Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of War

The table after turn 1; Duke Frederick's forces at the top, with Duke Senior's to the right. Infantry is all "in holding", waiting to be properly entered behind the cavalry but dropped on the table for convenience.  The mind's eye is blind to them where the camera is not.

I decided that I would take advantage of the possibilities of leisureliness implied by the solo format and left things set up after three turns this evening.  The basics of the scenario can be seen from the photo above.  A section of river and a bridge have been added to the previous battle's terrain.  Duke Frederick is attempting to get a significant portion of his force across the table to the bridge, and then on to the city of Arden.  Duke Senior is attempting to prevent this.  Unfortunately for him, he was lured out of position by a feint, but some lucky reconnaissance work by his light cavalry has given him a chance to recover.  Both forces are now racing for the bridge.

Rough Wooing includes enough randomness in movement and unit activation to make solo play pretty straightforward.  The first three turns have seen march delays as the two columns receive activations in less than optimal order, and the usurper's cavalry have been slow on the march despite being under the immediate watchful eye of their leader.

At the end of turn three Duke Senior has managed to deploy his gendarmes in a line facing the enemy, with some heavy lancers threatening Duke Frederick's as yet undeployed column, and the light cavalry has clashed indecisively.  His infantry are on the field, which puts him ahead of Frederick, who infantry remain off the table, their column delayed behind the dawdling horse. However, a group of Duke Frederick's heavy cavalry has headed hell-for-leather toward the bridge...
Duke Senior's lead horse prepares a charge on Duke Frederick's gendarmes, possibly nipping this rebellion in the bud.

I have not played an actual solo game since my sons became old enough to be recruited as opponents.  With the younger very busy and headed off to college soon, I'm pleased to find this evening that it is amusing, as it may be a more frequent occurrence in the future. 

Strange Oaths

Then a soldier, full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard, jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,
seeking the bubble reputation even in the cannon's mouth.

So spake Jaques, exiled lord of Duke Senior's court, as recorded by the Great Historian in his account of the civil strife of Arden, As You Like It.

I am sorry that it has been over two weeks since my last post.  In that time I've been to Michigan and back for a reunion of my college music group (see http://jeffcaminsky.blogspot.com/2010/04/brothers-in-song.html for an eloquent account and a link to one of the pieces we performed), done my taxes, and turned in two freelance jobs.  I've been carrying around Stuart Asquith's book on solo wargaming without making much progress.  I've borrowed a couple of antique molds for 40mm semiflat farm animals for near future use, to enhance the NQSYW battlefields, but I'm about ready to give the 18th century a brief rest.

I've still got the terrain from Schlegel's Gasthaus on the table, but I have pulled out my 40mm Renaissance figures, cast from Nuernberger Meisterzinn molds. (See examples above, from a game with Ross prior to Cold Wars 2009). When I log off here tonight I intend to at least set up a solo scenario (my one at-home son being busy with homework tonight).

I've got 43 stands of troops, which is a little slight for a game using Ross's Rough Wooing rules, but I've tentatively divided them into two forces (leaving off 3 of the 4 guns) and have drawn up a rudimentary scenario.  The story background is that this is an incident in the events that caused Duke Frederick to replace Duke Senior at the court of Arden, but more on that after there's actually been a game...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Field Training Maneuvers at Schlegel's Gasthaus

Following the completion of the St. Michel raid, Pragmatic forces resumed a posture of alert defense, while reinforcements were summoned, and drafts of replacements were integrated into the battered regiments, particularly the Wachovians, and the Schoeffen-Buschhagen von Nordhafen and Adelmann regiments.  Gathered at the general's table one evening, conversation among the colonels kept returning to the question of integrating the replacements as quickly as possible.  Colonel von Nordhafen (on parole and still awaiting formal exchange after his capture during the Northern Alliance counterattack on St. Stephen) observed the similarity of the terrain around Schlegel's gasthaus (in which the dinner was being held) to that of the Battle of the Tollgate some years before, and noted that the arrival of a Wachovian battery to bolster the Wachovian contingent left that contingent very similar in size to the force that he himself had led to victory at the Tollgate.  Colonel Grabowski, commander of the Wachovian infantry regiment and senior officer among the Wachovians gathered, suggested that the battle could be used as the basis of a training exercise.  A brilliant young staff officer (Captain von Reiswitz) suggested that a team of Adjudicators could permit the exercise to proceed in free play, assessing casualties by use of their military judgment and some element of chance, perhaps the roll of dice.

