Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Game 49 : Austerlitz Northern Front revisited

Hi Guys,
This was a revisit to a game we have played before. Austerlitz, the northern sector, outside the fog and really a battle between each sides Cavalry reserves with two supporting infantry divisions.

Anyone who remembers this game will know of a large central hill, or really plateau, that controls the road to Olmutz which is the Allied lines of communication. The northern end of the battlefield has the village of Bosenitz and the southern end has the village of Blasowitz and the plateau is in between. It is a powerful defensive position where allied guns can dominate. The usual tactic is to try and take the flank villages, turn the flank of the enemy and then commit the cavalry reserve en masse. In fact, its the same tactic for both sides.
Except the Russians didn't do that! They occupied Blasowitz and positioned the other infantry division bang on the Olmutz road. This set the scene. The pic above shows the northern flank from the French side. Bosenitz has been bypassed and the French are trying to drive in the Russian right that is held by cavalry.

The same situation viewed from the Allied side. It would always give them a problem in that is really committed the Allies to a totally defensive posture. However, the French still had to turn this flank!

Next along the French line is part of the cavalry reserve advancing to protect the flank of the infantry above.

The southern edge saw the French advance with the heavies, two regiments were eventually forced to retire through horrendous overall casualties from the Allied artillery in the centre.

The French attack Blasowitz which is stoutly defended by the Russian Jaeger division. The fighting would eventually see the Russian Jaegers driven back and isolated in and around the village giving the French an opportunity to drive in the Allied left flank.

The Russians hold the centre in some strength. Mixed arms of infantry, artillery and cavalry in support. A tough nut!

The French are now making progress against the Allied left. This progress would increase in impetus, ultimately driving the Allies of the central Olmutz road. Allied cavalry is now having to turn and face and the infantry in the centre are about to be caught in a fight on two fronts.

Both sides now tried to confirm the outcome by launching heavy cavalry in the centre. Although the French managed to win the combats, the fighting at this point had no clear victor. Both sides would draw their breadth!

The highlight or the end, depending on your sides view. A clash of Austrian Cuirassiers against French Dragoons. It went the three rounds and the dice gods then intervened. A natural 9 for the French against a natural 1 for the Austrians. It was all over!! Carnage!!

Russian infantry retiring in order down the Olmutz road. The French have the day!!

A nice and sunny weekend for an Autumn game. Next stop is the 50th Game, Austerlitz the Southern front with some new twists!!

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Game 48 : Bailen : the second go!

This is the same battle of Bailen, refought with the players switching sides. I won't go through all the planning detail but just give the highlights. The French elected to drive through the centre with the largest infantry formations, taking advantage of the semi-broken terrain that unformed cavalry. The wings would be cavalry heavy and be the flank guards. The Spanish plan was one of defence along the main line with the exception of the largest infantry division that would attack in the centre. They would exploit the same ground as the French were advancing over for the same reason; protection from cavalry. The Spanish also kept a division in reserve. 

The French left advancing. It comprised of 4 btns of infantry, 2 of them light infantry and supporting cavalry. The Spanish were holding the ridge line with a refused flank; taking advantage of the ridge protection. 

This is the Spanish left. The cavalry would engage the French cavalry to try and drive the flank protection away. The French infantry can be seen advancing in the centre.

The Spanish division advance against the French. There is likely to be battle in the semi broken ground with little or no cavalry interference.

The combat on the Spanish left with the cavalry is decisive. The French cut a swathe through the Spanish cavalry. The idea of driving back the French flank guard on this side has gone for the duration. The French centre would be able to advance with no worries on their right flank.

The Spanish advance in the centre stopped as soon as it started. One turn and a battalion took a few casualties and then decided to retreat. Being positioned as a lead battalion, it really stopped this advance in its tracks. The issue for the Spanish would be how to recover and not have this whole division rendered hors de combat.

On the French left, the advance against the ridge involves taking a key wood which is being contested by light infantry from both sides. Ownership of the wood gives control of the whole of the ridge by looking down its length. It is a natural anchor point.

The French left centre, supported by cavalry, now has the ridge line open to them. The Spanish infantry, lacking cavalry in this sector at this time, would not be able to hold and would soon yield the ridge.

