Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Siege of Zerfberg, Battle Report

We finally had an opportunity to put on a game on the 11th. I don't have any World War I figures, but I suppose a trenching game could be considered an appropriate theme for Armistice Day.

Players for this game were my sons Norman and William, and Norman's former college roommate Mark Zerfas. With three players (a comfortable number for my small war room), we put two on the attacking side and one defending the fort. As described on Norman's blog, Mark elected to defend the fortress, which we promptly named after him.

In terms of the ongoing Not Quite Seven Years War, we determined that this would be part of a prequel, The War of the Western League, pitting the house imagi-nations against the blue and red coated units acquired at Cold Wars in 2011. It is hoped that this war will form the basis of a trial campaign, and that we will incorporate any lessons learned before springing another campaign on the larger NQSYW assembly.

The rules used were Charge!, with siege rules additions from Dr. Duffy's book Fire and Stone. The defenders had five infantry companies, four fortress guns, and a mortar. The attackers had ten infantry companies, eight siege guns, and a mortar. This was in keeping with the recommended force ratios in Fire and Stone.

Playtesting last year showed that the defenders of the fortress could do little to impede the establishment of the first parallel, between five and six feet from the walls, so we had no qualms about starting the game a few days into the action with the establishment of the second parallel at the table's edge (due to limited space), about three feet beyond the walls. No attacking guns were in place on Day 1. Here's the opening situation:

The attacking forces of the Pragmatic Coalition opened the game by driving three saps forward toward the fortress. Defending fire caused a few scattered casualties, but was unable to delay the excavations:

On the second day (turn) General Zerfas redeployed his guns to permit concentrated fire on the center sap, which was left incomplete at the end of the day. However, saps to the right and left continued to approach the fortress, perhaps a shade too close...

The third day saw some sharp action, as four of the five defending companies sortied, three to the left of the fortress's front, and one to the right, to prevent the establishment of third parallel positions in close artillery range of the walls. The Coalition commanders, somewhat overconfident, found that they had driven the saps beyond easy supporting range of the second parallel, and they were forced to fall back, abandoning the incomplete positions:

The Coalition commanders prudently stopped to build support positions.

With the covering fire provided, a battery position on the left front of the fortress was established on Day 5. The attackers had a minor setback when the first gun dragged to the forward position on the left was promptly disabled by a hail of fire from the defenders' mortar and guns, but their rejoicing was short lived as their mortar position disappeared in a huge explosion. A Coalition mortar shell had presumably struck the powder supply ....

At that point, it was nearly over for the defenders. Most of the artillery had been dismounted, so the disparity in firepower was growing. Sorties and the constant steady stream of casualties from artillery fire and musketry had reduced the defenders to a level at which another sortie was too risky. By the eighth day, the Coalition had established breaching batteries facing both bastions.

Now it was just a matter of time until the attackers could batter a breach in the walls that would permit an assault...approximately ten days.

With no relief force in sight, and their fortress breached, the remaining League forces surrendered the fortress on the 18th day and were granted the honors of war.

It was good to get the fort out after a year of doing other NQSYW related games. We had a few rules questions, but I will save those for a supplementary post, along with a few close-up action shots from the game. I was glad to have the impetus to complete a company of Schoeffen-Buschhagen engineers, so we will be ready for future sieges.


  1. This is inspirational stuff Rob! A beautiful table, lovely miniatures and an entertaining scenario. Keen to see more.

  2. Still looks good. (and I'm still amazed that there is room for a front on that table. How did you squeeze in 3 players? :) (OK I'm just sour I wasn't able to join in)


  3. Great looking game, and went just the way a siege ought to go. In periods earlier than the Napoleonic, possibly once the breaching batteries had been established (right upon the glacis, I see!), the garrison would have been summoned to surrender. Possibly they would have declined at that point, but certainly once a practicable breach had been torn in the walls, a surrender was very likely.

    In Napoleonic Spain, the deal was different. It would be interesting just once I think to place the fortication under the command of a Philippon and see what measures he might take to defend the breach, and to discover what might be the outcome of a storm.


  4. Interesting, rather unusual and eye-candy: thanks for sharing!

  5. Rob

    Wonderful looking game. I am inspired.


  6. Thank you for demonstrating the military engineering can be just as much a 'game' of wits as the field maneuvers are.

  7. Hi Rob! I love your work and selected you for a Liebstar Award:

    Thanks for all the awesome blogging you've done!