Wednesday, 30 December 2020

The Grenze Who Stole Xmas..

 Twas the night before Xmas... and in the small town of Weihnachten,  Prussian troops warily guarded the wagons containing supplies for their  seasonal feast, having been warned that Austrian Grenzers were in the area.. 

Wot, no hexes? Prussians await old-school onslaught

Having recently acquired some very pleasing  model houses from The Works, I found that as they are really table decorations, they actually light up.  So, a night action seemed very much  in order. Not played too seriously, of course - this is the Ragged Soldier's  works Xmas 'do'..

I've been meaning to try ( I  confess, for the first time )  the elementary rules from Young and Lawford's 'Charge' , and this seemed an ideal opportunity - I have just about enough figures to stage a small action, similar in scale to their 'Blasthof Bridge'.  So, the opposing forces as follows: 

Deployed in and around the town, the Prussians under the command of Generalleutnant von Krapfen  consisted of  : 

                44th Fusiliers  ( 22 line infantry ) 

                Von Kleist Uhlans  ( 16 cavalry  ) 

                1 Gun with 5 crew.

Their task was to defend the two supply wagons containing their Xmas dinner, which were quartered  for the night in the main street, near the church.   As they peered into the inky darkness beyond the lights of the town, the garrison  did not know that   an Austrian raiding party was indeed approaching,   led by General Rupert den Baren.  He could call on the following: 

           Botta Fusiliers  ( 32 infantry ) 

           Creutzer Grenze Hussars ( 16 cavalry ) 

           Dismounted Grenze Hussars ( 12 skirmishing infantry )

The town of  Weihnachten lies at a 'T-junction' of two roads, one running  East-West through the town, one stretching  from the South, as far as  the town. Nearby to both South and East are small woods, and a minor eminence lies to the South-East.  For this game, I have dispensed with the hex terrain and gone back to a good old-fashioned green cloth and model hills, and the table is 3 feet square. 

The Prussians divided their Fusiliers into two companies, one on the Eastern  and one on the Southern edge of the town, with the gunners in a walled enclosure at the South-Eastern corner. The Uhlans were split into two squadrons, one just West of the town and one on the small height to the South-East.

The Austrians similarly, had divided their infantry into two 'companies'  and cavalry into two 'squadrons', the skirmishers acting as a single unit. They approached from  the South and East roads - it might be tricky to co-ordinate attacks from both directions in the winter darkness. 

Turn 1 : Hussars and Uhlans pass all unaware..

Given a night-time scenario, I wanted to introduce plenty of uncertainty:  given the nature of the  Charge! rules, I also wanted to keep things simple.  So, I used a good old D6, as follows.  

 The Austrians would enter from the South and East table edges - each edge divided into 3 equal sections, labelled 1 to 6, each unit rolls a D6 to decide its entry point.   

 How many units each turn? Roll a D6 for Turn 1, scored  3 : three units.  The remaining two units on turn two  ( further dice rolls to decide exactly which units each turn ). 

Thus entirely randomly selected,  on Turn 1, enter  the 2nd  Hussar squadron and the dismounted skirmishers on the Eastern table edge, and the 1st Hussar squadron from the Southern edge. 

Now for movement and 'spotting' in the dark: again, keep it simple:

Movement - it's hard to keep direction in the dark, and unseen obstacles may slow progress. So, roll a D6 for each moving unit. Score  1 or 2, veer 45 degrees left; 3 or 4, go straight ahead; 5 or 6, veer 45 degrees right.  Also roll for Move Speed :  score 1,2, or 3 - half speed. 

Spotting - troops may quite easily miss each other in the darkness. At up to 6 inches distance, spotting is automatic, but at 6  to 12 inches must roll 4,5 or 6 on a D6 to spot an enemy unit, and at 12 to 18 inches, must roll 6.  Units opening fire are automatically spotted by all others in line of sight. Once the enemy or the town is spotted, normal movement can resume, but until then, it's random! 

So to the first Austrian move. The 2nd Hussar squadron  and the Skirmishers in the East  had clearly mastered this whole night marching thing, and pressed on straight towards the town at full speed,  but in the South the 1st Hussar squadron immediately veered left, and did not spot the Uhlans on the hill - who in turn, did not see the passing Hussars. 

