Monday, 24 January 2022

Ready to fight, and Turkish Tropicality

Having had a think about the setup,  here's the proposed layout for the climactic battle at Zouache in my 'Soldier King' campaign.  Many thanks to commenters who made very sensible suggestions regarding the layout: I have taken them on board!

Western approaches ( Prussian Cavalry route )  

It will be a battle for two river crossings , the Northern one being the destination of the Prussian Infantry force, and the Western one approached by their cavalry. I decided the attackers would start off-table, and I made a tentative Austrian deployment to defend the position. 

Looking North ( awaiting Prussian foot and guns )

This may all be subject to ( further! )  amendment, but in essence the Austrians have their  Botta d'Adorno brigade ( their best foot ) in the North awaiting the Prussian infantry, and their weaker Grenzer foot facing West and the expected cavalry column. Most Austrian cavalry is held in reserve, but the Schwarzer Hussars are cunningly concealed on a a wooded hill by the Northern road, ready to swoop on the flank of the approaching enemy columns.  Prussian order of arrival is yet to be decided, and the Dice Gods will play some sort of role in that.  The walled enclosures  stand in for 'entrenchments' and command both bridges - no attacker can cross the bridge before  the adjacent defences have been cleared. It may be a tough nut to crack..


Tropical 'Spit' kit : reassuringly few parts

Meanwhile, a shopping trip to Bury St. Edmunds this weekend allowed a visit to 'Model Junction' and a look at their fairly random selection of 1/72 scale model kits for WW2 vehicles and aircraft. I found an interesting ( and inexpensive) kit which may be useful for my 'D-Day Dodgers' Italian Campaign forces.  It's a  'Tropical' Spitfire VB/ VC , which will go very well with the P-40 Kittyhawk I already have.  The kit is  made by 'PM Model'  - a new name on me - and is from Turkey, though distributed via Bachmann.  It's a very simple kit, which suits me fine, and it has a choice of three suggested colour schemes and decal sets, these being for the RAF in Tunisia 1943,  the USAAF in North Africa 1943, and the Turkish Air Force 1942. That last one would be an unusual option for a kit-basher!  It turns out the Turks were very worried about being surrounded by German and Italian occupied territory plus Axis-aligned neighbours such as Bulgaria, and acquired as many combat aircraft as possible, mostly British, French and American types.  They  finally entered the war, on the Allied side, in February 1945.  I wonder if  anyone has thought of  a 'what-if ' campaign whereby Hitler decides to outflank the Soviets via Asia Minor in say, 1942? Leaving aside such wild surmise,  I think it might be fun to paint this as  the USAAF version - I seem to remember a photo of such an American-operated 'Spit' crash-landed on a beach in Sicily or Italy. 

Next time, back to  1757 'somewhere in Central Europe' as the Prussians make their  attempt on the river crossings at Zouache.  Meanwhile keep well, and safe, everyone. 


Thursday, 13 January 2022

Battle Planning : A Bit Of A Re-think

I've had a bit of a re-think.. In my last post, I set out the likely forces involved in the upcoming battle in my 'Soldier King' campaign, with the Prussians attacking their Austrian foes in defensive positions  at the town of Zouache.  I had established that I have sufficient troops to portray the opposing armies in Bob Cordery's Brigade Level 'Portable Wargame'.  All well and good, BUT what I have been worrying  about is the small size of battlefield I can use, relative to both those army sizes,  and  also the topographical layout of the area to be disputed.  

I think I should  show the campaign map, to illustrate my concerns. It looks like this: 

Zouache:  a river runs round it

The Austrians are of course positioned at Zouche. The Prussians have their infantry and guns advancing down the road from Wittingen in the North, while their cavalry has swung around to the West and is approaching from Stauffen.  As you can see, the town is in the bend of a  river - so there must be a bridge into the town on each approach road, which the Prussians are going to have to secure. It's the combination of river, two bridges, and town that I fear will  make things difficult to fit into a 9 by 9 grid. I had a go at a layout: 

Terrain: first draft

Hmm... I can fit the two bridges and the river in, with a bit of distance between so the defenders are stretched a little by the flanking cavalry column. But there's no space for the approach: if the Austrians contest the bridges, battle will be  joined immediately and all the fighting take place at the edge of the table, and being pretty static too.  I wondered if the Prussian cavalry might be assumed to have rushed the Western bridge, allowing a bit of manouevering once across, but that seems a bit unfair on the defenders - who are after all supposed to be 'entrenched'. If I put the river and bridges closer to the centre of the table, then maybe there's not much room for movement once the bridges have been crossed - they will be too close together.

I think the problem is maybe that I am  trying to cram too many troops and too much action into a small space, and it's just going to bog down.   Thinking time.. 

