Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Ripple Field

For our last game of 2014 Steve set up a scenario from the English Civil War, Ripple Field.  He used Steve Maggs' book  of ECW scenarios and set up a table with a low ridge flanked by two hedged lanes. Waller's Parliamentary forces were trying to prevent Prince Maurice from moving further west.  Both sides were predominantly cavalry, with Waller having the slight edge in artillery.  (Historically, the Parliamentary artillery was ineffective and was swept away by the Royalist advance).

The dice decided that I would command the Parliamentarians and I decided to place my dragoons on my right to try and prevent an outflanking manoeuvre, the cavalry reserve was placed behind my left.  From the beginning I rolled some very lucky dice for my artillery.  The Royalist cavalry in the centre was particularly severely damaged and very few reached the guns.  Those that did saw my gunners running for the safety of Middleton's musketeers and were then driven back by a discharge of hail shot from a second gun.

In the lane on my right, my dragoons fired on the Royalist horse as they galloped past,but to little effect. They then turned their attention to the Royalist musketeers who were following in the wake of the the horse. To try and prevent the Royalist horse breaking through I sent forward the small unit of 'lobsters' under Haselrigg. Although outnumbered, the confines of the lane would be to their advantage and I trusted they would plug the gap.  It was not to be.  The dice decreed that this was not to be Haselrigg's day.  Although better armoured, his men were pushed back and eventually routed.

Meanwhile, the two main cavalry forces crossed swords on the flanks of the ridge.  On my right, the fight was close,with the advantage swinging one way and then the other.  Steve committed his reserve on this flank and this proved decisive, my forces eventually being driven from the field.  On my left, the artillery had disrupted the Royalist advance and I took advantage of this. Committing part of my reserve, I drove the Royalists from the field, but then found myself under fire from the Royalist musketeers lining the hedge. Losses mounted and the battered remnants of my cavalry eventually straggled back to the ridge, but were too weak to take any further part in the battle.

The Royalist dragoons had by now moved right round my left flank and were threatening to attack the rear of Middleton's musketeers.  I had to commit my final reserve, a raw cavalry unit to drive them off and this left Middleton's men alone on the ridge as Maurice's own regiment of horse,joined by the victors over Haselrigg swept forward.  The gunners saw the enemy horse and ran for safety.  Waller personally formed up Middleton's men to face this threat and as the Royalist horse closed a devastating volley was fired.  The losses were such that the Royalists had to fall back to reform.  Again they charged, and again a close range volley stopped them in their tracks.  Prince Maurice rallied his men once again and then led them forward a third time.  Middleton's third volley was not as effective and this time the cavalry closed to combat.  The musketeers did their best, but without pike support they began to edge back.  At this crucial point the Parliamentary cavalry reserve returned from driving off the Royalist dragoons.

Charging forward, they joined in the melee and their intervention swung the advantage back to Waller's men. Maurice's cavalry were driven back and the battered remnants of the Royalist force retreated.  A reversal of history, but the action could have gone either way.

After lunch we reset the troops and fought the action again, with me taking the part of Maurice.  Again the artillery was quite effective and again the melees were close run affairs.  This time Maurice won by a narrow margin, but with heavy casualties.

The 1644 rules which we used are quite simplistic and results often rest on the commanders ability (or not), to roll a '6'.  The artillery can be effective against small units and perhaps we should have reduced the number of guns.  But, two close-run games in a day, with plenty of fun involved, why change things?

Many thanks to everyone for their continued interest in the blog over the year.  Happy New Year and I wish you all a successful 2015.

Thursday, 18 December 2014


At the weekend we had a city break in London.  We had not visited the capital in December before and it was well worth the long trip.   Military themed sights were not high on our list, but we did see this diorama depicting a V2 rocket launch in the Science Museum space gallery

At Somerset House we saw an exhibition by the photographer Bryan Adams, entitled "Wounded: the legacy of war".  Not an easy collection to view, but in my opinion all MP's should go and see the consequences for the armed forces of the deployment decisions voted on in the Commons.

