Sunday, 27 October 2013

Poles v Cossacks, a Ga Pa scenario

After a few trials with the Ga Pa rules using the GNW Prince August figures we decided to 'push the envelope' a bit and use the Polish and Cossack troops.  The second edition of the Ga Pa rules does have a useful appendix which enables you to build up your own forces and it covers most troop types for the late 17th and early 18th century period.  There are army list volumes published to support the 2nd edition of the Ga Pa rules, but we managed to make do with the appendix lists for this small scale scenario.

It is based on an article which appeared in Miniature wargames about 10 years ago on John Sobieski and his military exploits.  The Vienna campaign of 1683 is the one which most people have heard of, but the Polish forces spent many years fighting the Cossacks and Muscovites on the eastern borders.  For our scenario, a local centre is being threatened by a Cossack raiding force.  The local commander has gathered two units of the local militia infantry to form a garrison and do what they can to improve the defences.  He also has a single 3lb gun and a small unit of light cavalry.  A messenger has been sent to the nearest garrison requesting help.

The Cossack force consists of 3 units of infantry, seven of light cavalry and four units of tartar 'allies'.  Their objective is to capture the village and carry off the stores within it, before any relief force arrives.  The Polish relief force consists of 1 unit of hussars, 4 of pancerni and one light cavalry unit; they would arrive on turn 4 +d6. (In the event 1 rolled a 6 so the reinforcements didn't arrive until turn 10)

The Polish village and defences
The Cossacks attacked with their infantry in the centre and 4 cavalry units on the left wing.  The Tartars were on the right and the cavalry reserve of three units, initially in the centre, moved to the right to follow the Tartars.   First blood went to the Polish artillery which targeted the lead Cossack cavalry unit. Long range fire was ineffective, but once in close range, the Cossacks suffered and took a step loss which,as they were a small unit, removed them from play.

The Polish artillery
The Polish light cavalry, although outnumbered, decided to take on the Tartars.  They charged the leading unit, which evaded (ie fled) and then carried on towards a second which also evaded.  Unfortunately, their success meant that they were now disordered and in danger of being surrounded.  To their left were the remaining two units of Tartars and to their front Cossack light cavalry.  The Tartars shot their arrows and moved round behind the Poles and Cossacks also fired.  Unable to recover their formation, the Poles were helpless to resist as they were charged from front and rear and were destroyed.  Their action had however, slowed the advance of the Cossack right and also forced them to spend further time reorganising.

The Polish light cavalry endangered by their success
Steve, as the Cossack commander, knew that Polish reinforcements were on their way and roughly from which direction they would appear.  Therefore his cavalry spent the next few turns moving into a position to screen his impending infantry attack from 'interference' from the Polish cavalry.

Before the Cossacks had arrived, the Polish levy infantry had managed to create an obstacle across the likely line of attack.  This now proved its worth as the Sandormirz unit of Cossacks were brought to a halt by the stakes as they came in musketry range.  Supported by fire from the gun the levy were able to prevent the Cossack infantry from making any further progress.

However, two more units of Cossack infantry avoided the obstacle and attacked the village.  Although one unit refused to attack, the Godicz unit closed with the defenders.  Forcing their way over the improvised defences they established themselves in the houses.

The Godicz Cossacks enter the village
As the defenders from that face of the village fell back, I formed up the defenders from two other sides of the village to oppose any further Cossack progress.  With everyone disordered by the terrain and also benefiting from the cover provided by the buildings a stalemate developed.

At this point the clock intervened.  It was the end of turn nine, so the Polish reinforcements would have arrived next turn.  It is possible that they could have driven off the Cossack cavalry and so saved the Polish infantry.  Equally, the Cossack cavalry could have delayed the Polish cavalry long enough for their infantry to capture the town.

