Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Markkleeberg - a Shako scenario

During the summer the Gentlemen Pensioners put on a game at the Gauntlet show covering the action on the southern front at Leipzig on the 16th October .  The game produced a long running battle for the village of Markkleeberg and when I saw this scenario in the September issue of Wargames Soldiers and Strategy I thought it would be interesting to try out with the Shako rules.  The numbers involved in the fighting for the bridges over the Pleisse River were fairly small and so we used our own variant of the 'skirmisher melee' rule. 

If skirmishers want to engage in melee with other skirmishers they move forward and the defenders have the chance to fire at them.  If the defenders roll a 5or 6 on a d6 then the attack is deemed to have stalled.  Assuming the attackers close to melee then three 'roll offs' are carried out (one for each figure on the skirmisher stand).  If the defender is in a built up area then they roll a d8 rather than a d6.  If the die rolls are tied then both sides roll a d6 to decide the issue.  After all three rolls the losers move back 4 inches and the winners roll a d6 - if they roll 5 or 6 then the losers take one casualty.

Also, as the bridges in the south (on the Mill road) were broken the Austrians were deemed to have engineers present.  They required three clear moves to get the bridges ready for infantry to cross.  The engineers could be fired at by the Poles and a roll of 4 or more on d6 prevented that move counting towards the 3 necessary for the bridge to be completed.

We also took up the article's suggestion of having to roll a 4 or more for the reinforcements to arrive on the table.

Here is a sketch map of the battle.field  A denotes the arrival point for the Polish reinforcements, B and C the Austrians arrival points and D where the Prussian reinforcements arrive.  A large part of the area is flooded water meadows and only skirmishers can move off road here.  The Poles have two artillery batteries off table which can engage any units attacking the eastern (ie right hand side) of Markkleeberg.
For the Poles, loss of the school house and Markkleeberg would be disastrous as the whole French position would be outflanked and the Austrians trapped to the west of the Pleisse would be able to enter the battle. 

The battle starts with the Austrians gaining control of Markkleeberg Manor and the School House.  (Historically the Poles neglected to destroy the bridge and their outposts were caught 'napping'.  Seven battalions of Prussians under the command of Kleist are advancing on Markkleeberg from point D and Grenz skirmishers are covering the engineers who are trying to repair the bridge by the mill.
Dombrowski has three battalions in Markkleeberg, one between the town and the mill and one supporting Markkleeberg on the road to the school house.  There are four battalions available as reinforcements from turn 3.  Steve took command of the Poles and decided that the battalion on the mill road should move back to Markkleeberg asap.

Over view of the table
The Polish skirmishers defending the mill must have been disheartened by this move because they failed to inflict any delay on the Austrian engineers repairing the bridge over the Pleisse.  In three moves the bridge was ready, but the only Austrian troops able to exploit it were the Grenz.  They charged across and suddenly the defenders found their shooting boots; rolled a 6 and stopped them in their tracks.  At the school house the defending Grenz were happily holding off the Polish skirmishers, but were unable to do anything to stop the Polish reserve battalion sent to regain control of the vital bridge over the Pleisse.

By this time (end of turn 3), the Poles had regained the school house, but failed to stop the repair of the mill bridge and also the main Prussian attack was closing in on Markkleeberg itself.  Steve now had a stroke of luck as his first reinforcements arrived right on time.

Just in time as the three battalions of the Pomeranian Infantry regiment charged the Poles in Markkleeberg.  The fusilier battalion fared worst, unsettled by a defensive volley they renewed the attack before they reformed and were destroyed as a fighting force in the ensuing melee.    To their right the 2nd battalion of the Pomeranians was also repulsed with loss, but the 1st battalion advanced with elan and pushed back the 1st battalion of the Polish 13th regiment.

To the east of the town the Prussian infantry were suffering from the fire of the off table artillery.  The militia and landwehr battalions advanced with difficulty and were not able to provide much support to the Pomeranian battalions.  The second two battalions of French reinforcements also arrived on time and were marched at top speed towards Markkleeberg where the Prussians now controlled half the town.

The Austrians now began to arrive on the road by Markkleeberg Manor, three line battalions marched down the road keen to seize control of the school house.  At their head were the Warasdiner Grenz.  They charged over the bridge and threw out the Polish defenders in a trice. Behind them came two battalions of the Weidenfeld Regiment.