On the river we saw the Dutch Naval ship HNLMS Luymes as she came under Tower Bridge

Sunday, 7 December 2014

RECON at Pudsey

The Pudsey show has been our last outing of the 'season' for a good number of years.  Usually the Lance & Longbow Society has a stand, but unfortunately, this year we left out application too late and the hall was fully booked.  Anyway, we set off across the Pennines looking for those Christmas bargains.  The show was well attended, but it seemed that the range of traders was not as broad.  Certainly, I was unable to buy the 30mm x 30mm bases I needed for the SYW cavalry.  The B & B was well patronised and had a good range of items on offer and I picked up a copy of Bowden's "Napoleon's Gande Armee" for a very reasonable price.

Will took some pictures of a Battlegroup Overlord game, but it was a game by the Furness Warlords which caught my eye.  It featured the Battle of Lake Erie from the War of 1812.  All the models (1/300 scale) are scratch built and a jolly good job has been made of them.

At the other end of the wargaming scale was this strategic level game of WWII

I think this was the Sabin game I saw at the Fiasco show a couple of years ago.

Overall a satisfactory day out, another book for the collection and a chance to catch up with fellow gamers; shame about those bases though.

Monday, 1 December 2014


With no game this week, I thought I would take a closer look at one of those battles which tends to capture the imagination, Minden.  One particular incident, the charge of the French cavalry against the British infantry was of interest. This is because, in the Konig Kreig rules, which Steve and I use, the French cavalry units only field 6 figures and so are vulnerable to failing morale tests when they start to take casualties. In addition, the rules make the British musketry fire more effective (a 50% chance of inflicting a casualty with each die rolled).  So,to see if the charge could work using these rules I carried out a paper exercise, running through the charge procedure 20 times.  All dice were d6.

I began by checking the morale of the participants. The French (rated 6) could not fail, the British rated 5,could fail on a 6.  On 4 occasions the British failed the test and retreated.  When the British stood, they fired a volley.  Six dice were rolled, requiring 4 - 6 to hit.  On average you would expect to inflict three casualties on the French cavalry with each volley.  In the event a total of 41 hits were obtained for 16 volleys, a rate of c2.5.  The casualties on their own would not stop the charge as you only check morale once per phase, but they could effect the melee value of the cavalry, as increments are gained for ranks and numbers of figures.

However, before the melee takes place the cavalry have to 'break the bayonets' and close on the infantry.  Again this is a 50% chance if the infantry are in line; so you would expect a melee in 8 of the remaining 16 charges.  In the event only 6 melees took place and of these 3 were won by the cavalry and 3 by the infantry.

In total, of the 20 charges only 7, ( 4 in which the infantry failed their morale check and 3 victorious  melees) could be counted as a success.  Bearing in mind that I discounted the effect of the supporting British artillery it would seem that the commander of the French cavalry would be well advised not to charge full strength British infantry units as the chances of success are not good.

I ran the exercise again using Brunswick infantry, they inflicted fewer musketry casualties, but the French cavalry only managed to 'break the bayonets' 7 times out of 17 attempts. However, they won 4 of the resulting melees, meaning that the overall result was the same as for the British infantry; 7 French successes out of 20 attempts.

For my third attempt I charged the infantry with a larger unit of Reichs Armee cuirassiers, (12 figures strong). They had  more luck with the dice; breaking the bayonets on 9 out of 17 attempts and they won all of the resulting melees. Even allowing for the vagaries of my dice rolling it seems to support the dictum about 'big battalions'.  The solution could be to combine two French cavalry units together to make them less vulnerable; but this would then have a negative impact on British cavalry units which are of 8 figures and are generally classed as medium rather than heavy.  In a melee therefore, the British (melee value 7) would face French cavalry with a melee value of 10, rather a large handicap.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Hexham again

Family commitments restricted wargaming to an evening session this week rather than a full day.  Steve decided to reprise the Hexham game we ran at Britcon in August, with slight adjustments to the balance of forces to see if it gave a more even game. Using the Impetus rules meant that even though we only had a maximum of three hours play we managed to run through the scenario twice.

