Thursday, 19 May 2016

Trautenau 1866 - A Bloody Big Battles AAR

Well another week and another Austro-Prussian War frontier battle as planned. Yet it was almost a 'Groundhog Day' feeling as once again real work and life meant that it was all a bit rushed in the run up to the game and the forces were virtually indentical; a Corps facing off against another Corps. So as per last week, we used the scenario that Dave wrote for Volley & Bayonet as a guideline for our game

The scenario was quite simple in that the Austrians had to block the Prussian advance along the road at Trautenau, whilst the Prussians had to prevent this, mainly by holding the heights that over looked Trautenau along with trying to render the Austrian Corps hors de combat. Simples. So with the table set it was time to get on with the game...

Two Austrian Corps have deployed, ready to advance towards the heights above Trautenau and the Prussian Brigades in column of march.
The Austrians move off quickly and occupy the heights, but are unable to deploy their artillery.
The Prussians respond quickly to the threat and immediately attack the Austrians.
The Austrian Corps artillery takes the brunt of the attack, whilst the Austrian left wing goes low on ammo, but is only able to Suppress a Prussian Brigade.
The rest of the Prussian Corps arrives along the road, forcing the Austrian right flank to shake out into line to try to bring as much fire to bear as they can on the Prussian left wing...
... but a shocking die roll leaves the Austrian commander almost speechless, but the Prussian commander extremely happy as can be seen from his hand gesture.
The battle rages across the crest of the hill...
... with the Austrian left wing now Spent and Suppressed and Prussian cavalry in their rear.
Things carry on in the Prussians favour...
... as the Austrian right wing also goes to Spent and Suppressed.
With the Austrians collecting as many markers as they can (in fact they are maxed out!) the Prussians add insult to injury with a telling die roll...
... which sees the loss of the Austrian left wing. There is little consolation to be had in the fact that the Prussians have also gone Low on Ammo.
The Austrian position doesn't look great to be honest.
The Austrian left wing ready to be rolled up like a worn out carpet.
The Prussians duly roll up said carpet leaving the remnants of the Austrian right wing isolated and almost surrounded.
The Prussian forces, close to complete victory are, however, extremely spread out and vulnerable to a counter-attack.
The roll call of lost Austrian units...
Maybe victory can be snatched from the jaws of defeat as the rest of the Austrian Brigade arrives, deployed and ready for battle. The Prussians quickly redress their lines but are still spread out.
The Prussian commander does not look unduly concerned.
The battle takes on a completely different, almost SYW feel, as both sides decide to have a go at linear warfare. Maybe it's time to get out 'Honours of War'...
Is this concern on the face of the Prussian commander, or merely practice for a gurning competition?
Both sides make for the town of Hohenbruck, whilst the Austrian artillery on the right flank starts to get fire ascendency over their Prussian rivals.
Wimpffen's Bde manages to enter Hohenbruck ahead of the Prussians, but only just.
As the battle develops, the Prussians once again get the better of the firefights...
... with them being pushed back and Wimpffen's Brigade in danger of becoming isolated. Yet another Austrian Brigade collects as many markers as it can.
The beginning of the end as the Austrians are under severe pressure and losing units hour by hour...
... and with no chance of pushing the Prussinas back, concede the game.

Despite the Austrians getting hammered, they had managed to delay the Prussian advance by a day, yet at a fearful cost.

Post Game Thoughts
Well what a game that was! So full of action, manouevre and it almost felt like two games in one, as the arrival of the rest of the Austrian Corps completely changed the feel of the game. So as always, in no particular order, some points with regards to the game:

