Saturday, 23 April 2016

Polish Counter-Attack 1939 - Revisited

A couple of days ago Paul and I had the opportunity to re-fight our Polish counter-attack scenario: this was the one that I screwed up a bit the first time we played it.

The good news is that, having corrected the cock-ups, the scenario worked out much better. We played 5 moves in just over 3 hours, and the game was concluded in Polish turn 5 when the German losses reached their Battle Rating. The Poles were only about two thirds of the way towards their own battle rating, so the victory was pretty clear.

Paul, playing the Germans, had been determinedly propping up his units in his advance line, placed in the centre third of the table (see map in previous post). He had been doing this by using the rally rule at the end of most turns, and also by using the Tactical Co-ordination order. This had made the defence very stubborn, and had cost the Poles significant casualties whilst slowing their advance significantly. However, Paul had got a little carried away, and had been unlucky by drawing a few '5' battle counters. By the time he realised he was gobbling up his battle rating, it was too late.

Thus the Germans lost the game, but their main line of defence in the village was hardly touched. The Poles had lost an entire tank platoon and some infantry and had hardly advanced much beyond the mid-point of the table: but they had won. Presumably the German commander on the ground had decided that the Poles were sufficiently determined, and in sufficient numbers, to make his defence of the village untenable. Or perhaps the 'higher ups' had ordered him to pull out. Whatever the rationalisation, I liked the result - not because I won, but because it demonstrated that the rules generate interesting tactical decisions whose consequences need to be considered. 

It felt like we had battled for a fairly long time to get 5 moves done, but it was interesting to see that this is about the length the authors would predict for a battle of this size. The main rules don't give any guide to expected game length in time, but there is a very worthwhile example game on the Iron Fist Publishing website which gives some guidance - apparently platoon-sized games can be expected to last 2-3 hours, whilst battalion games might take all day. Thus, for a cross between a platoon and company-size game, 3 hours and a bit is about right. It is comforting to know we are not playing the game too slowly. We are getting used to the rules now, so delays with our heads in the rulebook are much less.

Some Pictures

The German defence line in Werba, south of the road. The black dice show
8 rounds of main armament ammo available to the Panzer IV.
A bit later in the game, and the same defence line from the north.
The Panzer IV has moved out to engage the Polish tanks.
Overview in the third move. The leading Polish tank platoon has taken a beating from the
anti-tank position in the ploughed fields - a 37mm gun and an anti-tank rifle were both present there.
Polish infantry are stalled in the woods to the right following a timed barrage, whilst the left flank platoon
is facing stubborn resistance from the dug-in Germans on the hill.
The second 7tp platoon advances through the burning wrecks of the first and makes a partial breakthrough.
Ignoring the pinned anti-tank rifle to their front, they engage the Panzer IV to their left.
Top right of picture - the German position on the hill is finally overrun.
Polish tank graveyard west of the bridge. To the left, the towed 75mm gun
braves another barrage of artillery fire falling into this area.
Polish platoon-command stand in the woods.
Polish infantry held up in the edge of the woods on the Polish left flank.
The German defence line in Werba has not been tested - this was taken after the final turn.

Overall, a pretty intense gaming experience and one thoroughly enjoyed by both players. As I have said so many times before, it's not just the rules that make a good game. You need a good scenario. Thanks to Piers Brand, Battlegroup author, for this one.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Battlegroup Blitzkrieg - Polish Counter-Attack, 1939

I was lucky recently to come across a Battlegroup Barbarossa scenario in issue 73 of Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy. I had only kept the magazine because it was a SYW-themed edition, and somehow I had missed the Battlegroup article the first time around. It was immediately obvious that this was a setup that could easily be adapted from 1941 to 1939, and which could have the added bonus of the Poles attacking for once. And it was by Battlegroup author Piers Brand, so it was likely to be well thought out.

The map from the magazine article is shown below. I have added the two dotted lines to show what I take to be the 'centre third' of the table, as this is important for deployment. The Germans mostly deploy left of the fence line in front of Werba, and the Russians (or Poles) deploy right of the stream, so I had to define the area I thought was appropriate. The recommended table size was 7' x 5' - I used a 6' x 5' table with 15mm figures, which I hoped would make the Polish task slightly easier and get the fighting started more quickly. The 'angling' of the stream and fenceline (and thus the opposing start lines) is worth noting, and adds to the interest of the setup.

