Tuesday, 15 October 2019

The Action At Fausterlitzen (1805)

So, time for a much needed playtest of my new Napoleonic rules. Having made some recent changes, more games were vital, and I arranged first to go over to Roy's, where I knew I would get some well-informed feedback. Then shortly after that I had a free evening at home to consider our conclusions during a solo re-run. 
Both games featured a modest fictional engagement set in 1805, supposedly just before the Battle of Austerlitz - hence the rather cheesy title of this post.

The Scenario
Between Napoleon's famous victory of manoeuvre at Ulm in October and the battle of Austerlitz on the 2nd of December, a small French force is advancing south protecting the flank of Napoleon's eastward advance on Vienna. Light cavalry scouts advance along the road through Fausterlitzen, and on reaching the southern edge of the town they discover an Austrian force drawn up across the road ahead of them. On the far side of an area of open ground the Austrians have blocked the route south, with their right anchored on the gentle slopes of the Kleine Berg. It looks like the Austrians are in similar strength to the French.

Table size 6' x 5'. North to top of course.

The French commander decides to attack, and his forces advance through the woods north-east of Fausterlitzen until, on reaching the open ground east of the town, they are able to deploy.

French Forces
These can deploy anywhere up to 12" from the northern baseline, but are also allowed to occupy Fausterlitzen at the start of the game.

1. Infantry Brigade: 6 infantry battalions, 1 field battery
2. Infantry Demi-Brigade: 3 light infantry battalions (superior), 1 field battery
3. Cavalry Brigade: 2 dragoon regiments, 1 horse battery (superior)
4. Independent Cavalry: 1 regiment of hussars

Total 15 units. Break point 7.5 units.

All units are classed regular except the 3 light infantry battalions and the horse artillery battery, all of which are superior.

Austrian Forces
These are deployed up to 12" from the southern baseline, but are also allowed to occupy the Kleine Berg at the start of the game.

1. Infantry Brigade: 4 infantry battalions, 1 field battery
2. Infantry Brigade: 4 infantry battalions, 1 field battery
3. Independent Light Infantry: 1 Grenz battalion (inferior)
4. Cavalry Brigade: 2 cuirassier regiments (superior)
5. Independent Cavalry: 1 hussar regiment

Total 14 units. Break point 7 units.

All units are classed regular except for the inferior Grenz light infantry and the superior cuirassiers.

The much better quality of the French command in this campaign is represented by giving them a +1 on their initiative roll at the beginning of each turn, and also more favourable die rolls for deciding the quality of their brigade commanders at the start of the game:
French: 1 = Inept, 2-4 = Capable, 5-6 = Inspiring.
Austrian: 1-2 = Inept, 3-6 = Capable.

The French will also have the advantage of the 'French System' - quicker formation changes, assault columns, and the ability to deploy skirmish infantry from both their light and line battalions. The Austrians are still labouring under the disadvantages of the 'Linear System' at this date, so assault columns are forbidden and the only skirmish infantry available will be the slightly dodgy Grenzers.

Deployment will be by alternate brigades, with the Austrians going first. After all brigades are deployed, the independent units are then also deployed alternately.

The Game (1)
And so battle commenced at Roy's. In this case the table size became 6' x 4', and we gamed with Roy's lovely old 20mm Hinton Hunt miniatures, using 24 figure infantry units and 12 figure cavalry units.

The French attack commences under Roy's direction.
It appeared Roy's intention was to give the rules a stern test by going straight into the attack.
Were those assault columns (foreground) heading around my flank or would they strike the Kleine Berg?
The French dragoon brigade hovered west of Fausterlitzen awaiting developments.
The columns of high quality Legère turn towards the hill.
The Austrian cuirassiers set off to threaten their flank.
Ouch! The  French columns smash into the Austrian infantry on the Kleine Berg
and Tricolores are soon flying over the ridge.
An overview from the same turn. French pressure is strong across the table,
and the Austrians are losing units.
The French have triumphed on the Kleine Berg, but an Austrian cuirassier regiment turns back
and drives one of the French battalions westward
On their left flank the Austrians have also lost units and now the French Dragoons are closing in.
We called it here, announcing a French victory.