One option might be to 'mini-campaign' it. I did this quite successfully before, at Rahden earlier in this campaign. Draw a map of the general area, encompassing  multiple tables worth of terrain, and use map  movement to determine where and when contacts between opposing forces occur, transferring to a table when battle is joined. It worked quite well for Rahden, and also reminded me of Charles Grant's system used in 'Wargame Tactics', where the initial moves of larger tabletop battles were made on maps, allowing an element of  pre-game manoeuvre and surprise. However, I think in this case there's less of a case for map movements, as the position is fairly well decided already : the Austrians are pretty much dug-in at the town, and the Prussians are attacking from two directions, already obvious. Austrian cavalry  could be sent out to harrass the approaching Prussians, but that's about the only map-movement option, really. Hmmm...

So my next idea is to address the issue of numbers of troops and available space :  I can't increase the space available,  but maybe I can change the scale - 'zoom out', so to speak?  Maybe what I need is for the table to represent a larger area, so the troops are able to fit into less space, not move so fast across the table, and not shoot so far, as they do in the Brigade level game of The Portable Wargame.  And of course, I need look no further  than... the next chapter of Bob's book 'The Portable Napoleonic Wargame'! Here we have the Division level game, and I think it might just do the trick.  It allows two infantry units (notionally regiments, in a brigade )  to occupy the same grid area, and they move and shoot over shorter distances.  The forces available would translate into two or three infantry brigades and one or two cavalry brigades for each side (plus artillery units),  which would seems fairly manageable and hopefully make the table a bit less crowded. 

So, let's see how the forces might  now look - first the Austrians: 

    Commander - General Dachs :       6 SP       

    Botta d'Adorno Brigade ( 3 SP ) 

            - Three regiments  Botta d'Adorno  Line Infantry,   rated Average,   each  4 SP

    Grenzer Brigade ( 3 SP ) 

           - Two regiments  'Grenzer' foot , rated  Poor, each 3SP 

    Erzherhog Ferdinand Cuirassier regiment,.  rated Poor,  3SP 

    Grenze Hussar brigade  ( 3 SP ) 

             - Two regiments   Grenze Hussars,  rated Average,  each 3 SP

    'Schwarzen' Hussar Regiment,  rated Inferior,  2 SP

    Artillery battalion , rated Average, 2 SP

 Giving a total of  46 SP , and Exhaustion Point reached at a loss of  16 SP.


And the Prussians: 


        Commander - Generalleutnant  von Gehirne   :  6 SP 

        44th Fusilier Regiment,  rated Elite,  5 SP

        Jaeger Brigade ( 3 SP ) 

            - Three regiments  Jaegers ( fighting as Line infantry ) , rated Average, each 4 SP 

        Von Kleist Brigade ( 3 SP ) 

            - Two regiments  von Kleist Frei Korps,  rated Average, each 4 SP    

        Heavy Cavalry Brigade ( 3 SP ) 

            - Three Regiments  Cuirrassiers, rated Elite,  each 5 SP

        One  Battalion Field Guns and crews, rated Average,  2 SP

        One Battalion Howitzers and crews, rated Average, 2 SP

 Making  a total of  59 SP , and Exhaustion Point reached at a loss of  20 SP..

It's interesting that the Strength Points values of the armies have increased by about a quarter, partly at least due to the allocation of points to the Brigade commanders. Movement and firing distances are slightly shorter than in the 'Brigade' game, and two regiments can occupy one hex - so the my limited table space should feel a bit more spacious for the forces involved. 

Now I just need to figure out the terrain  - which still needs some hard thinking, I reckon, and battle may commence. But it's past my bedtime, so that will have to wait for the next post. With apologies for the slow progress on this, due to our old friends 'time and space, dear boy..' ( just work and domestic duties, really - and some  January/ Pandemic  ennui, I think ).   I am very aware that this has been very slow  - can't help comparing  with the fantastic amount of work put in by Nundanket on his planned Hohenfriedberg  game - now that's how to prepare for a battle! 

I will try to be a bit quicker with the next post, which may even see the forces engaged. Meanwhile keep well, and safe, everyone. 


Sunday, 2 January 2022

Battle Planning: thinking allowed

A Happy New Year to one and all!  Last time in the 'Soldier King' campaign, we set up the general situation for something of a climactic battle, as the Prussians launched their army into the attack on the Austrian forces at the city of Zouache. Having decided on a battle, I now have to work out how to turn it into a game, using the (somewhat  limited)  resources I have available.  It's quite a challenge, and I am not certain how I am going to make it work, but hope that with a little thought,  I will be able to  see a way forward. And it might be interesting to post my thoughts as I go - 'show your working', as the dreaded exam papers used to say.   