The same position but seen from the French side.


The French right centre is now advancing to the ridge line as well. Despite spirited Spanish resistance, the French infantry were able to keep some Spanish infantry retreating and stop any co-ordinated Spanish counter in this sector.

Viewed from the French left, the whole Spanish line has retired from the ridge to attempt the formation of a fresh defensive position. French artillery, now deployed on the ridge, is able to give effective fire support. Spanish artillery has been driven away with some significant losses.

This was the last turn. The Spanish centre was in flight and running headlong into Bailen but had just successfully changed orders to retire which would probably allow it to defend the centre and rear of Bailen itself. We called it at this point. A French victory was declared. The games were great, not least in that everyone thought that the Spanish behaved as players perceived they should. Moments of brilliance mingled with unfathomable hesitation and disruption. This was achieved by the simple manipulation of morale classes, random General ability for each and every morale test and the use of the roster sheet top reflect the brittleness.

Well, here we are. Graham and myself were Spanish in the first game and French is this one. Bob & Herbert were here for both games on the opposite side. We all declared it a great success.
Next stop is Austerlitz, the northern sector. Some new ideas to try with national characteristics being applied to the order change system. So keep an eye out for that battle!!

Friday, 14 October 2016

Game 47 : Bailen 1808

This battle had a number of firsts. It was the first Peninsular battle that has been played. As the Brits are yet to arrive, I decided to try the classic battle where the Spanish achieved their only sole noted victory. As usual,
I'll leave the reader to investigate the books at to what precipitated the battle and why. In a nutshell, a French Provisional Corps has to break through the lines of a Spanish army to escape back onto their supply lines. They have 600 wagons in tow and so the objectives are clear. The French need to clear the heights and main road in front of Bailen, then clear Bailen and then be able to march off the battlefield via the main and only road.
The Spanish have a good defensive line of heights in front of the town. In essence, if the hill is taken and the Spanish are in disarray, then the French objective has really been met.
Terrain considerations also require some thought. Maps of the battle are inconsistent with regards to how much area was wooded and how deep were the woods. I decided to adopt a simple solution to reflect lightly wooded and broken ground areas. I used the fields to represent an area where visibility was limited but infantry were not affected in terms of order/disorder. The same are would count all mounted troops or limbered artillery as disordered. This simple approach breaks up the terrain in a way where infantry are free to move and cavalry have to pick their ground. I used woods to represent woods as we normally understand them.
The next biggest problem is how to reflect the historic behaviour of the Spanish, with regards to their morale, without making the outcomes too predictable. For both armies I adopted a variable morale system and utilised the casualty roster sheets to reflect tenacity and effectiveness as attrition is suffered.
Every troop type, for each army, had a table where the morale of the troops was variable. I'll use the French as an example.
Take French line infantry. The basis is that the line infantry were raw conscripts that had been trained on the march. Their elan was reasonable.
So, as a morale test is required and not before, a 1d6 roll is made.
On a 6, the unit is Seasoned, 4,5 1st class, 2,3 2nd class and on a 1, militia.
This is done for each unit. Unit types had different ratings and chances.
French Dragoons had 5,6 Seasoned, 2,3,4 1st class, 1, 2nd class.
The last factor are the roster sheets. Irrespective of morale class, the roster used was for 1st class. The reason for this is explained at the end of the Spanish notes.
Using the same approach, the Spanish Infantry had the following, 5,6 1st class, 3,4 2nd class, 1,2 militia. The roster sheet used, irrespective of morale class, was for militia.
The morale ratings are based on my research on the troops at the time. The roster used reflects my view that the Spanish were, on the whole, more brittle. The effect would be that is a one to one trade of volleys, French troops would likely stay longer.
The beauty of the system allows many variations to be used and allows the designer to paint whatever picture he wants. Now the pics! 

This Bailen itself. The escape road exits at the bottom and in the distance can be seen the main defence line that the Spanish hold and the French must break. The exit road heads east.

This is the ridge line starting at the northern most end of the Spanish line.
This is to the south of Bailen showing the church as it is pretty!
The French tactic was to have a very weak centre screened with cavalry and strong flanks to try and turn the Spanish on both wings. The Spanish had elected for a right hook at the northern end of the battlefield with their strongest infantry formation and where possible engage the French cavalry to try and prevent the French from using combined arms. The above shows the Spanish and French both advancing.