  • For this scenario we decided to have two Austrian Brigades on the table at the start, rather than one as happened in reality. We felt that one would simply have been overwhelmed early on and would not have given an interesting game. This is certainly a scenario that would bear replaying several times just to see what would have happened with slightly different set ups etc. Something to certainly think about for the future.
  • Due to being in a rush again, we forgot to make the Prussian Corps Passive as per the Bloody Big European Battles scenario guidelines. Ditto the Prussian cavalry being Agressive. This may have slowed the Prussians down, but I don't think would have changed the outcome.
  • The Double 1's rolled by the Austrians early on in the game, when in a great position, really hurt them and we both felt they were never able to recover from this. Add in the Prussians Double 6's a Turn later and it became an almost Herculean task to win the game.
  • We actually managed to have a bit of a cavalry engagement in the second half of the game. All they did was bounce off each other. Their main use, as the Prussians were able to show, is in attacking isolated artillery units, supporting assaults and generally causing problems in the rear.
  • For this game we dropped the Austrians having Skirmishers and changed them to being Agressive, to try and replicate their Stosstaktik. This was something that Chris Pringle commented upon in our last game and on the Pendraken forum. It certainly changed the feel of the Austrians from a game point of view. Without the Skirmishers off-setting their Tactically Inept status, they automatically had one column shift to the right. This made them more vulnerable in the firefight but encouraged them to get into the assualt, which felt historically right. I think this needs thinking about to make sure that it gives a good game balance. Again Chris has made some suggestions on the Pendraken forum and I await with interest his comments on this game.
  • Despite getting my butt kicked, I really, really enjoyed this game. For a game with so few units, played on a 4'x4' table, it had so much action and plenty of challenges throughout the game. The game lasted nearly 3 hours and yet it flew by as we were so engrossed in things. Also as this is part of a campaign, we are able to think about how the outcome will affect the next games and the overall course of the campaign to date. Much more fun than a simple line up and bash 'em game and it gives us plenty to talk about.
  • I think the Austro-Prussian War is more enjoyable to wargame than the Franco-Prussian War. The Prussians haven't learnt how best to use their artillery yet and the Krupp guns are few and far between. The battles have plenty of interest and of course there is the Italian theatre to give a completely different challenge. I can see this becoming a favourite period to game and research.
  • Once again I cannot stress too much how much fun these rules are to play. 95% of the time we are just using the QRS and referring to the book to clarify certain points.  They give a cracking game and you really feel that you are learning something about the battles as you play. What's not to like?

Next week we will return to the Baltic Crusades and Lion Rampant as once again work etc means that we will not have time to sort out the next game in this campaign. We may stay on the frontier but are more likely to look at one of the battles from the Italian theatre, which should be fun. So until next time...

Friday, 13 May 2016

Nachod 1866 - a BBB game

Well our planned start to the 1859 campaign had to be put on hold due to a hectic time on the home and work front for both of us, leaving us no time to get things properly sorted. So what to do? Dave as ever came up trumps and suggested  the Battle of Nachod, part of the opening moves to the 1866 campaign. He had all the info easily to hand in the form of the scenario for Volley & Bayonet, so we used this as it involved less work for us to get stuff onto the table. With a few tweaks it seemed to be ok for Bloody Big Battles, but we would only know by the end of the game. Frankly we are off an age as long as it feels right and gives a good game, we are happy!

At this point I should add that the Bloody Big European Battles book does have the Battle of Nachod in it, but as part of a larger game. Due to the factors outlined above we did not use this, but referred to it post game, more of which later.

Orders of Battle

Prussian V Corps – Von Steinmetz

1st Bde 9th Div
Trained, Skirmisher (1)
2nd Bde 9th Div
9th Div Arty

1st Bde 10th Div
2nd Bde 10th Div
10th Div Arty

Corps Arty

Corps Cav


Austrian 6th Corps – Ramming

Bde Waldstatten
Trained, Skirmisher (1), Tactically inept
Waldstatten Arty

Bde Hertweck
Trained, Skirmisher (1), Tactically inept
Hertweck Arty

Bde Rosenzweig
Trained, Skirmisher (1), Tactically inept
Rosenzweig Arty

Bde von Jonak
Trained, Skirmisher (1), Tactically inept
von Jonak Arty

Corps Arty

Corps Cav


Scenario Details
Well quite simply the Prussians had to exit the valley from Nachod as quickly as possible and push on towards Skalitz. Pretty much a similar situation for the Austrians except that they had to try and avoid a prolonged battle so that they could concentrate their forces as instructed by Benedek.

