Saturday, 29 May 2010

A setback for the French

Russian heavy cavalry advance to counter the French threat to the south of Schweinfurt

Our first campaign game came to a close on thursday evening with a pretty decisive victory for the Allies.  Casualties on both sides were heavy amongst the infantry, though understandably heavier for the French.  Andys' VIII infantry corps and III cavalry corps from the army of the Danube withdrew to the fortified town of Wurtzburg leaving the Allied Weissenwolf corps to hold Schweinfurt. 
The order of battle was as follows:
FRENCH
VIII Infantry Corp

1st Division
3 x 36 vet
4 x 36 1st class
4 x 36 2nd class
1 x 3 gun 6lb foot bty
1 x 24 Lt Cav
2nd Division
2 x 36 vet
6 x 36 1st class
4 x 36 2nd class
1 x 3 gun 6lb foot bty
1 x 3 gun 12lb foot bty
1 x 24 Lt Cav
III Cavalry Corp
2 x 32 Cuirassier
2 x 32 Dragoons
1 x 24 Lancer
1 x 2 gun 6lb horse bty
ALLIES
Corps Weissenwolf

1st Division
1 x 32 vet
3 x 32 1st class
3 x 48 1st class
2 x 48 2nd class
1 x 3 gun 6lb foot bty
1 x 24 Lt Cav

2nd Division
1 x 32 vet
2 x 32 1st class
1 x 48 1st class
3 x 48 2nd class
1 x 3 gun 6lb foot bty
1 x 32 Lt Cav
Cavalry Division
1 x 32 Cuirassier
1 x 32 Dragoons

As this was a relatively small battle between two single corps the infantry arm on each side was increased by roughly fifty per cent. 

Steve considers his options whilst Nick writes out yet another list of his ten favourite biscuits.

So what went wrong for the French?  Initially they had the upper hand with two divisions in position to attack a single defending division on two seperate fronts.  Neils reinforcements were taking time to arrive and would have to feed into a relatively small area.  Well to start with, the French had three gun batteries, one a 12lb'er which played little or no effective part in the battle.  This left their infantry with the difficult task of ejecting practically untouched infantry from a decent defensive position.  Andy's original plan was to wait until both assaulting divisions were in place and then attack at the same time.  This was a sound idea but I think it would have been better for Erics' division attacking from the west to begin its' attack further up the table.  This would have given space to deploy the guns and split the defenders more effectively.

   Neil who commanded the Allied contingent

                                                                                                  Andy the French Commander

However even without the support of the guns the attack had a good chance of  success.  The French teams' next mistake was to bring their cavalry corps on table directly behind the infantry division in the south.  To be fair they were a little unlucky to be held up for such a long time by a single squadron of cavalry though this was compounded by poor deployment of the French light cavalry.  The effect of this delay was to force the right flank of Andy's attacking infantry to form square thereby reducing the number of battalions available for the assault.  By the time this had sorted itself out the Allies had been able to bring up heavy cavalry to threaten the advancing infantry.  This was when the French heavy cavalry was needed but it was still stuck behind the infantry and remained unavailable for the whole game.

Russian infantry arriving to bolster the defence

Even now there was a chance that Erics' attack might succeed but this time the dice Gods abandoned him, and his troops after fighting three bloody rounds of combat were driven back by the defenders.  This withdrawal was subsequently turned in to a rout by more casualties and the presence of other routing troops and the writing was on the wall for the French.

Erics' division quit the field whilst the gun batteries mill around looking for something to shoot at.

The end of the battle led to much frenzied activity on the campaign map and for a while it looked as if there may be another battle of schweinfurt.  Thankfully for all of us the fighting has now moved north though not very far, to Menningen where Dom has taken up a position and is awaiting Neils' Allies.  Oddly enough it appears that everyone has got the point about concentration and this next battle will be between larger bodies of troops.
  We'll be kicking off the battle of Menningen next week and as usual I'll post an update in the following days.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

More Schweinfurt

Taking up the story from my last post we left the Allies in a difficult situation, heavily outnumbered and with the danger of being assaulted on two fronts.  In a bid to slow down the advance of at least one of the attacking columns Neil, the Allied commander threw in what  meagre cavalry he had available.

Russian Hussars make Andy's French lights pay the price of poor deployment.

Fortunately for Neil, Andy who had a whole regiment of light cavalry available chose to lead with a single squadron and this was summarily routed back through its supporting squadron unforming them.  Neil's hussars then rallied on the spot and were able to get a free hack on the supports.  A handful of sixes meant that the French were cut down to a man.
     Andy's immediate reaction was to form square with his right hand battalions thereby removing them from the subsequent attack on Schweinfurt, round one to the Allies.

Andys' attack on the Southern edge of Schweinfurt, Neils' skirmishers beat off a battalion of infantry.

Meanwhile Erics' assault on the Western side of the town got under way with much less drama.  Having lined out on a four battalion frontage the French began to lumber forward.  Things were once again beginning to look bleak for the defenders, though reinforcements were now beginning to arrive. 

Erics' assault column about to come to grips with the Austrian defenders.

