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Monday, 13 January 2020

The Battle of Mollwitz, 10th April 1741

Reflecting on the success of the re-fight of 'The Battle of Sittangbad' (see previous post), my thoughts naturally turned to doing something similar for my next game. What could be more obvious than to draw inspiration from the companion book to Charge!, namely The War Game, written of course by Charles Grant and published in 1971. In this book the 'big battle' was the representation of The Battle of Mollwitz.

Re-reading the very full and enjoyable account in Mr Grant's book, it was obvious that although he had done his research and had assembled historically appropriate forces, he had allowed the players to deploy however they wanted and had also decided not to bother with the issues of troop quality which were (for me) one of the most interesting factors in the real battle. As a consequence, the battle as fought by Charles Grant and his friends, whilst being obviously most enjoyable and a fine spectacle, bore very little resemblance to the actual battle. Having done a bit of online research, I wanted to try and include all the various historical factors which made Mollwitz so interesting.

What to do? Rather obviously, I decided on playing two games, one based firmly on the 1971 re-fight, and another where I tried to be a bit more historical. This post deals with the former. I'll save most of the historical stuff for the next post, but basically Mollwitz was the first battle of the War of the Austrian Succession, and also Frederick the Great's first battle. It was reasonably small, featuring total forces of about 20,000 on each side. The Austrians had more and better cavalry, the Prussians had more and better infantry. Along with other fascinating features such as the snow-covered landscape and Frederick leaving the battle prematurely when the Prussians were losing (only for the Prussians to win in the end), it is a battle full of interest for the wargamer. The best online source is on the rather wonderful 'Obscure Battles Blog':


For the Grant battle, some of you may remember the 2013 re-fight at the Partisan show, featuring (among others) Charles S. Grant, Stuart Asquith and Henry Hyde, as well as the original figures and buildings. Phil Olley's 'Classic Wargaming Blog' retains a fine record of the event:


My own re-run would of course be nowhere near as grand. but I would try and stick with the same terrain and deployment as in 1971, whilst using my own rules. For those not possessing the book, the map from The War Game is shown below - Austrians at the top, Prussians below:


As with the Charge! rules, the Charles Grant rules as used for Mollwitz have little or no role for Generals or Brigadiers, or much in the way of organisation below army level. However, to use my rules a bit of brigading was needed, and the forces were organised as below. The numbers relate to the units on the original map.

Prussia (Frederick/Schwerin)

Left Wing Cavalry (Posadowsky)
1 cuirassier regiment (27)
1 dragoon regiment (28)
1 hussar regiment (29)

Infantry Brigade (Marwitz)
2 infantry battalions (25, 26)
2 grenadier battalions (23, 24)
1 field battery (20)

Infantry Brigade (Leopold)
4 infantry battalions (18, 19, 21, 22)
2 field batteries (20 x 2)

Right Wing Infantry Brigade (Schülenberg)
2 infantry battalions (16, 17)                                                    16 units

Austria (Neipperg)

Cavalry Brigade (Römer)
2 cuirassier regiments (10, 11)
2 dragoon regiments (12, 13)

Cavalry Brigade (Berlichingen)
2 hussar regiments (14, 15)

Infantry Brigade (Harrach)
1 grenadier battalion (9)
2 infantry battalions (6, 7)
1 field battery (8)

Infantry Brigade (Göldy)
4 infantry battalions (1, 2, 4, 5)
1 field battery (3)                                                                         15 units

Scenario conditions
All generals are dependable. The combined Prussian army commanders count as one general. All units are regular except the grenadiers and cuirassier which are superior.
Hills are gentle. The line of trees between Grunningen and Hermsdorf counts as an obstacle, blocks LOS, and should generally be treated as the edge of a wood. Units must be in contact with the trees to see or be seen through them, or to fire or be fired at.
The first side reduced to half strength loses. 

And so there we were. My local friend Roy was good enough to come round and play out the resulting contest with me - he took the Austrians, I was the Prussian commander. I set up the table as per the Grant map, (a 7.5' x 6' table was in use), and my 16 figure infantry units and 8 figure cavalry units fitted in quite well with the book deployment. However, I will be the first to admit that the magnificent spectacle of the original table, as re-created for the Partisan show, was far in excess of anything you see here.