Where were the second column of Austrians under Sodenburg who should be attacking the mill? Three times I rolled for the arrival of these reinforcements and three times I failed.  Fortunately, I did manage to get the Prussian reinforcements to arrive, because Kleist's division had almost reached the end of its tether.  By the end of turn 6 three of the four sectors of Markkleeberg were under  Prussian control, only the 2nd battalion of the 13th Polish regiment still held firm.  With the Austrians regaining the school house, victory was within my grasp. However, turn 7 saw two landwehr regiments eliminated due to  artillery fire and the 2nd battalion Pomeranian regiment destroyed in melee.  A divisional morale check caused Kleist's division to retreat.  Steve now moved his reserves into Markkleeberg and the Prussian reserves took up the challenge.  Ably supported by the Prussian artillery the Silesian battalions moved forward, led by the 1st regiment.  They hit the gallant 2nd battalion 13th regiment and against fresh troops the Poles had to give ground. The 1st batallion 2eme Ligne also had to retreat due to heavy losses from the Prussian artillery.

The Poles near the school house, supported by two battalions of Naval Infantry charged forward and regained control of the vital bridge.  Just as the game drew to its close Sodenberg's column made its appearance, but was too late to affect the outcome.  The fighting in Markkleeberg ended with both sides controlling two sectors, crucially the Prussians now controlled the bridge, so the Austrians could join the battle on the morrow.

We adjudicated the game to end in a draw.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable scenario which swung one way and then the other.  The 'special' rules worked well.  In terms of figures it was one of the smallest Napoleonic games we have done, only about a dozen battalions were involved, but that was down to the nature of the terrain which precluded much in the way of manoeuvre.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

ECW Encounter

Our game this week was an encounter scenario from the ECW.  The Royalists (led by Sir James Goldshaw and under my command) were attempting to march on Kelham ans seize some vital stores.  Steve commanded the forces of Parliament, led by Sir William Brentcliffe.  The layout of the table is shown below

In the left foreground the leading Royalist cavalry unit has just spotted an enemy cavalry unit scouting along the  lane.  In the distance Sir James' second column, commanded by his nephew Sir Roger Page is advancing along a  second lane.  The Royalists need to exit the table where the two lanes meet.  Sir William's brief is to prevent any Royalist advance, giving time for Kelham's defences to be put in order.  His troops will arrive at the junction of the lanes and he must decide which flank to deploy them to.  All the Royalist forces arrive along the lanes, but can move away from them once they enter the table.  Sir William has a second-in-command Fernandino Potts, a prominent Kelham merchant who has raised a unit of infantry at his own expense.

Wasting no time, the major of the leading Royalist cavalry regiment  urged his men forward wanting to trap the parliamentary cavalry in the lane.  This would reduce the Royalist advantage in numbers, but, with luck, would achieve  a quick breakthrough.  In the narrow lane the leading troopers hacked and slashed at each other to little effect. After a few minutes ineffectual swordplay, both sides fell back to catch their breath.  Then the trumpets sounded and the melee was resumed.  Initially the Parliamentarians gained some advantage, but then the pendulum swung towards the Royalists. As the pressure increased, the leading raw Parliamentarian troopers began to waver and suddenly broke and galloped back through their comrades.  All order was now lost and the swirling mass of horsemen fell back down the lane.

Whilst this melee had been taking place, both commanders had deployed their forces.  Sir James sent one cavalry unit to his right, followed by an infantry unit.  To his left he sent his veteran infantry unit towards a low hill, together with his light gun.  He kept one cavalry unit in reserve.  Sir William deployed two infantry units to his left ordering them to occupy the fields, a third infantry unit was sent to a low hill,  covering the junction of the lanes.  Sir William's artillery was placed on a hill towards the rear of his position and his cavalry he kept under his own hand, ready to send where they were needed.

On the other flank, Sir Roger had spotted some enemy dragoons taking post in some buildings ahead.  He sent his own dragoons into an enclosure and then formed up his main infantry unit ready to advance down the lane and push the dragoons back.  His cavalry moved either side of the lane and then advanced covering the flanks of the infantry.  Satisfied he had done well, Sir Roger took post with his two reserve units ready to exploit the impending victory.  However his thoughts were interrupted by a dragoon trooper who came to report that the enclosure in which they were deployed was out of musket range of the enemy.  He then saw that the cavalry, instead of keeping pace with his infantry had, on viewing any horse sounded the charge and galloped forward.  Especially galling was the behaviour of his own regiment (Page's Blues), who belieing their 'veteran' status acted as if there were on the hunting field, charging forward and losing their formation.  Although their opponents were  uphill and more numerous the 'Blues' continued their charge, losing men to fire from the enemy dragoons in the process.  In no time the 'Blues' were routing back, pursued  by the victorious Parliamentarian horse.  This reversal of fortune did at least give his dragoons something to shoot at, but he had to commit his reserve cavalry to counter the threat.