This is the same action taken from the French side. This battle would rage all weekend. The cavalry from both sides would hew chunks out of each other without any great result. The Spanish infantry, without organised Spanish cavalry support would get nowhere, advancing a foot and then having to break off as their advance was checked and then thrown back by the French. In turn, the French infantry could not easily advance as their own cavalry was continuously engaged by the Spanish cavalry.

The action at the southern end of the battlefield was the same, except it was a major French push from their right flank with their best infantry (there is a Swiss brigade in the army).
The attack was checked by a large amount of Spanish cavalry and some infantry. The resulting engagement was bloody. The Spanish infantry were eventually driven back but the French infantry suffered when a Spanish Lancer regiment got in amongst them and broke at least 3 btns.

The above shows the overall result at the southern end of the battlefield. Their is an impasse as both sides regroup to have a go again. The French can still attack, the Spanish are still holding the line. 

At the top of the picture is the typical action at the northern end. At the end of the weekend , it looked like the troops were virtually in the same position that they had started in, especially the Spanish. Overall, the French had advanced by about 2 feet, but the Spanish line was still intact.

This is from the centre where I managed to get things lined up perfectly on about 4 occasions only for some Spanish unit to not do what was wanted. It appeared very apt and Spanish, if somewhat exasperating!
The end of the battle saw the French slowly forcing the southern end of the ridge but the remainder still under Spanish control. The Spanish line was also intact and continuous. The French flanks were secure but the weak centre was coming under pressure, albeit very slowly. So a draw really. Another factor that makes this interesting is that the game has been played again, with the players now on the opposite sides. That report will be next!!

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Game 46 : Smolensk take II

Hi All,
A very quick, and short, account of a game played at the end of August. This was new in the sense that it was the Russians attacking the Germans. The Germans had smaller numbers and some were dug in. More Germans would arrive. The game pitched two Russian Infantry Divisions and a Tank Division against a German Panzer Division. Both sides had assets to add, the Russians getting a random selection. It is late 1941, but not late enough to worry about the weather. Both sides also had air support.

Cutting a bank holiday weekend story somewhat short, we played the game twice as we had effectively 3 full days to play. Each side won one game. The first game was one by the Russians and the second by the Germans. In both games there was tactically important village that would decide the outcome on one flank. The villages themselves had light cover, but the approaches blocked visibility.
It was the first game in which Russian artillery played a significant role. Pre-planned fire was allowed onto numbered Geographic targets only. When the randomised Russian assets were added, it so happened it was a lot of Artillery. It became effective because the German counter battery artillery probably did not have the gods on their die rolling side.

This is the village viewed from the opposite side. If you are not careful, you can lose Regiments in fairly small urban areas! There was plenty of manoeuvring space, but it was odd in that both sides did not go "hard" at gaps in the line. Both sides had a plan and they were keeping to them!

Russian tanks, nasty KV2s, breaking into the village. Ideal ground for these tanks, sort of clarifies the defenders options very quickly!

Lastly the team. From the left, Graham, Pete, me, Pete's Nephew Conor and Gordon at the end.  A good time had by all. The remaining games for this year are Napoleonic, with some new untried ground being explored. The first one up will be the Battle of Bailen this weekend. We'll see what happens.
Then it will be larger games again at the year end as a prelude to the January Borodino. all of it!!
Lastly, the next Companion book has gone to Caliver for publishing. This one is called "The Russians". Keep an eye out for it later this year!!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Game 45 : Borodino village playtest II

Hi Guys,
This is a second playtest of the Borodino village side of the battlefield at "The Battle of Borodino" if you follow. I decided to do a second playtest because the result of the first playtest resulted in the French being checked at the village of Borodino.
I wanted to play with different players, who dutifully planned slightly differently from the first playtest, to ensure that the French could take the village itself with relative ease.

The single biggest problem with the playtest is that both sides historically did not use all of their forces for the whole time. The French had Divisions from Davout, which then redeployed to the Great Redoubt sector, once the village of Borodino was taken.