The rules worked well for this scenario, coping with the small units.  They do give units carrying out 'perimeter defence' an increased firepower, though at the cost of reduced melee power which balances things out.  Although the 2nd edition of the rules have an index (a notable improvement over the first edition) we still had problems with the various aspects of fighting in villages; though this perhaps may be due to our unfamiliarity with the rules.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Battle of the Brandywine, part 2

The second night of our Brandywine scenario began with a renewed British push towards the fords over the river.  Grey, the British brigade commander, had taken quite heavy casualties, but they had been concentrated on just two units, so he felt confident he could make progress.  His opposite number, Smallwood, (misnamed Sullivan in the previous post) was struggling to keep his brigade on the field because the loss of an infantry unit and the casualties inflicted by the British artillery had forced all his units to fall back to reform at least once.

Smallwood's men holding the line

As the British advanced their left hand unit strayed out of supporting distance as it struggled across the hedges lining the lane towards the fords.  When the infantry crossed the second hedge and reordered their ranks they were subjected to sniping fire from the a unit of riflemen.  In no time officers began to be wounded and the British line infantry had to fall back across the lane to reform.  Bouyed by this success and the support arriving from De Borre's brigade, Smallwood concentrated his fire on the leading British battalion.  Grey, seeing that this particular battalion had suffered heavy casualties decided to pass his supporting battalions through it.  The new leading battalion was reforming following this manoeuvre when it was hit by two volleys from the Americans and forced to fall back to reform.  This uncovered the British artillery which repaid the complement and fired at the leading American unit.  Seeing the effect of the shot on their ranks the American infantry broke and made for the rear.  It took all of Smallwood's efforts to rally them.  The brigade was then hit by further infantry volleys and the whole brigade moved to the rear and took no further part in the action.

On the opposite flank Agnew was still making slow progress towards the meeting house.  Hoping to outflank the American defensive line he ordered the skirmishing light companies to move round to their left, cross the lane and then fire in support of the British line.  The skirmishers carried out their manoeuvres and began shooting at the Americans covering the meeting house.  However, the delays in getting into position had enabled militia from Scott's brigade to come to the aid of Woodford's line and the skirmishers found themselves under fire from the militia, who had taken up a position in the woods to the skirmishers left.  In no time at all the British light troops were forced to fall back and reform due to their losses. Fortunately, Agnew's artillery was now in position and it's fire was sufficient to check any attempt by Woodfood's men to advance.

Agnew's brigade advances
Agnew now ordered his brigade to advance and the line moved forward, up to the lane and engaged in a prolonged musketry duel with Woodford's brigade. To Woodford's left, Conway's brigade was still trying to make progress towards the crossroads.  His lead battalion advanced one again up the lane, but again was forced back by fire from the Hessian artillery. 

Conway's men advance again

The defenders of the meeting house grounds also now came under fire from the Hessian jaegers and the rest of Von Donop's Hessian brigade mas moving up to support Agnew's right flank.

In the centre, Matthew's elite brigade had reached the lane running from the meeting house to the river, but progress was slowed by the concentrated fire of Conway's and Maxwell's artillery.  The leading grenadier battalion was forced back by the losses it sustained from the guns.  Maxwell's militia also added their fire and stalled the British advance.  However, when Matthew's artillery deployed it soon found the range and forced back Maxwell's infantry.

The fire from Agnew's brigade had driven off Woodford's supporting artillery and now two battalions concentrated their fire on his leading line battalion.  Heavy losses forced it to fallback behind Scott's line and this left the riflemen in the meeting house grounds unsupported.  Agnew's men surged across the lane and drove back the Americans with a bayonet charge

Agnew captures the meeting house grounds
On the banks of the Brandywine De Borre's brigade was beginning to wilt under the fire from Grey's battalions.  The militia units had done their best but with losses mounting they began to edge backwards.  The sight of the riflemen covering their right falling back behind the crest of the hill proved too much.  Although the riflemen were under command, the sight of comrades 'retreating' caused De Borre's men to rout and this uncovered the Brandywine fords.

Grey could now swing round and threaten Maxwell's left flank, which in turn would put increased pressure on the remainder of the American line.  Maxwell had just received a messenger from his artillery commander to say that the guns had run out of ammunition.  With this news Maxwell sent an aide to General Washington to advise him that his (Maxwell's) brigade would hold as long as it could, but the whole flank of the the American army was shattered.  Washington therefore gave the order for a withdrawal, with Conway and Scott fighting a delaying action, covering the brigades of Maxwell and Woodford.