Fortunately the table was very easy to set up, ditto troop deployment. So the scene was set for another evenings gaming of Bloody Big Battles.

At the start of the game, Bde Hertweck is deployed on the right hand road in column of march, unaware that the Prussians are at Nachod, massed and ready to push down the valley.
The Prussians are a bit slow in leaving Nachod, allowing Bde Hertweck to deploy towards Wysokow.
Bde Hertweck in position with Wysokow in front of them and the Prussian just hoving into view. Hopefully they can hold up the Prussians long enough to allow the rest of the Austrian Corps to move towards Skalitz.
The Prussians make it to the outskirts of Wysokow but the rest of the Corps is somewhat tardy. Bde Hertweck holds firm and awaits the Prussian columns...
The battlefield explodes into life as the Prussians re-inforce Wysokow at the same time as the main bulk of the Austrian Corps arrive. Will Bde Hertweck be able to hold the Prussians long enough for the other Austrian Bdes to move off the table towards Skalitz?
No room at the inn. The Prussian 9th Division just about squeezes into Wysokow.
Two Austrian Bdes and their artillery march swiftly up the road.
Battle is joined as the Prussians deploy out of Wysokow and force Bde Hertweck back to avoid the damaging effects of needlegun fire at close range. Their blocking action has allowed one Austrian Dde to successfully exit the table with the other one in a good position to either follow suit or re-inforce Bde Hertweck if required. For the Prussians their other Division is stuck at Nachod when it is really needed at the front.
Bde Hertweck still holding firm in the face of mounting Prussian pressure.
Marching to the sound of gunfire the Prussian 10th Division finally moves out of Nachod. However the Austrians have been able to move another Bde off the table and off towards Skalitz, but their artillery has been left behind which is not ideal.
Bde Hertweck's heroic action continues but has left them Spent, Suppressed and Low on ammo.
As the Austrian artillery tries to move off table, the Prussians move in for the kill...
... with Bde Hertweck finally succumbing to the combined weight of Krupp artillery and needleguns.
With the loss of Bde Hertweck, the road to Skalitz is wide open as the Austrian artillery is unlikely to be able to hold them up for long, if at all. However the Austrian cavalry in the woods on the Branka hill has moved to threaten the Prussian lines-of-communication, forcing part of the 10th Division to deploy to protect them.
The Prussians move out of Wysokow towards Skalitz...
... and the Austrian artillery, isolated, take evasive action and head off towards Skalitz.

Post Game Thoughts
Well, given that it was all a bit rushed on the organisation front, the game played out very well. It took less than two hours to play which was a bonus, given that we were both tired! So as always some post-match analysis:

  • Poor Prussian die rolling really hampered them this game as they were unable to move quickly out of Nachod when it mattered, nor could they push round the flank of Bde Hertweck to try and cut the road to Skalitz. However it did give us an idea for a Dragon Rampant campaign where Dave has to escort his 'Die of Doom' (as they were Christened) to the 'Crack of Doom' where they will be melted down, never to grace a table again! 
  • For once the die rolls went the way of the Austrians. They were able to move quickly down the road and off the table which was their main objective. Obviously they are more keen to avoid combat and the die were aware of this.
  • Bde Hertweck's defence was certainly heroic, but must be seen in the light of the Prussian die rolling as outlined above. However we both agreed that he would have received some medal and is probably having a waltz or some such thing penned in his honour.
  • The Austrians were able to get two of their four Brigades off the table by the agreed route, with Bde Waldstatten arriving at the point where the Prussians had already seized control of the road to Skalitz. Looking at the map in the BBEB book, we agreed that they would have withdrawn and moved towards their agreed meeting point by another route. So this has set things up nicely for another battle in the future, possibly with the Austrians in a position magnifique, given that they were able to exit the table in good time with only the loss of Bde Hertweck.
  • Having played the game it does beg the question as to why the Austrians did not try to bottle the Prussians up at the head of the valley? Given the terrain it would be very hard for the Prussians to deploy their troops whilst the Austrians could form an excellent position hinged on Wysokow and the Branka Hill. Time to refer to Craig and his excellent book to help refresh my memory...
  • Once again we really enjoyed playing Bloody Big Battles. We only had recourse to look at the book a couple of time, just to clarify things. Being able to play a game using only the QRS is such a bonus, as it allows us to concentrate on the game rather than the rules. Post game chat we both agreed that BBB, Honours of War and Lion Rampant are great examples of rules that not only give great games, but are easy and fun to play. Whilst we both agree that Black Powder et al are also great games, but they take a bit too much effort to play as it is hard to find the relevant rules in the book. As I've mentioned before, familiarity may obviate this, but the aforementioned games are so quick to pick up, that's a big tick in my box as to what makes for a good game.

