry patrol has captured a copy of Essen's orders and Savary, the French commander, is aware of the attack along the right bank.  He therefore has to deploy half his force to meet this threat.  Reinforcements in the shape of Gudin's division are on their way, but their arrival will be determined by die roll (20 on a d20, then 19 or 20, 18-20, etc on successive turns, starting on turn 3).

Essen decided to make his main attack on the left bank, using 2 line infantry divisions (generals Somov and Lieven) with 12 battalions, plus Tutschkov's Grenadier Brigade (4 battalions), the bulk of the artillery, 3 foot batteries and one heavy battery, was also allocated to this attack.  This left Korf's cavalry division (two light and 2 dragoon regiments) plus Samsonov's Advance Guard division of 4 jaeger battalions, two skirmisher stands, two units of cossacks and  horse battery, to occupy Morand's attention.  Essen's dice roll resulted in the right bank attack arriving first with the main attack delayed by two turns.

On turn one Samsonov's troops marched onto the table and made straight for the line of French infantry defending the stream.  Korf's cavalry moved to the right of their infantry hoping to outflank the French position.  Morand's skirmishers pulled back to the main line as the cavalry advanced and the two battalions of the 8th Legere which Morand had posted on the ridge, formed square as the Alexandrinsk Hussars came closer.  With the French infantry pinned, Korf continued to move to his right to outflank the French position.  As his men rounded the low ridge they were surprised to find D'Hautpol's cavalry opposing them.  A typically confused cavalry melee took place with both sides falling back to reform having inflicted very little damage.  Meanwhile the Russian jaegers had been struggling to make progress against Morand's infantry which had a foot battery to support them.  Initially, the Frenchmen had support from Leval's troops on the left bank of the Narew, but these moved away once Essen's main attack force made it's presence felt.  The Russian 8th jaeger attempted to charge across the stream against the 46th Ligne, but were stopped in their tracks by a crushing volley.  The jaeger's right flank was threatened by the 8th Legere but a combination of Cossacks, skirmishers and the horse battery occupied their attention and for a time the Russian position held.

Savary's main concern was the mass of Russian infantry bearing down on Ostralenka on the left bank.  Essen had ordered the three columns to encircle the French defences, stretching the defenders' resources.  Lieven's column did suffer from the attention of the French foot artillery, but it persevered and finally reached the Narew where it turned to face the town.  On Essen's opposite flank Tutschkov's grenadiers had no such problem, only a single battalion (the 2nd) of the 10th Ligne held the defences opposite them.  Two battalions attacked frontally, two moved around the flank.  After a brief struggle, the 2nd battalion broke and the survivors ran for the bridge.  In the centre Somov's attack had not been so impressive.  The artillery had proved ineffective at long range and the Russian attack dissolved into a bloody shambles.  Two battalions battered themselves to destruction against the French in successive attacks.  Two more attacks came to naught in the face of defensive volleys.  It was only the intervention of the 2nd battalion of the Moscow Grenadier regiment which saved Somov's command.  Swinging to their right after driving off the 2nd battalion of the 20th Ligne, the battalion attacked the flank of the 4th battalion of the 10th and crushed it.  Seeing this the previously Leval's previously invincible men broke and ran for the bridge.  (Actually they had an unlucky die roll on the divisional morale test for one third losses).  Secure on the right bank of the Narew Leval attempted with little success to rally his men and lead them back into action.  This could have handed the game to the Russians, but on turn 4, on a 10% chance Gudins's division had arrived.   Savary had moved them towards Ostralenka and with fixed bayonets the men of the 23rd Ligne forced their way through Leval's troops to continue the defence of the left bank.

Meanwhile Morand and D'Hautpol had continued their fight with the Russian right bank attack.  The 7th Dragoons covered themselves with glory driving the Russian Uhlans from the field and then forcing the New Russland Dragoons to withdraw.  The 23rd Dragoons caught the Riga Dragoons as they tried to reform following a clash with the 7th Dragoons and drove them from the field too.  The sole remaining Russian cavalry (apart from the Cossacks) were the Alexandrinsk Hussars.  Morand had ordered the two battalions of the 8th Legere to form line as the bulk of the Russian cavalry was destroyed.  Seeing this, Korf ordered the Hussars to move forward to force the French back into square, otherwise Samsonov's remaining jaegers would be attacked in flank.  Realising the importance of maintaining his unit as a fighting force, the colonel ordered a feint attack against the Frenchmen.  As the horsemen advanced the veteran French infantry quickly formed square and job done the colonel ordered the trumpeter to sound the halt.  Unfortunately, the trumpeter's calls were not heard above the sounds of battle and the charge continued (ie the Russians failed the morale test) .  The result of the melee was never really in doubt, full strength light cavalry units would require a 6 - 1 result in their favour to succeed. The Alexandrinsk had sustained some casualties from fire and therefore carried a -1 into the melee.  The dice were not kind and the hussars were destroyed.  Samsonov had by now only two jaeger battalions left and one of those faced three opponents.  In a brief fire fight it offered brave but futile resistance before being destroyed.  However, Samsonov could draw some comfort from the sight of one of the French battlions being destroyed by canister from the horse battery and the French foot battery losing its final gunners to a volley from the 2nd battalion of the 26th jaeger.  But with no cavalry support and only a shadow of his command with the colours Samsonov felt he could do no more and began to fall back.  For his part Morand had orders to defend the ridge and with no further instructions coming from Savary he held his ground and tended to the wounded.

Gudin was fighting hard on the left bank.  His lead battalions had just taken up position in the town sectors when the first Russian attacks rolled in.  The grenadiers attacking his right suffered from the fire of his artillery and the first attack achieved nothing.  On his left Lieven's men were taking horrific casualties from the foot battery left behind by Leval and could make no impression on the defences of the town.  Indeed, after a third unsuccessful attack Lieven's men, like Leval's before them failed a divisional morale test and had to retreat and attempt to rally.  In a final throw Essen ordered in the battered remnants of Somov's division and they succeeded where Lieven had failed, driving out the tenacious French defenders. By the bridge Tutschkov's grenadiers eventually drove out their opponents so the left bank part of Ostralenka had been secured.

Gudin attempted to recover a foothold on the left bank, but his attacks failed and as night fell both sides took what shelter they could.  The result was a draw.  The Russians could claim that they had driven the French back across the river; the French that they had denied the Russians a foothold on the right bank.