The Adjudicator Team explains the Exercise to Colonels Grabowski and Adelmann

After dinner was cleared the officers continued to discuss the situation, and agreed that it would be, if nothing else, an interesting experiment.  General von Stewart opined that Colonel von Nordhafen would not be violating the terms of his parole to serve as an Adjudicator, but that he (and therefore his regiment) would not take an active role.  After a ride over the proposed battlefield, Colonel Adelmann volunteered to re-enact the role of the North Polenberg commander, with two of his own companies, the S-B battery and a squadron of the Prince's dragoon guards, while Colonel Grabowski would command the force re-enacting the Schoeffen-Buschhagen role, with the Wachovian "wilderin" (poacher) light infantry, two companies of Wachovian foot, a squadron of hussars, the "Black Widow" battery, and a company of Wiegenburg infantry.  Casualties assessed by the Adjudicators would be marched to the gasthaus, and the bill for their refreshment was to be settled by the losing colonel.

The morning of the exercise arrived, and the weather was fair.  The S-B troops drew up in the formation adopted in the actual battle by the North Polenberg forces, and the Wachovians marched to positions representing the original S-B deployment.  After a final briefing to the officers involved on the rules of the engagement, a bugle call and a roll of drums signaled the start of the exercise.

On the Wachovian right, the hussars advance rapidly across the field toward the S-B guns, with the Wiegenburgers  marching in line behind them.  Adelmann cannily ordered his dragoons, deployed on his right, to cross behind his advancing infantry to prepare to cover the guns.

As the cavalry engaged in some spirited fencing under the watchful eye of the Adjudicators, the infantry lines approached to within musket range.  After listening to the volleys and tossing a few dice, the Adjudicators ruled that casualties, though light, were due at a ratio of 2:1 in favor of the S-B troops.  There was a brief pause in the action while Colonel Grabowski spurred forward to calm the angry captain of the Wachovian company, though having done so he delivered a more measured protest.

Colonel Grabowski protests the first assessment of casualties

Once this was resolved, the cavalry melee on the Wachovian right was ruled a draw.

General advance 

Colonel Grabowski considered the historical plan of sending the light infantry through the woods on his left to be sound.  Unfortunately, they advanced somewhat slowly; perhaps the woods being more tangled than those on the actual field.  In any case, accompanied by Lt. Col. Wolf of the King Rupert Jaegers as an Adjudicator (who himself had been present at the battle as a captain), they played no significant part in the exercise.  Their captain complained afterward that he had been much distracted by Wolf's incessant rehashing of how much better his men had performed in the actual battle.

Wilderen advance through the woods; column of casualties heads for the Gasthaus

After a spirited exchange of close range fire in the center, the S-B infantry charged the Wachovians.  Unfortunately for them, the Adjudicators ruled that the leftmost Wachovian company had time to fire, and when the smoke was permitted to clear to assess the situation, it was determined that the Wachovians would have won the resulting melee. 

Newly arrived Wachovian "Black Widow" battery
The cavalry melee cleared to reveal the Wiegenburgers.  (Note the artillery officers protesting to the adjudicator to the left of the guns)

While all of this was going on, on the Wachovian left flank the cavalry melee went on for some time, and the Adjudicators finally cleared it just as the Wiegenburgers came within short musket range of the guns.  In accordance with the agreed procedures, they ruled that the guns would be unable to fire effectively, and that a charge by the Wiegenburgers would undoubtedly have carried the battery had this been an actual fight.  This time it was the turn of the S-B officers on the scene to protest the ruling.