So next week I believe we are heading towards the Battle of Trautenau for some more of the 1866 frontier battles.

Friday, 6 May 2016

The 2nd Swedish Crusade - A Lion Rampant Campaign

A few weeks ago Dave and I were able to resume our weekly wargames get-together after an enforce absence. As we had nothing planned I put on a game of Lion Rampant. Luckily Dave had the rules but hadn't played any games. We managed to get a couple of simple games in over the course of the evening and had great fun. As a result I offered to come up with some background fluff for a narrative campaign, one in which Dave could use his Mongols.

I had been wanting to game the Baltic Crusades for some time, having been oringinally inspired by Michael Leck's excellent games. So after some research and input from Michael, I came up with the following broad background to the campaign:

  • The setting is the Gulf of Finland, circa 1242, on land contested between the Republic of Novgorod and the Kingdom of Sweden.
  • In 1240 Sweden launched the 2nd Crusade, headed by Birger Jarl and the Swedish Bishop of Turku. The initial clash between the Swedish and Novgorod forces at the river Neva was indecisive, despite Novgorod claiming it as a victory.
  • As a result of the establishment of Swedish settlements close to Novgorod territory, Prince Alexander Nevskii has been forced to call upon the Turco-Mongols for assistance in trying to evict the Swedes.
  • The Russian Orthodox Church is not happy either with the prospect of the Catholic Church gaining a foothold in the area and converting their flock and other pagans.
  • The Summer has come and the land is dry enough for offensive action to be taken against the Swedish settlers and the Catholic Church.
So with the background sorted, it was time to come up with our Retinues. After much thought I chose the following, based upon the figures I had to hand, the forces I thought fitted in with the background as well as the ones I simply wanted to play with:

Retinue: Bishop of Turku
Leader Skill: Commanding
1 x Hird (Foot Men-at-Arms)
3 x Ledung (Foot Yeoman with Mixed Weapons)
1 x Skarmytslare (Bidowers)
1 x Herdar (Serfs) 

Dave didn't have time to get his Retinue sorted out in advance, so simply went with the one in the back of the rulebook:

Retinue: Turco-Mongols
Leader Skill: Sly 
1 x Mounted Men-at-Arms + Bows 
2 x Mounted Serjeants + Bows
1 x Expert Mounted Yeoman  

To kick the campaign off, I planned two linked games, with the ones to follow dependent upon the outcome of these. So to start we had:

Scenario B: Defending the Indefensible
The Swedish settlers have built a new Church upon the order of the Bishop. A small force has been left to guard this whilst the rest are patrolling the local area. Seeing this lightly gaurded, the Russian Orthodox Church has asked that it be destroyed.  

The Church has been built near one of the few roads but also close to a main waterway. The terrain is a mix of woods, rough terrain and marshy areas.
The Turco-Mongols arrive and deploy ready to attack.
Both sides advance quickly towards the Church.
The Swedish Crusaders get to the Chruch first...
... but send forth the 'Lambs of God' to halt the Heathen advance...
... but some how it doesn't look too good for the 'Lambs of God'.
The 'Lambs of God' have done their job as a speed bump...
... the Turco-Mongol archery has whittled away at the Swedes leaving the Church vulnerable to an attack.
The way is clear if the Turco-Mongols can pass their movement test...
...which they do with ease...
...and torch the Church before the Swedish Crusaders can react.