The stream is classed impassable to all vehicles due to its steep banks, but may be crossed by infantry without penalty. The marsh counts as difficult ground for tracked vehicles, is impassable to wheeled vehicles, but is no impediment to infantry. The hill is gentle and no problem to any movement.
© Karwansaray BV. Many thanks to Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy magazine
for permission to use the copyright map.
The original scenario covers an historical action from a Soviet counter-attack in June 1941. I kept the Germans as defenders, but substituted the Poles as attackers. Obviously the forces had to be tweaked, quite extensively on the Polish side, to fit a fictional September 1939 action. The scenario conditions I kept as per the original article.

German forces deploy west of the fence line, except the following:
  • recce units must deploy in the centre third of the table
  • 1D6 other units must deploy in the centre third of the table (they may have defences)
  • 1D6 units may start on ambush fire

The minefield may be placed in the centre third or German third of the table. The Panzer II platoon is in reserve and will deploy via the road from the west table edge on turn 4.

Polish forces deploy east of the stream, except the following:

  • 1D6 units may deploy within 10" of the bridge, on the western side of the river.

Preparatory Bombardment
Before the game starts, roll 1D6 per German unit on the table. On a roll of 6, the unit begins the game pinned.

Objectives and Victory
The German player places 3 objective markers. One must be placed at the small farm complex beside the road, one must be placed in the central third of the table, and one must be placed in Werba. The Germans don't count as in possession of any of the objectives for the purposes of taking Battle Counters, unless they recapture one from the Soviets.

The Soviets win by taking all three objectives or breaking the Battle Rating of the Germans. The Germans win by breaking the Soviet Battle Rating.

Forces for 1939 (BR in brackets, special rules in italics)

Germans (all regular)

Forward HQ (3) senior officer, artillery spotter
Comms relay team (0) communications

Infantry Platoon + supports (15) officer
MMG team, ATR team, 50mm mortar team, towed 37mm ATG with loader team, towed 75mm IG.

Pz II platoon, 3 tanks, arrive turn 4 (6) officer
Pz IVC (3)

Forward observer team (1) officer, artillery spotter+
2 x 1st target priority off-table artillery support requests (up to division only)
Pre-registered target point (0)
Timed 105mm barrage (0)

Infantry foot patrol  (2) scout x2
Motorised panzerjager (2) scout

Specialist support
SP 20mm flak (1)
Timed Ju-87 strike

Infantry units are dug-in (reinforced cover)
ATGs are poorly dug-in (hard cover)
1 minefield

BR=33, 4 officers, 3 scouts

Around 675 points

Poles (all regular)

Forward HQ (3) senior officer, mortar spotter

2 infantry platoons (24) officerx2
Each has MMG team, ATR team, Light Mortar team

7tp platoon, 3x37mm, 1xmg (8)
7tp platoon, 3x37mm, 1xmg (8)
Tankette platoon,1x20mm, 2xmg (3)

Timed 105mm barrage (0)
Pre-registered target point (0)
Counter-battery fire mission (0)
Towed 75mm gun with loader team (2)
Forward observer team (1)
Off-table mortar battery (0)

Cavalry patrol (1) scout, brawura

Supply truck (1) resupply

BR=51, 3 officers, 1 scout

Around 800 points

It is worth mentioning that in the original scenario, the Battle Ratings for each force were about equal (Germans 45, Soviets 44). I reckoned this made the game a very hard one to win for the Soviets, which accorded with historical reality (they were stopped at the edge of Werba and fell back, 'lacking enough strength' as it says in the magazine). For our game I made the Poles a bit stronger and the Germans a bit weaker, which seemed to work out; apart from the three cock-ups described below, the balance seemed right.

Playing The Game
I was pleased with the table I produced, and deployment was straightforward - we marked our registered aiming points on our own printed-out maps, noted the moves for the timed barrages and airstrikes, then deployed the Germans first followed by the Poles.

The table viewed from the south prior to deployment.
Early in the game - the Ju-87 strike hits the bridge area.
The leading 7tps come under pressure - one destroyed and 2 pinned.