The battle ended quicker than Steve and I anticipated. A flurry of unfortunate die rolls precipitated brigade morale checks on Smallwood and De Borre, which made Grey's advance easier.  Also Conway really struggled to reform his units (poor dice again).  However, this was a most enjoyable game and we are beginning to appreciate the subtleties of the Patriot and Loyalist rules.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Battle of the Brandywine,1777

Our battle this week (and for the next couple of weeks), will be the Battle of the Brandywine from the American War of Independence.  The scenario focuses on the fighting around the Birmingham Meeting House and Washington's attempts to prevent Howe's flanking force from 'rolling up' the American line.  The British objective is to clear American forces away from the fords over the Brandywine, capture the area surrounding the meeting house and secure the high ground between the meeting house and the river.  They have four brigades of infantry, plus a single cavalry unit to accomplish this. Facing them are six brigades of American infantry, but only three are present at the start of the battle, the rest arriving piecemeal.

General view towards the meeting house from the Brandywine river
Sullivan's men were covering the fords, but found that they had been outflanked and that the British cavalry were bearing down upon them.

As the American infantry struggled to reform their line to face this new threat, one unit of continental infantry advanced to cover the slower evolutions of the states militia.  Without waiting for their supporting infantry the British light dragoons charged the American line, ignoring the ragged volley from their opponents they closed to short range, fired their pistols and fell on with their swords.  A swirling melee ensued with the momentum of the cavalry balanced by the superior numbers of the infantry.  Neither could gain the decisive advantage. In the end both units fell back exhausted and unable to take any further part in the battle.  However, Sullivan's brigade was severely weakened and about to be tested again as the British infantry deployed to commence volley fire.

On the American right a sole unit of continental infantry was holding the area close to the meeting house. Against them were the four battalions and skirmishers of Agnew's brigade, covered on their right by the Hessians.  Agnew was struggling to deploy in the close terrain, but his skirmishing light companies took up a harassing fire against the American troops.  Their directed fire soon picked off several officers and the unit lost cohesion, forcing the colonel to pull it back to reform.  Now was the time to push on and gain the ground, but Agnew dallied and the Americans were able to recover and just in time a reinforcing brigade of infantry arrived.

In the centre, the Guards had no opposition and advanced unhindered up to the lane from the meeting house to the fords.  However, as they closed up to the fence they could see the first units of further American reinforcements approaching.

The Hessians, who had taken up a position in fields between Agnew and the Guards saw a further American brigade coming down the road towards the meeting house.  Quickly deploying their artillery they sent two rounds of ball shot crashing through the packed column of men.  The stalled the American advance as the leading unit had to fall back to reform.

So by the end of the first night's gaming the British had made some good progress, but the Americans had now reacted to the flank march and were deploying in strength.  The second round of this bout was going to be far tougher


Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Gross Beeren August 1813 - a Shako scenario

Following on from the Markkleeberg game we have taken a second scenario from the latest issue of WSS.  This centres on the fighting around Gross Beeren between Reynier's VII corps and Bulow's III Corps.  Reynier'scorps was part of Oudinot's 'Army of Berlin' which had been given the task of capturing the Prussian capital.  Bulow's Corps was part of Bernadotte's 'Army of the North'.
Oudinot was advancing north along three parallel routes, he was with XII corps on the westerly route, Reynier was in the centre and Bertrand on the east route.  Earlier in the day, Reynier had heard gunfre to the east as Bertrand came into action with Tauentzien at Blankenfelde. When the guns fell silent, Reynier assumed that Bertrand had prevailed and was continuing northwards covering his right flank. Actually, Bertrand's advance had stalled and he had withdrawn from action.
Advancing in the light rain, Reynier reached Gross Beeren at about 4pm.  He had three infantry divisions and a light cavalry brigade.  The lead division, (25th under General Sahr) deployed and attacked Gross Beeren village, pushing out the Prussian garrison and then established camp.  We began our game at this stage, just before the Prussian counterattack.