The Game

And they're off! The Prussians grind forward, whilst the Austrians deploy their infantry into line and
commence a threatening flanking move with their cavalry.
Prussian fusiliers move forward through Hermsdorf.
Roy used his superior cavalry to much greater effect than the players in the original battle.
Whilst the cuirassiers and hussars move in, the dragoons circle out to the Austrian extreme right,
 to exploit the inevitable victory.
The Prussians shake out into line. I misjudged the positioning of my infantry flank guard,
which was to have disastrous consequences.
Overview as the game entered its middle phase. In the background the Austrian cavalry is poised for success.
The Austrian infantry are nicely deployed, and the Prussian guns begin to engage.
Roy assumes an expression of appropriate smugness as the Prussian cavalry goes under.
The Austrian dragoons on the left of the picture are ready for the exploitation phase.
Oh dear me. There don't appear to be any Prussian cavalry left!
And there is nothing between the Austrian cavalry and my gun line!
The Prussian infantry plough on, hoping for a miracle.
But with no advantage in quality or numbers, a successful frontal attack seems unlikely.
By the next move, a grenadier unit has to turn around to face the cavalry threat to the Prussian flank and rear.
The orange dice indicate a number of attacking Prussian units are already weakened by Austrian fire.
End phase. Everything starts to go horribly wrong for the Prussians as the Austrian hussars
prepare to charge the hurriedly re-deploying (and horribly exposed) Prussian guns.
Well, that wasn't supposed to happen. A sequence of murderously effective Austrian volleys sweeps
a swathe of Prussian infantry units from the table in front of Mollwitz.
A further overview as the game ends on move 7.
The Prussians have been comprehensively defeated.
Oops. Where did all the Prussian infantry go?

Roy's tactics were straightforward but ruthlessly effective. If I had deployed an infantry flank guard on the left of the Prussian infantry line, I could have made more of a fight of it. Perhaps I should have also tried to strike the left of the Austrian line near Grunningen as the Prussian forces in the 1971 battle, but I'm not sure this would have worked.

Conclusion
A very enjoyable 3 hours of wargaming (including the preparatory briefing and the usual bit of chat before we started). My own 'historical' re-fight is scheduled for about three weeks time. Of course, the term 'historical' should be taken with a large pinch of salt - playing with toy soldiers always has an extremely limited relationship to the events of real battles. Anyway, we'll see if the Prussians can do better and repeat their victory from 1741.

See you then!

Thursday, 19 December 2019

The Battle of Sittangbad

So, time for some real historical wargaming again. Just for once the stars aligned and five of my wargaming friends were available for a game. The get-together was intended as a low key tribute to Stuart, so what else could I consider but a re-fight of the big battle from his favourite book, Charge!. As far as any real wargamer is concerned, of course, Sittangbad is an historical engagement in its own right. The date is given as 13th September 1766 in the book, and as the book came out in 1967 I'm convinced the battle was actually wargamed on 13th September 1966 then back-dated 200 years.

The original map from Charge!, with the position of the redoubt added in.
My representation. Table size 7.5' x 6'.

An additional attraction was that the battle could feature a number of the figures Stuart had gifted to me during our friendship, in particular all of the required command figures and all of the Imperial infantry. A downside was that my own units were a third of the size of those in the original battle. Playing using the Charge! rules would be an issue for this reason alone, not to mention that the full Charge! rules are not much to my liking and would be largely a mystery to the other players. So the re-fight would employ my own Post of Honour rules.

With smaller numbers of figures per unit, more units overall would be appropriate. I decided doubling the number of units from the original would work best, and so the orders of battle became those listed below. I managed to concoct the names for the various generals from those actually present, plus a few extra derived from unit names contained in the book.

Imperial Forces - Commander, General Lentulus.
Infantry Brigade, General Kornberg, 4 infantry battalions, 1 field battery.
Light Cavalry Brigade, General Sapt, 2 hussar regiments.
Heavy Cavalry Brigade, General Fuchs, 1 cuirassier regiment, 1 dragoon regiment.
2 light infantry battalions, independent.

Electoral Forces - Commander, Herzog Johann.
Infantry Brigade, The Erbprinz, 4 infantry battalions, 1 field battery.
Infantry Brigade, General Steinzeit, 4 infantry battalions, 1 field battery.
Heavy Cavalry Brigade, General von Luckner, 2 cuirassier regiments, 1 dragoon regiment.
Light Cavalry Brigade, General Montmort, 3 hussar regiments.
2 light infantry battalions (independent).
1 horse artillery battery (independent).

All units were classed 'regular', apart from any cuirassiers and the Electoral horse battery who were classed 'superior'. General von Luckner was deemed to be 'dashing', whilst General Sapt was declared 'dithering'.

