Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Times

I'm still working away up to Xmas eve (Bah, humbug etc,) and I'm still being kept busy in the evenings as well. As a result, I'm probably going to have to delay a little bit before fighting the impending battle.

I know that delay's terrible and all that, but hopefully I'll be able to fight it out over the xmas holidays and post a report on it, alongside some pictures. I'm also keeping my fingers crossed to get some good hobby-work in over the xmas break (I'm hoping santa will get me some odds and ends for my armies, so you never know...)

Merry Xmas to everyone!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Crossing

As the armies gathered around the Spitzbruck, most sensible travellers detoured north or south to avoid the combatants, and the ferry to the south did excellent business for a while – barely even disrupted by the Luftberg hussars that set up an observation post in the adjacent woods overlooking the crossing, as well as the farmhouse a short walk to the south, across the ponds and marshes near the river.

One evening, an unremarkable figure crossed the ferry to the east bank, a traveller much like any other down-at-heel gentleman on his way. When the hussars checked his papers he was under a false name, but his real name had reputation beyond many others. This was the Baron Von Rache, known throughout Central Europe as ‘The Mad Baron’ and reputedly the most dangerous man in all of Germany. He had recently been cajoled by the Prinzessin Emily von Krumper into joining her brother’s army, in a strictly non-official basis. Knowing of his hair-trigger temper and tendency towards duelling with anyone who attracted his displeasure, the baron had quickly been turned loose with a commission to ‘take whatever measures are deemed necessary by you to ensure events develop in a manner propitious to the interests of the Aschenbach state.’ It was effectively a license to run riot over the continent, and the Baron gladly accepted it.

Emptying Aschenbach’s prisons for some of the most dangerous and unscrupulous individuals he could find, whose talents could prove of use, he had quickly formed a small band of daredevils to execute his plans. He travelled incognito with the Aschenbach army, following in it’s train until called upon. Now the need had brought him here – to secure a crossing over the Spitzwasser.

Travelling on in the darkness beyond the scouts, he left the road into the undergrowth and met his men, who were secreted into their agreed meeting-place and busy readying their weapons. The baron cast an eye over them all and politely cleared his throat. ‘Would you all please be so kind as to take the flints out of your muskets? We’re using only pistols and cold steel this evening, my boys. I am sorry if this inconveniences any of you.’

The men obeyed wordlessly. When they had been first yanked from prison by this strange, polite young man, they had thought themselves in the hands of an ineffectual fop. They had initially defied him, but the more they learned of the baron the faster they rushed to obey. The men had given up exchanging stories of the baron’s antics by now – they had simply grown too scared.

The baron sketched out the plan, which called for a rush on the farmhouse in the dead of night to neutralise the enemy Hussars based there, and subsequently clearing out the observation posts in the woods immediately at the crossing. The men listened, nodded understanding, and set off after their leader.

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Hours later, with the card games well underway and the supplies of local wine diminishing, the sounds of raucous shouting and singing could be heard from the main farm building. Sentries tramped round the walled outbuildings, tended to the horses, and joined in the drinking at a distance, swigging from a bottle brought from the house.

Silently, a dark figure emerged from the shadows behind one lone sentry and closed on him. A hand closed over his mouth and a swift thrust with a dagger into the back was accompanied only by a slight scuffle as the dying hussar was quickly dragged back into the murk. A few seconds later, when it was clear no attention had been drawn, several black forms slipped into the farm buildings. The horses were led away and the remaining sentries picked off, while the sounds of shouting and laughter continued from the main building.

Von Rache reached the door and cautiously looked through the leaded windowpane. Revellers inside were in the middle of a card and drinking game on the large kitchen table, next to the roaring fireplace. Von Rache looked round at his men gathered around him, nodded warning, then kicked the door open.

As he ran in to a room of startled faces, he fired his pistol square at the largest man he saw and slashed right with his sword at an unfortunate who had stood too near. He heard a scream, hurled his empty pistol wholesale at another man and shoulder-barged another to the ground, all the while slashing wildly in every direction. His men charged after him and quickly swarmed through the room, cutting down some of the faster enemy and backing the rest into corners.

Von Rache climbed up onto the tabletop. All his men were still alive, although some were injured. Whether it was from the enemy or from his own frenzied efforts, he neither knew nor cared. His men knew better than to complain.

He addressed his captives. ‘My apologies, my friends, but,’ he delicately kicked some scattered cards off the table. ‘I am afraid I must express my distaste for gambling in the strongest manner. Most particularly, card games to which I have not been invited.’

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The hussar scouts in the woods heard the firing, sharp and distinct over the background rumble and thump of the guns north at the Spitzbruck, which seemed set on a constant bombardment. They had been about to go to the farm to see what had happened, when they suddenly spotted the masses of Aschenbach troops working on the far side of the river, and beginning to cross it in strength. Realising the enemy move was underway, the hussars sent a young and fast messenger back to report to their regimental headquarters. The hussar galloped north and rushed into the commandeered village. The gruff major met him, and he breathlessly explained.

‘The enemy are building a pontoon bridge at the ferry crossing, and seem to be preparing a crossing in strength.’

The major blinked, unimpressed. ‘Any news from the main post, in the nearby farmhouse? It’s their job to watch the ferry – you should have reported direct to them.’

‘But sir, we heard shots coming from there, and then no word at all.’

The major was even less impressed now. In mock-horror, he said ‘Hussars drinking, and you heard shots fired? Dear god, what should we do?’ He paused, then added ‘Do you mean musketry? Volleys?’

‘No sir, just some pistol shots.’

‘well then lad, don’t worry yourself. Those bluecoats are in the north by the bridge, for certain. Why you can even hear them.’ He nodded towards the thump of cannon.

‘But sir, we saw figures in the dark, and they were trying to cross over.’

‘Did you stay to observe?’

The young hussar hesitated. ‘No sir, we rode here at once.’