The Prussians caught Reynier unprepared and we allowed the Prussians a double move and one salvo of artillery before the French could reply.  We also used the special rule suggested in the magazine where rain began on a roll of 4 or more.  Once rain began all musketry ceased, a considerable benefit for the attack.  After one turn, a second die roll requiring 5 or more began, to indicate rain had ceased.  After a further turn musketry could begin.  For a strategic victory Neu Beeren, the ridge and Gross Beeren had to be controlled by the same corps;  a minor victory was control of two, anything less a draw.  The drainage ditch to the east, (right), of Gross Beeren can only be crossed by the bridge.  The Allied reserve artillery arrived after the battle began and the Russian guns were delayed, so their arrival was dictated by die roll.

Steve drew the short straw and got to command Reynier's corps.  Things did not start well for him as Borstell's artillery immediately found the range and inflicted casualties on the Saxon grenadiers defending Gross Beeren.  Wasting no time, Borstell sent in the Pomeranian infantry regiment.  They arrived at Gross Beeren at the same time as Kraft's infantry. Vastly outnumbered, the Saxons manage to stall two of the attacks, but not the Pomeranians and they were bundled backwards out of the village.  Borstell's artillery then  shifted target to the second sector of Gross Beeren and again softened up the defenders before the Pomeranians attacked.  By the end of turn four Borstell had achieved his objective; Gross Beeren was in Prussian hands.  However, the bottleneck of the village slowed any further progress.

On the Prussian right, Hessen-Homburg moved directly towards the low ridge held by Lecoq's division. He was supported on his right by Oppen's cavalry which had orders to swing round the Saxon left and pin them in square.  The Saxon artillery was unaffected by the rain, (which had arrived on turn 2) and Hessen's infantry suffered quite heavy casualties as they advanced.  To their right the Prussian cavalry had advanced and attacked the outnumbered Saxon cavalry under the command of Gablenz.  In a decisive action the two Prussian light cavalry regiments were totally defeated and as they streamed from the field the supporting dragoon regiments were swept up in the rout, (ie the division failed a morale test and had to fall back to reform).  Obeying their orders, the Saxon cavalry held their ground and recovered from the melee.

The rain had proved to be only a light shower and by turn five musketry returned.  This proved a saviour for Lecoq as it enabled him to stall the charges of Hessen's infantry and then shred their lines with volleys.  By turn seven Hessen's men had to fall back due to poor morale and they took no further part in the action. The only pressure applied by the Prussians on this flank at this time was the fire of the Russian reserve artillery which ahd at last arrived on turn six.  On the Prussian left, Kraft had now redeployed and moved forward to seize the ridge to the west of Gross Beeren.  Sahr's men tried their best but they were swept away by the weight of the Prussian attack.  Fortunately for the Saxons, Reynier had ordered forward Durutte's division and as Kraft's men reached the top of the ridge they were met by volleys from the French battalions.  This fire was supported by a battery of field guns and Kraft ordered the Silesian militia to attack the battery.  The militia stormed forward and shrugging off casualties they carried the position.

However, the militia were now exposed to counter attack and the 2nd battalion of the 10th line fired a telling volley and then charged forward. The militia could not withstand this attack and broke and ran to the rear.  The Silesian infantry were also suffering heavy casualties from musketry and Kraft's men had to give ground, Durutte was regaining the ridge.  However, there was no time for celebration as Thumen's brigade had arrived to support Kraft and was advancing quickly to attack the ridge.

Bulow now ordered Oppen to charge the Saxon cavalry a second time.  The Gablenz responded and in a close fought melee the Saxons prevailed, the Prussians having to fall back again.  However, Borstell had by now begun to advance from Gross Beeren, threatening the communications of Reynier's corps.  With the light now fading, Reynier ordered a withdrawal and in the bad light the action ceased.  The Prussians held Gross Beeren, but at the close of play, the ridge was still contested.  Hessen had made no progress in capturing Neu Beeren so Lecoq still held the village.  Under the victory condition a draw was declared, but the position of Borstell's brigade meant that the French would have to withdraw from the ridge.