 Prussian first turn:  to the East the approach of the Hussars had brought them within 6 inches of the 2nd Fusilier company - open fire! A ragged volley rang out, and the first casualty of the night was one Grenze Hussar - at short range, not very good shooting, they must have been a bit sleepy. The Prussian gunners were clearly fast asleep, and saw nothing.  South of town, the Fusiliers spotted the wandering 1st Hussars, but were out of musket range.  So far, so frustratingly/pleasingly random. 

Turn 2.  Hussars blunder into woods: Uhlans awake!

On to Turn 2 : enter the Austrian line infantry, both on the Southern table edge. 2nd Company Botta admirably straight ahead, perhaps guided by the nearby road,  while 1st Coy. veered left - directly towards the Uhlans on the hill.    Meanwhile the 2nd Hussars East of town, stung by musketry, charged the Prussian fusiliers, while the Grenzer skirmishers probed towards the Northern edge of town, albeit at half speed  ( Skirmishing foot only appear in the 'advanced' rules of 'Charge!', but the authors very  sensibly suggest that advanced features can be optionally added as required.  Movement rates and ranges were adjusted, to keep the right  relationship with Line infantry speed and range ). The Prussian 2nd Coy. Fusiliers fired at the charging Hussars - 10 figures, dice for range vs. cavalry  gave long range, so one dice.  Rolled a 1 - no hits! Still half asleep?   Then melee - the Hussars gleefully sabred two fusiliers, before both sides fell back. Short and sharp. 

The stars of the show, however, were those blindfolded 1st Hussars - having veered left, they now pressed straight ahead at full speed, straight into a wood!  And still, they saw no enemy.  They had been spotted, however, by the Prussian 1st Fusiliers , who woke them up with a volley, emptying one Hussar saddle.   Finally in the South,  1st Squadron Prussian Uhlans spotted 1st Company  Botta , downhill and straight ahead - Charge!

Turn 3: closing in

Turn 3 , the Austrian move saw the resolution of that Uhlan charge, and proof that these old school rules can be fast and furious.  Botta 1st Company levelled their muskets,  'won' the dice roll for range,  so close range , with 16 men rolled two dice  - scored 5 and 6, and shot down six of the eight Uhlans! To add insult to injury, the two remaining Uhlans inflicted no hits in the resulting melee, and lost one more trooper. Only one out of eight survived! Quite a blow for the Prussians. Meanwhile, the erratic 1st Hussars emerged from the wood, looked around  and promptly spotted 2nd Uhlans to the West of the town, while the skirmishing Grenze to the East of town started sniping at 2nd Fusiliers. With Hussars advancing again,  things looked worrying for the Fusiliers;  made worse by some of the skirmishers now infiltrating into the Northern part of the town, sniffing out those wagons.  

Nothing daunted, Prussian musketry opened up, the 2nd Fusiliers hitting back  at the Hussars who were again in front of them, and their gunners finally woke up and joined in with  canister: 3 Hussars lost. In the South,  1st Fusiliers opened fire on 2nd Botta at close range - 3 hits, not bad shooting.  However, West of the town their 2nd Uhlans dozed,  failing to spot the approaching Hussars,,


Turn 4 : Grenzers smell Xmas dinner

Turn the Fourth, and the Austrians now really pressed home their attacks. In the South,  2nd Coy. Botta and 1st Coy. Fusiliers continued their  firefight, each inflicting 2 casualties on the other.  In the East,  the 2nd Hussars charged again at the Prussian 2nd Fusiliers : between the defensive fire and melee, honours even at 2 losses each, but those Fusiliers were being worn down rapidly, and had no support, and crucially behind them, Austrian skirmishers captured one of the supply wagons!  Now battle was joined to the West also, with the fortuitously wandering 1st Hussar squadron charging the sleepy 2nd Uhlans in flank , dismounting 2 - a rude awakening.  Things now looked very bad for von Krapfen's Prussians,  and  losses were tallied up : Austrian casualties were 12 out of 60, and Prussians 17 out of  43.  The elementary 'Charge!' rules only concession to morale is 'when the number of casualties suffered by an army is more than half the number with which that army started the battle, that army is out of action...'    Only five more losses would finish off the Prussians. 

End of the affair: Prussians at bay, Grenzers everywhere!