So first blood to the Republic of Novgorod and the Turco-Mongols. Next up was:

Scenario F: Sausages with Mustard
With the Church destroyed, the Turco-Mongols swiftly move onto attacking the local settlement with orders to burn it to the ground. The Swedish Crusaders, suspecting as much, move as quickly as they can to try and prevent its destruction.

A quick change to the table layout and 'Hey Presto!' we have a small settlement surround by some fields and woods.
The defenders of the village consist of a unit of Herdar and Skarmsytslare, which might not be enough to hold off the Turco-Mongols who are already confident with a victory under their belts.
Both sides advance very quickly, although the Turco-Mongol leader and his unit are reluctant to join the fray.
The settlement under threat.
However poor die rolling by the Turco-Mongols allows the Swedish Crusaders to gain a foothold in the settlement.
Deja vu?
The attackers somewhat strung out and some way back from their objective.
The Swedish Crusaders make the most of the Turco-Mongol indecision and take over the settlement.
These guys are going to be tough to shift...
Deja vu part deux?
Both side exchange volleys of arrows, with the Turco-Mongols having a unit at half-strength as a result.
The attacks going in.
Finally the Turco-Mongol leader arrives but he may be too late...
.. as the Swedes have formed a strong defensive line...
...which proves too much for the Turco-Mongols, who lose two unit in quick succession.
Game over as the Turco-Mongol leader wonders where his troops have gone.

Post Game Thoughts
Well  in two hours we managed to get in two fun and entertaining games, including changing the table layout as well as Dave knocking up his Retinue list. Now there aren't too many rulesets that you can say that about. So as always a few thoughts in no particular order:

  • In the first game I forgot the 'zone of control' rule, but this didn't alter the game too much. In the next game we broadly used it.
  • We did not use the 'Boasts' to gain (or lose) 'Glory' as Dave didn't have time to decide upon ones he wanted to use. Next time we will, all being well.
  • Normally I change the movement and shooting distances etc into centimetres. This time I simply halved them but used inches instead. So a movement of 8" became 4".  This seemed to work better as the units moved and shot a bit further which speeded the game up. I plan to use this from now on.
  • Although I really like the look Michael Leck and chums have achieved with their '3-2-1' basing system, I'm not so sure that this works as well in 10mm. I think this is mainly due to having less figure poses to play with, along side the fact that it is more awkward to move these smaller figures. When I do put together some proper forces for the Baltic Crusades, I feel I will stick with the retangular bases, purely for speed of play as well as the fact that they can be used for 'Sword & Spear', 'Hail Caesar!' etc.
  • Lion Rampant is great fun to play. Simples. 
  • Lion Rampant gives a great game and one in which you do not need to be constantly refering to a rulebook. We simply used the QRS for 95% of the game. The same is true of 'Dux Bellorum' and 'Honours of War'. I just wish you could do that with other rulesets... 
  • I really enjoyed researching the Baltic Crusades and this mini-campaign has inspired me to try and put together some small forces specifically for this period.

So next week we plan to get back to some Bloody Big Battles games, probably the 1859 2nd War of Italian Independence, but hopefully it will not be too long before we return to this campaign. I've got more ideas for other Retinues and Allies that can be added in, but as always it is a matter of finding the time...

In true school boy humour, we could not resist in coming up with some vegetable based puns as the campaign would involve Swedes. So far we have:

... If I don't win I'll be Pea'd off ...

... those Swedes were rooted to the spot ...

... the enemy plan was Leek'd to us ...

... for mash get smash ... (Dave stole this last one) 
... That'll be a Turnip for the books... 

Maybe one day we will grow up, but I hope not!!!