In the first game the Yorkist right wing attack stalled when faced with the unerring accuracy of the  Lancastrian peasant archers.  However, this success was balanced out by the shortage of arrows for the remainder of the Lancastrian archers (who were of better quality of course).  We have a local 'house' rule which incorporates an extra dice roll into the missile fire to allow for the supply of arrows to run low and on this particular evening it had quite an effect. As the arrow storm slackened the Yorkist advance rolled forward and the decisive melee between the opposing units of nobles took place in the centre.  Even though they enjoyed the advantage of the higher ground Somerset's men were routed, and he was cut down in the crush.  With their commander killed the Lancastrian forces decided to quit the field.

The Lancastrian right advancing on the Yorkist archers
 The re-match also produced a slogging match between the two units of nobles,but not before the Yorkist right flank forces had their revenge on the peasants opposing them.  A flanking manoeuvre allowed the Yorkists to concentrate their fire on the peasants and in no time they were running from the field.  Further along the line the arrow supply problem again came into play.  A positive rash of '1's meant that over half the archer units had no arrows. This presented a problem of what to do with these units.  The rules prevented them from charging, even opposing archers and with no arrows they were rendered useless.

The two central battles prepare to meet
An attack by the billmen on the Yorkist left was stopped in its tracks by the one Lancastrian archer unit which still had a supply of arrows and the casualties they received made the billmen vulnerable to a counter attack.  In the centre Montague tried to seize the initiative and attacked Somerset's main body.  The melee was prolonged and could have gone either way, but in the end it was The Yorkists who ran and the Lancastrians could celebrate a victory.   

The rules give a good fun game with ample opportunity for lady luck to play a part.  It looks like a bit more play-testing will be required before we can decide if the arrow supply rule exerts too much influence.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Seven Years War returns

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

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

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

The French infantry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 31 October 2014

Result in the Sudan

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, 12 October 2014

Another interruption

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

 I leave you with another photo from the Sudan game.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Sudan round 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Sudan decision postponed

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

The Austrians defend the Klosterberg

Ney's infantry cross the Thaya

Russian counter-attack against Bertrand

The Allied position begins to crumble

Monday, 22 September 2014

Return to the Sudan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 15 September 2014

Lines of Castenay

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

Initial deployment of forces, French on the left

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

Von Grommitt advances

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

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

The Austrian infantry near the ridge

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

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

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

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

The closing position

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

Friday, 5 September 2014

Kukrowitz - a Shako 'Big Battles' scenario

For the last couple of years the Gentlemen Pensioners have put on a Shako 'Big Battles' scenario at the Gauntlet show run by the Deeside Defenders.  This year, Steve very kindly offered to host a similar game, which made things a lot easier with regard to transporting the figures and assorted paraphernalia. How do you follow Bautzen, Borodino and Leipzig?  After considering several  options I eventually decided on creating a 'what if..' scenario set in 1813. This avoided me having to use Prussian troops to make up the numbers at Austerlitz for example, or to have troops in late war uniforms at the earlier battles.  The template for the 'Kukrowitz' was Znaim, the final battle in the 1809 Wagram campaign.

This is a map of the area from the Allied side of the table.  It is not an exact representation of the terrain that was on the table, but contemporary maps were not always accurate.  The two c-in-c's each received a map to help with their planning.  The French, commanded by Napoleon, had four corps commanders, Ney, Oudinot, Marmont and Bertrand, with the corps commanded by Victor due to arrive after 4 or 5 moves.  Three cavalry corps and the Guard arrived at the end of play on Saturday.  The Allies also had four corps commanders, two Russian, Miloradovich and Gortchakov, an Austrian, Kolowrat and Blucher for the Prussians.  Allied reserves were available and the elite Reserve Corps, commanded by Grand Duke Constantine was due to arrive at the start of play on the Sunday.