We gamed for three hours, and managed five moves, at which point things were getting interesting but it was still all to play for. Both sides were around half way to their break point. We had enjoyed ourselves and seen enough to be sure this was a really good scenario, but I had made three cock-ups which had spoiled things a bit.

Cock-Up One - Terrain
All vehicles need to cross at the bridge, so the attacking infantry inevitably make use of crossing the stream on foot, which brings them to the woods and marshes. Like a total fool I forgot that in Battlegroup infantry don't deduct for difficult ground, and the attack bogged down as I took off D6 inches each move through the woods and marshes. I think I was in Honours of War mode, where of course infantry always moves slower through woods and such. Anyway, by the time we twigged after three moves it was a bit too late. On reflection, I think I actually would deduct 1D3" (rather than nothing or 1D6") on moves through the marshes only, as the article does say that the marshes 'partly protected' the German left flank. Having the stream, woods and marshes on table without any effect at all on infantry movement doesn't quite make sense to me.

Cock-Up Two - Points
I mis-calculated the points and missed the fact that the Polish force is company level (the total of about 800 points quoted above is the correct number). Thus they missed out on one extra order dice per move which also slowed them down. Calculating points was a bit rough and ready anyway - I decided to make both sides regular (see Cock-Up Three), and how much to increase points and battle rating for this requires a bit of guess work. Unfortunately the rules are rather opaque on how the points system is calculated.

Cock Up Three - Experience Levels
Out of respect for how well the troops on both sides (especially the Poles) actually performed in real life, I have been inclined to make most troops regular in 1939, rather than inexperienced as described in the army lists. On reflection, I think this is a mistake, apart perhaps from the Polish cavalry and motorised brigades which were definitely the cream of the Polish army. The German Panzer troops later in the campaign might also be counted regular, but on the whole inexperienced is a good rating for this campaign. It is worth noting that under the Battlegroup rules, there is not a major difference between the two ratings, but the most important difference is that the battle rating is higher with regular units, making your force more resilient.
So making both sides inexperienced would have been better. As I calculated it, this would have reduced the Polish battle rating by 4, and the German battle rating by 2. This would have tended to bring the game to a quicker conclusion. 

With the three cock-ups corrected, this scenario will play very well, and the chances of finishing the game in an evening seem good. We are looking forward to having another go.

Best wishes 'til next time!

Monday, 7 March 2016

Overlord 2016, Abingdon

Following a couple of very pleasant visits to the Abingdon Wargames Club recently, there was a very kind offer to make a table available for an Honours of War display at the forthcoming club show, Overlord 2016. So it was my privilege and pleasure to turn up last Sunday at the venue in Abingdon (a local senior school) to put on a quickly devised demonstration/participation game.

Having made the commitment, I suddenly realised I faced a lonely vigil at my wargames table, having failed to arrange any sort of team. Luckily, my old wargames buddy Paul was free, and a couple of guys from the Oxford Wargames Society promised to pitch up and lend a hand when they could. Thanks Bruce and Peter.

This was my first time at Overlord, and I was pleasantly surprised to find this a well-attended and friendly medium-sized show, with about 30 traders in attendance. Local intelligence sources told me that generally around 300 punters turn up (excluding traders, participating gamers and helpers), and the Abingdon club are to be congratulated on this fine contribution to the wargames show circuit, all made possible by the hard work of club members. I should mention in particular the Overlord of the Overlord show, Simon Davies, whose suggestion led to my attendance.

The Photos

As you can see, this was a very basic presentation. The scenario was one I had developed a few years back, designed to pack a good number of units on a standard 6' x 4' table. Austrians vs. Prussians in 28mm, of course.
The Austrians were faced with a weaker Prussian force, which they intended to attack. However, Prussian reserves in the form of a grenadier brigade were on their way.
That's Bruce and Paul. The Prussian cavalry threw themselves into a reckless charge to buy time,
 as you can just see in the centre of the photo.
Our presentation came equal second in the "Most Junk Food Consumed' category.
My Twix and cup cake were sadly eaten too rapidly to make it into the photo.
This was the first time the recently modelled Count von Lenzbourg had seen active service in a wargame.
Here he berates his dithering cavalry commander for lurking in a cowardly manner near the Austrian baseline.
There is nothing like burger and chips to cheer up a wargamer.
My own quickly knocked up display was surrounded by games which had been the result of rather more hard work, and were consequently a bit more impressive. This was an ancients game using the 'To The Strongest' rules.
Right next to us was this impressively modelled naval game.
It was an unexpected and pleasant surprise to find my old friend Craig was at the show running a participation game of Skirmish Sangin. As usual, his great-looking terrain and professional display kept him busy with interested gamers all day. 
Another great looking game across the way from us was this Rapid Fire desert game in 20mm.
It is good to see how these rules have lasted and still have plenty of adherents.

