Friday, 26 June 2015

The Peninsular War 1811 - A Black Powder AAR

After a successful first Nappies game last week, we decided to carry on in the same vein, but this time in the Peninsular. Dave once again came up with the scenario, but with reduced forces compared to last week. We agreed that although it was a great game, there were simply too many troops on the table given the amount of time we had at our disposal. Also it is nice to have the time to have a chat before the game and after, to mull over how things went, what to play next etc. 

One thing I did spot in the rules that we got wrong last week was the amount of die that troops in buildings get to roll in close combat, plus that units do not count as supporting them. This may have made the assaults on the farmhouse in my favour, but would not have affected the outcome of the game. Funny how you often stumble across things in the rules post-game, but it is only by playing the game that you learn the rules.

The French have been tasked with seizing the bridge over a small Spanish river, that is shallow and fordable at this time of year.  Once again time is of the essence and they must gain the objective as quickly as possible. They start the game with one Divsion on the table, with another in reserve, that arrives after contact has been made with the enemy. 

The Allied troops are deployed on both sides of the river, with a small unit in reserve. They simply have to prevent the French from taking the bridge.

The French have two Line Divisions with artillery units in support, but no cavalry. The Allied troops are all Light Infantry, with the 95th Rifles and Portugese Cacadores in the front line. They also have one artillery unit in support and no cavalry.

The Battle
As the game was played out a few nights ago, hopefully I will be able to give a more detailed overview of how the game played out. Apologies for the variable quality of the photos, as i was experimenting with the camera settings to try and reduce the use of the flash all the time. David Bailey certainly hasnothing to fear from me!

The Cacadores deployed in the farmhouse on the right of the river with the 95th at the edge of the fields to the South of the farmhouse. The Allied artillery gun was deployed so that it could cover the advance towards the bridge along the road. The French split their forces either side of the road, with the artillery gun carefully placed so as not to get in the way of or be blocked by the infantry.
The Allies await the French advance in what appears to be a good defensive position.
The French advance en masse and immediately come under fire from the farmhouse.
The firefight at the farmhouse triggers the arrival of the 2nd Division, that advances briskly on the right flank, shielded from view by the hedged fields and farmhouse. The French artillery deploys and combined fire into the farmhouse starts to take its toll on the Cacadores. The French 1st Division doesn't want to play ball as they refuse to move, obviously sulking at not being in attack column.
The Cacadores quickly break under the fire from the French, due to the effects of artillery fire and some unlucky die rolling by Dave. The 2nd Division again carry on their move on the right flank, but the 1st Division continue to sulk. With the loss of the farmhouse, the 95th withdraw to the other side of the field and British re-inforcements arrive on the road and advance towards the bridge until they receive further orders.
The advance of the French past the vacant farmhouse and the deployed foot artillery.
The 1st Division happily advance once in attack column towards the fields and the 95th, whilst on the right flank the 2nd Division continues to make best use of the cover to mask their advance. The artillery splits up to cover the left flank and to move onto the hill to get a good view towards the bridge. The Allies are in a tricky position but there is still a lot of fighting to come before the battle is decided.
The French mass for the attack.
The 1st Division shake out into line to be better able to fire at the 95th, who with the artillery, are taking their toll on one of the units.
The 1st Division face the combined fire of the 95th and the foot artillery.
The 2nd Division prepare for the assault...
... which they execute with perfection. The Allied troops in the field are in a very, very precarious position.
The 95th fall back under the weight of fire and with the loss of the foot artillery, are in an exposed position.
The French advance to administer the coup-de-grace. Outnumbered and outflanked, the Allies wisely choose to leave the battlefield

The End
In the end the sheer weight of the French attacks on their right flank was telling, leaving the Allied troops in a near impossible position. With no chance of holding onto the bridge, Dave wisely  conceded the game, with the French troops just advancing to consolidate their position on the bridge as per their orders.

