Thursday, 24 February 2022

The Darkest Day


photo from Sky News - I hope they won't mind me using it

I had planned to post a game report tonight - but given the news from Ukraine, it did not seem appropriate.  

This is the darkest day.  There is a hideous, brutal attack on freedom itself, and on all of us who value freedom.  Individually there may be  nothing we can do about it, but we can think, and feel, and we can speak. I hope our hearts and minds are with the people of Ukraine as they face the possible ruin of their hopes, for no remotely valid reasons.  I hold no grudge against the people of Russia; this barbarity springs from the mind of just one man.

We who share a hobby which  itself engages  with warfare, and involves a necessary interest in military history,  may need to take a pause to think about ourselves, too. There is perhaps a natural tendency to be curious and 'nerdily' interested about the mechanics and details of what is going on - but we should be mindful that this is not like a wargame, this is a very real, large-scale horror, unfolding in real time.  I am thus not going  to get into a 'what if' frame of mind, not going  to speculate about how things might turn out, and who might 'win'. There will be no 'winners', only different degrees of loss.  I'm afraid that there is little hope of 'the good guys winning', at least in the short term.  In the long term, we need to remember them,  keep thinking of them, and not forget what is being done to them today. 

We might also think about our hobby and our approach to it, as plenty of others would doutbless accuse us of glorifying the sort of violence unleashed today.  I have never really been able to put my finger on 'the reason why' my interests have bent this way, and I am not sure I could confidently defend against such attacks.  Perhaps at least by acquiring some knowledge, we are aware of the horrors of war, and hopefully less eager to promote the real thing as a result?  And of course we should be clear that we are only playing a game, which can, in the final analysis, have not the slightest resemblance to the real thing - thankfully.

Enough said, I think. I don't know if this has helped me, or any of you. I don't know how this will turn out - except that we can be sure that no good will come of it.  Stokes at the Grand Duchy of Stollen said 'there are no words', and he is probably more eloquent and profound as a result. But I wanted to at least say something,  not just let it go, as only pictures and sounds from 'a far-away country, of which we know little'.   I hope you will allow me that.

Keep well, and safe, everyone.  

Sunday, 13 February 2022

Soldier King campaign : Battle joined at Zouache

After rather too much thinking and many adjustments to the table, I finally made a start with the battle at Zouache in my 'Soldier King'  Seven Years War period campaign. Even then, due to issues of  'time and space' as ever, the despatch riders from the battle front have been somewhat delayed. But we can relay their contents now, and I can start by showing  an 'aerial view' of the battlefield: 

Austrian defenders await the onslaught

The armies are as described a couple of posts back : the Austrians are in position and awaitng the Prussian attack, with ( broadly ) their Botta d'Adorno infantry brigade, and their gunners covering the northern road and bridge,  the 'Grenzer' foot guarding the western approach, and the cavalry mostly held in reserve, save for the 'Schwarzer' Hussars  cunningly concealed on the wooded hill, hoping  to ambush the Prussian northern column. 

The Prussians have their infantry and guns arriving on the northern road, and their powerful cavalry (three regiments of elite Cuirassiers )  from the west.  I thought I'd add some uncertainty into the arrival timings, with the aid of the dice - each column would roll a dice each turn, with a 5 or 6 required to arrive on turn 1,  then a 4,5 or 6 on turn 2 and so on.  

The rules being used are from Bob Corderey's  'Portable Napoleonic Wargame' - the Division-level game,   with some improvised amendments for the Seven Years War period ( mainly to compel Infantry to deploy in line to fight , and not use squares or  attack columns ).   For command and initiative, I used Bob's playing-card driven activation system - the Austrians will get to activate 4,5 or 6 units per turn, and the more numerous Prussians 5,6 or 7 units. I completely arbitrarily decided that the daylight ( and thus the game)  would last 15 turns - a 'Neil Thomas' day?

And so to Turn 1 : which Prussian column would appear first? The dice were rolled, and neither column rolled high enough. The eerie calm about the town remained; for the Prussians, precious time ticked away. But on Turn 2, the dice favoured the Prussians, and both columns arrived on their respective roads. I decided that on the arrival move for each column, as many units could be introduced as the physical space and move distances allowed - the  activation  card system  would apply from the following turn. Accordingly, all three Prussian Cuirassier  regiments advanced up the western road, while in the North the von Kleist Brigade led, in march column along the road, followed by the field guns, then the 44th Fusilers moving South from the road, and finally the howitzer unit. 