The resulting melee was bloody on both sides but once again the big Austrian forty eight man battalions proved their worth.  Despite winning the last round of the melee Eric was unable to break the Allies morale and was forced back with both sides suffering heavy losses.  Eric's problems were compounded when a rout on his flank caused a morale test on the combatants resulting in them also routing.

The view from the French side, in the foreground Eric's assault gets under way while over on the right Steve begins to move allied heavy cavalry into place to support the southern flank.

Back to the Southern side and Andy commenced his attack.  The key target was a twenty four man village held by Neils Russian contingent.  This time the French were successful and were able to oust the defenders.  However the success was short lived as the victorious infantry were immediately charged by cuirassier who made short work of the unformed troops causing heavy casualties.  This resulted in the French quitting the village leaving the Russians to reoccupy it.

A fleeting moment of glory for the French as they capture the Southern edge of Schweinfurt.

If you read the previous post you may be wondering what happened to Andy's cavalry corps.  Unfortunately Andy took the option of deploying them directly behind his infantry to the South.  This has meant that for much of the game they have been unable to deploy and are only now beginning to appear.  The upside of this was that Dom, commanding the cavalry corps was able to keep us all supplied with tea and coffee throughout the evening. Whether the cavalry will be able to turn the tide for the French is debatable but we have decided to play out a few more turns next week to give the French an opportunity to salvage something.
     In the next post I'll hopefully have a full summary of the battle with the orbats and casualty returns.  In addition I should be able to update the campaign situation.

Friday, 21 May 2010

The Battle of Schweinfurt

We've just started a new campaign here at the garage.  One which is primarily designed to throw up fun and interesting battles.  To set the scene both the Allies and the French have three seperate armies each of which the individual commanders are allowed to breakdown into a number of corps using a list of available troops.  The average army is about thirty to forty battalions strong with attached cavalry and artillery.  The area we're using is Northern Germany primarily because I was lucky enough to find this beautiful map on TMP, created by Malcolm Mccallum using the CC3 map making software.  Malcolm was kind enough to allow me to use the map for the campaign for which I'm extremely grateful.
Malcolm's Northern Germany map with the initial deployment areas added. His others can be found at this link: http://www.murat.ca/maps.htm
Movement is on roads only, at the rate of about twenty miles a day though formations need to rest periodically or lose troops due to straggling.  The basic idea is that by occupying the majority of towns in a given area, that area comes under control.  The side which gains control of two thirds of the map is deemed the winner.  Not very historical I grant you but the idea as stated at the beginning of this piece is to generate battles and that aim was achieved almost immediately.  In the South an Austro-Russian army heading West from Ansbach has run into the French army of the Danube advancing from Wurtzburg at the small town of Schweinfurt.  Or to be more accurate elements of each army have clashed there.

The Battlefield of Schweinfurt looking from the Northeast.  The town is in the centre with the road to Wurtzburg leading off in the distance.

Staying true to the wargamer ethic both commanders on being informed of enemy troops to their front gave the order to advance and engage.  Fortunately for both of them the opposing forces were roughly even but had one of them been in strength then the other would probably have received a severe drubbing.  Each side is fielding an infantry corps supported in the case of the French by a strong cavalry corps.  Due to the numbers involved being relatively small I decided to increase the infantry and foot artillery by fifty per cent and fight the battle on one table.

Schweinfurt from the North defended by the Austrians and Russians of Weissenwolfs Corps

The Allies having arrived slightly earlier than the French gained control of the town and set up a defence facing westwards towards the Wurtzburg road where Eric had already deployed an infantry division.  They were however surprised to discover that Andy, having delayed his deployment for two turns now began arriving on table from the South.  This required some quick thinking from the Allies and a redeployment of some of the infantry.

The French assault on Schweinfurt gets under way.

Things were beginning to look difficult for the Allies, if the the French could co-ordinate their two seperate assaults they would have nearly double the numbers of the defenders and should be able to take Schweinfurt  before the Allies had the chance to deploy the rest of the corps.  Much would depend on the ability of the Allied cavalry to delay one or both of the French assaults.

We got as far as turn eight of the projected twenty four turns last night and it's been a bloody clash to say the least.  I'll post a report of how the battle is progressing during the weekend so stay tuned.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Disaster at Hannau

Our latest game based loosely on the battle of Hannau came to a bit of an abrupt ending on thursday night, resulting in a French victory.  The over extended allied centre was punctured by a Young Guard division and a Line division leaving the Allies with no option other than to withdraw.

Not the best of photos but showing most of the game area.  In the foreground an Austrian Avant Garde division slowly forces back the two Old guard battalions covering the French left flank.  While in the centre The Young Guard attack the Wurtemburg infantry. 

Unfortunately for the allies it appears that their plan to defend the flanks using the Wurtemburgers as a central reserve played directly into the hands of the French.  The French plan was to use the Young Guard's superior movement and discipline to allow them to move quickly through the open woods where they would anchor the left of the French line allowing the division behind them to assault what we had perceived to be a sparsely manned centre.

Austrian Jaeger who bravely traded volleys with the Old Guard for much of the battle.