Scenario Conditions
The Electoral Army has a +1 modifier for initiative. The Electoral objective is to seize the east end of the Sittangbad bridge before the end of move 10. If they achieve this they have won; if they fail the Imperial Army has won. However, if either army is broken before or during move 10 they have automatically lost.
Troop conditions
Only light cavalry or dragoon regts. may dismount. Cuirassiers and horse artillery are superior, all other troops are regular.
Electoral deployment.
The light cavalry brigade, light infantry and the horse battery can be deployed on-table north of the Eisenberg Hill and Eisenwald at game start. At the start of the next turn the heavy cavalry brigade is deployed in the same area. At the start of the next two turns, one of the remaining infantry brigades can deploy in the same area.
Imperial deployment.
The whole Imperial army is deployed on table at game start, as far as possible as per the book.
Terrain
The Weser is impassable. The Sittangwald can only be entered by light infantry. The marsh is impassable to all troop types. All other hills are gentle.

The Game
As with the original battle, it was obvious that only a fighting withdrawal would offer the Imperial forces any hope of victory. Any attempt to fight a pitched battle would end in tears. For the Electoral forces, an attack down their right flank was an obvious move, as the other flank was blocked by the impenetrable marsh.

Left to right - Craig & Paul (Electoral forces), Roy & Steve (Imperial forces).
Apologies to Nick - he joined in on the Electoral side but got missed out on the photos.
As expected, the Electoral heavy cavalry commenced a brisk canter to pass north of the Sittangwald
in an outflanking move. The Imperial forces all started retiring, but the light cavalry brigade were caught
by their more numerous Electoral counterparts and suffered accordingly.
A close up of the first close combat of the game. Imperial infantry are seen making
all speed back towards Sittangbad covered by the Zamoyski battalion in the redoubt.
All 4 infantry battalions seen here were painted by Stuart Asquith and gifted to me in 2016 (see this post).
Craig keeps up the pointing tradition in fine style.
Bad things are happening to the Imperial cavalry just out of shot to the left...
...as we see here. The Electoral heavy cavalry have engaged decisively and the Imperial dragoons
are backed up unsupported against the northern outskirts of Sittangbad.
By this time (around move 6), the Electoral commanders realised that the prompt retirement of the Imperial infantry had left Sittangbad rather impregnable. Their hopes of victory now rested on breaking the Imperial army before the end of move 10. Therefore they turned a number of units towards the 2 Imperial light infantry units trapped around Eisenberg village.
The game enters a crucial stage, and banter is set aside for a short while.
The new Electoral plan appears to be working. Note that 2 of the Electoral hussar regiments have dismounted to join the attack on Eisenberg village. The 2 units of Imperial Grenzers are surrounded and doomed to destruction or surrender.
The end-of-game situation at Sittangbad. Masses of Electoral infantry are approaching from the east but can have no effect before the end of the game. The Zamoyski battalion have been shelled out of the redoubt, but two other Imperial battalions are ready to fall back into the town and make a fight of it. Dismounted Electoral dragoons make a show of engaging the town from its northern flank but have no chance of effecting an entry.
A courier from the east arrives in Sittangbad with the news that the Imperial Grenzers are trapped and doomed. He is seen outside the famous Grunterhof which featured in the original book. As the tavern was positioned at the east end of the town, the Imperial commanders were determined to re-name it the Queen Vic. A sad attempt to lower the tone of our meeting.
The loss of half his force was too much for General Lentulus and he ordered a general withdrawal,
abandoning Sittangwald to the Electoral army at the end of move 8.
He is seen leaving the town and crossing the Weser accompanied by his glittering staff.

Conclusion
A neat little victory in 8 moves for the Herzog Johann, whose change of tactics reduced the Imperial army to such an extent that its withdrawal became inevitable. Well done Paul, Craig and Nick.

Thanks to all five of my guests for making the journey over and for making the game such a pleasure, with banter and good fellowship much in evidence. Certainly a game to remember, and we all hoped Stuart was looking down with approval.

'Til next time!


Sunday, 15 December 2019

New Napoleonic Rules - 'Shadow of the Eagles'


Some of you may be aware that I have been developing a Napoleonic version of my Post of Honour SYW rules. I felt it was time to give these rules their own distinct title. I had one or two ideas of my own, but I also appealed on the Google group for suggestions:

Shadow of the Eagles group with download

My sincere thanks to Michael Heynen for the excellent idea that I have now adopted, which evokes the French eagle standard and the eagles so prominent in the heraldry of the Prussian, Austrian and Russian armies.

