Sunday, 29 June 2014

Three Fords

With all the wargaming stuff now shifted to the new house, it was time to christen the Wargames Room (rather quaintly referred to by my wife as the Dining Room). My old chum Paul decided a nosey round the new place and a wargame in secluded surroundings would make for a good Saturday night expedition to the Cotswolds, so it only remained to decide a scenario. My new rules badly needed some homegrown playtesting after the hiatus of the move, so it had to be Seven Years War. By good fortune, I had just purchased Miniature Wargames 374 and an excellent scenario was provided within - on a plate, as it were.

Map © Henry Hyde and Miniature Wargames magazine. Thanks Henry!

Steve Jones of the Newark Irregulars had written the latest in the 'Command Challenge' series, and the article immediately caught my eye. Entitled 'Three Fords, Three Ways', it was basically the story of a fighting retreat, based on a real action in the American War of Independence. Supply wagons and the vital units of the Main Body had to be saved before the attackers overran the position. The table was dominated by a river crossable only at three fords, and force details were given for each of three periods (hence the title). Conforming with the Biffy Theory of classic wargaming, these periods were of course the Ancient (alright, Dark Ages), Horse and Musket and Modern periods. Horse and Musket for me, then.

The map (very kindly provided by Henry Hyde via email) tells the story. The Blue Force baggage and main body stand ready to exit the table from the designated exit point at the north east corner. A rearguard backed by cavalry holds a wooded ridge against the advancing Red enemy. A modest Red flanking force adds further interest. 

Overall, I thought Steve had produced an article in the finest traditions of Charles Grant's much-loved Table Top Teasers: presenting it for three different periods was a fine piece of added value. 

Now this was not to say that some tweaking wouldn't be required. The baggage position shown on the map was obviously (to my mind, and for my rules)) too close to the exit point. To give the attackers a chance, the wagons would need to be re-located nearer the centre of the table. I also had my doubts about the tiny flanking force (a single small unit of elite troops), but I stuck with the idea for my game with Paul. I was able to run through the game twice, first with Paul and then, taking advantage of my current solo existence and the temporary facility of a dedicated wargames room, a solo run through a week later without having to take everything down and set it up again. Luxury!

Unfortunately the first game went unrecorded by the camera, but it was generally a successful and enjoyable game, with the defenders winning. It was also an incredibly useful workout for the rules, as such slightly off-the-wall scenarios usually are. However, I did find my suspicions about the flanking force were confirmed, and I increased it for the solo game. So, my forces and special rules for the second battle were:

Prussians (Red, attacking)

Flanking Force (dependable commander)
1 grenadier battalion.
1 Hussar regiment.
Main Body
Advance Guard (dashing commander)
 1 large dragoon regiment (6 bases), 1 jaeger battalion (small, 3 bases)
Infantry Brigade (dependable commander)
2 grenadier battalions, 2 line infantry battalions, 1 medium battery.

9 units, Army Break Point = 4.

Austrians (Blue, retreating)

Rearguard (dependable commander)
2 Grenz battalions.
Cavalry (dependable commander)
2 dragoon regiments.
Main Body (dependable commander)
1 German line battalion, 1 Bavarian line battalion, 1 militia battalion (small, 3 bases)
Wagons (dithering commander)
4 wagons

11 units, Army Break Point = 5.

 Victory Conditions
The Austrians are trying to save their wagons and the regular units of their main body. If they retreat at least 4 of these 6 units off the table via the exit point before their force is broken, they have won. The wagons must exit first, before the units of the main body.
The Prussians win if they prevent this.
As normal, either side wins if they break the enemy before any victory conditions have been achieved.

Special Rules
Visibility in open woods is 30cm. Units may fire out or in through the edge of the woods provided they are within this distance.
The Austrian commanding general will not take charge of the wagons.

