Saturday, 5 March 2011
Black Powder and the Prussians
My Black Powder stats have been amended recently, mainly as a result of reading the book shown below: Frederick the Great on the Art of War, edited by Jay Luvaas.
I can't really understand why this work doesn't get more publicity. Professor Luvaas wrote and edited this book in 1966 whilst teaching military history at Allegheny College. He was a mere Doctor at the time, but went on to hold Professorships at the US Military Academy, US Army Military Institute and the US Army War College. He retired in 1995 and died in 2009. Here he has taken on all Frederick's writings on military subjects and edited them into a themed and well ordered book, adding some judicious analysis and comment of his own. This is my kind of book: scholarly but easy to get to grips with. The book has recently been republished in paperback and is easily available in this form on Amazon for under a tenner. However, the original hardback is much more satisfying to own and I managed to pick one up for much the same price from the same website.
I would categorise this book as a must-have for anyone desiring to understand 18th century warfare, along with the works of Duffy, and Nosworthy's Anatomy of Victory. And by the way, it is not to be confused with the work available through Caliver Books, Frederick the Great's Instructions to his Generals, edited by a chap called Hayes. This latter work only has 80 pages (Luvaas' has 391) and only covers the work stated in the title. The Instructions were written before the SYW and do not cover Frederick's later thoughts on warfare developed through his experience of that dreadful conflict. Thanks to Professor Luvaas we can hear the authentic voice of the greatest practitioner of 18th century warfare, 250 years after he committed his thoughts to paper.
Anyway, one of the points made loud and clear is that the tactical superiority of the Prussian army was founded on its ability to manoeuvre better and shoot better than its opponents. Hardly a stunning conclusion, you will think; but it was having this point drummed home to me through this book that I decided to make a few amendments to my stats tables. The superiority in manoeuvre is covered in the rules mainly by giving the Prussians a higher staff rating. I feel this is essential and has to be done, or you might as well be playing fantasy or imagi-nations (both highly respectable forms of wargaming but not what I am discussing here). In addition, it is tempting to give the Prussians special rules, such as 'superbly drilled', but I have not taken this route. The 'reliable' rule, for example, seems pointless if you have already decided the army justifies higher staff ratings all round. As for firing, the book informs the reader that even conservative estimates allow the Prussians 4 volleys a minute against 2 or 3 for most other nations. Frederick himself was much more bullish, claiming a 3 times superiority in firing for his infantry. Of course, the figures for rate of fire are subject to some dispute but I have accepted that the Prussian advantage was real and significant.
Therefore, all Prussian regular formed infantry get 4 firing dice instead of 3. 'First Fire' is given to all decent quality infantry units of both the Prussian and Austrian armies as representing a basic tactic of the time (the Bavarians and Frei-Korps miss out on this). 'Superbly Drilled' is reserved for grenadiers to give them an edge in reliability, making them additionally suitable for their historic role of undertaking the most difficult attacks. I have made no changes to the cavalry, remaining convinced that the Prussians have the edge, and continuing to refuse the use of the 'heavy cavalry' rule. Note that I have decided to have the option of fielding 3 types of artillery; light, medium or heavy. I decided to differentiate these purely by range and ease of movement. Ranges are given in the tables. Light guns will count as the battalion guns mentioned in the rules for manhandling, whilst heavy guns cannot be manhandled. Medium and heavy guns will move limbered as per the rules, but light guns will get the movement for horse artillery. Finally, Frederick himself, if present, always gets a staff rating of 10.
All comments welcomed, of course, especially those disagreeing with my conclusions. Wargaming is a learning process, like any good hobby.