Enter the Prussians..

Action was immediate - Prussian 1st Cuirassiers charging at the 1st Grenze infantry in their entrenched positon - and being repulsed. The  Grenzers' position controlled the road, and the Prussians would not be able to reach the bridge without contacting them. The other two Cuirassier units fanned out, 2nd regiment swinging North with the aim of outflanking the Grenzers. 

The defenders used the normal card activation system from the start, and drew  5 activations. And they started well - the 1st Grenzers let go a volley at their 1st Cuirassier attackers, scored a hit, and inflicted the first SP loss of the game.  The Austrian 'secret weapon' was unleashed - the Schwarzer Hussars emerged from the wooded, hill and came down 'like the wolf on the fold' charging the flank of the Prussian  Fusiliers!  Fortune was  with them - in the resulting close combat die roll, the Fusilers took a hit, and elected to lose 1 SP rather than  retreat  - because the rules would  allow the cavalry to simply follow up a retrest, and keep attacking.  First blood to the Austrians, 2 SPs to nil, and a sharp start to the action. 

Schwarzer Hussars pounce on Prussian column..

At the start of turn 3, artillery fire was an option, but both Prussian gun untis  were still limbered and on the move, and  the Austrian gun on the northern hill had no target in range. The initiative die roll gave Austria first move, and the dice continued well and truly in their favour  First the Grenzer foot fired again, this time  at 3rd Cuirassier, forcing a retreat - but also wounding the accompanying Brigadier - and 2 more SPs lost!  The Schwarzer Hussars charged again, and again the Fusiliers took a hit, this time opting to retreat  and allowing the Hussars to follow-up - which brought them into contact with the limbered-up Prussian field guns, a juicy target! The dice rolled, and again the Schwarzers won - the gun unit retreated one hex, and the Hussars again followed-up - that now  brought them into contact with the rear of the von Kleist brigade column.  Roll those dice again - they won again! Von Kleist brigade suffered a 'lose SP' result - and the rules say that where two foot units are in the dame hex, both units must suffer the SP loss. So, 1 SP loss for each of the Von Kleist units. Quite a spectacular run of victories for the Schwarzer Hussars - a raw unit, in their first fight!   


Schwarzers getting amongst 'em: chaos ensued!

 The Prussian main column had been thrown into thorough disarray by the rampaging Hussars.  Austrian General Dachs saw his chance for an 'aggressive defence', moving his 1st Grenzer Hussars over the North bridge to threaten the Prussian column even  more, and 1st Botta foot to the bridge in support.


Grenzers in a tight spot..

On their turn the Prussians drew 7 activations, much needed. In the West, the entrenched Grenzer foot suffered charges from both 1st and 3rd Cuirassiers  - the 1st were again repelled, but the 3rd did better, and the Grenzers suffered the first Austrian SP loss ( and being rated  'poor', they only had 3 SPs to start with ). How long could they hold out against repeated charges?  

Turn 3:in the North, defenders attack!  

In the North the Prussians tried to restore some order from the chaos inflicted by rampaging Austrian Hussars - Fusiliers and von Kleist foot hurriedly shaking out into battle lines against them, and the Howitzer unit making for the wooded hill. And so a tumultuous turn ended, with losses standing at Austrians 1SP, Prussians 6SP - a rocky start for the attackers! 

End of Turn 3 - a pretty good start

 The main Prussian column in the North has been thrown into confusion by the descent of the Schwarzer Hussars, its advance stopped in its tracks,  and the Austrians are throwing more cavalry forward, aiming to mulitply the chaos - but the numbers are with the attackers, and there are no less than three more infantry regiments waiting to enter the fight. In the West, the lone Grenzer foot unit looks to be in trouble against three Elite quality Heavy Cavalry units, but have inflicted some pain ( and 3 SP losses ) on their assailants and their brigade commander, and if the Prussian horse do eventually  brush past  and over the bridge, they will run into four more Austrian units.  So it looks interesting - and a good point to take a break, before this post gets a shade too long.  I hope this has been fun to read, as it certainly was to play, and now that the despatches  have started to arrive back at respective headquarters, there will be more to tell quite soon.   Until then, keep well, and safe, everyone.