Monday, July 30, 2012

3rd Battle

From the weekend of July 20-22.  We had already played Maurice and Batailles des Ancien Regimes, and now we were introducing the hometown favorite Final Argument of Kings to a guest.  The game called for an expected 33 battalions of Hanoverians, Brunswickers and Hessians to take on a French/Allied force.  As such, I put out 24 battalions of French, German, Irish or Swiss; four battalions of Bavarians, and four battalions of Saxons.  We were fighting for possession of a valley, so high(er) ground was on either flank.  Cavalry was roughly equal with quality on the Hanoverian side, numbers with the French.
French center and right
French left and their opposites.  All the cavalry was here.

From the French left-center looking inward

After a couple of moves I started to count noses.  The Hanoverian army looked a bit sparse.  As it turns out, a column of ten battalions and some horse took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and didn't show up.  The Hanoverian commander didn't inform me so the French/Allied army sported a significant numeric edge and now the onus to attack and drive them from the field.

Cavalry results, with disordered regiments evident

Swiss charging

Swiss winning

Attacking with supporting regiments the weaker French cavalry enjoyed early successes.  So much so that when the odds caught up they had still eliminated the Hanoverian cavalry as a fighting force.
Elsewhere the new player decided the best way to see how the system works is to test it.  So he attacked, and attacked, and attacked.  Fortune favors the brave the the Hanoverian left-center was decisively ruptured.

Forward the Wild Geese!

The French allies on the left push forward

The game wrapped at three in the afternoon.  Although the Hanoverian commander on their left had skillfully prepared a counter-stroke, there was little they could do.  With the edge in numbers the French enjoyed it was not a surprising result, but it was an enjoyable game as tactics continue to improve and more importantly, a convert was made to Final Argument of Kings as we continue to play-test the 2nd edition.  My thanks to the good-natured players.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Second Battle

Battle number two of the action-packed weekend was the high-light.  Batailles des Ancien Regimes (BAR) at the home of the author, Bill Protz.  The classic "big battalion" game, which lived up to the hype on a 26' table that with the walkways had a depth of around 11 feet.  The back tables are considered in play, which as you will see is an important point.

As our Seven Years War campaign winds down (we suspect a peace treaty next year), the battle represents the last great effort in the east.  Forces of Russia and my Litharus imagi-nation joined to battle the Teutonic aggressors in East Prussia.  While each side sought clear victory, most important (we were told) was to maintain a presence in East Prussia for bargaining position at peacetime. 

For game mechanics the table was divided by a passable river but each side played at their own speed with their own deck of cards to determine who moved first and fired first.  Thirteen players squared off against each other.  We'll start with the Russian/Litharusian right.  Click to enlarge pictures.

Most of the Russian right

Pandours into the woods, where they were effective

Taras Schvenko prepares his Cossacks and Hussars

Our plan was to stand pat and receive the first Germanian onslaught and counter their moves, hopefully maintaining a strong reserve for a decisive win.  The center was deliberately left weak in the hope they would be drawn to it.  Solid forces of infantry and a heavy position battery was on the right with the ubiquitous Cossacks.  Nearby were dragoons and horse grenadiers on the back table. 

Also on the back table was all four of our grenadier battalions in one brigade, more or less centered.  Spanning the river and on the left were two more brigades of infantry, another position battery, and on the back table eleven squadrons of heavy cavalry.  A total of 17 infantry battalions, five of which were under-strength.

Looking towards the Russian left

Feld-Marschal Earl looking optimistic

And why not with a reserve like this?

The Prussians had "roughly" (our spies weren't totally effective) fifteen battalions of guards, grenadiers, elites, jägers and the occasional ordinary musketeer unit.  Fifteen or sixteen heavy cavalry squadrons and five dragoon squadrons.  Two position batteries and an appropriate number of brigade batteries rounded things out.

