Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Conclusions at Zouache - finally

Turn 9 situation - Austrians holding out well

We left ( far too long ago, unfortunately )  the Prussian attack on the Austrians at  Zouche, in my 'Soldier King' inspired campaign,  after Turn 8. As a quick recap, at the Western road the Prussian cavalry force of three regiments of elite Cuirassiers had scattered a defending regiment of  poor-quality Grenzer foot,  and now came up against the sole Austrian Heavy Cavalry unit, who had gamely engaged them - but how long could they last?  In the North, the main Prussian column of Infantry and artillery  were hoping to recover after the chaos and confusion inflicted by the rampaging Schwarzer Hussars, and another Austrian Light Cavalry unit - and were preparing to   launch a major assault on the  Austrian foot regiments of the Botta d'Adorno brigade holding  the river crossing.  Well,  I finally found the time to finish the game, and now I can give an update on how it turned out. So, without further ado.. 

Grenze Hussars causing more mayhem, briefly

Turn 9 was notable mainly for cavalry action : at the West road, the lone Austrian Cuirassier unit found itself attacked by twice its number of elite  Prussian 'Heavies', but held its ground in the resulting melee, even forcing one enemy unit to retreat. In the North, the Austrian 1st Grenze Hussars charged and ran amok, forcing both the Prussian field gun and 1st Jaegers to retire,  following-up twice and finally being halted by 1st von Kleist foot.  Once again the Austrian Light Cavalry brought disruption to the Prussian main force. Would they ever press home their attack? 

In the event,  next turn things began to go the attackers way at last - the Austrian 1st Hussars took hits in melee with von Kleist  and from a volley from Prussian Jaegers,  and were destroyed as a result - and the quality of Prussian cavalry began to tell at the Western road, with the Austrian cuirassiers reduced to 1 remaining Strength Point ( SP ). The final Prussian unit ( 3rd Jaegers ) arrived on the table, giving them five regiments against the two Austrian foot units holding the North bridge - and the 1st von Kleist foot were first to charge against the 1st Botta regiment in its defensive position. The melee was initally inconclusive, but continued for the next four turns with losses on both sides, 1st Von Kleist actually fighting  both Austrian regiments at various times, and  allowing the rest of the Prussian foot to come up into firing range. Losses at end of Turn 10 were level, at 11 SP each - bad news for the weaker Austrian force. Was the tide beginning to turn?

Von Kleist charges - with powerful backup

Prussian pressure was maintiained in Turn 11, starting with their howitzer scoring a  hit which finally broke  the Austrian Cuirassiers.  Their place was taken immediately by 2nd Grenze Hussars, but the chances for one Light Cavalry unit agains three Prussian Heavy Cavarly regiments did not look good. and they straight away  sufffered a first 1SP loss in melee. Meanwhile in the North, the two Botta foot  regiments each lost 1 SP, attacked by the Prussian foot using both  musketry and the bayonet.  Losses now Prussians 13 SP, Austrians 14 SP - 6 Austrian losses in only 2 turns, and  now only 2 SP between them and Exhaustion Point. 

On the next turn, in the West a combination of howitzer fire and Prussian charges pushed the Austrian 2nd Hussars back over the bridge, allowing Prussian cavalry to finally cross the river.  In the North, Prussian foot continued to advance, as the  Austrian 1st Botta regmiment remained locked in combat with 1st von Kleist, holding on determinedly to their fortified postion - von Kleist did however manage to force 2nd Botta to retire, back over the bridge.   But that very determination to hold their ground  cost the Austrians  dear,  when on Turn 13  1st Botta suffered another hit in close combat with von Kleist, and yet another from a volley by 1st Jaegers,  and took  2 SP losses rather than be pushed out of their defensive position - these were the 16th and 17th  Austrian SP losses, which took them to 'Exhaustion Point'.  From now on they could make  no aggressive moves, only hold on or retreat.  Turn 13 had certainly been unlucky for General Dachs.