The major’s tone was gentler with the inexperienced young trooper. ‘So, you saw some figures in the dark, at a ferry crossing, and the main post assigned to watch it hasn’t bothered to send any warning, or even go out to investigate.’

‘Yes, sir.’ The hussar felt deflated and foolish.

‘And you want to go to Feldmarschall von Hentsch – Graf Von Hentsch, mind you – and tell him to move the army south?’

This was something that the hussar had not thought of before. Von Hentsch was not a man to take a mistake in good spirits. ‘Well, sir, I …’

The major saved the hussar from any more struggling with the problem. ‘We’ll send word to the main post straight away, then take a look in the morning ourselves, lad. That’ll confirm everything. Get some sleep yourself in the meantime – everybody’s still tired after that damn forced march up from Blinzburg.’

‘Thank you sir.’ True enough, the hussar thought. He was tired, and the others would deal with it.

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At the ferry, the infantry column streamed over the first pontoon in column of approach, with the cavalry joined them once the second heavier pontoon was complete. Now lit by the first light of dawn, Baron von Rache watched it all in satisfaction. The farm had been turned over to the army and was now being converted into a fortress, with cannon dug in on the far bank, to protect the bridges. They’d been lucky recently, he reflected, what with von Zaub’s stunt in Spitzburg and now this river crossing. Still, it all hung now on what was about to unfold. Von Rache wondered if he had merely gained Von Krumper a chance to send his army into a disaster. No matter – he wasn’t paid enough to care that much. He led his men down to the bridge and they recrossed west, drawing curious looks from the infantry on the bridge as the only men not joining the tide of bluecoats flowing eastwards.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Prelude to Action


The ground between the city of Spitzplatz and the planned crossing point is obviously going to be subject to some serious large-scale maneuverings. 'Grand Tactical' is, I believe, the correct term - in my uneducated mind, anyway! So, it deserves some detailed mapping out. Below is my randonly generated terrain map. Each square is one of my 1ft x 1ft terrain tiles, which scales out at almost exactly 1 square mile. Each tile has been assigned a terrain feature in each quarter, which I then set up an Excel spreadsheet to randomly create for me. (There are free packages on the internet to do this on hexagons, but I've never come across one that works to a grid.) Anyway, here's the result. If you can't click on it to see an enlargement, would somebody please let me know how I can set that up?


So, what have we got? As might be expected, it's a mixed bag for Aschenbach. While the crossing point is screened by a large woods (good), it's crammed in by a marsh with a farm on the far side of it (bad). Thanks to this nearby habitation, it seems sensible that there'd be come kind of crossing like a ferry, so I've dubbed the bluff on the left bank the Fahrschiff der Tauschung.


Once past this, there's a large open area called the Offen Ebene with little cover, while easy to move and fight across (good) it's pretty exposed to observation (bad). To the east of this, there's an area of marshes called the Niedringer Sumpf which should be too remote for any impact.


Next comes the really bad news. The Luftberg camp site sits at a strategic set of road junctions, within easy reach of the bridge westwards and the city to the north. By chance, there are two bands of hills to the south of this, available for easy defence. Southermost is the Windmuhle Hugel, so named because of a prominent windmill perched on it's crest, and north of that lies the larger Grosser Hugel. This hill, right on the edge of the Luftberg camp, is all but impossible to reach before the defenders awake to their peril and occupy it (bad). However, the hill runs largely NW to SE, so if the Luftbergers gain full advantage from the heights they will have to project their left flank outwards (good.)


East of the Grosser Hugel, there are quite a few areas of rough terrain. When I also randomly got two linear obstacles from the terrain generator, I knew what I'd make it - a quarry, with a partially worked rockface, which I've now dubbed the Steinbruch.




So, much in the style of Old Fritz verbally briefing his commanders on seeing a field, the general shape of the battle can be guessed at. Advancing fast from the crossing, the Aschenbach army will count the Grosser Hugel lost and instead seek to occupy the Windmuhle Hugel. From this, the - presumably - exposed Luftberg left will be assaulted obliquely by the Aschenbach right, including von Kleintrink's cavalry wing, thus cutting all it's roads of escape and crushing it's battle-line. The Aschenbach right will protect itself from envelopment by using the rough ground around the Steinbruch to disrupt any enemy movements. Von Kleintrink will take the right flank cavalry, the solid veteran Von Grenwitz will oversee the left, while Von Krumper himself will command the centre.


Which brings us to that minor technical detail of crossing the river. From reading up on the nearest contemporary battles fought over a river (I came up with the Napoleonic wars' battles of Aspern-Essling and the Berezina - utterly unscientific, but it keeps me happy!) It seems a crossing about 5-6 miles upriver is a suitably distant side-step (as Napoleon moved this far from Vienna to cross the Danube, apparently.) However, armies would cover riverlines for about double this distance (The Berezina crossing was apparently watched 12km away from Napoleon's first position on the river in 1812.) In other words, the Aschenbachers will almost certainly have to cross at Farhschiff der Tauschung under the noses of enemy light troops. How far will their luck, surprise and tactical advantages hold?

Reasoning that there is an initial 50:50 chance as to who gets the advantage, I came up with the following dice-roll chart to see when the sentries detect trouble:

1=Spotted and blocked - Luftberg gets a very early warning!
2=Spotted as soon as the raiders cross over - Luftberg gets an early warning
3=Engineers cross over - Normal Alarm Raised
4=Piles sunk in river - Normal Alarm Raised
5=Pontoons to carry Infantry are across - Luftberg gets a late warning
6=Pontoons for Artillery and horses are assembled - Luftberg gets a very late warning!

But, thanks to the Tactical cards for Surprise and Terrain, this would give Aschenbach a +1 or +2 modifier, I reckon. So, I'm rolling a dice and the result is...