The Austrians lost (again) in a re-run of the result from 3 years ago. Perhaps the scenario needs a bit of tweaking. If you check out the old post, you will see the Austrian right wing is composed of cavalry and light troops. If the Prussian grenadiers get across the bridges, there is not much that can be done to stop them. And the frontal assault by the Austrian main body against the Prussians on the ridge needs to be very well managed in order to succeed. The impetuous tactics of myself and Peter failed with high casualties.

During our adjournment for lunch I was able to get around the traders and the excellent Bring and Buy. There was plenty on offer, but my only purchase was a pot of black acrylic paint for £2. This was not really evidence of good self control - rather it resulted from all my recent wants having been satisfied by online purchases.

To conclude, we had a very enjoyable day. I chatted to a number of people interested in the rules, some who had already tried a few games and some who were intending to get started. There was more than one tale of an old collection due to be revitalised as a result of Honours of War - this was very rewarding to hear. I tried my best to engage anyone who came up to the table in conversation, rather than just ignore them and get on with the game. This was, of course, the point of the day, but it is easy to have a one track mind when gaming pleasurably with friends. I only managed to get one gentleman to actually join in with us for a few turns - I wish I had managed more. But I reckon many gamers who attend a show are rather like me - they like to stroll round, soak up the demo games, check out the traders and chat to friends in a relaxed manner. They have perhaps decided to leave active wargaming aside for the day. And sometimes, joining in a game with a bunch of people you don't know isn't a particularly relaxing or inviting prospect. All this is very understandable.

'Til the next time!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The Battle of Hastenbeck

I suppose any hobby is supposed to be time consuming. After all, an alternative word for hobby is pastime. But last weekend certainly brought home to me how significantly a biggish wargame can impose on the time and space you have available. 

I had already spent a good many hours in previous weeks working out the forces to be used for a representation of Hastenbeck (in particular whether I had enough stuff to do the battle justice), and also deciding how I might represent the terrain. Despite this it was full day's work on Friday (fortunately a day off) to clear the dining room, set up the table, put out the troops and complete the paperwork. That was from 0900 to about 1630. And then about the same time on Saturday for the game itself. This is not to pretend that the hours spent were anything other than extremely enjoyable, particularly the day of the game. But not many of us ordinary gamers can give up this much time for their hobby on a regular basis. Thank heavens for a supportive and understanding wife!

Why Hastenbeck?
I have always maintained that there was more to most SYW battles than lining up two armies opposite each other with infantry in the centre and cavalry on the wings. Hastenbeck is a battle that demonstrates this in spades. The terrain and tactical situation generated an asymetric battle with an outflanking move at its core, where confusion and uncertainty were as important in dictating the outcome as the intentions of the opposing commanders.

In brief, a defending Allied force composed of units from various German states was attacked by a French force that significantly outnumbered it. Relying on difficult terrain and entrenched gun positions as force multipliers, the defenders still left a vulnerable flank which was duly exploited by the attacking forces. The fog of war nevertheless led to a situation where the French nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. It seemed to me that this would be an excellent battle to try and represent.

Of course, I didn't have any French and German troops, but my Austrians and Prussians would be substituted. If it's good enough for Charles Grant, it's good enough for me.