Turn 14, Austrians hard pushed in the North ( profusion of pennies indicating losses ) 

On Turn 14 the Austrians started well, their gunners scoring  a hit that finished off 1st von Kleist foot, worn out by its multiple charges on the Austrian foot.  But Prussian musket fire from their Fusiliers and Jaegers scored a further two hits on 1st Botta foot -  this time they retreated to avoid destruction, being pushed back over the bridge to join their 2nd Botta comrades. In turn, 1st Botta's own fire at least drove  2nd Jaeger back.  

Turn 15, the last of the game - the depleted Austrian forces won the initiative die roll but could make no aggressive moves, and elected to simply stand - but their gunners scored a lucky hit which killed the von Kliest's brigadier, who had joined the Prussian Fusilier regiment after his own troops had been knocked out. This unfortunate gentleman's loss cost the Prussians 3 SPs - dangerous for them.  Their own howitzer ended a successful day by  hitting and finally eliminating 2nd Botta regiment. Knowing that exhaustion loomed, the Prussian commander urged his cavalry  on in a last charge, with 2 Cuirassier units slamming into Austrian 2nd Hussars, who lost 1 SP but held on agianst the odds. A general advance of Prussian foot in the North looked to finally cross the bridge against little opposition.

Final charge of  the Prussian Heavy Horse

And so it finsihed,  as the end of  Turn 15 brought welcome darkness to the exhausted troops. Exhausted indeed - a tally of the losses came to  Austrians 19 SP,   Prussians 21 SP - both sides well and truly passing their respective Exhaustion Points.   So, in terms of the tabletop game, a draw - but from the campaign perspective, I think quite a bad reverse for General Dachs and his Austrians. They  suffered the complete loss of five regiments, who will be eliminated from the campaign game ( units only 'damaged' by partial loss of strength points will continue, and re-gain strength as further recruits come in ).    The Prussians lost only a couple of regiments, albeit experienced ones, though they were unlucky to have one brigadier wounded and one killed, costing 5 SPs in all - if not for those two losses, they would not have reached Exhaustion Point.   

I should put in a word for the gunners - though unable to open fire until Turn 7,  the Prussian howitzer took 3 SPs from the Austrians, delivering the final  coup de grace to both the Austrian Cuirassiers and 2nd Botta regiment. The Austrian field guns scored no less than 6 SPs of hits against the Prussians, battering the Fusilier regiment for 2 SPs, finishing off 1st von Kleist and finally killing its Brigadier!  Only the Prussian field gun did badly, spending a lot of time trying to avoid the attention of various Austrian Hussars. 

How it ended  - darkness will be welcome to all

Phew. I have limited time and space for games, and this took  four gaming  sessions, spread over 6 weeks - I didn't mean to  be quite  so slow!  But worth it, I think, and good to run a slightly larger game and prove it could work in the limited space. Bob Cordery's 'Division Level' Portable Wargame rules turned out to be just about right for the task. At least with a small table, simple hex terrain and relatively small forces and units, the setting-up and dismantling of the game at each session was quite quick. 

So, where next with the campaign? Well, winter is coming - both sides will go into winter quarters and try to raise new recruits to their armies.  But they may also take the opportunity to open negotiations  - in particular the Austrians must be worried about the losses they have taken, and the threat to their 'home' territories. Perhaps it's time for diplomacy?

As usual, I hope you've enjoyed following this, as I certainly did playing and writing it up. Time for  a change of period next time?  Meanwhile thanks for reading this far, and keep well, and safe, everyone. 


Saturday, 19 March 2022

It's Only A Game..

Sad news for the wargame blogging community this week, with the ( I hope temporary ) suspension  of Norm's brilliant 'Battlefields and Warriors' blog.  He says  "I have come to realise that a far too significant proportion of my spare time / behaviour is being drawn to the screen to the point that other areas of life / wargaming relatively diminish."  Also as an example, he mentioned his latest post about boargaming Ligny, which was 4000 words long "and yet by today had garnered just 5 different voices in the comments". That last point makes me feel particularly guilty. I have hugely enjoyed Norm's blog since finding it, especially his fantastic extended game reports, but I haven't very often commented. I think that's probably been at least partly because I haven't felt able to add much that would match up to Norm's very high standards and wonderfully thoughtful writing! Of course one could just say 'great post, thanks!' but there's a limit to how often you can do that..  Ironically I had only just got round to reading the Ligny post, and was thinking about leaving a grateful comment (yes, honestly!), when Norm announced his break and disabled comments on his blog. Sorry Norm!