The battle opened with the Prussians advancing boldly on the Russian right and very methodically on the left.  General Ouromov
was left to consider his options.  Attack on the right where the Prussians were weaker and attempt to quickly defeat it; attack on the left where the main thrust was clearly threatened, or await developments.  He opted for the last named.  It was feared that if over-whelming force went into the Russian right the Prussians would just pull back, trading space for time and the victory would elude him.

On the right Prussian dragoons advanced confidently against the lowly Cossacks, expecting that they would not stand.  An infantry battalion contemptuously wheeled against the Pandours in the woods, as if daring the Cossacks to charge.  Meanwhile the other infantry against the Russian right boldly advanced, attempting to hit the weak brigade in the center.

The Prussian advance on the right, jägers in open order distant

So as the Prussians advanced General Makolondra skillfully wheeled on battalion down the tall hill to enfilade their line, while advancing a second line battalion to fill the gap and protect them. And for the Cossacks? Taras Schvenko had the first squadron charge and temporarily rout the impudent Prussian battalion. The second squadron saw off a dragoon squadron and then locked in combat with another.

The counter-stroke begins

Cossacks mix it up as broken foes retire

Soon, with helpful fire from the Pandours, who chipped away at anyone within range, all three dragoon squadrons were fleeing.  Only one defiant and triumphant Cossack squadron remained, but with the unengaged hussars represented the only fighting cavalry on the right.

On the Russian left things got hairy quickly.  The lockstep marching Prussians advanced strongly everywhere and attempted to flank the far left of the Russian line.  Seeing this General Ouromov got the grenadiers moving and notified, via his chief of staff Brent Olso-Neevabeech, the heavy cavalry to engage.

The far left with position batteries firing and flank marches moving

A thin red line (summer uniforms) vs. the Prussian masses

Grenadiers begin to move, blocked by friendly cavalry

A great charge is prepared

A confused series of cavalry melees ensued, with the heavy Prussian gunners driven from their guns and some squadrons routed off, but the Prussians continued to make slow progress. 

On the right, the arrival of Russian dragoons coupled with the galling fire from the Pandours and advance of the line left the Prussians with little recourse but to pull back.  What surprised everyone was the extent of the pull-back.  After 3 1/2 hours play (minus lunch) the Russians found themselves in possession of the field on the right and the Prussians heading for the hills (literally). 

Prussians on our right have left the field

The new line faces a daunting task

Not much better looking here

In the next two hours the cavalry melees waxed to and fro with the Russian forces generally getting the short end of the stick.  Between the infantry the cards all seemed to favor the Prussians.  At one point there were eight black cards (to match the depth of their hearts) and two jokers in a row.  Jokers in BAR allow you to "trump" a card and allow your side to first or move first.  In fairness however, the cards had been very pro-Russia on the right flank.

A fierce melee, but always another Prussian squadron to feed in

Facing off on the back table

Closing stages, horse dragoons prepare to charge

The Prussians penetrated to the back table on the left but were facing off against a grenadier battalion.  On the main table some remnant units were coming back and the Prussian cavalry, although victorious was dangerously weakened.  Two charges by horse grenadiers won two melees and routed a Prussian unit but it was just a temporary set-back.  At the conclusion of the game (turn in progress at 4:30) the right had swept the Prussians away by 2:30 and were still contesting the left.  Unfortunately no units came over to the left where even a single battalion might have decided the issue for the Russian/Litharusian army early. 

So since our stated objective was maintaining a presence in East Prussia we write to Grand Duke Orzepovski of Litharus and the Tsarina announcing a great victory.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  My thanks to John Makolondra, John Beck, Don Deutschmann, Todd "Taras Schvenko" Prochniak, Brent "Chief of Staff" Olson, and Bill "Cavalier" Protz for fiercely contesting the field.

And a tip 'o the three cornered hat to the Prussians: Jim Purky, Randy Frye, Curt Benson, Earl Kyle, Todd Barta and Keith Leidy as gentleman opponents and valiant foes.