Getting It Together
The black rectangle shows the area to be represented on my 7.5' x 6' table.
It turned out I did have just about enough infantry to put the battle on, and I reckoned I could manage the slightly unusual terrain as well. Of course, some good old bathtubbing would be required, with a ratio of around 4 to 5 real units represented by each wargame unit. My Prussians would be the Allies under the Duke of Cumberland, with the French played by my Austrians, supplemented by the left-over Prussians. I had to make the odd compromise, so the list of forces I present below is an ideal one - in the game as I played it the odd substitution of light infantry for formed, grenadiers for line infantry had to take place, which you might just notice in the photos.

The terrain was created by placing a bunch of 20mm thick TSS terrain pieces (which I have collected over the years) under an 8' x 6' S&A Scenics felt gaming mat. Getting things just right was slow work, but the result was better than I hoped. One level formed most of the high ground, with a second layer for the Obensberg.

There was a further problem - despite all my preparation, the time for a run-through before playing this battle with some invited friends just wasn't available. So there were bound to be glitches. I'll discuss the problems I thought occurred at the end of the post, but for the moment the forces, scenario rules and victory conditions are presented as played. Many thanks to Steve, Jon, Adam and Paul for taking the time to come over and make it a great day's wargaming. There were, therefore, 2 players a side with myself as umpire/rules advisor/teaboy.

The best online account of this battle is (as usual) at the Kronoskaf website. I also used the accounts in Savory's His Britannic Majesty's Army in Germany, Charles Grant's Wargaming in History Volume 4, and Frank Chadwick's Battles of the Seven Years War Volume 2. For those with none of those sources, the following introduction to the battle is offered. The map is from the Kronoskaf site, courtesy Christian Rogge. The rules (need I add?) would be Honours of War.

Hastenbeck, 26th July 1757
The Duke of Cumberland's Army of Observation:
30,000 infantry, 5,000 cavalry, 35 field guns.
Represented by: 11 infantry units, 4 cavalry units, 6 guns (Prussian models)

The Duc d'Estrées' Army of France
50,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry, 68 field guns.
Represented by: 17.5 infantry units, 5 cavalry units, 11 guns (mostly Austrian models)

For the last 2 weeks the Duke of Cumberland has been retiring before a French army superior in numbers. Reaching a good defensive position near the village of Hastenbeck, he has decided to stand and fight.

The Duke's army consists of Hanoverian, Hessian and Brunswick troops. He has decided not to occupy the villages of Hastenbeck and Voremberg, but to form a defensive line on the hills north of them. The marshy Haste stream covers his right flank, and his left is anchored on the steep wooded heights of the Obensberg. He holds his cavalry behind his right flank as he judges this to be the only part of the area suited to mounted action. His centre is strongly held with infantry and artillery but the Obensberg is only lightly held with a small force of jaegers. This may be a mistake!

The French army is commanded by the Duc d'Estrées, Marshal of France. Seeing that Cumberland intends to fight, he has used the previous day to bring up and deploy his full army. Reconnaissance has revealed Cumberland's weakly held eastern flank, and the Marquis de Chevert is to lead a force through the woods on the extreme French right to take the heights and outflank the Allied position. D'Estrées intends to pound the Allies with his more numerous artillery whilst Chevert makes his advance, and then launch his infantry into an assault against Cumberland's centre when the time is right. The ground is not suitable for an attack by the French cavalry, and this is held behind the infantry of the centre and left, ready to exploit success.

It is now 0800 on the 26th, and the morning mist is clearing. D'Estrées has deployed his artillery forward in good positions and their barrage can now commence. He awaits the sounds of fighting from the Obensberg to show that Chevert is engaged before he advances his infantry. Cumberland believes he is well placed to receive the French attack. Is he right?


The Army of France

Commanding General – Le Maréchal d’Estrées

Left Wing Infantry - Duc de Broglie
3 infantry battalions (one of these foreign)
2 grenadier battalions
2 medium artillery batteries
1 light artillery battery

Infantry of the Centre – Marquis de Contades
5 infantry battalions
2 heavy artillery batteries
2 medium artillery batteries
1 howitzer battery

Right Wing Infantry – Marquis d’Armentières
3 infantry battalions (one of these foreign)
1 dismounted dragoon regiment
1 medium artillery battery
1 light artillery battery

Extreme Right Wing Infantry – Marquis de Chevert (dashing)
2 infantry battalions
2 small light infantry battalions
1 small grenadier battalion
1 light artillery battery