The Russians had 2 Infantry Corps in the immediate area. Borodino was not heavily contested and one of these Corps was then sent to reinforce the far left flank.

This game had all these forces available with no requirement that they be redeployed as per history. There will be interesting consequences when the whole game is played if they are not redeployed!!

The pictures are in no particular order, but they do show the main manoeuvrings and combat areas.
The pic above shows Dessaix, supported by Lecchi, attacking the Russian left flank of Borodino village. The idea is to take the village, retire to reserve and then transfer to the main army over the stream. Dessaix duly cleared the Russian left side of Borodino village after a days fighting.

The action previously described can be seen towards the top left of this pic. This is looking at the Russian right flank of Borodino village and the church. Again, the fighting would be stiff as the church was garrisoned by the Russian Guard Jaegers. Guards can fight forever! Eventually, the Guard numbers were worn down by attrition and the church taken.

Grouchy is probing down the far French left flank. The French are trying to goad Uvarov out of position and engage in the open away from supports. The ruse did not work and Uvarov remained within distance of supporting artillery.

One of Eugene's Divisions is advancing in the open to the their left of Borodino village. The aim is to carry the heights to their front. With a Grand battery already deployed within effective range of the feature, success would drive the Russians from this  side of the Kamenka entirely.

The situation in Borodino just before it falls to the French or more accurately Franc-Italians.
The game satisfied me that both sides can be victors on this sector of the battlefield. Both sides, at the main event, will have to make critical decisions that will impact profoundly on the tactical situation not only in this sector but across the whole battlefield.
This game will be played at the end of January/early February and will be the subject, itself, of a dedicated Companion series book.

The gamers gallery. Steve, top right, is from Treefellas and goes to a couple of shows a year. Useful to have a terrain maker in the next village!
The next game is back to WWII. The Russians are attacking the Germans in latish 1941. It will be interesting as it is the first time we've done the Germans defending with the favourable terrain. After this game will be more Napoleonics until the end of the year. Something new but I haven't worked out what yet.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Game 44 : Prelude to Smolensk II

This will be a short report. It is a WWII game, early 1941 Eastern front. Initially, this was played as a Panzer Div against a Russian Inf Div supported by a Tank Div. This game was essentially the same, but doubled in size. A Panzer Corps against a Russian Inf Corps supported by two tank Divs.

Needless to say, it did not go to expected plan. The Russians, defending two major roads elected to start with an infantry Div off table and a loaded flank. What we perceive normally happens on these occasions, did!

In the foreground is part of one Russian tank Div that deployed on table. The Russians had outdone me, the game constructor, by ignoring over the half of the deployment depth they were allowed to start with. The argument used was that there reserves would arrive more quickly. So the Germans started within spitting distance of one main objective, the bridge.

German motorcycle troops have taken the bridge as a coup de main and are deploying in anticipation of their own reinforcements.

On the far flank, German armour advance against dug in Russian infantry. The Russians have precious few AT weapons in this sector, the infantry will eventually be shot out of position, unless the Russian can support them with his own armour.

Russia infantry, reinforcements, running across the ground to try and advance as quickly as possible. Not really a good tactical choice. The Russian infantry Div arriving as a reinforce would play little part in the engagement.

Russian armour tried to cut off the German bridgehead by continuing the advance behind the bridge. This counter attack was beaten off by German artillery and the timely arrival of Stukas!

At the far end of the battle, Russian armour has driven to the rescue of the compatriots in the wood. This battle would eventually become a slow battle of attrition, neither side strong enough to erupt with a major counter stroke. The armour, cancelling each other out, left the battle decided by the infantry where the Germans, not unexpectedly, had the better of it.

This game lasted a good three days. The game was quite fluid and even though the German forces were built around two Panzer Divs, it was the infantry component that determined the outcome to the tactical engagements and overall result.

Next stop is Napoleonics. Back to Borodino, north of the Kolotcha and around Borodino itself for a second play test. The first play test resulted in the Russians holding the French, but this was achieved by deploying Baggovut who historically redeployed to reinforce Utitsa at the other end of the battlefield. We'll see what happens this time.

Finally, any typos are due to my cold and the fact I did this without my glasses!!