Well, excuse me for drawing out the tension! Hope the above has inspired some ideas in others for depening the detail they've got in their own games!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Aschenbach's move

So, what a spectacular recovery from the General Von Zaub! Attacked out of the blue, cut off from the main army, he held his command together and fell back to the city of Spitzburg. Reasoning that a city on a river must have a fair amount of marine transport, he bluffed his way on to some of it and escaped to the friendly shore ahead of his pursuers. Not only that, but to create confusion behind him he emptied the banks that was Von Hentsch’s real objective. By the time the Luftberg army arrived, not only was all the money ‘vanished’ but so had all records, making it impossible to tell who owed what! [I rolled a dice for how successful his escape was, and rolled a natural six!]

Von Zaub was initially created as a well-meaning but slow character – but that was before he lost his ancestral lands in the last campaign. Could the resulting exile have had some kind of effect on the man? Based on his last performances, some kind of recessive gene in him has been awakened.

So, what now, as the two armies glare at each other across a fortified river-crossing? Well, Luftberg need to go to another city to try and claim some cash. North is Overburg and south is Unterschloss, but each is four areas away for Luftberg and just two areas for Aschenbach. Strategically, Luftberg is at a big disadvantage as they’ll almost certainly be beaten to either one and have to attack against the defending Aschenbach army. Or, of course, if they pull away from the river crossing the enemy will simply follow them over and prey on their rear, cutting their supply lines. Hm...

That’s assuming of course that Aschenbach is interested in such marching around, when the enemy is right before him and a battle is all he seeks! So, how to do it?



Well, to further get inspiration I drew up the area in a bit more detail and pondered it over. From the direction of flow in the main Spitzwasser river and the tributary river south of the Aschenbach camp, I reasoned that erosion etc. would have plausibly formed a high bluff between the two rivers just before their confluence. If so, then it would give a good elevated position from which the Aschenbach troops could approach unseen, lay a pontoon crossing under protection of cannon on their own bank, then cross over. The Spitzbruck bridge crossing, heavily defended by each side, would be bypassed and the two armies on the same side of the river. The more I pondered it, the better it seemed. Astride the Luftberg lines of supply, a battle in open country would be inevitable. If won, Luftberg could be forced into Spitzburg and would either have to accept terms or a siege they were unprepared for. If the battle was anything like a stalemate, then the Aschenbach army could remain close or withdraw back over the river for protection. In fact, by leaving the crossing well protected, only a major disaster which saw the Aschenbach army comprehensively routed would leave it open to destruction before it escaped to the far bank.

So, a plan is afoot. Aschenbach draws it’s hand, and the cards say…

Tactical Advantage; Terrain Effect; Wild Card; Rally; Large Formation; Terrain Effect; Tactical Advantage; Small Formation; Fatigued; Ambush

From this, I’m going with: Aschenbach will attempt a River Crossing (WILDCARD) to launch a Surprise Attack (AMBUSH) on the Luftberg Army. This will succeed because of the surprise crossing point (TACTICAL ADVANTAGE), the advantageous bluff on the friendly side of the crossing (TERRAIN EFFECT) and this can be carried out in the face of the enemy still resting after their forced march up the road (FATIGUED.)

The cards have fitted in nicely with this plan, with good ‘terrain effect’ and ‘tactical advantage’ cards – excellent! I’ll roll for success or failure just before the miniature battle, once I’ve drawn up some tactical maps and ‘prepared the field’ so to speak. The dice roll will be used to decide how far through the process the Aschenbachers get before the Luftberg army awakes to it’s peril.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Welcome to Spitzburg

The Burgermeister of Spitzburg, Erich von Dank, could see the writing on the wall. He had heard word of the approach of the Aschenbach army, drawing far closer than the Luftberg force. Then, the roads had been cut by bluecoat foraging parties and scouting groups. The city was about to be taken, obviously. No force was present to resist a serious assault, so all accepted that the only thing to be done was to surrender the city in return for good treatment, and keep the disruption to profitable trade as small as possible.

Then, one morning, the thump of artillery and rattling musket fire could be heard to the south. Von Dank headed south out of the city to a small hill a short distance from the gates, a small delegation of the city’s magnates accompanying him. His secretary brought the large ornamental key to the city, to present to the occupiers when they arrived. A large welcome ceremony with Aschenbach flags was prepared in the city’s central square.

They didn’t have to wait long, as a column of fast-marching Aschenbach infantry quickly appeared out of the woods and came on down the road, with the General von Zaub riding at their head. The general cantered forward and halted in front of the delegation, whose small band energetically sprang into action.

Von Dank held up his prepared speech and launched into the oratory the occasion demanded. ‘General Graf von Zaub, rightful heir to the province of Zaub, and representative of the Kingdom of Aschenbach – ‘ von Dank tried to concentrate and press on, but faltered as the column of infantry swept past them, ignoring the usual niceties which dictated they should wait until the surrender was accepted.

Even Von Zaub, although he waited politely, seemed distracted. As Von Dank faltered, he seized his chance to cut in. ‘My thanks, Herr Burgermeister. I’m proud to accept this city’s surrender. My men and I will be heading straight to the riverside docks.’

Von Dank struggled again with this news. ‘The docks Herr General? But that’s the worst part of the city! We have a welcome ceremony for you in the city centre, if – ‘ Once again, Von Zaub cut him off with the barest politeness.

‘I’m afraid we have some matters to attend to. Nonetheless, the Aschenbach state is grateful for the loyalty of it’s rightful citizens, and shall be issuing a sum of funds in a display of appreciation.’ At this, the attentiveness of the delegation picked up. Von Zaub continued, as the troops marched past them and on into the city gates. ‘I’m sure the Spitzburg Bank will forward the money for us in the meantime. How much do you currently hold in your vaults?’

‘Around forty thousand thalers, herr General’ piped up von Dank’s secretary before he could stop him.