The second unit of cavalry covering the infantry attack along the lane initially made progress against their Parliamentarian opponents.  However, Sir William committed his reserve cavalry and their attack bundled the Royalists back towards their lines.  Sir Roger therefore had to commit the remainder of his infantry reserve to block the Parliamentarian advance.  Faced with a solid pike block, supported by light artillery, the cavalry fell back to their lines.  A long range musketry duel now began with the advantage lying with the larger Parliamentarian units.

This photo shows the position on the Royalist left (Sir Roger's flank) from the Parliamentarian side.  The Parliamentarian cavalry is falling back on the right flank and in the centre.  A unit of infantry (Potts' regiment) has come to support the dragoons, just in time as the Royalist infantry are just about to charge.
The hill to the left of the dragoons is now strongly garrisoned by Parliamentarian infantry.

Sir James was disappointed by the slow progress made by his column.  His right wing cavalry were struggling, opposed by solid infantry with artillery support.  He therefore pulled them back and moved forward his reserve infantry.  In the lane the commander of the cavalry saw the enemy fleeing before him. Should he pursue them, running the gauntlet of infantry fire from the enclosures, or move right and attempt to overrun the Parliamentarian artillery?  The commander chose the latter option and led his men off down the right hand lane.  Suddenly, he found himself to the rear of the Parliamentarian infantry which was blocking the attack by the Royalist right wing.  Reforming his men he charged the infantry.  Fortunately for the Parliamentarians, the cavalry were spotted in time and the rear ranks of pikes turned to face this new threat.    Gallantly, the cavalry tried to charge home but were unable to make any progress against the steady infantry.  As they fell back they came under fire from the Parliamentarian artillery and as they faced this new threat were disheartened to see more Parliamentarian cavalry move forward in support of the artillery.  Totally 'boxed-in' by the terrain they had no option but to retrace their way down the lane, suffering yet more casualties from the musketeers.  Very few made it back to their lines.

Sir Roger now launched his infantry at the dragoons holding the buildings.  Not wishing to take part in such an unequal contest the dragoons fell back and cleared the way for Potts regiment to fire a telling volley at the Royalist infantry.  As the Royalists tried to change formation to bring forward their musketeers they found themselves charged  in the flank by Parliamentarian cavalry.  They managed to turn and face this new threat, but the horsemen managed to break into the formation and scatter it.

The Royalist commanders assessed their position.  They were outnumbered in infantry and the close nature of the field meant that their cavalry superiority was of little use.  There was little chance now of breaking through as the enemy had a solid defensive line.  So, with heavy heart they gave the order to fall back.  For their part the Parliamentarian forces were relieved that their foes were retreating.  Several of the regiments had taken heavy casualties and would take time to recover.



Sunday, 8 September 2013

Lesnaya 1708

For the third trial run with the Ga Pa rules we moved to an historical scenario, one that would give a different slant on the rules.  The first two fictional scenarios had featured Swedish attacks on a Russian defensive position; this time the Russians were the attackers and we also included more wooded areas to the terrain.  Lesnaya formed part of the preparations which led to the battle of Poltava.  Charles XII of Sweden was attempting to move towards Moscow and called for reinforcements and supplies from the Swedish forces in Livonia.  Lewenhaupt set off to join the king with a massive convoy of c1000 wagons and an escorting  force of  7,500 infantry and 5,000 cavalry.  Tsar Peter left the main Russian army under the command of Sheremetiev and moved with a mixed force of infantry and dragoons totalling c10,000 men towards Lewenhaupt.   The infantry comprised his best troops, including the 6 battalions of Guards.
(All the details are from Angus Konstam's book on Poltava in the Osprey Campaign series).  Lewenhaupt had managed to get some of the wagon train across the Sozh river, but Peter's force approached whilst their were still a great number on the northern bank. 

General view of table from behind Swedish position
Using the map in the 'Osprey' I place the two Swedish infantry brigades in the woods, Meierfeld on the left and Stackelberg on the right.  The cavalry under Armfeldt was placed in reserve.  The front line of infantry units were all rated veteran, but the supporting line were rated 'green', (the OOB shows some of the battalions as 'tremmening' indicating they were part of the second call for recruits).  Russian infantry  were split into two brigades, the Guards under Peter himself and line units under Menshikov. The arrival of the cavalry under Meshtierski on the Swedish right would be determined by dice roll; (in the event Steve rolled a '2' so the dragoons made an early entrance).