And on Turn 5, the final blow - Austrian musketry delivered it, with 2nd Coy. Botta in the South taking no less than four figures from 1st Fusiliers, and sniping from Grenze skirmishers another one from 2nd Fusiliers.  To add insult,  the skirmishers also laid hands on the second supply wagon, and out to the West, 1st Squardron Hussars charged again at 2nd Squadron Uhlans. who at least had been able to turn and face them this time.  But that combat became irrelevant, with the Prussian losses reaching 22,  therefore over 50% , and both supply wagons being led away by greedy Grenzers.  'Twas a terrible blow and a hungry Xmas day for those Prussians, ejected from the warmth of the town and denied their festive feast! 

And a good game, of course! Fast and furious, as 'old school' games should be - those unfortunate Uhlans paid the price, and probably lost the game.  Perhaps I  should have given the defenders stronger forces, as once losses started to mount they reached 50% very fast.   I had anticipated that the gun would be more effective - but its crew proved not very alert, and once the enemy got close in, its fire was often masked by its own Fusilier comrades. The small table made for rapid action, with fire being opened on Turn 1 and units very quickly involved in close combat, and my improvised night movement and spotting rules worked pretty well, I thought,  introducing some entertainingly random outcomes, especially those wandering Hussars!

I hope you've enjoyed reading this, as I did both playing the game and reporting the outcome (special thanks to my old mate 'LiverpoolDave' for suggesting the title).  I hope you have had a good Xmas break, given the circumstances many of us find ourselves in. Thanks especially for all your friendly  and encouraging comments and support of this blog, which has certainly  helped keep me going through these 'interesting times', and I hope will long continue to do so.  Keep safe and well, everyone, and here's to a Happier New Year.


Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Not a Prussian Was Stirring..

Twas the Night before Xmas.. and in the little Ruritanian town of Weihnachten,  a small detachment of the Prussian army were sleepily guarding the wagons containing their seasonal feast.  


Rumour had it the despised (and notoriously hungry) Austrian Grenzers were in the vicinity...



Thursday, 10 December 2020

More Affordable Housing

Just a quick update following my earlier post about model buildings :  I popped in to my local branch of The Works the other day, and they did indeed have some more of their  'Light-Up Wooden House'  table decorations for sale. 

the cute deer has to go, though

Slightly different to earlier models, perhaps a bit more fussy, but still  useful looking. And £3 each was a good price, I thought - until I reached the till, and was informed they are currently on offer , two for the price of one!

So, if you like the look of them, hurry on down to your local.. etc 

I will give these the same simple paint job as I did with my earlier examples, and they should be ready for a bit of  'twas the night before Xmas' gaming fun in the near future.

No further forward with gaming recently, alas - time and space, dear boy - but a few ideas being mulled over for future games and posts here.  Until then, keep safe and well, everyone.



Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Battle for Rahden : Conclusions

A couple of posts ago, we left the battle for the 'Soldier King' campaign town of Rahden interestingly poised after seven turns, with the defending Prussians  expelled from the eastern hill in front of the town, and attacking Austrians hoping to press home their advantage.  After a longer than expected hiatus, with the opposing troops snarling at each other inside their storage box, I was able to unpack them, re-set the battlefield and resume the game. 

Turn 8 :  Austrians advance

The picture shows the situation at Turn 8 - the defenders have a problem, in that their Fusiliers East of the road are facing two Austrian battalions, and being bombarded by artillery. That battery took a few turns to get the range, but once it did, things got tricky. Meanwhile on the other flank, Prussian Horse Grenadiers face twice their number of Austrian  cavalry on the hill.  The Horse Grenadiers didn't lack courage, making three charges in the next three moves - sadly they were  'bounced back' twice and then suffered 1 SP loss. But they certainly kept the Austrian horse busy!  The supporting von Kleist infantry fought well,  keeping up a steady fire - for example repelling an Austrian cavalry charge and coolly volleying to force the  2nd Botta battalion to retreat, all  in one turn. 

Turn 9 also saw the Austrians really get stuck in - taking advantage of the road, their  remaining Jaeger infantry battalion charged the Prussian guns! There followed several rounds of suprisingly inconclusive close combat as the gunners stuck to their guns behind the shelter of the wall,  and neither side would give way. 

