Saturday, 20 December 2014

Villages and Towns in the SYW

When I was putting together some models for my SYW towns and villages around 5 years ago, I was inspired by the type of model buildings I had seen in the works of Charles Grant and Peter Young. So my built up areas took on the vaguely Germanic, Central European look of prosperous and solidly built small towns. The models were of 15mm size, purchased mainly from JR Miniatures with a couple of models from Total Battle Miniatures. You can see what I mean in the 2 photos below:

Over the last year I have realised that a lot of the small towns and villages fought over in the SYW were a lot more basic than this, consisting of wooden houses and huts, often thatched, and not offering a great deal of protection to the occupants, particularly from artillery fire. For example, read this quote from Duffy's book Prussia's Glory, describing the field of battle at Rossbach:

"The ground was open and cultivated, and devoid of obvious features except a pair of villages (Tagwerben and Reichardtswerben) to the east. They were poorish affairs of thatched houses, and offered no defensive potential." (p.65).

Hence my recent purchase of some rather more rustic buildings. These are now painted up, and below you can see them set up on my traditional square of felt to produce a built up area: 

Some Croats are in residence, supported by a light gun manned by their own gunners.

Protection From Fire
Further reading has refined my opinion of the level of protection that might be expected from occupying built up areas. Roundshot evidently created so many splinters of stone, brick and wood that even well-built towns offered doubtful advantages to those occupying them, unless actually enhanced with entrenchments and suchlike. Villages consisting of wooden buildings and farms would similarly offer limited cover.

So, in Honours of War, only entrenchments offer rock-solid 'heavy cover'. My built up areas are divided into two types, densely built places with mainly stone and brick construction, or more open affairs of mainly wooden buildings. Both are only 'light cover' against roundshot or shell. Against infantry and canister fire the former type is heavy cover, the latter light cover.

In addition, both roundshot from heavy guns, and shell (which I always class as medium) get a +1 modifier against built up areas, so in fact against these types of artillery fire villages and towns are no cover at all. Bring on the howitzers and 12 pounders!

As I have said many times, I like the Black Powder rule set. One thing I don't particularly like, however, is that built up areas in these rules are very tough nuts to crack and attacking them can easily bog down the game, something I have tried to correct in my own rules. Fighting for towns and villages was usually intense and bloody, but unless prepared defences were in place they could often change hands fairly readily. Think of Leuthen or Hochkirk, to take 2 famous examples. Or the village of Krechor at Kolin.

As usual, I am simply gagging to hear from those who might disagree with these conclusions. I try to be open minded at all times!

Good gaming!


Will McNally said...

I have been applying a cumulative benefit for troops occupying buildings, so for each complete move of occupation they get +1 up to a maximum of +3. Makes well organised defences in villages difficult to dislodge and counter attacks can retake them easily, and subsequent counter-counter attacks

Phil said...

Beautiful bildings, great on a table!

Steve J. said...

Fast forward to the Austro- Prussian War of 1866 and one of the villages fought over was essentially just wooden houses. Needless to say it offered little protection from the artillery and caught fire rather easily. Even today you go to the beautiful rural villages in Austria and many of the buildings are made of wood on stone foundations. So I think your tweaks reflect the reality rather well.

Anonymous said...

Most villages had woodframed buildings. You can see a lot of examples in german Museums (Bad Windsheim, Wackershofen etc.) But there were a lot of buildings of more solid material too. They were used to collect fruits etc. for gouverment (taxes). In the century existed quiet a Change. Reason was the development of social and comercial life. More and more of the peasants had'nt enough to live from their own land. And the "Almenden" (ground of the comunity used by all inhabitants "Gemeinsleute") were disbaned! That means that the proportions of poor and rich peasants changed extremely. In mid 18th-late 18th century you would find more and more small, simpel buildings of poor workers. But log cabins were not typical in 18th century Germany. I know only some buildings completely made by Wood in the black forest (not realy interesting for SYW or WAS).

Best wishes