Monday, July 23, 2012

First Game

Both the first of three games this past weekend set in the Seven Years War, and my first game with Maurice.  It was originally supposed to be two first-timers and an experienced player, then it grew and grew until we had six players and just one deck of cards.

So we were 1741 Prussians vs. Austrians.  National Characteristics seemed appropriate for the sides, although I wondered if they weren't being a touch hard on the Austrian infantry.  Or maybe just compared to the Prussian abilities.
My beloved old Prussians, still mounted for Tricorne

The dreaded Kaiserliches, in part, awaiting the onslaught

We weren't good listeners at first so kept trying to play the wrong kinds of cards at the wrong time, but the game progressed with the Prussians steadily advancing across the field and picking up disruption pips.
Austrian cavalry moving out and preparing to engage

Getting seriously into it in the center

The Austrian cavalry stepped out to attempt to flank the Prussian infantry.  At this point we wanted to play the dreaded "That wasn't on the map!" card to place an impassable bit of terrain in their path, but found it could only be played as an event.  Like I said, we weren't good listeners.  As things got serious with shooting, and our artillery sat silent, units started to vaporize.  Mostly Austrian ones.  The cavalry especially took it hard because they failed to disperse any Prussians in their charge and were shot to pieces.
Austrian cavalry mostly gone or fighting the Prussian cavalry

The effect of some Prussian phaser attacks

Pretty soon the Austrians reached their break point and the game ended with the Prussians still holding onto nine of their fifteen break points.

So what did I think of it?  Well first, I was on the winning side, so no fear of sour grapes.

I frankly didn't care for it.  I had downloaded "Maurice Light" and looked at it as the author has most generously made it available online.  I had heard a great many positive comments so although we are very happy with our regular rules, I really wanted to give it a look.

Things I liked: National Characteristics give it a nice flavor for the period, even if it is more oriented towards Imagi-Nations and mini campaigns.  The firing combat is clear and easy to pick up, being free of a lot of modifiers.  The game, in spite of our ignorance and playing in a manner clearly not the author's intent (one-on-one vs. our multi-player game) got done in our three hour time block.

Things I wasn't fond of: The melee outcomes left me scratching my head and trying to visualize a real world situation where what happened on the table could happen.  I strongly dislike rules where units are there one moment and picked up the next.  Vaporized and apparently nobody nearby cares.  Yes, the break point is likely reduced, but what of infectious routs?  Kudos though that unlike some rules I've tried, the unit efficiency is degraded as it absorbs disruption points.  I prefer simul movement games but the IGO-UGO worked.  The cards that can force a volley phase or stall a charge for example seemed kind of odd.  I'm not a fan of a system where mistakes can be forced upon you.  I find that most players are quite capable of making mistakes without any artificial mechanisms in place. 

So in conclusion, much like my negative experience with Black Powder I might come to like it with more games.  First impressions, especially for BP, might change over time.  But since the local group and I are extremely happy with our current set of SYW rules (read about them in the third game), I can't see any reason to pursue Maurice.  I'm very happy it is being so well received by the gaming community, but it just isn't my cup of tea.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Grodno Garrison Battalion

The Grand Duchy of Litharus announces the addition of a new garrison battalion.  The city of Grodno and its environs are responsible for recruitment and training.  The battalion of 540 men (54 figures) features eight musketeer and one grenadier company.  Like it's sister battalion, they do not currently sport standards.  When the Grand Duke Alexander Orzepowski was asked for the honor of carrying colors he replied, "Earn them."  So for now their poles are bare, but opportunity exists to earn the honor as tomorrow we face our foes from Germania in honorable combat.  At least on our part.

Figures by Wargames Factory with an experimental (for me) attempt as a primer and mostly ink paint job.  I'm fairly pleased with the result though more practice is required.  Hopefully they fare well tomorrow.  Flanged movement trays and magnetized plastic bases and by Shogun Miniatures. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Preserve the Union

July 4th.  The day we celebrate our declaration of independence from the mother country and the beginning of a long towards being an international power.  But there was a second attempted war of independence and today we gamed that failed attempt.  Rules are Johnny Reb III with six players.