I think Norm makes a very good point about screen time vs. 'real' time : there are so many blogs out there, let alone Facebook groups, YouTube channels, etc etc, one could just spend all one's spare time on them and never do any actual gaming, let alone post to one's own blog! In Norm's case, he must also spend quite a large amount of time commenting on other blogs, again always giving greatly perceptive and thoughtful input. On this blog, I feel I've been amazingly lucky with the quantity and quality of comments I've received from the start, and I'm very, very grateful to all who have contributed. I think one should probably write a blog mainly for one's own enjoyment , or at least 'what sort of thing would I like to read?' , but it's always a great encouragement to get some nice comments - and it must be rather depressing to put the effort into a blog post, and get no response, as one sometimes sees. Having said that, despite the prevalence of 'bots' skewing the statistics, one can also be encouraged by the numbers of views on the blog - and I note that Norm said he was getting 12,000 views per month, to which all I can say is, wow! I am really chuffed if I get one-tenth of that number - and thanks again, to all who look in now and again and add to those figures.

Anyway, I do hope Norm's absence is not a long one, and I promise to leave more appreciative comments in future! It was great to see the many positive responses to Jon Freitag's post on the same subject, and I must also mention a really fantastic post, also inspired by Norm's announcement, from Aaron/Prufrock on his 'Here's No Great Matter' blog.  He makes the crucial point that "The important thing is to recognise that a hobby has to be about enjoyment. It can't be about meeting expectations - well, it can be for a while, but that is unsustainable."  ,  and I think that's what we should all remember - it's only a game, after all.  Post on your blog when you feel good about it, enjoy it, and  don't feel under pressure.  If a post is getting too long, you can always split it up, and give 'em a cliffhanger! ( I am seriously guilty of doing that with my recent game report, I know!).  

Soldier King: first real outing in decades!

In other news: I  recently ventured out, for the first time in over two years, to 'Drafts' boargame cafe in London's Waterloo, to meet gaming buddies Napoleon Dave and Rupert the Boardgamer, and for a not-too-challenging return to gaming we had a go at 'Soldier King' , the game I've been using to drive my 7YW campaign for this blog. I think I bought it pretty much on first publication, which I see was 40 years ago ( ouch!) , and I doubt if it has been actually played since the 80s ( Simon Bryant and Tony Toms of the Medway area, are you out there? ) .  The cafe was scarily noisy and crowded with 'young persons', which I admit unnerved me somewhat - we debated, was it always like that? (we were always the oldest customers in the place, that's for sure!) But the game was fun, and went well, despite a quirk of the map design that seemed to give a distinct possibility that one player could win the game on turn one!  I failed ( luckily for my popularity!) to  exploit that, and we got through a good number of turns in a 3-hour session, and enjoyed a chat ( over the noise!) and some decent food and drinks - and as far as I know, none of us got Covid, somewhat to my surprise! Thanks, Dave and Rupert. 

Finally I want to highlight a couple of recent magazines, if you'll indulge me. First up, 'Miniature Wargames' issue 467 ( March 2022 ) - John Treadaway has excelled himself with this issue, there's some really good stuff in it, I think, such as: 

 (a) Conrad Kinch's regular column,  featuring  a fun '18th Century Kriegspiel' game he has played remotely with his friends using a simple magnetic whiteboard and home-made terrain and unit markers, with a scenario pinched from C.S. Grant - quite inspiring, and emphasises how such setups can be a surprisingly realistic 'command experience' for the players.    

(b) a really excellent 8-page article from Peter Warren of Anschluss Publishing, the  'Malati Bridge' scenario for Sicily 1943,  designed for their 'The War on the Ground' rules, but adaptable to other Battalion/Battlegroup level WW2 rules.  I remember their excellent game at 'Salute' lat year, and I quite fancy to get the rules, if only for the sake of reading them! 