Post Game Thoughts
Well another cracking game of Black Powder Napoleonics! Once again thanks must go to Dave for a lovely little scenario and the use of his figures. So as usual a few thoughts:
  • Second game in and I think I learnt some of the lessons from last week. I certainly took care to think about the terrain and the movement of my troops before I deployed my 1st Division and its artillery. This nearly went to pot with the 2nd Division, that I initally put on the left flank. After some thought it was obvious to put them on the right flank to make best use of the terrain to advance towards the bridge out of site of the Allied artillery unit. 
  • Dave was very unlucky to lose his Cacadores so early on. They nearly put pay to my artillery unit with the initial exchanges of musketry and rifle fire, but some lucky morale saves kept them on  the table. If I had lost my artillery unit early on, this would have made my task much, much harder. Lesson learnt that artillery is rather fragile to say the least but a must if having to attack troops in buildings.
  • The use of hedged fields gave a very different feel to the game. Certainly much more Spanish and not the billiard tables of Belgium. This does make you think more and as per the first point, deploy your troops with care. As for a game, I like this sort of terrain, so will doe some research into the Peninsular campaign.
  • Having half the number of troops compared to the previous game certainly made it quicker and with a bit more room for manouevre. So broadly speaking a Divison had four Line units and one artillery unit, with the French having two Divisions and the Allies one. Add in a few units of cavalry and I think you have the right balance for an evenings game with time to chat before and after.
I know Black Powder has its detractors (which ruleset doesn't?) but it has provided some great games so far from the SYW into Napoleonics. From a purely gaming point of view it is nice to have one ruleset that, with a few tweaks, is adaptable to very different periods. So for myself as a gamer I can concentrate on the game rather than constantly referring to a rulebook, or as bad confusing one set of rules with another.

So next game up will be a follow on action from this, hopefully next week subject to the usual family commitments etc. 

Monday, 22 June 2015

Quatre Bras - A Black Powder 200th Anniversary Game

Having finished out SYW campaign, we agreed that we had to commemorate the Waterloo campaign in some shape or form the following week. As we could only meet up on Tuesday 16th June, it had to be Quater Bras or Ligny. Being a complete Napoleonics novice, I left the choice up to Dave, as once again he was supplying the troops.

Scenario & Forces
In the end Dave plumped for scaled down Quatre Bras that would, fingers crossed, be playable in an evening. I won't replicate the scenario or OOBs, as a famous battle such as this is eminently well covered by various Blogs and Wikipaedia etc. 

The Battle
As it was my first game of Nappies, Dave decided it would be best for me to be the French, whilst he took on the role of the Allies. This naturally gave me plenty of excuses for Pythonesque French accents along with derisorary comments about the French from Dave.

The French started off the table two Divisions, with two more due on later Turns and a cavalry Division on a random die roll from Turn 2. The Allies deployed in and around the houses of Quatre Bras, with the option of some Prussians arriving later on during the game. It was therefore paramount that I attacked with speed and vigour before 'Die Kinder' arrived...
The Allies safely esconced within their farmhouses. The eagle eyed amongst you will have spotted some Minions in French Napoleonics uniforms. These were being used as objective markers and frankly tickled me pink. Even my daughter thought they were cool!
By-and-large the French advanced quickly onto the table in Attack Column.
The view towards the farmhouses.
The French shake out into line to be ready to fire at the Allied troops. The British 95th Rifles moved up to try and slow the French down, whilst the Allied cavalry moved to be adjacent to the farmhouse and in a better position to attack.
The French advance towards the 95th.
Allied Light Infantry in the woods, with a Minion objective marker.
Another Divison of French reinforcements arrives
The first line of the French left wing advances towards the woods, with a second line ready to support or exploit a breakthrough.
The 95th stubbornly resist all that the French can throw at them, despite the risk of being flanked.
Achtung! There's thousands of them there Froggies!!!
Despite overwhelming odds, the Allies line refuses to break.
The woods still remain in Allied hands.
The Brave 95th hold on, despite the presence of Infantry, Artillery and Cavalry.
Prepearing to advance and possibly storm the farmhouse.
More French reserves arrive and the woods finally fall to the French. But in the distance the Prussians can be seen, arriving not a moment too late.
The French now have a clear run in to the farmhouse, but the resistance by the 95th has meant that the Prussians have a great chance to form a strong defensive line.
The French simply cannot bring their numbers to bear.
The French begin the assault on the farmhouse.
The Minion looks suitably startled by it all.
Despite wave after wave of French attacks, the farmhouse holds out.
Shortly after this the French numbers finally tell, routing the Allied cavalry and leaving the way open to Allied Lines-of-Communication.