Left Wing cavalry – Duc de Brissac
2 heavy cavalry regiments

Right Wing Cavalry – Duc d’Orleans
3 heavy cavalry regiments

33.5 units,  Army Break Point 16

The Allied Army of Observation

Commanding General – The Duke of Cumberland

Left Wing Infantry – Lieutenant General Imhoff
1 infantry battalion
1 small infantry battalion
1 grenadier battalion
1 small grenadier battalion
1 heavy artillery battery
2 medium artillery batteries
1 light artillery battery

Infantry of the Centre – Lieutenant General Wutginau
3 infantry battalions
1 medium artillery battery

Right Wing Infantry – Lieutenant General Zastrow
3 infantry battalions
1 light artillery battery

Cavalry of the Centre – Major General von Einsiedel
1 cavalry regiment (independent)

Right Wing Cavalry – Major General von Zepelin
2 cavalry regiments

Reserve, Extreme Left Wing
1 infantry battalion (independent, under Colonel Breidenbach [dashing])
1 cavalry regiment (independent, under Colonel Dachenhausen [dashing])

On the Obensburg
1 jaeger battalion (independent, under Major von Freytag)

21 units,  Army Break Point 10.

Forces Notes
The French cavalry are all standard-class 'heavy' cavalry units, as per the national characteristics section in the rules. Similarly, the Allied cavalry are all standard class dragoon-style units. Cumberland's artillery suffered from poor training and ammunition supply problems, and was out-performed by the French guns. Therefore it is classed as inferior. All generals are dependable unless otherwise noted.

Scenario Notes
The Haste stream is marshy with boggy banks and counts as a fordable river. All hill slopes are gentle except for the west and south slopes of the Obensburg, which are steep (marked on the table by using pine trees rather than deciduous trees). 

All French forces are deployed on table and are available for use from move one.

The Allied commands of Imhoff and Wutginau cannot be moved until move 3, when they (or Cumberland) realise the threat to their left flank. The cavalry and the command of Zastrow cannot be moved until move 5. The two reserve units of Breidenbach and Dachenhausen will arrive on the road on the extreme Allied left flank in march column, the exact move being decided by the umpire (in the end I went for move 5).

Game Length
The actual battle ran from about 0800 until around 1600. However, Cumberland ordered his army to withdraw at 1300, and the last hours of the real battle were spent with the Allies withdrawing and the French in confusion as reports of Allied counter attacks and outflanking moves caused d'Estrées to falter. Using Honours of War, I expected that 8 moves should see the action decided one way or the other. 

The Game In Pictures
The game is set up and ready to start. The view is from the south-east, with the commands of Armentières and Chevert seen closest to the camera. The built up area in the centre of the picture is Voremberg, with Hastenbeck in the background.
Contades 'grand battery' is ready to bombard the Allied positions, with his infantry positioned behind.
The infantry to their left are from Broglie's command.
The infantry of Wutginau (left) and Zastrow (right) await the French onslaught.
An entrenched battery covers the exits from Hastenbeck.
Two more batteries cover the centre of the Allied position, on either side of the Schmeide Brink.
For those lucky enough to own Savoury's book, these are his batteries 'B' and 'C'.
Battle commences. The French right has advanced - the Obensberg is captured (foreground right), and the nearest Allied battery is assaulted by French infantry. In the background, Hastenbeck has been occupied.
Contades' infantry wait in the dead ground behind the main French battery.
The order to advance will not be long in coming.
A mass of French infantry push forward against the Allied centre and left.
Hastenbeck was left undefended by Cumberland. The problem for the French would be advancing beyond it in the face of the Allied infantry and artillery.
Here, Allied infantry, including a unit of jaeger, throw themselves
into a last ditch defence of the exits from the Obensberg position. They were unsuccessful.
The Allies are thrown back. The Allied artillery fall back from the central gun position
before the guns are overrun and destroyed.
The Allied guns have been re-positioned but still look exposed to the French flanking forces. The cavalry have reacted at last, but how much will they be able to do against all that French infantry? Nevertheless, it is possible to see that the French infantry have not had it all their own way - some units have had to retreat and re-group.
Final positions. Five moves, about 4.5 hours of gaming, and Cumberland decides the game is up.
Time to leave the field of battle before his whole force is consumed. In the foreground you can see that the
Allied reserves have finally arrived, but too late.