Von Zaub didn’t even blink. ‘Excellent. Release it at once. All 40,000 thalers. Distribute it as a gift from Aschenbach to the worthy citizens and nobility of the city. You can decide between yourselves who is deserving.’ The band’s music suddenly died away. Members of the delegation exchanged looks. Von Zaub, seeing the tail of his column disappear into the gates, raised his hat and with a cheery ‘Goodbye Gentlemen!’ he galloped after them.

Von Dank gawped after him, the dust cloud all around. As it settled, he realised that many hangers-on and even some official delegation members had slipped away, heading back to the city to reach the bank first. Von Dank headed back to the city himself, with his secretary in tow, still holding the ceremonial key.

By the time he reached the gate, the whole city was in an uproar and he was instantly waylaid by a mob, with dozens shouting at him at once.
‘Von Dank, is it true that the Aschenbachers are emptying the bank vaults?’
‘It is! I’ve seen them! They simply opened the doors and left it!’
‘I want some! I’m a worthy citizen!’
‘I’m more deserving! Give me money!’
‘No, me!’
‘Money!’
‘The Aschenbach troops are all down in the riverside!’
‘They’ve commandeered boats to cross the river and have abandoned them on the far bank!’
‘The mob’s turning into a riot! Call out the militia!’

What on earth was Von Zaub playing at? Von Dank was going to have to find him and demand an explanation for this chaos, but he could barely get beyond the gate, never mind make it to the riverside.

A voice called down from the gate walls. ‘Sir! Look! Back up the road!’ Von Dank looked back behind him. Coming up the road was another column, this time of white-coated troops flying Luftberg colours, hot on the heels of their enemies. An officer galloped ahead of the column towards him. Von Dank began to feel distinctly unwell.

The officer pulled up. ‘Herr Burgermeister, this city is now being occupied by the Luftberg army of Feldmarschall von Hentsch. Have there been any Aschenbach troops spotted near here? That rogue von Zaub has been cut off from the bridges south of here, so he can’t get across the river. He’s trapped for certain as long as nobody dos anything stupid.’ As he finished speaking, the officer glanced past Von Dank and noticed the chaotic scenes in the street, framed by the gateway’s arch, which told him a whole city’s worth of ‘anything stupid’ was happening right now.

With a furious glower at von Dank, he wrenched the horse around and pounded back to warn his superiors, leaving the Burgermeister in yet another dust cloud. His secretary appeared at his elbow. ‘It’s been a bit of a strange day, hasn’t it sir?’ Von Dank grabbed his lapels and pulled him up. ‘Get to the square and pull those Aschenbach welcome flags down – quickly!’

Sunday, November 30, 2008

New Regiment

I just wanted to make a quick post, partially to update you all, and partially because one last post in November will make it my busiest month yet (a personal best!) Anyway, here's the latest regiment off the painting table, sporting blue facings which, according to the chart I made planning all my regiments, means it will represent IR1 Radetzky. Thanks also, as many will have probably guessed, to 'Not By Appointment' for the templates.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Public Service

I've seen this on some other websites, so thought I'd do the same to help out. The Essex Miniatures website is typically very good, supplying photos of several figures etc. However, the 15mm SYW area has lots of photos of Prussian units, but only a paltry couple of pics for Austrian units to tell you what you're buying! As such, for those with an interest, below are pics of what I've ordered. If anyone else is thinking of buying, perhaps this'll give you a bit more info on what you're deciding on potentially purchasing.



SYA10 - Chasseur/Jager Skirmishing. A single pose per pack, giving you 8 figures standing and giving the 'business end' of a musket to the enemy.

SYA9 - Mounted Infantry Officers. I believe the three figs in a pack are all the same; a trotting horse, plus a hand-on-hip officer casting a slightly sideways glance (no doubt checking alignment.)

SYA7 - Hungarian Grenadier - 8 identical figures, at the ready and looking set to advance. Bearskins too, as you can see.


SYA6 - Hungarian Infantry Command Pack. Each pack contains two of each of the figure types above. As befits 'lively' troops, they have a certain swagger lacking in the line infantry; the officer waves a spontoon ahead, the colours are swirling a little more, and the drummer (presumably) is depicted mid-solo.



SYA5 - Hungarian Fusilier. Through his pose, he appears surprisingly close to the Prussian infantry figure, so it's all in the painting to see the distinctive uniform details. Small paintbrushes not optional.



SYA2 - Austrian Command. Six figures a pack, two of each type. More restrained than the Hungarians, but I do like the officer gesturing ahead.


SYA1 - German Fusilier. The Johnny-Average of the army, the standard line infantryman at the ready.






Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Regimental Overhaul

I’ve been pondering the Luftberg state’s army, and for some period of time now I’ve been pondering a bit of a ‘military reform.’ Nothing like altering any of the illustrious regiments already round the colours, you understand – more like a basing change. Basically, I feel my units are a bit ‘light’ on metal. I initially started out on a basic infantry unit of 16 figures, which was pretty respectable-looking. However, even this didn’t last for long as I had to revise and expand to use the Might & Reason rules. Each unit now stands at eight lonely figures – resembling more of a skirmish line than the bristling juggernaut of death-dealing mayhem I know each regiment to be (I’m sure every wargamer pictures their own units the same way.)

It’s overdue in a way – despite this being one of my favourite and most long-standing hobbies, I’ve still somehow avoided spending a lot of money on it for a long time. As a result, it’s time to buy some more figures and replan the establishment of the units. I decided to place an order with Essex Miniatures, which arrived the other week.

So, what sort of change? I’ve done much pondering over other blogs, looking at photos everywhere, and have an idea. The M&R rulebook has photos of some wonderfully based units in 15mm, which I’ll be imitating. Each infantry base is two ranks of six, close-packed for a satisfying density, making each regiment weigh in at 24 figures. Or more accurately, 23 figures, thanks to the regimental commander being mounted and taking up somebody’s space with his horses’ backside.