The French right was made up of two regiments of Guard cavalry whose job it was to tie down as much  Austrian infantry as possible in order to stop them reinforcing the centre. 

Young Guard softening up the Wurtemburg line with volley fire prior to charging.  In the background the assault columns of the resrve division move into position to take the centre.

It's always nice when a plan comes together and this time everything seemed to work out just right for the French.  The Young Guard slammed into the Wurtemburgers forcing half of them to quit the field and the attack in the centre drove back the exposed Austrian infantry.  A charge by the Guard Light cavalry at the same time forced an Austrian gun battery to rout back through their supporting infantry and it was all over for the Allies.

The French assault from a different angle.  Young Guard in the distance attacking the Allied infantry and artillery.  In the foreground the assault column forms up.

The Orbats for the game were as follows:

ALLIES
Wurtemburg Division
6 x 32 1st class Line
1 x 3 Gun 6lb Ft Bty
1 x 24 Lt Cav
12 Skirmishers

Avant Garde
1 x 36 Jaeger
1 x 36 Grenz
3 x 48 2nd class Line
1 x 3 Gun 6lb Ft Bty
2 x 24 Lt Cav
18 Rifle Skirmishers

Line Division
8 x 48 2nd class Line
4 x 36 2nd class Line
1 x 3 Gun 6lb Ft Bty
18 Skirmishers

Austrian Reserve
6 x 36 Vetreran
1 x 3 Gun 12lb Ft Bty
12 Skirmishers
1 x 24 Kurassier

FRENCH
Guard Division
2 x 36 Guard
6 x 32 Elite
1 x 3 Gun Ft Bty (Elite)

Guard Cavalry
1 x 32 Guard Heavy
1 x 24 Guard Light
1 x 2 Gun 6lb Hse Bty (Elite)

Line Division
4 x 36 1st class Line
4 x 36 2nd class line
1 x 3 Gun 6lb Ft Bty
12 Skirmishers

Line Division
2 x 36 Veteran
6 x 1st class Line
1 x 3 Gun 6lb Ft Bty
18 Skirmishers

"Guard Lights" move up to threaten the Austrian artillery.

I haven't had the chance to hear the other players ideas on the use of smaller batteries yet though think it made for a better game on this occasion.  We'll have to keep trying it to see if it works in other circumstances.  I'm also a big fan of dropping the -4 for cannister firing on single rank cavalry so we'll be trialling that out in the next game. 
Our next outing will hopefully be the start of a campaign in Northern Germany.  Each player will command his own army and will have set objectives to carry out.  I'll go more in to the detail of it in the next post but I'm looking forward to it as I've always preferred playing campaigns where the effects of battles are carried over, to just playing one off encounters.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

An End and a Beginning

I've recently returned from visiting some friends around the country and got a chance to pop in to Salute at the Excel centre in London hence my tardiness with posting recently.   Salute was good, though for me not as good as last year and there was as far as I could see only one Napoleonic game on display.  Unfortunately the guys running it were too busy playing to talk to me about it so I have little idea of what was going on.  Personally I think that if you're going to put on a demonstration game then the clue is in the title.  It shouldn't be treated as an opportunity to have a game amongst yourselves with the minor annoyance of people wandering around asking you questions.  It's an opportunity to show off your terrain and figures and encourage others to develop an interest.  Sadly in my opinion there were too many games on at Salute which made little or no attempt to do this.

The Excellent Blenheim Demo Game at Salute.

The one real high point of the whole thing for me was the Blenheim game shown above.  All of the figures were painted by just two people, one of which is the guy on the right in the white T shirt.  This game proved to be one of the few where the people running it were enthusiastic about talking to visitors and answering questions.
        But enough of Salute, what of Smolensk?  Well to the relief of all involved it is now over.  In hindsight it would probably have been better to have finished it after the first day.  The second phase of the battle despite some prodigious efforts by the French cavalry eventually became bogged down in an attritional battle where most of the fighting was being done by the artillery and the game was finally abandoned as a draw.

The Austrian centre and left flank.

Of course this has given us an opportunity to start a new game which Eric quickly devised.  The scenario is one of a good quality but smaller French force attempting to force its way through a combined Austrian and Wurtemburg force in order to re-open its lines of communication.

Wurtemburg infantry prepare for an assault by the Young Guard.

We've decided to try restricting the artillery a little in this game so four gun batteries are reduced to three guns and three gun batteries are reduced to two guns.  This makes quite a difference to the effectiveness of horse artillery and makes all batteries more vulnerable to cavalry charges.

French "Guard" heavies about to charge an Austrian column.

We've had to substitute line dragoons for the guard heavies and Westphalian guard for the old guard as despite having between four and a half to five thousand figures there are no French guard infantry or cavalry in the garage.  To be honest they're rarely used and I'd rather have line units which get an airing nearly every time we play.  The guard will arrive eventually but I need more Russians and Prussians first.

The Austrian left flank advancing to counter the cavalry threat.

All in all this looks like being an interesting scrap, though the French will, in the words of Eric have to be clever to pull it off. I'll keep you posted.