Friday, 27 May 2016

Game 43 : Borodino, Utitsa & Borodino sections

Hi Guys,
This was the playtest for next year's game. Playtesting the Utitsa section and the Borodino village section. The picky below is of the Borodino sector, looking towards the church at Bordino from the north. The redoubt has to be imagined to be behind this and a bit to the left, facing the right hand side of the picky. The forces deployed to playtest this were fairly historical.
The French had Eugene's IV Corps, a Division from Davout (I used the smallest one Compans which is in fact ahistoric) and Grouchy's IIIC Corps.
The reason for Compans is that if you play this as a stand alone game and use the historical Davout Division, then Davout's troops would probably never recross the Kolotcha as players are very prone to keeping good troops where they can see them.

This is Borodino village from the Russian side. The redoubt would be to the left over the stream and the French lines are near the window. The Russian forces available, were
Baggovut's II Corps, Tolstoi's IV Corps, Uvarovs IC Corps and Platov's Cossacks. In addition is a brigade of Guards, the Lifeguard Jaegers.

Below is the view of Borodino from the French side. The trees in the field represent orchard type ground on the approach to Borodino.

To the rear of Borodino, but on the other side of the Kolotcha, is Gorki. If this area becomes contested, it either means that the Russians have been severely beaten in this sector or that the sector has actually become uncontested with a historic result where the French have taken Borodino and then stopped and the Russians have sent Baggovut to reinforce their left flank.

The next pic is the view of Utitsa from the French lines to the north west. If you panned left you would expect to see the Fleches. The area between the Fleches and Utitsa was heavily wooded. Whether all wood or dense scrub with some marshy areas seems to be still under debate. I chose to represent the area by woods. The woods are also quite wide across the front, so Utitsa is really a battle to itself. It is difficult to get a clear cut result so that any victor can exploit an exposed flank of the enemy on the remainder of the main line. The forces deployed in the Utitsa area were;
French : Poniatowski's Poles and Ochs Westphalian division form Junot in the woods.

Russian: Tuchkov's III Corps, Markov's Militia and Karpov's Cossacks

The pic shows one of Eugene's Line divisions advancing on the far left flank of the front. It has the probable benefit of fixing a Russian infantry Corps in position rather than redeploying elsewhere, but it has the drawback of being continuously slowed down by Cossacks and other Russian cavalry, some of it Guard! It also virtually mandates that the French cavalry must act aggressively in this area.

This is in Borodino itself. Baggovut is defending the village with a Corps, one division to the left of the village and the other you see between the village and church. Eugene is attacking with Compans, from Davout, on their right and Lecchi is advancing on Borodino through the orchard. A French grand battery has been set up opposite the church to try and dominate the open ground and a Line division of Eugene's is in reserve.

Compans main assault on Borodino. The fight would be quite bloody with neither side breaking. The consequences of this are the checking of the first French assault, but long term losses will be an issue.

The advance on Utitsa as seen from the Russian side. Westphalian Light infantry are contesting the woods to the right top of the pic with Russian Jaegers. The Polish infantry are preparing to both  assault the village itself and a Russian division from Tuchkov

The Poles are now attacking both sides of Utitsa and have secured the front of the village.

The expected clash of cavalry on the far left transpires with no surprise. The Russians hold their ground as it is easier for them to bring their artillery to bear with support fire. Also having Russian Guard cavalry in this area is no bad thing!

A stand off at Borodino between the church and the village itself. It would be dangerous to advance whilst the outcome of the cavalry combat above is unknown!!

This is the area between Borodino and the Kolotcha. Both sides are drawing breadth. Across the front of both cameo battles, the Russians had held the first assaults without too much consternation. The problem now comes, after a full day of intense fighting when one side has reserves and the other does not. Eugen would pull out Compans and feed in his reserve division. Baggovut would have to hold ground and try and tough it out. Granted, in our game, Tolstoi was moving up in support to allow Baggovut to withdraw, but timing can be everything in these games.

So, there we have it. A good battle over a weekend that would have played longer. The guys really saw how reserves were important and also that not all is lost if the first attack does not work.
The intrepid gamers. What a rogue's gallery!! Next up will be another WWII, early eastern front. My spell checker thingy won't work, so if there are any word blips, blame the blog software!!