Each regiment consists of: 1 mounted officer (taking up one file), three command units (an officer, a drummer and a colour-bearer) and 19 other ranks. For spacing etc, this goes on a 60x30mm base of MDF.

I’ve painted one regiment, just to try out spacings etc. and see how it looks. Here’s a snap of the first one. Meet IR Steinkopf (No. 11), outfitted in a natty white coat, breeches & waistcoat, red facings, black gaiters and white lining on the tricorne.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Highway Robbery!


Thanks to all the mop-moving and card-playing, we've got a pretty decent narrative for a skirmish game that we might otherwise never have had. I was going to work out some clever system for raiders moving around, scouts, ambushes, etc. but then decided 'what the hell... I'll just pile a bunch of figures onto a table and see what happens!' It's worked not badly. Below is my not-quite-scientific doodle-sheet which let me come up with ideas. I recommend this, actually, to aid thinking. The only problem is that it's usually impenetrable to anybody save the writer!
From sketching road networks running north to the city, as well as west to the Aschenbach army over the river, things have coalesced around a pair of road junctions. There's the direct route north, which the Luftberg army will want to pass up. This has been covered by a small fieldwork watched by Freicorps troops, no doubt taking a break from some pillaging, plus some cannons in support. Off on each flank was a few hussar detatchments, while slightly to the north was the undetected regiment of IR7 von Dunkel's infantry, ranging a bit far from home and looking for trouble. Due to the small scale of the fight, I upped the scale so each base represented a company, so according to the Kronoskaf website six companies makes up a typical battalion. It's pictured below, with no other figure than von Zaub chatting to von Dunkel.
To attack this, the Luftberg flying column had no guns (too heavy) but a good plethora of light troops to give weight to the core of the force, the IR7 von Stiegl infantry regiment. Having successfully detected the initial Aschenbach positions, a plan was quickly devised. The notion was for a force of Croats to screen the dug-in Freicorps directly to the front, feint with a Hussar raid to the east, then land the killer blow on the west, where von Stiegl's troops could cut the road back to the river and force a rather hurried retreat from the Aschenbach troops who didn't fancy getting cut off from their main army.
Things didn't get off to a great start however, when the main column under General La Spezia's watchful gaze launched it's attack ahead of the lacklustre Hussars on the other flank, who clearly felt that launching a diversionary raid came a poor second to a lie-in. The Aschenbach hussar screen was swiftly brushed aside by the Luftberg HR2 regiment under Schiele. However, poor La Spezia got a bit too carried away and caught an unlucky sabre blow in the skirmish, getting himself carried off to have his wound treated.


Alerted by the din, the reserve of von Dunkel quickly rushed to the sound of the fighting. There was a small hillock behind the junction, and each side rapidly realised that ownership would be crucial. Von Stiegl reached it first however, as the numbers of swarming Hussars cleared the hill and held the enemy back long enough for him to march up.

As the light troops on the east and centre of the road skirmished away, the two regiments formed up and von Zaub urged the bluecoats straight on. With a crash and din of musketry, the two sides blazed away at close range while the light cavalry continued to skirmish on their flank.

The lines wavered as troops fell back from the pounding match, but the generals kept on rallying them back into forming up and returning to the fight.
However, von Stiegl remained master of the heights for the time being, thwarting Aschenbach efofrts to break through long enough for the hussars to rout their rivals and menace the regimental flank. Von Zaub was alert to the danger though, turning a company out to refuse a flank and steady the situation.

However, things were clearly not going his way, and a fighting retreat was in order. The guns were able to escape cleanly up the main road due to the Luftberg hussars' late appearance, and the Freikorps troops held out comfortably in their fieldworks. However, the Croats' draining fire simply wouldn't stop, so before long the Freikorps were well and truly suppressed and just kept their heads down, trying to hold on long enough for the guns to escape. Once this was done, they joined in the general backwards movement and abandoned their works to the swarms of jubilant Croats who rapidly pursued.

Matters rapidly worsened as the hussars on the east flank finally appeared, descending on the Freikorps as they withdrew north. They took heavy losses, but ultimately managed to fend off the horsemen and kept falling back north. Von Dunkel was likewise pulling back, steadily giving ground and fighting all the way, leaving a trail of dead and injured in his wake as he held the whitecoats at arm's length.
The withdrawal was finally complete, with no troops or guns encircled or captured. This was something of a lucky achievement, and von Zaub's excellent performance was applauded by all! Meanwhile Luftberg's army was able to advance undelayed, with the road cleared to the city. Also, with the direct route back to the river cut, von Zaub now faces a protracted roundabout march to try and rejoin his superiors! Yes, the scene below at the crossroads says it all. The main column of the army approaching, Croats occupying the old fieldworks which would have caused such havoc, and swarms of light cavalry fanning out to harry the defeated foe ahead of them!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The skirmishing captains

Von Hentsch determines on reaching the river at Spitzburg first, forestalling the Aschenbach advance. This means a FORCED MARCH to the province and a sharp SKIRMISH with any bluecoats that have ventured out to try and thwart him. At least, from sitting idle as he organises, his troops are well rested to avoid being FATIGUED. Enemy raiders and scouting groups will be spotted and cleared aside by SMALL FORMATIONS of troops going ahead of his advance. To get some kind of unanticipated edge, the crafty von Hentsch will arrange for these groups to live off the land and travel unusually light, abandoning their baggage and giving them a superior mobility (WILD CARD.)

It’s pretty likely he’ll be able to do the march without any problems, given how well prepared he’ll be following the last delay. Thus, success should come on a 3+ roll – slightly better chances than he had last time he tried. The roll is… A 5! Success, as he moves to Spitzburg and the outlying groups begin to clash.