Please join the group, download the rules and feedback any comments or suggestions.


UPDATE: 20th DECEMBER
I have been a little disappointed with the limited functionality of Google Groups. Looking for something better I found 'Groups.io', who seem to be taking over from Yahoo Groups as the latter close down. A Yahoo-style group should offer a much better experience for members, with proper files and photos sections and a much more intuitive messages list. So I have a created a new group at the following location:

Shadow of the Eagles - Groups.io

Now, present members of the Google group should find themselves transferred to the new group automatically in the near future - you should receive an email from Groups.io when that happens. However, although the process is basically simple, it seems to be rather slow - I think Groups.io are a bit snowed under at the moment with all the groups transferring from Yahoo.

So if you want to just join the new group, please go ahead and request membership on the site. For any new wargamers interested in the rules, ignore the old Google Groups site and go straight to the new one. There aren't any discussion threads started at the moment, but the rules and playsheets are all available for free download.

I'm afraid there's no good news for those reluctant to give their email addresses - email is the way these groups work, so you don't have much choice. All I can suggest is that you might create a specific email just for the group, so that your usual main email doesn't get used.

Thanks for your patience whilst the new group builds.

UPDATE: 6TH JANUARY
Those of you reluctant to give out an email, and therefore wary of joining either of the above groups, may find reassurance in the following post on TMP:

Shadow of the Eagles - TMP

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Seven Years War Rules - Post of Honour v.6



Seven Years War fans might like to know that I'm still improving these rules, and the latest version is now available for free download at the links below. Hope you like them!


Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Farewell Stuart Asquith

So, on Monday 18th November, I attended the funeral of Stuart Asquith. There was a beautiful service at Cheltenham Crematorium, when heartfelt and moving tributes from two of Stuart's children allowed us an insight into the much loved husband, father and grandfather. There was also a speech from Charles S. Grant, who explained how Stuart's 'life in wargaming' was so significant to thousands of wargaming enthusiasts worldwide.

We then proceeded to the wake. At the family's request I had set up a display intended to reflect Stuart's wargaming hobby, as well as his love for toy soldier collecting. On one side a stylised Napoleonic wargame, on the other his magnificent toy castle ('Castle Stuart') surrounded by some (in fact, less than half) of his astonishing collection of Britain's figures.


The castle was actually a gift from Charles S. Grant from many years ago, and one of Stuart's prized possessions.








Just a couple of close ups of the 30mm wargaming figures, which exemplified Stuart's wonderful painting style which brought out the colour and drama of the Napoleonic uniforms.




Wakes are funny things. You are there to grieve and remember, but (particularly with someone like Stuart who was so loved by his family and was such a dear friend to so many others), you also celebrate a life. And so I hope a few smiles will be excused. 

Wargamers and cake? Who'd have thought it.
We both knew Stuart would have approved. Myself and Dave Ryan.

The photo above shows the wargaming contingent of the gathered mourners. Sadly, Charles Grant couldn't make it to the wake as he had to fly back to Scotland the same day (via Amsterdam, as the schedules would have it). The very fact that he had made it to the funeral at all was evidence of his great determination to be present.

Left to right:
  • John Curry, History of Wargaming project.
  • Some wargamer much smaller than John Curry.
  • Roy Boss, President of the Society of Ancients.
  • Phil Olley, well known proprietor of the 'Classic Wargaming' and 'Phil's War Cabinet' blogs.
  • Dave Ryan, owner of Caliver Books and Partizan Press
  • Henry Hyde, who hardly needs any introduction.
And so we went our separate ways, and the figures were tidied away. I was honoured to have been invited and to make some small contribution to the event. Stuart was a great inspiration to so many wargamers and a great ambassador of the hobby. He was also a great pleasure to know. He will be sorely missed.

Friday, 8 November 2019

Stuart Asquith, 1946 - 2019

Most readers of this blog will probably already be aware that one of the great figures of our hobby has recently passed away - Stuart Asquith, who died a few days ago. As this blog has recorded, I was lucky enough to find myself living in the same small town as Stuart, and we first met nearly three and a half years ago. The photo below was taken during our first wargame together. A bit of pointing action is taking place for the photographer - which became a bit of a standing joke between us.