(c) John's report on the 'Broadside' show in December -  can't see myself in the pics, though! Maybe that's for the best..

(d) Dave Tuck's 'The Battle of the Ginnis, a tribute to Peter Gilder's Sudan Campaign Rules' with the players all being British commanders and the umpire controlling the Mahdists,  or equally playable as a solo game. Interesting ideas, vintage figures, and  Peter Gilder's legacy lives on.. 

(e) Gerry Sutcliff's 'An Army in a Day' - painting an entire 2mm scale  army in a day. Which makes me strangely tempted to try it, albeit this would be a gratuitous piece of 'mission creep'! Hmmm, 1859 Italy, maybe? 

(f) book reviews including Arthur Harman's review of 'Paddy Griffiths' Game of War: Reflections of a Lifetime of Wargaming'  from the History of Wargaming Project. Pretty much  everything Paddy Griffith wrote is worth reading, surely? 

... 'and many, many  more' as the K-Tel TV ads used to say..


 and finally 'Arqubusier' , the journal of The Pike and Shot Society, volume XXXVII number 5. This has been rather delayed, for which the editor apologises ( did I hear a rumour that he had a major IT malfunction? ) .  I like the editorial comment where he says 'The Chairman has given the Temporary Editor a very stern talking to!'   -  the Chairman being  Stephen Ede-Borrett, and the Temporary Editor - Steven Ede-Borrett...

I've not read it all yet, but here's the contents page, with some interesting stuff as always: 

They seem to have a bit more wargame-y content these days, alongside the purely historical. I'll be interested to read Robbie Roddis' account of The Army of Cesare Borgia, and also David Flintham's pieces on London and King's Lynn in the Civil Wars -  I think these may be versions of the on-line talks he has given for the Battlefields Trust .   I do very much  like the P&SS;  the period  was my wargaming 'first love', mainly thanks to Goerge Gush and C.V. Wedgewood, and I really must get it into this blog!  One article I have read is a glowing review  of Barry Hilton's 'Every Bullet Has Its Billet: a guide to wargaming the late 17th Century'.  I may or may not ever game the period, but if the review is to be believed, the book will be well worth reading anyway. 

That's probably too much from me, but I have enjoyed writing it, so that's the main thing. Next time, I hope to finally complete the account of the Battle at Zouache - which has been three months in the making.. I can reveal that the actual game has been completed at last! 

Until then  keep  safe, and well, everyone, and keep enjoying your hobby - it's only a game, after all.








Tuesday, 8 March 2022

The Action at Zouache - part 2

Before we were so rudely interrupted,  we left the Prussian attack on the town of Zouache ( in my 'Soldier King' boardgame-based campaign )  after only three turns, though there had been plenty of action due to the pell-mell charge of the Austrian Schwarzer Hussars.   This single unit had stopped the Prussians' main column in its tracks, its infantry having to face about to meet the threat from behind, all thoughts of attack temporarily forgotten. Quite a start! 

The battle continued, with two distinct actions going on - first the Prussian cavalry and their attempt to force a crossing of the western bridge,  and then the 'main event' of the Prussian infantry and artillery column in the North, trying to regain the initiative after the shock of the Hussars ambush. We'll look at them one at a time, starting in the West. 

Opposing Cuirassiers at  the western bridge  
 With the Austrians' 1st Grenze foot threatened by no less than three regiments of Elite Prussian Cuirassiers, the defenders' situation looked challenging,  to say the least. On Turn 4, Austrian general Dachs  ordered his single Cuirassier unit towards the bridge, to offer assstance to the Grenzers. 1st and 3rd Prussian Cuirassiers threatened the Austrian foot from the front, while 2nd Cuirassiers circled to the North, aiming to take the infantry in the rear - on Turn 5, the Grenzers  gave them a brisk volley, driving the horsemen back.  