So, we’ve the making of various minor encounter battles on the roads around Spitzburg, as Aschenbach raiders sent out the previous turn find themselves being hit by flying columns of Luftberg troops trying to clear the roads for the main army’s advance. Sounds like a classic bit of ‘klein krieg’ warfare. To the tabletop!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Spitzplatz approached

Aschenbach have a score to settle, and mean to do it! Since his opponent has proved so sluggish, the pressure’s off to an extent and von Krumper can move at his ease. Most sensibly, south out of the hills into the Oberwasser region, threatening to take up a good river-line position. Also, it takes him close to the route that Luftberg tried to scout out for themselves to advance on Spitzburg.

So, that’s a NORMAL MARCH to Oberwasser, where he’ll HALT and rest his army. He’ll take the whole force in a single, easy-to-maneuver LARGE FORMATION to speed marching, the swift advance will cause a MORALE DROP in the enemy leader, and he’ll also be able to tangle with the nearby detatchment that Luftberg sent out to clear their route, by launching a small hit-and-run raid (WILD CARD).

As it’s an easy march far from the enemy, we’ll say a 3+ for success. If he rolls a 5 or 6, the march is successful and also his hit-and-run raid on the Luftberg outpost will take place.

The result is… 4! Aschenbach safely march to Oberwasser, but sadly the raiding parties passing through the Vallensee and Spitzburg regions fail to make contact. Most likely, Luftberg’s feelers only made it as far as Vallensee while Aschenbach’s group simply darted over to Spitzburg and cut the roads. Felix von Hentsch won’t like this at all – a large enemy force within an easy march of Spitzburg, plus the roads already blocked for his own force! His own upcoming hand:

Normal March
Normal March
Normal March
Wild Card
Fatigued
Skirmish
Forced March
Halt
Halt
Small Formation

Monday, November 17, 2008

Spitzplatz campaign begins

For Felix von Hentsch, plundering Blinzburg is probably a bit premature – it’s likely to be well in his rear throughout the coming campaign so it’s already in the bag, so to speak. Far more tempting is Spitzburg – almost central in the province, and puts him in line for a river defence if the Aschenbach forces come directly for him. The catch – it’s pretty distant. So, von Hentsch plays the following cards:

ACTION – Forced March to Spitzburg
RESULT – Halt in the city
REASONS – The men will be eager for action as they have only just gained new recruits at the start of the campaign (Recruit/Desert card); They will have a Morale Increase from beating the enemy in the last campaign, plus von Hentsch will send a Small Formation of light troops ahead to clear the way and scout the route.

All in all, the results seem likely to favour such a proposal – a fast & speedy march by fresh and enthusiastic troops in the early days of high enthusiasm. As such, I’ll let it succeed on a 4+ dice roll. If it rolls a 3, I’ll allow the army to relocate to the Vallensee area, representing a partially completed march.

One roll of the dice, and it’s… 2! Failure, as no doubt Felix von Hentsch has found time trickling away while he organises his new army, forcing him to delay departure. Some hapless junior-ranking officers will be cashiered for such a delay!

So, with Luftberg firmly dropping the ball, it’s over to the Aschenbach army under von Krumper to make a move. He gets:

Halt
Siege
Normal March
Fear
Large Formation
Skirmish
Morale Increase/Drop
Large Formation
Rout
Wild Card

Feel free to chip in with ideas!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Spitzplatz Turn 1


Time to take a look at the ‘deck’ for the upcoming campaign, as discussed earlier. Following advice and personal musings, the deck now runs as follows:

Normal March(x4)
Forced March(x2)
Rest/Prepare(x2)
Rally(x2)
Ambush(x2)
Skirmish(x2)
Open battle(x4)
Tactical advantage(x2)
Large formation(x2)
Small formation(x2)
Motivation(x2)
Fatigued(x2)
Victory/Defeat(x2)
Rout(x2)
Halt(x2)
Retreat(x2)
Morale increase/drop(x2)
Recruit/desert(x2)
Weather Effect(x1)
Terrain effect(x2)
Supply lines(x2)
Talented Commander(x1)
Siege(x2)
Fear(x1)
Honour(x1)
Wild Card(x4)

And below is the province map, showing the relative positions of the two armies – the entry area has been randomly rolled for.


The campaign has a slight slant on it from the Luftberg perspective. Aschenbach are primarily on the lookout for revenge on the battlefield, so they seek a straight fight and victories – as many as they can get. Luftberg however, under the leadership of Graf Felix von Hentsch, needs to ‘save’ the province by beating the Aschenbach army – but only after he’s been able to pay a visit to as many of the five cities in the province as he can, in order to ‘requisition supplies’ for the war effort (and personal expenses, of course.)

A normal move is one area at a time, with a forced march allowing two areas to be covered, but beyond that, anything goes! To let von Hentsch loot an area, a turn of inactivity will be needed.

Right, first to move is… Luftberg, according to my random roll. Here’s the Graf Felix along with the army, and he draws the following hand:

Small formation
Morale increase/drop
Open battle
Small formation
Recruit/desert
Normal March
Halt
Forced March
Small formation
Open battle


Feel free to suggest your ideas – basic moves are:
a) Sit tight in Blinzburg and ‘stock up’ on funds
b) March into any of the adjacent areas, clearing the woods and entering the open river valley regions
c) Force-march either to Spitzburg, staying on the opposite side of the river from the enemy; or west to cross the river Spitzwasser and enter Ostunter, within spitting distance of Unterschloss.
d) Anything else you can think of!

Friday, November 14, 2008

...and here it is.

It’s official – a full-blown military expedition from Aschenbach is closing on the borders of Spitzplatz. Watching the hammer-blow descend, von Bitzhelm has had little choice but to appeal direct to the Electorate of Luftberg for protection. Luftberg, anxious to avoid being made to look like a fool on the diplomatic stage, has issued an immediate guarantee of protection to the province. The Graf Felix von Hentsch has offered to prosecute the Luftberg army’s campaign with suitable vigour, and the careworn Elector has agreed to his request. It appears the clash of arms shall soon decide all.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

We all saw it coming...

