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.


  1. Well done, well done. Spectacular looking battle, and an excellent report. - Mike

  2. looks like a fun way to spend a day! Great looking game.