Despite my earlier concerns, one thing I do have is sufficient troops. Here is the defending Austrian force: 

General Dachs steps up

I am going to start by assuming they will be organised with troop designations and Strength Point (SP)  values from 'The Portable Wargame' , as follows:  

Commander - General Dachs :       6 SP       

Three battalions Botta d'Adorno  Line Infantry,   rated Average,   each  4 SP

Two  battalions  'Grenzer' foot , rated  Inferior , each 3SP 

One squadron  Erzherhog Ferdinand Cuirassiers.  rated Inferior,   2SP 

Two  squadrons  Grenzer Hussars,  rated Average,  each 3 SP

One squadron  'Schwarzen' Hussars.  rated Inferior,  2 SP

One gun and crew,  rated Average,  2 SP.

 Giving a total of  36 SP , and Exhaustion Point reached at a loss of 12 SP.

And the attacking Prussian array: 

Von Gehirne's powerful force

Commander - Generalleutnant  von Gehirne :  6 SP 

One battalion,   44th Fusilier Regiment,  rated Elite,  5 SP

Three battalions Jaegers ( fighting as Line infantry ) , rated Average, each 4 SP 

Two battalions  von Kleist Frei Korps,  rated Average, each 4 SP    

Three Squadrons  Cuirrassiers, rated Elite,  each 4 SP

Two Guns  and crews, rated Average, each 2 SP

 Making  a total of  47 SP , and Exhaustion Point reached at a loss of 16 SP.

To arrive at these SP values, I translated  the Soldier King troop quality 'Guards' to be Portable Wargame 'Elite',   while 'Veterans' in Soldier King became 'Average' , and 'Levy' became 'Inferior'. There is no separate representation of artillery in 'Soldier King' forces, so I have fairly arbitrarily allocated one gun to the defending Austrians, and two guns to the attacking Prussians ( this keeps the Strength Point 'ratio'  a bit more in line with the board game army strengths ). Bear in mind that although my first thought is to continue with 'Portable Wargame' rules, ( specifically the Napoleonic Brigade-level version,  with my own tweaks for the Seven Years War ), this is not set in stone, hence organisations/unit configurations  may change.  One concern is , with only a 3 foot square ( or 9 by 9 hexes )  battlefield, are these forces too large? 

I had worried that I would struggle to field all the required units in my customary formats - especially Prussian infantry, but the numerous Jaegers I acquired from the Eric Knowles collection were a big help, making up three battalions. They will fight as' Line' infantry, but I won't worry too much about that - after all in several  of the my earlier games they have served as Line, and sometimes even fought for the other side! I do have a couple of units of Prussian line infantry in the early stages of painting, but realistically they won't be ready in time for this game. So,  Jaegers it is, and the fiercesome Prussian drill masters will enjoy instilling/beating some discipline and order into them..  

The one area I almost did struggle with was light cavalry, given the Austrians needed three squadrons - Eric Knowles' trusty Grenze Hussars only provided two. But then I lighted on some of the plastic  Spencer-Smiths most generously gifted to me by Neil Patterson of the Aufklarungsabteilung blog,  and resplendent in a rather cool, if  basic, all-black uniform.  A quick basing job, and the 'Schwarzen Hussars' were recruited!  I assume these may have been inspired  by the  Prussian Ruesch Hussars or 'Deaths Heads'.  So again, we have some possibly Prussian troops lured to the other side, presumably by large bribes and the attractions of Viennese cafe society - so much more fun than Berlin! Here they are - 'button counters' may wish to look away now:

Latest recruits - the men in black

Yes, pretty basic, and maybe not too accurate, but needs must - perhaps fittingly, they are going to be rated 'Inferior'  quality in the rules. So they may just run away at the first  cannonade, anyway! Or they may perform wonders - we shall see. They'll do fine on the table, for now, and I will take a cue from Brigadier Peter Young, quoted in a fascinating blog post from Tragardmastare recently : 'with apologies to perfectionists in the sphere of military millinery'.   I'm also reminded of one of Conrad Kinch's 'Send Three and Fourpence' articles in Miniature Wargames magazine,  entitled something like 'The Art of Coarse Painting' - in which he adopts Management Consultant lingo re: 'Minimum Viable Product' (MVP). So, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the MVP (or as Google translator has it, Minimal Lebensfähiges Produkt )  Hussars..

So, we have our forces. Now for possibly the most difficult part - the table.  With nine hexes by nine, or 3 feet square available - bluntly, will the armies ( 21 units in all ) fit in?  This is where it may get interesting. But that will have to wait for the next post, as the hour is late, the candles almost burnt down, plenty more thought is  required, and I don't wish to overstay my welcome.

It remains to once again wish you all a very Happy New Year, let's hope 2022 is an improvement - though perhaps that won't be until our unwanted guest Mr. Omicron has done his worst. I predict a quiet January at home, which may at least allow some more  hobby time. Keep well, and safe (and 'boostered', if possible), everyone.