The End
Once again time defeated us but the French were in a position to exploit the gap on the Allied right flank and advance into the rear to control the crossroads. So a sort of French victory, but one that had taken sometime to achieve, largely down to the brave 95th and the stubborn defence of the farmhouse. If we ran it again we would add a time limit to reflect the fact that the French attacked late and that nightfall limited their ability to gain a victory.

Post Game Thoughts
Well for a first game of Nappies I had a great time and really enjoyed it. After the slow movement of the SYW, this was so fast and dynamic in comparison. You can see why gamers love this period. So as always a few post game thoughts:
  • It was a steep learning curve in terms of Napoleonic tactics and one I need to learn more about for future games. 
  • As per the last SYW game I played the week before, learning how best to deploy your troops is crucial. Things happen so quickly in terms of movement you really have to think ahead to avoid bottlenecks etc.
  • I didn't make the best use of my artillery. I deployed it too early and it limited my ability to use, due to either being too far to be of much use, or it being blocked by more useful infantry. In future I need to think in advance where I want it and how best I can use it to support my Line infantry.
  • Farmhouses etc are damned tough nuts to crack. Wave after wave of french attacks went in to little or no effect. I should have used my artillery to really wear the defenders down before assaulting, or simply to have pinned them in place then moved around their flanks so that they became isolated. Another lesson learnt I hope.
  • I didn't get chance to use my cavalry, so still plenty of opportunity to learn how to use chaps and how to get the most out of them.
  • Make sure you are both using the same edition rulebook, or at least have the latest amendments. We had one point in the game where I was saying one thing, and Dave couldn't understand where I was getting my 'interpretation' from. It turned out that he was using the first print one and I the last, with mine having subtle but important changes in the text. Quite funny really when we realised why we couldn't understand each other, but for some gamers I know they would have been throwing the toys out of the pram at this point!
So, not a bad way to commemorate Waterloo and I'm already looking forward to our next game. It may be more Nappies or something esle, I'm not sure which yet.

The Battle of Kirchstadt - A SYW Black Powder game

After our previous two games of Black Powder set in the Seven years War, we decided that the 'narrative' of the story so far naturally pointed towards a decisive battle. Both Armies had gathered their forces for a final showdown, with the baggage train as a sort of objective, certainly from the Austrian point of view.

Due to pressure of work and family commitments, Dave hadn't come up with any specific details for the scenario, so we decided to go with a classic 'Encounter' battle as it seemed quite fitting. 

Both sides were evenly matched in terms of troops and commanders. The exact details escape me as this was played nearlly three weeks ago and this is the first chance I've had to do the write up. From memory both sides had one commander on a CV of 7, with two on an 8. Possibly both main commanders were a 9 but I can't be sure.

Both sides deployed partly on the table with no forces in reserve. Again time has dulled my memory but hopefully the following pics will jog it along enough to provide a coherent AAR.

One thing to note is that the fields on the table counted as rough going. This was the first time we had tried this and as you will see, it had an impact on the game.