However, General von Stewart, having watched from atop a ruined tower to the left of the S-B position, now remounted his horse and ordered the buglers to sound the call marking the end of the exercise.  With his guns "captured", his cavalry still rallying, and over half his infantry assessed as casualties and already drinking at the barrels set up outside the gasthaus, Colonel Adelmann agreed that he would be compelled to withdraw to save the remnants of his force.  As the General looked on, approving of his sportsmanship, if not his tactical sense, he rode forward to congratulate Colonel Grabowski on his victory, ruefully considering the cost of beer for a thirsty brigade's worth of soldiers.
Colonel Adelmann congratulates Colonel Grabowski on his victory

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Retreat from Rosmark: Cold Wars 2010 St Michel Scenario 5

Our final game of the St Michel campaign was scheduled for 6:00pm Saturday.  That gave us a brief opportunity to rest after we reset the table.  By that point in the convention, I must admit that I was glad not to have to redo the scenery.  We did a pretty good job of keeping things organized as we went along.  Nevertheless, the setup table we were using was looking a little unsightly as we launched into this last game. 

Once the defenders were laid out, we helped the players along by adopting a reasonable order of march for the retreating Pragmatic Army.  Had we had a continuous player presence throughout, we would have asked them to organize this after Scenario 3, without knowing whether the next scenario would involve, say, an attack on the rear guard of the main column.  As it was, we briefed the order to the Pragmatic players at the beginning of the fifth game, and they did not ask to rearrange anything.  We launched into the rules explanation for the fifth time, keeping it short in deference to my croaking voice. 

While the players may not look too excited here, I think that was a result of the general energy level at the end of the convention.  They certainly stood up and played with enthusiasm when they had the opportunity.
Ross has already laid out the structure of the battle on his blog (Battle Game of the Month), so I won’t repeat it in detail.  The Northern Alliance forces remaining on the field after scenario 4 had been regrouped and deployed behind the main road, and the game began as the head of the retreating column appeared on the table, led by the Stanzbach-Anwatsch Dragoons in gray.  They spurred forward immediately to engage the Fitzjames Horse, ready for another action following their destruction of the S-B and Wachovian hussars during the counterattack in the previous scenario. 

As the cavalry fight developed, the Northern Alliance pursuit force began to appear on the table, and squadron after squadron was drawn into a furball which lasted the remainder of the game. 

While expensive in terms of casualties, this action, the largest cavalry fight seen in the Not Quite Seven Years War to date, covered the flank of the retreating column for long enough to permit the leading infantry regiments to deploy opposing the Rosmark infantry.  With that covering force in place, and gradually pressing back the outnumbered Rosians, the rest of the column pressed on for the bridge and the sanctuary of S-B territory.

The remaining Schoeffen-Buschhagen infantry, who started the day occupying the much-disputed thatched cottage, supported by the converged Pragmatic grenadiers who advanced rapidly for their position near the head of the column, resisted a final Rosian attempt to seize the bridge approaches.  They then counterattacked, clearing the stone house of Rosians, and thereby firmly opening the path to the bridge.  Meanwhile, Wachovian and Stanzbach-Anwatsch light infantry occupied the orchard, and opened a galling fire on the Rosian defenders, which contributed to the successful assault on the stone house.

With the retreat route secured,  the game (and the raid) was pretty much over.  Despite the valor of the Pragmatic forces and a tally of tactical successes, the failure to force the defenses of St Michel in the third scenario meant that the raid was unsuccessful, and it was a much downcast army that returned to S-B territory to prepare for the next campaign.
From the gamemaster’s chair, though, I was very pleased with the series of games.  I’m grateful to all the players we had over the weekend for their willingness to play along with the campaign theme even when they didn’t have to live with the consequences of their actions, and I’d certainly be willing to undertake this sort of thing again.  It’s always nice to see all of the work that we put into the troops out on display in its proper environment, and I went off ready to do some more painting, reading and casting...