Meanwhile the Austrian Erzerhog Cuirassiers cantered  across the bridge and charged - hitting the Prussian 3rd Cuirassiers, and starting a milling cavalry fight that continued without conclusion, until on Turn 7 the dice decided it had gone on long enough - both sides took a hit, and both got a 'retreat' result, rather realistically falling back from each other for a brief respite. At the same time  the Prussian 2nd Cuirassiers charged the Grenzer foot, who took a hit, and lost 1SP, which left them with only 1SP remaining.  

Turn 8 : last gasp for Grenzer foot
With things looking perilous for the foot, the Austrian Cuirassiers had little alternative but to charge back into melee in support, resuming their fight with 3rd Cuirassiers. The dice was against the Austrian horse, and they took a 1 SP loss  - but they continued fighting, keeping the Prussians  engaged in melee through Turn 8, and crucially keeping the road to the bridge closed. However this was not enough to save the Grenzer foot, who finally went down under a succession of charges from Prussian 1st and 2nd Cuirassiers, losing their final SP on Turn 8 and being wiped out. Given the odds, they had put up a decent fight. 


Hussars running amok, Prussians in chaos
The main event, and the focus of both sides' major efforts, continued to be in the North, where the main Prussian column had been thrown into such confusion by the Schwarzers ambush. Here, Austrian commander had ordered his 1st Grenze Hussars foward over  the northern bridge to assist the Schwarzers, and on Turn 4 they joined in the fight - charging 1st von Kleist foot from behind, while the Schwarzers gave the same treatment to the limbered  Prussian howitzer unit. More confusion for the Prussians, now assailed by two bodies  of Hussars!   The Prussian Fusilier regiment tried close combat against the Schwarzers -  only to be forced to retreat - and the Prussian Howitzers tried to slip away towards the nearby wooded hill. This all added up to anothet turn of precisely zero progress in the attack on Zouache town. 

Turn 5 saw the Austrians win the initiative die roll again - the dice really were  favouring them.   1st Grenzer Hussars continued their melee with 1st Von Kleist foot, while the Schwarzers charged yet again, catching the limbered Howitzers once more, and taking 1 SP from them. Encouraged by the mayhem being inflicted on the Prussians,  Dachs ordered his 2nd Botta foot forward, crossing the northern bridge to support their entrenched comrades there, and put more pressure on the hapless Prussians. 

But on the Prussian turn things began to look up. Their Fusiliers loosed off a volley against the Schwarzer Hussars, and inflicted 1 SP loss on them - their first significant casualties ( by this point they had inflicted 4SP losses on Prussian units!). The two von Kleist units, with a combination of close combat and firepower, forced  1st Grenze Hussars to retreat twice, and the Prussians were able to bring on reinforcements - 1st Jaeger foot, led by their brigadier, arrived and lunged straight into close combat with  the wavering Schwarzers. Some measure of relief for the Prussians, though Turn 5 ended with losses at Prussia -7SP to Austria -2SP.

Next turn,  the by now obligatory Austrian initiative win saw them play first again, with the Schwarzers continuing to harry the Prussian howitzers, and the Grenzer Hussars forcing 2nd von Kleist regiment to retreat - with disastrous consequences, as this brought the Prussian unit into musket range of both Botta regiments - who promptly volleyed, and took 2 SPs from the von Kleists - a shattering blow! 

The Prussian infantry now responded with their own muskets - 1st von Kleist regiment took 1 SP from the Grenze Hussars, and 1st Jaegers finally dealing the fatal blow to the Schwarzer Hussars by taking a second SP off them - as a 'Poor' rated unit, that was the end of their brief but glorious fight .They had caused complete confusion and stopped the main Prussian column dead in its tracks, and inflicted double the losses they suffered themselves - heroic stuff.  

The end of the Schwarzer Hussars
 All this time, neither side's artillery had been able to fire - the Prussians being still limbered ( and trying to dodge enemy Hussars ), and the Austrians simply out of range.  But by Turn 7, the Prussian howitzer unit had reached the wooded hill, - within range of the Austrian gunners! Who promptly missed, but the howitzers,  having lost 1SP already, were in rather a risky position.  