This was a fine test for the rules, and I went home with a few changes in mind, particularly regarding increasing the effectiveness of assault columns in close combat. Unfortunately, in his eagerness to get to grips, Roy had not bothered to deploy skirmishers, and the utility of these troops was not tested. But our post-match analysis seemed to suggest their use would be worthwhile.

The Game (2)
And so a couple of days later I was able to consolidate the lessons of Game 1 in a solo run-out of the same scenario. I'm afraid Napoleonic fans will be disappointed to see that in the absence of a Napoleonic collection, I have substituted my 28mm SYW figures. The blue-coated Prussians represent the blue-coated French, whilst the white-coated Austrians represent (you guessed it) the Austrians. My 28mm RSM95s are organised into infantry units of 16 figures and cavalry units of 8 figures.

I set up the opposing armies in the same deployment we used in the first game.
This time I deployed skirmishing infantry ahead of the attacking French columns.
Once again, the dragoons deploy on the French right.
Here they come! French artillery and skirmisher fire took a toll on the
2 Austrian battalions on the front slope of the Kleine Berg...
...with this result. One Austrian battalion routed, taking the other with it.
Now the 2 Hungarian battalions moved up from the reverse slope and braced for impact.
The French dragoons were a little more active under my control,
and steadily pushed back the defending Grenzers and hussars.
Once again, it was crunch time on the Kleine Berg, and once again the French columns were successful.
The Austrian battery is surrounded, and the final battalion of Hungarians
has suffered heavily and is about to be routed.
Overview - the Austrians are on the back foot across the table.
Just the artillery to mop up and the Kleine Berg will be an Austrian-free zone.
Just about the only Austrian success was their triumph against the French hussars on the French left.
Still, with 2 cuirassier regiments against one regiment of hussars, this was hardly unexpected.
Another solid French victory.
The French artillery had done sterling work for the whole game. A close up of one of their batteries.

The use of skirmishing infantry worked well for the French, protecting the advancing columns and helping to weaken the defending battalions. The Austrians suffered from their own lack of skirmishers, which seemed pretty historical to me. Interesting in both games was that, with basically equal forces, the French were able to attack successfully. I think this was partly due to them having an extra artillery battery, and partly to the concentration of forces against the Kleine Berg, which gave a local superiority. A tribute to Roy's original plan!

Both games seemed to me to play well, so I am optimistic about Post of Honour developing into a worthwhile set of rules. A new version incorporating lessons learned from these games will appear shortly on the Google group.

Another Napoleonic scenario coming up shortly. See you then!

Monday, 2 September 2019

Cotswold Wargaming Day 2019 - Post Match Analysis

And so Sunday 1st September dawned clear and sunny. A propitious start for what was destined to be a fine day's wargaming at the 2019 Cotswold Wargaming Day.

Yes, behind the innocent facade of a typical English country village hall...

...there gathered an assorted bunch of gentlemen nutters playing at toy soldiers. 

The Games
I was lucky enough to have 8 games offered this year (thanks so much guys), which filled the hall nicely. Each game got a side table (an important detail IMHO) which still left plenty of room to move around and access all the tables. 

Apologies to those concerned if some games are under-represented in the following photos. No preferential treatment is intended, it's just that I need to be more professional and organised when using the camera!