Peter leads his troops froward
My games table is fairly small (4' x 6') so it did not take long before the two forces came into musketry range.  A prolonged firefight now developed between the Russian guards and the Swedish line.  The cover offered by the woods negated the Russian advantage in musketry and the veteran status of the Guards enabled them to stand up to the Swedish volleys better than the line troops under Menshikov who really struggled to maintain their line.

The Russian Guards come into musketry range

On the Swedish right the Russian dragoons made an appearance and Armfeldt turned his cavalry to meet this threat.  Although the Russians did not flee from the charge of the Swedish cavalry and fired a volley as they closed, the impetus was enough to force the Russians back.  A second charge drove the first Russian unit from the field.  Meshtierski attached himself to the second unit and moved forward, hoping to gain more ground to deploy his remaining units.  This unit was then charged by the Finnish cavalry, who not only drove the dragoons from the field but cut down Meshtierski in the process.  Their blood up, the Finns then pursued their foes off the table.

Armfeldt orders the Finnish cavalry to charge
Menshikov had by now managed to manoeuvre three of his units into position to fire on one Swedish unit.  However the Nyland regiment stood its ground and even managed to force the 2nd battalion of the Narva regiment to fall back to reform.  On the Russian right the Guards had gradually managed to edge forward and forced the Swedish line to give ground.  Once both sides were in the woods the Russian musketry advantage really began to tell and more of the Swedish units became disordered by the effects of the close range volleys.  Lewenhaupt, commanding Meierfeld's brigade, was everywhere, rallying wavering units and ordering counter charges to force the Russians back.  Stackelberg was holding his position and soon had the encouragement of seeing the remaining Russian dragoons driven from the field by Armfeldt's men.  The Upplands cavalry regiment then threatened the flank of Menshikov's brigade, but the 1st battalion of the Volgodski regiment turned to face them and then fired a volley which caused such casualties that the Swedish unit was finished as a fighting force.

Vlgodski drive off the Swedish cavalry
On the opposite flank matters had now come to a head.  Continuing Russian pressure had forced back the Jonkopings regiment into their supports, the Smalands regiment.  Already disordered by the wooded terrain and further disordered by the retreating unit, all control was lost and this green unit broke and fled.  With the grenadiers and Livlanski units also forced back only the Viborg regiment was holding firm. The Livlandski regiment formed the left flank of the Swedish position and it was vital that they fell back no further.  Lewenhaupt galloped to their position and rallied them. However, the 1st battalion Seminovski advanced further and began to fire.  As the volleys were exchanged Lewenhaupt was hit and fell mortally wounded from his horse. 

Lewenhaupt falls
 With the general lost control of the Swedish force was much diminished. Stackelberg was still holding firm but his left flank was now under threat as the other Swedish brigade began to break up.  Armfeldt's cavalry, now reduced to one unit would also have its hands full holding off the Russian dragoon reinforcements under Bauer.  In line with history the remaining Swedish units began to fall back to the  river to defend the wagons and the bridge.  A second battle took place there later in the day, perhaps a scenario for another time.

The rules seemed to work well with this scenario.  They reflected the difficulties of maintaining command in the wooded terrain and the superiority of the Russian musketry.  Swedish counter attacks were limited due to the disorder caused by this musketry, so the Swedish superiority in melee was nullified.  Swedish cavalry again performed well, though it must be said that Steve's inability to inflict step losses helped considerably.  Upgrading the Russians made the task more difficult for the Swedes, but that reflected the increasing experience gained by Peter's men.  One plus factor was that I managed to avoid using the playsheet for the Thirty Years War variant of the rules this time!

With a bit more work these rules could feature next time the Poles, Cossacks and Muscovites visit the table.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

AWI scenario

After quite a break we returned to the AWI last week. Using the Patriots and Loyalists rules Steve set up a scenario with a British force advancing against a supply depot with a force of Americans trying to buy the time for the supplies to be moved out of harms way.

This photo shows the table layout, with the British arriving along the lefthand side of the table.  Rebel troops could deploy as far forward as the ridge of hills and only those units visible to the British troops were placed on the table.  The British advanced in three columns, Able on the left, (actually the least experienced brigadier), Brown in the centre and Carter on the right; with the objective being the small church at the crossroads.  Initially, the plan was for Brown to pin and rebel forces holding the ridge in front of the crossroads, whilst the other brigadiers tried to move around the flanks.