A Life In Wargaming
Stuart was already a keen wargamer by the time of his marriage in 1966. Like so many of us he seems to have started with Airfix ACW armies, but in 1967 he discovered the book Charge!, by Lawford and Young, and essentially never looked back. I have lost count of the number of times he has told me that that particular book would always be his favourite, and the rules within were the ones he most enjoyed playing. Many of our games on his 6' x 3' dining table were fought with stripped down versions of the Charge! rules.

The cover of Battle seen below has Stuart in the blue shirt on the left, sporting what he used to call his 'porn star moustache'. By this time (1978), his writing career was already well under way, and within the magazine was the latest in his 'Battles of the ECW' series. He was eventually to take over Terry Wise's iconic 'Observation Post' column, which moved to Military Modelling when Battle was incorporated into that magazine. Terry was one of Stuart's colleagues in the famous Rayners Lane Wargamers Group, which Stuart founded and which included many well known wargamers, including Donald Featherstone and Charles Grant (senior). The group lasted from 1978 to 2001. Charles Grant's son, Charles S. Grant, became a life-long wargaming partner and friend of Stuart's.



Stuart's first book was out in 1979 - The Campaign of Naseby, published by Osprey. Since then Stuart has had over 20 books published, the last of which (Stuart Asquith's Wargaming 18th Century Battles) was published by The History of Wargaming Project in 2016.

Apart from the books, Stuart's greatest publishing legacy is undoubtedly his editorship of Practical Wargaming magazine, which was published bi-monthly from 1987 to 1999. Alongside Practical Wargaming, Stuart worked for the same publishers as editor of Regiment magazine.



                       

Sadly, the cut-throat world of publishing saw both the above magazines stopped in 2000. This was a considerable blow to Stuart - his own words from 2016 demonstrate the consequences:

"Suddenly my wife and I had no income and a mortgage on a large London town house still to pay. So for about 5 years I was at a low ebb with the hobby. I gave away all my 25mm figures; my terrain boards, formerly belonging to Terry Wise, went to the tip. I thought I was selling my books, but the buyer defaulted on payment..."

Temporarily disillusioned with the hobby, Stuart moved to Northleach in the Cotswolds, and for about 5 years did little or no wargaming, until gamers from the nearby Cirencester Wargames Club brought him back into the fold. He rebuilt his collection as his painting mojo returned, maintaining a prodigious output of excellent figures, and we met a few years later.

Stuart was always an Old School wargamer. Mainly he was a strictly historical gamer, but he was also dismissive of those committed to pedantic detail. He was a firm believer in simple rules - he said my Honours of War rules made his brain hurt! As for figures, it was the 25-30mm 'Willie' figures of Edward Suren and the work of Charles Stadden which particularly inspired him, right through his wargaming life. He was never shy of calling his beautifully painted collection 'the toys'.

When I first met him, Stuart was still bubbling with ideas for games that would get his collection out on the table. I treasure the memories of the gentlemanly and relaxing games we played together, when winning hardly mattered and the pre- and post-game discussion would include ideas for the future and stories from the past. You can get the flavour of those games from the posts HEREHERE and HERE. Those were days when my wall calendar was graced with entries such as 'Wargame with Stuart' or 'Stuart - Black Cat Cafe'. Now I have had to make a final and very sad entry - 'Stuart's Funeral'.

The photo below shows Stuart, with his friends Steve Gill and Phil Olley, on 1st September this year awarding prizes at the Cotswold Wargaming Day held in Northleach. His last wargaming event. As usual, everyone was keen to speak to him, and he always had something interesting to say.


I'm going to miss that guy. Stuart is survived by his charming wife and three children. My sincerest condolences to any of his family who may read this. We have lost a giant of the hobby - rest in peace my friend.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

The Fourth Wargaming Magazine

It is usual to state (as I did in this post) that there are 3 glossy magazines supporting our hobby. I think this is mistaken. I was forgetting that there is a fourth, namely the magazine of the Society of Ancients, Slingshot.

Cracking cover!

Now, some of you (like me in the past) may be under the impression that Slingshot contains rather arcane articles that have more to do with archaeology and academia than wargaming, and that it's all rather too, well, specialist. There may have been some truth in that in the past, but in my experience, no longer. 

The magazine as I have experienced it over the last 2 years, and especially recently under the enlightened and professional-level editorship of Justin Swanton, contains an excellent mix of historical information, wargaming battle reports, analysis of wargaming practices, and reviews of books and rules. Frankly indispensable if you are an Ancient Wargamer.

Of course, you can't get it in Smith's, but you can buy individual copies or subscribe. Check out the SoA website here.

In conclusion - highly recommended!