Game 1.
Shaun, Roger and Allan with 'Liberdy', their Wild West Gunfight game.
Guys, I'm sorry I didn't get over to the table to enjoy a few turns with you.
Game 2
Steve (out of shot) and Dave presented their Bloody Big Battles Crimean game.
Game 2.
Stuart was particularly enthused by the concepts of the BBB rules.
'Mr. 30mm' moving into 6mm? Surely not. Hold the front page!
Game 3.
Bruce brought his air wargame over again this year, changing the scenario to 'Battle Over Berlin'.
Game 3.
Massive B-17 formation about to be engaged by German fighters (top left).
Game 4.
Jon brought along a 'Merville Battery' scenario, using the under-rated Battlegroup Panzergrenadier rules.
Game 4.
Typical of the day. Bruce and Colin move over from their air game
to enjoy some ground-based WW2 action with Jon (centre).
Game 5.
Roy and Matt put on a 'Mexico 1862' game, a very original choice of period including some intriguing figures.
Game 5.
Ouch! Those 28mm metal figures can be heavy, but this hero struggled on with a badly sprained wrist.
What a pro!
Game 5.
Forget consulting the rules gentlemen. What's all this perching of sabot bases on rooftops?
You'll never win the 'Most Gentlemanly Wargamer' prize with that faux pas.
Game 6.
Stuart (2nd from right) led a hearty group of gamers in a 1791 'Haitian Revolution' game.
Excellent pointing action that man!
Game 6.
Nice terrain, interesting scenario.
Game 6.
And some lovely figures as well.
Game 7.
Phil Olley and Steve Gill with their 'Wars of the Vaubarian Succession' game.
Game 7.
I was lucky enough to get a game in on this table. Here my commanding general oversees the action.
Game 7.
Predictably, I trounced Steve even though he was using his own rules.
But what a poignant moment when the big guy burst into tears of shame.
Chin up man!
Game 7.
Being an 18th century nerd myself, the interior of Phil's town was a joy to behold.
Game 7.
Posing. Left to right, Phil, me, Steve.
Game 8.
Willz returned again this year with his lovely Spencer Smiths.
Once again, note the first class pointing taking place here. Bravo!
Game 8.
Aaah, Spencer Smiths, in real plastic. Look at that limbered battery in all its glory.
Game 8.
Sorry everyone, still drooling.
Game 8.
A fine sight for any 18th century nut like myself.

And The Winner Is...
My heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the trouble to turn up. I counted 31 gamers when the hall was at its busiest, which pleased me mightily. However, as a thank you to those who went the extra mile and brought along games for the rest of us to enjoy, I like to have a light-hearted prize giving as an extra 'thank you'. And thanks to Stuart for doing the judging.

'Best Terrain'
Despite my failure to take some decent photos, the 'Liberdy' table was most impressive.
Nutters! But in a nice way.
'Best Figures'
Steve and Phil got this one. I understand Phil is the painting guru!
They were real beauties my friend.
'Most Gentlemanly Gamers'
This pair of reprobates? What was Stuart thinking?
A grudging congratulations to Steve and Dave.
'Honourable Mentions'
Not everyone can win a category, but thank you (L to R) Steve, Willz, Matt, Jon
and Bruce (not pictured) for helping to make the day so memorable.
'Best Game Overall'
And so the Stuart Asquith Trophy went to the other Stuart's Haitian game, with its mixture
of all the elements that make a fine wargame. Well done!
I bask in the glory with the winners of the top award.
Choke back the tears guys.

Intense, But Satisfying
That's what my day felt like. You may have noticed that the photos in this blog feature rather more actual wargamers than the average blog post. This is very deliberate. The atmosphere and spirit of the day was all I could have wished for - light hearted, friendly and relaxed, with plenty of banter and the occasional bit of serious chat about the hobby. Thank you so much to everyone who was there for your attitude, enthusiasm and creativity.

Very noticeable was the number of games using little-known or self-written rules. Was it just a coincidence that the big commercial and competition rule sets were largely absent? I don't think so. Also noticeable was the variety of unusual periods and creative scenarios on offer.

A final photo, relaxing at the bar before packing up. Steve and Willz were, I believe, the gamers who travelled farthest to be there. Alright, it's not a bar. It's the kitchen hatch. But the vibe was the same.

Lastly, the generosity of attendees this year resulted in a cash surplus of £55. My wife and I decided to send the money to the 'Many Tears' dog rescue charity.

So, next year? I certainly hope so. I reckon it will be Sunday 30th August in 2020. Maybe I'll see you there!