Three divisions of infantry and a cavalry brigade of Thomas' XIV Corps, the future "Rock of Chickamauga" prepared to assault the positions occupied by Benjamin Franklin Cheatham's division and half of Withers' division.  A strong brigade of cavalry under Joe Wheeler supported their flank.  The Rebs, outnumbered by nine regiments were made to deploy first, then the Yankees, then the Rebs were given a free redeploy of a brigade.  They were given five hasty works to support the natural strength of the position, but in a moment of good sportsmanship and perhaps poor judgment only placed five of them.
Reb center looking towards the Yankees

Part of the Yankee left

Yankee center

Yankee right at the start

Victory depended on the Yankees controlling two of the three road exit points on the far side of the table.  The plan was to make a major effort on the left with five brigades and the center with three, while holding the right with the cavalry and an infantry brigade.  As they say, no plan survives first contact.
A traffic jam ensues

And an intense discussion follows

The left stepped off quickly, though the center advanced slower due to terrain considerations.  On the Yankee right cavalry moved into the woods and dismounted to establish a skirmish line.  What was on the far side of the woods was as yet unknown.  A pattern quickly emerged with the Rebs.  When the Yankees first came into range they always held fire so that the opening volley modifier could be combined with the first fire bonus.  In retrospect this allowed the Yankees to fire back with the same modifiers and without the moving fire penalty.
Yankee left looking at two roads the mass of cavalry

The potent looking Rebel cavalry on the Yankee left remained mounted and threatening, though unable to charge the steady lines of advancing Yankees unless the timing got lucky.  In the center the Yankee artillery got into good positions to soften the Rebel line as the lines got themselves sorted out of the woods.  On the right Withers two brigades began to move forward into the woods to probe the Yankee position.  Reb dice were sometimes hot, with units running low on ammunition as a result of intense fire (all sixes), or there was this canister shot...

Firing became general on the left and center and a hole opened in the center of the Rebel line when, shielded from multiple batteries by nothing more than a wooden fence a regiment melted away.  This coincided with the Yankees finally getting into position to attack.  A charge would have hit empty space, but instead ran off a now unsupported battery and ended disordered in the woods. 

Much fire and casualties were exchanged on the left as Thomas prepared a massive charge.  As it turned out, his wily opponent anticipated the charge had was on hold orders as it kicked off.  Needless to say, it didn't go well.

Things continued to go well in the center as the two regiments that had previously charged, with their brigadier still with them charged as a disordered mob down the rebel line.  Although again hitting empty space as their intended victim routed from artillery fire.  A pitiful charge bonus left them short of anything else.  On the right, having drawn the Rebs into rifle range, the cavalry quickly remounted and made off leaving the Rebs to wonder what else was there while stuck in very difficult terrain.

As things faltered on the left and were exploited on the center, the right went over to the attack once out of the woods.  Cavalry moved to exploit gaps as the infantry on that wing advanced to support the center.  We would now be making a play for the center and right hand road exits.

Rebel reserves stabilized the center for a time but the numbers were just too much for them.  The original defending force was run off or eliminated and the reserves were surrounded.  While Withers' brigades were still intact they could do little but withdraw.  On the left a spirited Reb charge cleared away a Yankee brigade, but could no save the situation.  Similarly, desperate charges by the Rebels on the left threatened and worried the Yankees but did not break them.  While they still held the left, the Union forces were successful everywhere else and at a low cost.
The best Reb success of the day

Closing the noose

An unstoppable advance

Bent but unbroken

Players gather by 10AM, started play at 11AM and finished before 4:00PM.  Good movies provided some ambiance to the game and good will and friendly (if sometimes impatient) behavior was the rule.  Thanks to all who played and enjoyed themselves.