Both sides deployed for action in classic SYW style, with cavalry on the wings and two lines of infantry.
The Prussian commander with a CV of 7 got off to a flyer with this command roll. Obviously he was related to Frederick the Great.
The Austrian left wing of Hussars move to cover the flank, whilst the infantry advance towards the town. The centre and right wing fail to keep up or even move in the case of the cavalry. For the Prussians their left wing also moved, but the main infantry force just sat back and watched.
The Austrians move up on the right of the town and their cavalry advance towards the cornfield, but the rest fail to move into Kirchstadt. The Prussians, like the Austrians, had partial movement, but none of it towards the town. Who ever could get there first would be in a strong position.
The Austrians try to move around the woods to push on towards the road. The Prussian heavy cavalry is lagging behind on their left flank, with only a screen of Hussars facing the Austrian heavies.
The Austrians get the first troops into Kirchstadt, but can't push on through to the other side. Both main forces of cavalry struggle through the corn and ploughed field, making it hard to get any charges in. At least the Austrian infantry is forming up a nice line.
Even thought the Austrians have troops in Kirchstadt, the Prussians have a large force approaching.
The cavalry struggle through the terrain but at least the Austrians have strong infantry support.
In a decisive move, the Prussians manage to get a unit of troops into the other part of Kirchstadt.
Both sides shoot at each other with little effect due to being in the town. Both sides have troops in support, but with nowhere to go.
The Austrian havy cavalry charge into the Prussian Hussars, but only manage to push them back towards the orchard. The Austrian Croats push forward whilst both sides infantry stand off as long range artillery fires with little or no effect.
The Prussian Freikorps have advanced through the woods on their right flank, threatening the Hussars. Elsewhere little has changed.
The Austrian heavy cavalry pursue the Hussars, whilst the Prussian heavy cavalry can only look on whislt sniped at by the Croats.
A stalemate appears to be developing...
At least the Austrian cavalry have seen of the Prussian Hussars, but need to reform to take advantage of their position.
A sort of English Civil War action develops, as both sides right wings advance, resulting in the battle pivoting around Kirchstadt.
The Prussian left flank starts to fall back to counter the threat from the Austrian cavalry and infantry.
The Prussian Grenadiers start to move out towards their left flank as the Austrian advance on their right.
The Austrian advance to the right of Kirchstadt.
With dusk falling and little prospect of a result, both sides withdraw to Winter Quarters.

The End
Well time was against us in the end and with both sides still in good shape, we decided to call it a draw, which on reflection seemed a fair result.

Post game Thoughts
Once again a good game but at the same time somewhat frustrating, as outlined below:
  • The layout of the table greatly affected the game, more so than we thought it would when we set things up. Kirchstadt naturally dominated the central area, but this resulted in limited movement in the central area of the table. The large wood on the Prussian right flank combined with Kirchstadt gave them a very secure flank. The corn and ploughed field completely tied up the other flank, really limiting the ability of the cavalry to move. 
  • Poor deployment on my part meant that the Hussars on my left flank had little impact on the game, other than to provide target practise for the Freikorps. I had thought of putting the Croat Grenzers on the elft and in hindsight I should have. The Hussars would have been better off supporting the main cavalry on the right flank.
  • Again poor deployment at the start meant that I found it very hard to move my infantry between Kirchstadt and the small wood on my side of the table. This resulted in some unnescessary toing-and-froing to get them into the right postion, costing me valuable movement opportunities. 
  • My use of the sole artillery unit was less than perfect shall we say. As with the infantry, I didn't deploy it well to start with and it contributed to the road block around Kirchstadt. 
  • After the game I realised that I would have been better off firing into Kirchstadt with my cannon rather duelling with the Prussian one. The morale modifier confered to cannon may have helped to break the deadlock that developed in Kirchstadt itself. 
  • As with the 'Maurice' ruleset, deployment in this period is critical to allow you to get off to a good start. This is true of other periods, but the slow nature of movement and deployment in the SYW really hammers this home. Hopefully I've learnt my lesson on this, but only time will tell.
Next up is a Napoleonic game of Black Powder, in a sort of refight of Quatre Bras 200 years to the day. This is my first Nappies game so am interested to see how it compares to the SYW, the latter of which I have enjoyed immensely these past few weeks.