Prussian and Russian troops on the Zuckerberg
 The scenario had the Allied army retiring after their defeat at Dresden.  The Austrian rearguard was being pressured by Ney, whilst Napoleon was marching hard to move round the flank and trap the Allies against the Thaya river.  To make matters worse for the Allies their sole line of retreat was blocked by a problem with the army's supply train and they would have to hold a defensive position for the whole day (the two days gaming).  Blucher had his troops in the vicinity of Winau, stretching onto the Zuckerberg.  To Blucher's right was Gortchakov and then Miloradovich, whose troops were deployed from the Zuckerberg, through Zuckerhandel and onto the Klein Berg.  Kolowrat's Austrians were deployed on the Klosterberg and in front of Alt Schallersdorf and the Kloster Abbey.  Ney faced Kolowrat across the Thaya.  Marmont was ready to assault the Klein Berg and Bertrand was with Oudinot on the French right.

Excelmans charges the Austrian line.

 Napoleon had issued attack orders to his corps commanders and true to his nature Ney was happy to oblige.  His light cavalry, led by Excelmans and Briche were quick to cross the bridge and move at speed towards  the Austrian lines.  To the right, Grouchy led his dragoons across the ford and deployed ready to charge the Austrian guns on the Klosterberg.    Unfortunately for Excelmans, Frimont's Uhlans were supporting the Austrian infantry and the uhlans were quick to advance through the lines and countercharge the French cavalry.  The French were caught by surprise and driven back.  Carried away with their success the Austrians charged on into Briche's horsemen.  However, disordered from their melee they were driven back with heavy loss.  Briche's men retained their control and fell back to reform.  Although costly, the cavalry attacks had covered the advance of Verdier's division towards Alt Schallersdorf.  Grouchy had formed up his division and now charged the guns on the Klosterberg.

Grouchy charges up the Klosterberg
The Austrian gunners were sabred, but isolated, the French dragoons fell back to reform. Behind Grouchy more of Ney's infantry were crossing the Thaya.

The Baden infantry division crosses the Thaya

   On the French right, Oudinot was advancing on the Prussians.  There were some losses from the Prussian artillery, but the infantry continued to move forward.  To Oudinot's left, Bertrand was sending his troops up the slopes of the Zuckerberg.  Franquement's division was charged by Kochin's cavalry and bundled back down the slopes. The Russian cavalry reined in and fell back to reform. To Franquement's right Neubronn's division charged home on the Prussian guns.  As the Wurttemburg infantry swept through the guns they were charged by Roder's cavalry.  Disorganised, they stood little chance as the horsemen hacked about them.  Only a few of Neubronn's men made it back to the French lines.  Bertrand's corps cavalry was also attacking the ridge but the Russians formed square and drove them off with heavy casualties.

Kochin's cavalry sweep down the slopes of the Zuckerberg
Marmont was making slow progress against Miloradovich's troops.  His cavalry were destroyed by the Russian cavalry and the first wave of infantry was driven back with heavy losses.

After three moves all the French attacks had been repulsed and the Allied line was holding, but undaunted, the French resumed their attack.  First, Oudinot sent in Scheeler's division against Winau, they were beaten back, but a Gazan's division was ready to take their place.  The failure of Bertrand's attack on the Zuckerberg had encouraged the Russians into a limited counterattack.  One of Gortchakov's infantry divisions was threatening the flank of Bertrand's line. To counter this Pino's Italians were moved to a blocking position.  As they redeployed they became the target for all the Russian guns on the Zuckerberg.  Vast gaps were torn in their ranks and Bertrand had to pull them back, but the division was so damaged it took no further part in the battle.  Bertrand's position was now perilous.  His cavalry were much weakened, his infantry battered and the enemy seemed as strong as ever.  To his relief he saw fresh troops arriving.  Napoleon had directed Victor's corps to strengthen the French right.   

Ney had not been deterred by the failure of his first attack on the Klosterberg.  Briche's light cavalry charged forward against Schaeffer's division.  The Austrians tried to form square, but were caught in the manoeuvre and stood little chance against the French cavalry.