Turn 9 : Intrepid Jaegers charge Prussian guns

In Turn 10, things really heated up, with the Austrian gunners getting their eye in and hitting the Prussian Fusiliers - who could not risk retreating from their protected position, and so had to take a loss of 1 SP. To make matters worse, musketry from 1st battalion Botta also hit them, and took another 1SP.  The Fusiliers gave almost  as good as they got,inflicting 1 SP loss on 1st  Botta, but it was a bad turn for the Prussians and left the losses at 7 SPs  each.  

The Prussian infantry defended stoutly, their mustketry repeatedly finding its mark, but the Austrian gunners were even more effective, hitting the Prussian Fusiliers every turn- and those Fusiliers couldn't give up their position, so the casualties kept on  mounting.  On Turn 12 the cannonade  left them with only one SP strength remaining, and then  a volley from 1st  Botta battalion  scored another hit - the fusiliers finally retreated, to avoid destruction. At which point, the Austrian Jaegers were able to take advantage, jumping over  the vacated wall.  

Oops -  by making that move, I had broken a rule.  The Jaegers had been in contact with the Prussian gunners, and according to Bob's 'Portable Napoleonic Wargame' rules,  'if a unit is being faced by an enemy unit that is in an adjacent grid can move..providing it does not move into a grid area that is adjacent to another enemy unit'. So they shouldn't have been able to move adjacent to the retreating fusiliers, only to withdraw away from the guns.  Oh dear!  I only realised this when looking through my notes to write this account, so at the time the game simply went on.  Maybe that's the best way to deal with rules mistakes - just keep calm and carry on. It's possibly both an advantage and a disadvantage of solo play - no aggrieved opponent annoyed at being 'cheated', but equally no second pair of eyes on the rules to point out mistakes and prevent them happening.  Oh well, c'est la (jeux de)  guerre.

Jaegers over the wall : oops, illegal move!


Also in turn 12,  the Prussian Horse Grenadiers charged yet again, and finally took 1SP from their Austrian opponents - some reward for their persistence. That left the losses at Austrians 10 SP, Prussians 9 SP - and crucially the Prussians reached their Exhaustion Point. 

Prussian General von Gehirne could use his brains, and knew the game was up - the best course now was to retire with as much as possible of his force intact.  Starting from  turn 13 the Prussian gunners limbered up their pieces and began to retire, while the von Kliest foot and Horse Grenadiers pulled back slowly, with the brave Fusiliers holding position, keeping up constant fire to deter the Austrian follow-up - their Jaegers were repeatedly hit and forced back.  But the rest of Dachs' attacking force made a general advance, the guns limbering up and moving forward to East Hill,  and both their cavalry units charging the Horse Grenadiers, inflicting casualties on them.     Turn 15 effectively ended the game: with all Prussian units near table edge, a volley from 1st Botta finally forced the Fusiliers to retreat off-table, taking their commander with them. 

At this point I called a halt, with the Prussians retiring  and the Austrians taking possession of the town of Rahden.  Casualties were even - 10 SPs lost each, though of course that was enough to bring the Prussians to their  Exhaustion Point.  Both sides had one 'veteran' ( i.e. average ) infantry  unit destroyed and a scattering of SP losses shared evenly  among  various units - though the Prussian Fusiliers were hard hit, losing 4 out of their 5 SPs. All this needs considering in terms of the campaign - it's not just a one-off battle, there are consequences, and I hope that's part of the fun. 

The End of the Affair - two remaining Prussian units retire

Many of the units should easily replace their losses, but the Fusiliers will need longer to recover. A simple scheme suggests itself - I'll say that  replacements and recovery of the wounded can restore 1 SP per unit per campaign turn, for the moment - only a very small amount of book-keeping will be required.  I've decided that the two routed/destroyed units are gone for good, their survivors having scattered to the four winds, or perhaps been allocated to make up losses in less depleted units.

 Just for fun,  I played out the battle using the 'Soldier King' board game's combat system - and it was a disaster for the attacking Austrians! The fortifications of the town gave a big advantage to the defenders and negated the Austrians' cavalry superiority: after 3 rounds of combat they had lost 8 points out of 12 and only inflicted 2 points - total defeat!   Maybe I should have given more advantage to the defence  on the tabletop, but what the heck, it was a fun game. 

I hope to continue with the campaign. Let's see where it takes us. How will the Prussians respond to this reverse?   Until next time,  keep safe and well, everyone.