Shocking developments on the military front, with news of Aschenbach arming for a military expedition! The crown prince Gerdt von Krumper has issued a stinging couterblast against the Luftberg intention to take over the province of Spitzplatz. Citing recent revelations about the deep ancestry of the von Bitzhelm family, it appears that Aschenbach has a claim to the province every bit as obscure and tenuous as Luftberg. The Aschenbach state is outraged and claims the province is their legal property, not Graf von Bitzhelm’s to give away. Heraldic experts across the continent are shrugging at each other in bafflement at the mass of claims and counter-claims flying back and forth over the border, and now it appears that the Aschenbach army is marching out to Spitzplatz to make tenuous claims a hard-and-fast reality!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Some silly little detail

All of Luftberg and Spitzplatz has been rocked by the latest announcement from the government. The inclusion of the province now appears to be in direst jeopardy. This is following the recent announcement of the Graf Felix von Hentsch, where he revealed the shocking discovery that the von Bitzhelm family lineage could only boast 63 quarterings, rather than the 64 initially claimed. Even worse than this scandal, the inaccurate priority given to certain obscure family genealogies has revealed that the ruling von Krumper dynasty of Aschenbach is in fact also related to some of the von Bitzhelm family ancestors.

All the court is naturally scandalised. Graf Karl von Bitzhelm is outraged and refutes the claims, saying “I’m outraged.” Elector von Luftberg is disappointed, stating “I’m disappointed” to the Luftberg Tagezeitung correspondent in court. Graf Felix von Hentsch simply smiled, and the Aschenbach ambassador was completely unavailable for comment, claiming he had “some urgent business to take care of.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The New Aristocrats

Official news from the Luftberg court now confirms what the gossips have said for some time – the province of Spitzplatz is soon to be incorporated into the Electorate. Diplomats recently confirmed that all but the last formalities were now out of the way, and the Elector has just accepted the kind offer of the Graf von Hentsch to tidy up the last few issues.

So, who are the newcoming family? The von Bitzhelms are fabulously wealthy, plus the family seems to have an unfortunate tendency towards being a bit – well, ugly. (Damn those random dice rolls!) Still, the beauty does indeed seem to be in the eye of the beholder, for the Graf and Grafin have no fewer than six children – all very young, on account of the relative youth of the couple themselves. The full list and notable personality quirks comes down as follows:

Graf Karl von Bitzhelm, 33, good personality, healthy, a bold leader, somewhat ugly, but vastly wealthy.
Grafin Lena von Bitzhelm, 25, nasty personality, unattractive.
Their children:
Otto, 7, good
Sophia, 6, nasty, beautiful
Alexander, 6, good, handsome, twin of Sophia
Kristin, 5, good, ugly
Dieter, 3, good
Franziska, 2, poor health

(I’ve kept the details lighter than before because a) not all of them were useful, and b) they’re awfully young.)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Medals all round!


Near to me in Scotland, there’s a rather strange building from 1761 called (now, anyway)the Dunmore Pineapple. It was a summerhouse built with a roof shaped as a pineapple – not the most expected thing to encounter in central Scotland. Apparently in the early centuries after they were discovered the difficulty, expense and sheer irritation of getting one back to Europe meant they were available only to the elite. For some time, and evidently also in the 18th C, the pineapple was a symbol of wealth and influence. I was reminded of this recently by a television programme, which got me thinking about the Dunmore House, which in turn got me thinking about perhaps using the motif in Luftberg. As the national symbol has already been picked (the eagle) Ulrich v. Luftberg has instituted the Ordre de l’Ananas for all gentlemen who achieve distinction in the eyes of their peers. Heroism in battle will merit membership, but so will achievements in the arts and sciences – even though you can work from home in that case, and the whole thing is much more agreeable.

Initial awards shall go to those foreign adventurers who aided the state in the last war, now currently on their way homeward with plaudits – Major Ungaurn and General Reich Graf James Louis von Beerstein. In addition, the new Graf von Bitzhelm will receive an award, for his services present and future, to the Luftberg treasury.

Spitzplatz


The latest broadsheet posted in the towns of Luftberg, for popular Luftberg Tagezeitung, brings news of the nearby province of Spitzplatz. The ruling family of von Bitzhelm, famed for their incredible wealth and notoriously gloomy disposition, have recently opened negotiations with the Electorate of Luftberg.

Due to the recent death of the von Bitzhelm family patriarch, crushed to death by a vast pile of money, his son has taken over as the Graf of the province. The recently deceased’s will revealed some family skeletons in the closet, and apparently von Bitzhelms’ great-great-grandfathers’ cousins’ mistress once briefly married the great-great-uncle of the von Luftberg family. They’re practically related!

Delighted to find that ridiculous wealth is no obstacle to power, the diplomats are now discussing the absorbtion of the Spitzplatz provinces into the Electorate. On hearing of the proposals, the Elector von Luftberg apparently commented “Excellent!” while the Graf Felix von Hentsch bellowed “What?!”


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Plots

Whatever else is going on, it’s clear that the Aschenbach remobilisation is not going to see them back for at least a year, so we can afford to move the timeline (such as it is) onwards. Those of you who remember back as far at the misty dawning of this site will recall that I had a list of characters, plus plans for them to change over time by means of a spreadsheet. Well, it’s time to open it up, blow off the dust and fire through a new year of events.

As it happens, it’s not that hectic – one death, no births. The poor blighter leaving this mortal coil proves to be… Grafin Rosina v. Hentsch. Yes, the Elector’s one-time ‘bit on the side’, mother to Conrad von Hentsch, is now dead at the middle-age of 42, alarmingly young! The poor elector von Luftberg – fresh after his victory, his opponent proves militarily resilient and then one of the women he loved dies.