Oudinot's advance on Winau

Kolowrat sent a message off to the Allied headquarters requesting reinforcements; but so early in the battle his pleas fell on deaf ears.  As a precautionary measure Kolowrat garrisoned Alt Schallersdorf and the Kloster Abbey with men from Splenyi's division.

On the French right, Gazan's division drove the Prussians from Winau and then defeated a counterattack.  Blucher was now in serious trouble, with his left threatened and struggling to maintain contact with Gortchakov's troops to his right.  He also sent off an aide to Allied headquarters requesting reinforcements.  His plea was accepted and the Prussian grenadier division and the Prussian heavy cavalry were soon marching towards Winau.  Reports of Victor's arrival in support of Bertrand resulted in the Russian reserves heading off towards Kukrowitz to bolster the position on the Zuckerberg.  With a second plea arriving from Kolowrat, saying that his line was under extreme pressure, being accepted by the Allied command, all the Allied reserves had now been committed.

The Russian reserves move forward

Marmont made a second attempt to drive Miloradovich from the Klein Berg, only to see his infantry driven back down the slopes in confusion.  Fortunately, help was at hand, as Ney's infantry, led by the Baden division stormed the Klosterberg and drove Abele's division from the hill, creating space for Marmont to deploy more men in future attacks.  With Abele's defeat, the French now had control of the Klosterberg. With Dubreton driving Splenyi's men from the Kloster Abbey and Vial capturing Alt Schallersdorf, Ney felt confident that he had the Austrians on the run.

The French attack on Alt Schallersdorf
But Kolowrat had other ideas.  He ordered Splenyi to counterattack and try and regain the abbey.  The Austrian infantry moved forward with a will, but were unable to dislodge the French.  They suffered heavy casualties in the melee and fell back, taking no further part in the battle.  The light cavalry also made charges, forcing the infantry to form square, which made them excellent targets for the Austrian guns.  All this bought time for the Austrian reserves to march up. Nostitz's cuirassiers lost no time in charging the French on the Klosterberg, but could make no impression on the solid infantry and had to fall back to reform.  However, Kolowrat had had time to form a solid defensive line in front of Edelspitz, linking up with Gortchakov's men on the ridge behind the Klein Berg.

Kolowrat forms a second line

Blucher was struggling to contain Oudinot.  Dombrowski's Polish division was making headway against Jagow's division, which contained a large number of Reserve Infantry regiments and Militia.  The inexperienced troops could not stand against the veterans and fled from the field.  Pirch's division tried to stem the tide but was swept away by a combination of the Poles and Oudinot's light cavalry.  A yawning gap opened in the Prussian lines, which the arriving reserves struggled to fill.  Only the assistance of some Russian reserves allowed some semblance of a line to be re-established.

The Guard arrives
 With play drawing to a close late on Saturday afternoon, the French reserves arrived.  The Imperial Guard, accompanied by three corps of reserve cavalry.  Napoleon allocated Victor, Oudinot and Ney one corps of cavalry each; retaining the Guard under his personal command.  Although the French had taken heavy losses in the day's play (70 stands to the Allies 57), they had made significant gains on both flanks.  In the centre, where Bertrand (and latterly Victor) , had repeatedly attacked the Zuckerberg, only small gains had been made; but, with almost all the Russian forces drawn into this sector it gave the French the advantage of numbers on other sectors.  The Russian Guard, commanded by Grand Duke Constantine was due to arrive on the Sunday morning and the deployment of those reserves would be vital to the Allied cause.  Ideally they would oppose any moves made by the French Imperial Guard, but other priorities may arise on the morrow.

When we assembled again on the Sunday, the newly arrived Grand Duke Constantine had a brief opportunity to weigh up the best course of action and decided that he would like to move towards the likely target of the French Imperial Guard, Kukrowitz. However, the plight of the Prussians on the Allied left and the need to safeguard the road meant that two elite infantry divisions were sent in this direction.