Post Match Punditry
The players had enjoyed themselves, banter had been exchanged, and a historical result had been obtained. The French superiority in numbers and their tactic of an outflanking move had worked as in the real battle. Making the Allied guns inferior had created just the right amount of imbalance in the artillery exchanges. So what's not to like?

Well, the Allied reinforcements had been brought on much too late and had not had the effect they had in the real battle. And the post-battle discussion confirmed the feeling everyone had - the Allies were bound to lose under the scenario conditions I had created. No one really wants to fight a game they have no chance to win. Also noteworthy was that the Allies had lost 7 units out of their breakpoint of 10 by the end of the game. The French had lost only 1 unit. There is plainly too much of a disparity here. The Allies have little chance to get the French anywhere near their breakpoint.

This is the classic problem when re-creating an historical battle. How much can you tweak it to artificially give a balanced game without making it so unlike the original battle it's not worth the name? As with any hobby, how you tackle this is really down to personal choice. My assumption here is that Cumberland was not fighting just a delaying action - he intended to throw the French back by achieving a defensive victory. So here's my take.

An easy solution is simply to reduce the size of the French force. Personally, however, I take pleasure in representing the actual forces engaged, so this was rejected. My amendments to the scenario as played would therefore be as follows:
  • The Allied reserves (Breidenbach and Dachenhausen) should arrive earlier. Move 3 looks about right. Then they have a real chance to disrupt Chevert and make the French attack pause.
  • The Allied commanders can react sooner. Imhof can react on move 2, Wutginau on move 3, the cavalry and Zastrow on move 4.
  • The Kronoskaf account indicates that Armentières was delayed slightly by veering into the woods to his right. Represent this by making him Dithering.
  • Two infantry battalions were included in Contades' command for convenience, when in fact the brigades these units represent are usually given as forming a reserve. So, take the the two right hand battalions of Contades' force which started just south of Voremberg (see first photo), and make them a new reserve command under d'Anlézy. This reserve starts on the French baseline and cannot move until move 3.
  • Amend the victory conditions. The Allies force a draw if they can cause the French to lose 8 units (25% of their force).
I think these changes should give the Allies a chance to disrupt the French attack and cause them more casualties. Perhaps they might even fight them to a standstill.

Game Length Revisited
As I have noted above, the game was concluded after just 5 moves. My first reaction was that the claim in the HoW blurb that 'a lot can happen in one move' appears to be justified! Setting that aside, I compared the length of the actual battle with how many moves it might take to resolve it using HoW. The conclusion was that in this case a move represented about 40-50 minutes of real time, compared with the 10 minutes of non-bathtubbed games. There is a notable correspondence here with the ratio of one wargames unit representing 4-5 actual units. This is really no surprise, as the ground scale has clearly been changed in setting up a big battle like Hastenbeck. We may have kept all the rules distances the same, but those units are still covering a much greater actual distance than they do when we use a ratio of one wargames unit equals one actual unit. Anyway, for the record, the decisive part of the battle, which I take to be about 6 hours between 0800 and 1400, should be covered by 9 moves using HoW.

It was interesting to compare these conclusions with Charles Grant's refight of Hastenbeck. He sticks with a move representing 15 minutes in all his games, regardless of size. He then uses the number of moves to calculate what time it is in his games, and for Hastenbeck his number of moves appeared to be around 20-25 (the exact number wasn't mentioned in the book). I've always been surprised at how many moves games using the Grant rules appear to take - I can only assume Hastenbeck took a couple of days of gaming to complete, or at least one very long day. Perhaps anyone using these rules can shed some light here.

And Finally...
If you've actually read and followed this whole post, well done and thank you. So often I just skim through the pictures in other people's blog posts, checking them out to get an idea of how the other guy does things without really attending to the detail. I assume that's how most people approach my own posts. I have included some detailed discussion in this account because developing and playing historical battles is very much a favourite part of the hobby for me, and I hope like-minded gamers may find some value here.

Currently, I'm hoping I might find the opportunity to run this battle a second time and see how the alterations pan out. I'll be sure to let you know if I do.