At last,  the Prussians won the initiative for Turn 7, and the Howitzers were able to unlimber, looking to bombard the Austrian Grenzer foot guarding the western bridge ( they did not have the range to reply to the Austrian guns ). 

Von Kleist foot kept up their volleys, again forcing the Grenzer Hussars to retreat.Their field gun unit  also unlimbered, and the 2nd Jaeger regiment arrived on-table: Prussian numbers finally beginning to build up. But the Austrians fought back, with 2nd Botta regiment's musketry forcing 2nd Von Kleist to retreat, and 1st Grenze Hussars charging in, taking the final SP and scattering the hapless 2nd Von Kleist regiment. The Hussars surged forward again, now charging the unlimbered Prussian field guns before they had the chance to fire. 

Turn 8 began with both sides' artillery able to fire - the Prussian Howitzers bombarding the Grenzer foot at the Western bridge, but missing.  The Austrian gunners were more successful, and the unfortunate howitzers were forced to retreat. More bad news for the Prussian artillery followed, with the Field Guns attacked by 1st Grenze Hussars, and losing 1 SP.  But finally the Prussian foot began to rally.  A volley from 2nd Jaegers again drove the Hussars back, and the Fusiliers were at  last able to resume the advance towards the northern bridge. Now the Prussians had four foot regiments available, with one more Jaeger unit still to arrive, with which to assail the two Botta regiments by the bridge - as long as they could keep those annoying Hussars at bay.

Turn 7: Hussars fight on, but will Prussian numbers tell?
 And there we must leave things, for now. It's been a ding-dong fight so far, both sides giving and taking casualties, and fortunes ebbing and flowing often,  within the same turn. The Prussian cavalry have made some progress and may be able to use their numbers to sweep the Austrian Cuirassiers aside and cross the Western bridge, while their infantry in the north finally disposed of the rampaging Schwarzer Hussars, and are marshalling their superior numbers for a push at the northern bridge, where weight of firepower may be telling.  But perhaps crucially, the price has been high  - at the end of Turn 8, casualties stand at Prussians -11SP,  Austrians -7SP. Both sides have 9 SP to spare before reaching exhaustion, at which point the attackers would have to call off their assault.  It's worth noting that the difference of 4 SPs between the protagonists losses is the number inflicted by those swashbuckling Schwarzer Hussars, who behaved heroically in their first fight, despite their raw ( rated 'inferior' in the rules ) status. With their wild charge falling upon the Prussian column, they may well prove to  have done enough to save the Austrian position at Zouache. 

With apologies for the delayed appearance of this episode,  'time and space', ghastly world events  and the toad, work having intervened  -  my next task is to reset the table and play out the denoument. Will Prussian discipline and numbers prevail? Or have their early reverses cost them too much? Will the plucky defenders hang on? We can only wait and see.. Until next time, keep well, and safe, everyone.  


Thursday, 3 March 2022

Fnurban #13: Do They Mean Us?

I thought a change of tone might be required: I just happened to see the below post when 'doomscrolling' in the random search page on Instagram.  I think it's referring to how ladies might beware of certain  gentlemen they might meet on Tumblr, which I am informed is "an American microblogging and social networking website" ,  presumably used by young persons.

Anyway - do they mean us? 

 Do you know anyone fitting that description? Surely not..


Many thanks to all who viewed and/or commented on my previous post, which rather surprisingly turned out to be the most-viewed post on this blog ( aside from those affected by 'the great Swedish bot  attack' last summer).  I hope my thoughts may have been of interest  to some of you. 

Of course the situation in Ukraine continues to be horrible and tragic, and a million people have fled to neighbouring countries, creating a huge humanitarian emergency.  In the UK, The Disasters Emergency Committee 'brings together 15 leading UK aid charities, raising funds to quickly and effectively respond to overseas disasters' - they have set up a Ukraine appeal, and their website, through which British readers who are so minded  can make donations, is here : https://www.dec.org.uk/ 

Next time  we will finally re-join the Soldier King campaign as battle continues at Zouache. Meanwhile, I salute the bravery of the people of Ukraine.  Keep safe and well, everyone.