Brigadier Able was the first to encounter problems; as he advanced his lead line battalion came into range of the the rebel defenders and a well directed musketry volley caused sufficient casualties for this unit to have to retire to reform.  A second battalion also stalled as a roundshot from the rebel artillery struck a group of officers.  Able ordered forward his light infantry skirmishers (perhaps they should have been to the fore earlier?) to cover the reforming line battalions.  They then came under fire from rebel skirmishers in a wood to the left of the road. The colonel of the British skirmishers directed his men towards this new threat and although their advance encouraged the rebels to withdraw they did suffer officer casualties to well directed sniping.

Brigadier Carter had read his orders for a rapid advance and had his lead units in column in order to make quicker progress. Unfortunately, his leading battalions were still in column when they came in range of the rebel defenders and the rebel artillery fired very effectively.  Line formation was quickly adopted by Carter's troops and volleys were exchanged with the rebels.  However, his artillery was delayed in getting forward due to the lack of room.  Carter therefore directed one of his battalions to move further to the right, cross the road and then move through the woods, outflanking the rebel position.

Brigadier Brown, accompanied by General Frazer Stewart was moving his men forward towards the rebel centre.  His jaeger were skirmishing with a militia unit which had advanced, threatening the flank of Brown's advance.  Volleys were being exchanged between the British and the rebels under the command of Brigadier Bannister and both artillery batteries were firing in their support.  Stewart ordered forward his elite grenadier battalion but to his surprise these 'picked' men were unable to stand up to the well-directed volleys of the continental infantry opposing them.  Again, it was officer casualties which forced a British unit to fall back to reform.

On the British left, Brigadier Able had managed to reform his units and now had his artillery forward.  This had found the range and was firing with good effect on the rebel militia.  The British light infantry skirmishers had moved into the woods pursuing the rebel skirmishers.  As they moved through the trees the British were suddenly hit by two volleys from the rebels and several officers fell.  Morale broke and the British fell back.  As they streamed from the wood, Able moved over to rally them.  This he managed to do and the skirmish line reformed.

Although all three British brigades were struggling, the rebels were not having it all their own way.  Several of their units had had to fall back to rally and the units replacing them were also taking casualties. Stewart decided that another push was needed in the centre and sent forward his grenadiers with line units on both flanks.  Once again the 'elite'unit was forced to fall back by musketry from the rebel infantry, but undeterred, the line infantry on the grenadiers right pressed on and approached the wooded hill in the rebel centre.  As they neared the tree line the riflemen placed there fired at close range and inflicted heavy casualties on the officers.  The leading British battalion stopped and the supporting unit passed through them.  Levelling their bayonets this second unit charged the riflemen.  Not wishing to melee the British, the rifles fell back, leaving the ground to their opponents.  Benedict ordered a unit of Continental infantry to retake the wood and a prolonged melee took place amongst the trees.  Eventually the British prevailed and the shattered rebel infantry fell back.  Stewart was delighted that this lodgement had been made in the rebel position and encouraged more action from his flank brigadiers.

Carter was making slow progress on the right, but had managed to drive two rebel infantry units back from their hilltop position.  Also the rebel artillery on this wing had run out of ammunition and fallen back.  His main attack of three battalions was nearing the ridge when firing began on his right. The units he had deployed as flank guards were now being attacked by rebel forces in the woods.  

Able was finding any progress difficult to achieve.  A second rebel unit was now firing from the woods on the flank of his main advance.  Deploying his artillery to fire at the rebels and diverting a unit of line infantry to support the guns did manage to drive off the militia, but the main rebel defence line was holding firm.  Desperate to achieve some momentum he galloped over to his skirmishers and ordered them to charge the rebel riflemen in the woods in front of them.  As he was leading them forward he was a conspicuous target for the rebels and fell from his saddle mortally wounded.  His loss took away any drive from the attack and for the rest of the action the left wing brigade was fully occupied trying to hold its position in the face of rebel fire.

Even though the central attack was making progress the lack of success on both flanks forced Stewart to assess his position.  With heavy casualties on the left and centre and his right coming under new attacks he decided to pull back to his starting position and await further reinforcements.  Benedict was mightily relieved to see the British fall back.  His left and centre were in a parlous state and another push might well have driven the rebels from the field.  However, he now had the time to ride over to Cowman's brigade which had done so well against the British left flank and congratulate the brigadier on his actions.  The rebel supplies were moved back without hindrance and rebel morale was increased by their successful defence.