The Guard cavalry attack
 Refusing to protect the Guard, Napoleon launched his cavalry towards Gortchakov's infantry covering Kukrowitz.  Scherbatov's division quickly formed square and their bayonets were steady enough to force the elite horsemen to fall back.  The Russians had no time to celebrate their success as the massed columns of the guard infantry marched towards them.  Quickly reforming to meet this new threat the Russians welcomed the supporting fire from their heavy batteries and could see the Russian light cavalry of the Guard  heading towards them.  However, nothing could stop the advance of Napoleon's elite infantry.  They swept the Russians aside, overrunning the supporting batteries and cleared the way towards Kukrowitz.

Marmont made a third attempt on the Klein Berg.  This time he was successful, slowly but surely, pushing the Russians back.  As the Russian infantry retreated the French beat off attacks from the Russian cavalry and claimed possession of the heights, renaming it the Marmont Berg.

The French take the Klein Berg
 Oudinot wasted no time in putting his reserve cavalry to use.  The cavalry galloped forward and in concert with the infantry launched a series of devastating attacks on the thin Prussian lines.  In no time at all the Prussian grenadiers and reserve cavalry had been swept from the field and Constantine had to direct even more resources to try and secure his left flank.  Blucher's command now consisted of a much weakened cavalry division and the remains of the division which had garrisoned Winau, plus an artillery battery.  This battered remnant clung to the Brunberg heights, but could do little to influence the battle.

Ney attacks the Austrian squares
 Kolowrat meanwhile was doing his best to keep the enemy at bay.  His cavalry made repeated charges against the French guns which Ney was attempting to bring forward to aid his advance.  Several batteries were destroyed and whilst there was no danger of Alt Schallersdorf and the Abbey being recaptured by the Austrians, Ney's troops were making little progress.  Indeed, Ney was throwing his newly acquired cavalry corps against Austrian squares in a desperate attempt to make further gains.  At the Zuckerberg the carnage continued with Victor beating off Russian attacks and continuing to pin Gortchakov in place whilst Oudinot and Napoleon worked round his flanks.

After two hours play the balance of the game had shifted dramatically.  The Allies had lost 10 divisions, pushing their total stands lost beyond 120 (their army breakpoint was 160).  Meanwhile the French had lost only a further 15 stands.  

With his eyes set on Kukrowitz, Napoleon ordered his Guard to continue their advance.  With Friant leading the way the infantry bypassed Zuckerhandel, leaving Marmont's troops to mop up resistance there. The Guard cavalry advanced on the flank of the infantry and the Chasseurs and Lancers charged the lights cavalry of the Russian guard.  In a close melee, the French prevailed, driving the Russians back.  To the right of the lancers the Guard heavies rode down a Russian infantry division which failed to form square in time.  Friant's grenadiers entered Kukrowitz unopposed, the Russians sent to garrison it arriving too late.  As the Russians formed up to attack the village they were caught in the flank by Houssaye's dragoon division and totally destroyed.  This proved the decisive loss for the Allies as they reached their army breakpoint and their orders would then automatically be changed to withdraw.

Dombrowski's Polish division attacks the Russian Guard
 The day belonged to the French.  With the Allied army in such a battered state and their supply train vulnerable perhaps it would end the campaign in Napoleon's favour and Leipzig would never have been fought!

This had been a thoroughly enjoyable game, with much of that due to the Gentlemen Pensioners who played in the right spirit.  Thank you to the two Johns, the two Garys, Ian, Roman, Chris, Nick, Phil and Will for all your efforts.  Not forgetting Steve, who combined the role of host with that of umpire to such good effect.  My apologies to the commanders who may feel I have not mentioned some significant events, but especially on the Sunday morning things were happening so quickly it was difficult to keep track of them all.  

Further photos, including some panoramic views of the battle, can be found on Will's blog together with Bertrand's take on the battle!  In addition, a strategic overviewfrom the French perspective can be found on Phil's FoG blog.  Both well worth visiting.