Saturday, 5 October 2013

Capture the enemy supplies! a Sudan scenario

We return this week to the continuing adventures of Lieutenant C V Firth-Newsome in the Sudan.  Following his successful 'rescue mission' he has been promoted to acting captain, (the brigadier and Firth-Newsome's father happened to go to the same school) and in his new capacity has been given command of a force which has been given the task of depriving the local dervish forces of the supplies they have been accumulating at an oasis inland from the British base at Atbara.  "Bit of a picnic for you", the brigadier had said.  "Take Stapleton-Darcy, (the new cavalry officer), with you, he needs to get to know the country".

This is the view from behind the oasis looking towards where the British force will appear.  As the Dervish commander, I had 5 units of Nile Ansar infantry, one of which was riflemen, the remainder being mainly melee troops; a field gun and the prospect of reinforcements both infantry and mounted after five turns (depending on the dice of course). I could deploy the Ansar anywhere, but decided to put three of the units in the village,close to the supplies with the riflemen in the wadi at the top left of the photo, the gun on the central palm-topped hill and one melee unit on the hill to the gun's right.  This deployment was unknown to Steve, who took the part of Firth-Newsome.  He had opted to put all his cavalry and camel troops in a flanking manoeuvre which would arrive roughly where he intended at some stage, again dice dependent.  His infantry force comprised four units of British infantry plus one unit of blue jackets,the latter under the command of Lieutenant Bolitho.  His artillery support consisted of one field gun and one machine gun.
The British infantry force marched onto the table in a commendably tight formation, Firth-Newsome had been listening to some of the 'old hands' back in the mess at Atbara and they had impressed on him the need to keep his units together and not chase off in all directions.  He ordered the three units leading the advance to deploy scouts to investigate the broken ground ahead.

His two reserve units, the blue jackets on the left and Loyals on the right maintained close support for the line ahead.  Firth-Newsome took his position behind the fusiliers who were in the centre, flanked by the guns.  As the advance continued the units on the right seemed to be making better progress and Firth-Newsome sent a runner to request that MacDonald, the commander of the Highlanders rein in his enthusiasm.  The action started with a shell from the Dervish artillery exploding amongst the ranks of the fusiliers. NCOs quickly closed up the ranks and had the wounded taken to the rear.  This would obviously not be the 'picnic' the brigadier had expected.  Firth-Newsome called forward his field gun and ordered fire on the enemy position.  Whilst his attention was focused on the centre, his flanking units were beginning to extend the line.

The riflemen in the wadi, instead of shooting at the approaching British, instead tried to charge.  They were saved from this folly by some low dice which meant that they failed to reach the enemy unit, the Highlanders, and in the following move withdrew to the wadi.  This worked in the Dervish commanders favour because the Loyals were now drawn further to their right to deal with this threat.  On the British left, the Berkshires' scouts discovered an Ansar unit hiding in the dead ground, which after a volley charged forward.  The Berkshires stood their ground and fired a volley which inflicted some casualties, but not enough to stop the Ansar.  As the two forces came together, the blue jackets moved further to the left, covering the flank of the Berkshires line.

The melee went against the Ansar and the remnants fell back towards the village. However, the Berkshires had lost a quarter of their strength and Firth-Newsome's tidy formation was now a straggling line across the desert.  The Ansar gun had taken casualties from the British artillery and volleys from the Fusiliers and so it too, fell back to the village.