Those of you who have the magazine will note that the victory conditions are much simplified, to suit my rules. The rule about the Austrian commanding general not helping with the wagons is designed to make sure the uncertainties of having a dithering wagon-master are maintained. I figured the general would be concentrating on leading his fighting units.

The Battle In Pictures
(Sorry about the quality, my best camera had to be lent out to the female section of the family).

I reckoned the small size of the forces would be fine on my 'standard' 6' x 5' table, rather than the 8' x 6' Steve used.
After a fair amount of juggling of the available river sections, I managed a reasonable representation of the original map. Setup of the defending forces is shown, with the Prussian advance guard just entering the table on the right.

The Grenzers on the ridge prepare to sell themselves dear.
Operating in the wooded terrain, they did very well, seeing off the advance guard in a brief skirmish with some accurate fire. But the main body of the attackers were not to be so easily deterred, and the advance of the Prussian grenadiers was remorseless. 
Here the grenz infantry have been pushed off the ridge. What could the Austrian dragoons do to delay the enemy?
Not much, was the answer. The Prussian grenadiers cooly advanced to close musket range, conclusively seeing off a desperate charge by one of the dragoon regiments, which lost the Austrian commander his first unit destroyed.
The other dragoon regiment was also driven back, the grenzers falling back as well. The wagons have managed to creak slowly towards the ford and are slowly crossing.
The Prussian flanking force deploys onto the Austrian side of the river. One battalion (the Bavarians) of the Austrian main body has already been sent to the rear whilst the German infantry and the militia seek to buy time. The commanding general is present to give them some backbone.
Meanwhile, at the main ford, chaos reigns. Failed command rolls, some stinging long range musket fire and some shots from the Prussian gun battery bring panic and disorder as everyone tries to cross at once.
Overview as the game reaches its climax. The Prussian flanking force prepares to push forward, the Prussian main force also prepares for its final advance to the main ford, whilst the Bavarians (left) are forced to wait for the Austrian wagons to cross the ford and precede them off the table
The remaining units of the Austrian main body fall back, trying to avoid getting too involved with the Prussian flanking force.
But the vagaries of the command rolls spoil Austrian plans. The Prussian flanking force gets a double move, and the grenadiers charge and destroy the whitecoated infantry battalion facing them. The low quality militia unit is of little help, and is a sitting duck for the Black Hussars who will surely sweep them up next turn.
In the end, there was no next turn. The steady musketry of the Prussian main body destroyed three more Austrian units as they were held up at the crowded ford, and the Austrians had reached their break point. Only 3 wagons, a damaged grenz battalion, the unengaged Bavarians and the near useless militia unit remained. The Prussians had lost no units, though their supposed 'advance guard' was left shamefully in the rear for most of the game after the early set back.

This is a very interesting scenario to play, with lots of different situations possible. I still don't understand the placing of the baggage on the original map - maybe there was some kind of misprint, or maybe I'm missing something. Issue 374 of MW is thoroughly recommended, by the way.


Capt Bill said...

I truly enjoy your wonderful battles...

Keith Flint said...

As always Capt Bill, your kind words are much appreciated.

Archduke Piccolo said...

A fine 'small action' scenario: one I must try some time!

Jim Walkley said...

I agree with the Captain and Archduke. A very enjoyable read. That issue of MW was one I bought, largely for the scenario and SYW content. I hope to give your rules another run through shortly but with a scenario from BP Albion Triumphant transported to the SYW.

Keith Flint said...

Thanks Jim. Looking forward to your feedback as always.

Henry Hyde said...

Glad you had fun with it, Keith!

Anonymous said...

As has been said, and interesting small scenario. One question: the Victory Conditions say "The Austrians are trying to save their wagons and the regular units of their main body. If they retreat at least 4 of these 6 units off the table via the exit point before their force is broken, they have won." However, the Austrian Main Body is only comprised of 3 units?

Anonymous said...

Ah, I get it: the 4 wagons and 2 infantry units make 6 (and you don't include the militia) - right?

Keith Flint said...

That's quite right.