With the village and oasis now close, Firth-Newsome was beginning to feel more confident. Two enemy charges dealt with and enemy artillery driven off.  His flanking column was due shortly and that should end the matter.  On the British left, Lieutenant Bolitho was not feeling quite so 'chipper'.  There was a lot of broken ground to his left and front and he kept his scouts close to the main body of blue jackets.  Suddenly a cry of "Sir, dust cloud to the left".  Raising his telescope, (a true navy man would never use binoculars), Bolitho looked left and discerned shapes amidst the dust.  Cavalry.  "Form square!, prepare for cavalry" he bellowed.  Lady Luck had smiled on the Dervish commander and his cavalry reinforcements had arrived on cue and where he had intended.   Even better, the Hadendoa units also arrived on time, behind the oasis and began to move forward to support the Ansar.  With the blue jackets pinned in square by the cavalry, the Hadendoa sprinted forward, one unit making straight for the jack tars.  Although under fire from the Arab mounted troops, the seamen kept their cool and fired a telling volley at the charging Hadendoa.  Against other foes it may have been effective, but these tribesmen ignored their fallen comrades and fell on the square.  The clash of cutlass against scimitar rand across the desert sands.  It was a short, brutal fight, but the discipline of the blue jackets carried them through and they managed to drive off their attackers.  Cheers rang out from the battered square and Bolitho was proud that his men had upheld the highest traditions of the service.

Whilst the seamen were fighting for their lives, the remainder of the British line continued its advance.  Firth-Newsome's men were now exchanging volleys with the defenders of the oasis. As the volume of fire from the Ansar diminished he felt sure he was gaining the upper hand.

On the British right, the Loyals had reached the Wadi and exchanged fire with the Ansar riflemen.  These now withdrew towards some broken ground from which they could fire on the flank of any attack on the village.  The Ansar moved just in time, because, as they streamed across the desert a cloud of dust announced the arrival of Stapleton-Darcy with the cavalry and camelry.  He was just too late to catch the riflemen, but, Stapleton-Darcy led his lancers towards the village, hoping to catch the defenders unawares.  The two units of infantry mounted on camels were left under the command of his fellow lieutenant, Witherington as  Stapleton-Darcy galloped off with the lancers.  Ignoring the scattered shots from the broken ground the British cavalry swept into the village.  As they neared the oasis they saw a unit of Hadendoa and charged.  Just before they closed a round from the Ansar artillery tore through their formation and ended Stapleton-Darcy's short career in an instant.  Trapped in a narrow area the cavalry could make no impression on the Hadendoa formation and lost many horses to the stabbing spears.  A bugle sounded and the lancers fell back, many men having to 'hitch' a rider from comrades.

Witherington now deployed his infantry into a firing line to cover the withdrawal of the lancers and add to the fire from the main British line on the village.

Meanwhile, in the centre Firth-Newsome had decided it was time to push forward.  He was just about to give the order when the Highlanders reported enemy cavalry to their rear.  The cavalry which had forced the blue jackets into square and by now moved round behind the British line and were in position to charge.  The rear rank of the Highlanders turned to fire at the cavalry and the machine gun also re-deployed.  Anxious that everything was done to preserve his line, Firth-Newsome ordered the field gun to move to the centre and add their fire to stop any cavalry attack.  As the massed Arab cavalry swept forward a hail of bullets and shell met them.  Their commander, resplendent in his antique armour was in the lead and was one of the first to fall.  Despite their courage, none of the Arab horsemen reached the British line.  Turning his thoughts once again to the attack on the village, Firth-Newsome was interrupted by a runner from the Fusiliers.  "Sir, the Berkshires have gone!.  the enemy is on our flank!"

The Berkshires had advanced in line with the Fusiliers and although suffering a few casualties from Ansar fire had inflicted some on the defenders in return.  Then, in a fewminutes, three rounds from the Hadendoa artillery had torn through their ranks.  As the NCOs restored the line, the Ansar defenders left the village and swept towards them.  The fire from the Berkshires killed the first line of Ansar, but they kept on coming.  Then, from the left a unit of Hadendoa charged the British flank.  Some men changed front to meet this new threat, but it was like trying to stem the tide.  Assailed in front and flank the British line crumpled.  A corporal managed to get a few wounded men away, covered by the knots of men who fought to the last.

Luckily for Firth-Newsome,  a second unit of Hadendoa, which had been ordered to charge the Fusiliers had not moved quickly enough.  This gave the Fusiliers enough time to change front and, bolstered by the return of the field gun, prevent the British line being 'rolled up'.

With his chance of seizing the supplies now gone, Firth-Newsome gave the order to return to Atbara.  The 'picnic' had not been a success and the Brigadier would not be happy about having to write a letter to Stapleton-Darcy's parents.