However, in political terms it’s a bit of a major development. The other great rival house in Luftberg, the von Hentsch dynasty, is taking some serious knocks. The Graf Felix von Hentsch sat out the last campaign - with my mixed feelings, as he was one of the more interesting figures I’d initially generated, largely on the basis of him being completely – well, evil. Still, he’ll need to do something now. He had two hooks in the ruling Elector to further his family, in the form of his ‘son’ Conrad and his wife Rosina – now the former is an invalid from battle while the latter has died. What to do? Or more particularly, what to do if you’re a power-mad amoral killer bent upon gaining control of the kingdom? I’m not really sure, actually.

First, the long-term appear secure as Felix has a younger son, Max von Hentsch, who could marry one of the Elector’s daughters. Plus, invalid or no, Conrad is still one of the hot contenders for becoming the Elector’s heir. If either one of these claims is pressed, then a von Hentsch will ultimately become heir to the throne. The thing that’s needed is a short-term way to steady the ship of state, increasing the von Hentsch family’s power so a claim can be made. Correspondingly, the last thing that’s wanted is a rival family to emerge onto the scene and threaten an alternative to the von Hentsch marriage or inheritance.

In fact, it might very well be said that if, say, a small province with a powerful ruling family came to attention and proposed itself for absorbtion into the Luftberg electorate, that’d be about the worst thing to happen to Felix von Hentsch. Why, if that was to take place, he’d be thwarted.

Unless, say, somebody deftly opened a possibility for the newly recovered Aschenbach state to intervene, forcing a military confrontation. Then some Luftberg notable like – for example, von Hentsch - could intervene and lead the army to victory, enhancing his own family’s name and, hypothetically, saving the Electorate. Oh, and if the parvenu provincial ruling house should get crushed to dust in the midst of the fighting, then… C’est la Guerre.

But of course, that wouldn’t happen. Almost certainly not.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Campaign systems

My thoughts on a future campaign have been swirling around, but generally I think I’m going to fight it on the basis of the DBA-style rules in the recent Lobositz refight – I think they’ve got potential. My decision for this was further encouraged when I used their points system for the existing Aschenbach/Luftberg armies and found they came out within spitting distance of each other. Clearly, the two opponents are well-matched (providing that Aschenbach’s von Krumper doesn’t get half his army destroyed in the first battle again.)

So, all the indecision is around the campaign system. One option is to take advantage of the fact that each battlefield is around 2ft x 2ft, so the campaign for a small province would plausibly be ‘mappable’ in it’s entirety, square by square. Not without work, however, but quite liberating and close to the style suggested in Charles Grant’s old books.

The other contender is to do the province as an area map and maneuver around with the card-based system outlined in the last post. This would allow certain advantages, such as a nice colourful map that could plausibly be put up on the blog for display – I always disliked the basic node-to-node one in the last campaign, but I couldn’t fix it up in time to make it more pleasing! Plus, as people seemed quite keen on voting (ie, posting comments) for actions at the very tail-end of the last campaign, it would also be possible to post the cards drawn and allow people to suggest and/or decide on what strategy each general pursued.

Balancing it all up, I think the card-based area-movement option is the best, as it is more of an experiment and allows people to get more involved (yes, I do indeed like all the people who add comments on the blog!)

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Future Campaign

I’ve been browsing back through an old stack of wargames magazines from way, way back in the early 1990’s which I recently found in the loft, looking for some inspiration for a future campaign. Reading through them, I was reminded of a system which was mentioned in one or two articles – I was always intrigued by them, but never actually got round to trying them. I’m pondering perhaps using them in my next campaign. For the sake of giving ‘food for thought’ I decided I’d detail them here and see if anybody had any comments – perhaps they’ve been used by someone who can advise on them, or if not they might perhaps inspire somebody.

The game uses a simple ‘area map’ and the movement of armies on it is determined by a deck of cards. The one below uses 54 in total, made up as follows (I’m sure you could tailor the cards easily to make them more ‘period suitable’ and perhaps cut the deck size)

Normal March(x4)
Forced March(x2)
Rest/Prepare(x2)
Rally(x2)
Ambush(x2)
Skirmish(x2)
Open battle(x4)
Tactical advantage(x2)
Large formation(x2)
Small formation(x2)
Motivation(x2)
Fatigued(x2)
Victory/Defeat(x2)
Rout(x2)
Halt(x2)
Retreat(x2)
Morale increase/drop(x2)
Recruit/desert(x2)
Weather Effect(x1)
Terrain effect(x2)
Supply lines(x2)
Battle Cry(x1)
Love(x1)
Anger(x1)
Fear(x1)
Shame(x1)
Wild Card(x4)

Basically you just get dealt about 5-20 cards a turn (in multiples of five, depending on how good your general is) and then play them each turn to decide what you do. You need to propose an action, a result, and give three reasons why. For Example:

Luftberg gets ten cards and decides it will:
Action: make a FORCED MARCH into an adjacent province containing an enemy force.
Result: it will then AMBUSH the enemy, catching him by surprise. This will succeed because…
Reason 1: the enemy will have a MORALE DROP when caught unexpectedly,
Reason 2: Some rough terrain on the border will have a TERRAIN EFFECT and conceal the Luftberg approach,
Reason 3: the troops will be eager to attack as they feel ANGER against the enemy who have invaded their home province.

The proposal is weighed up for plausibility, and then a dice is rolled to decide if it succeeds. A plan with poor reasons should only succeed on a long-shot roll of 6, while an undemanding and straightforward scheme could succeed on a 2+ (it’s a good idea to make a 1 always a failure, however good the plan, to keep an element of chance.) If it succeeds it gives a good basis for a tabletop combat scenario, such as the above example which could be done with combat modifiers, concealed deployment by the attackers, etc. etc.

The rules initially put me off as they needed an umpire to judge the proposals, but it seems like a good advantage for something like this solo blog project, where the narrative is as important as the actual campaign and characters. It also seems good for 18th Century stuff, where you tend to have only a few big armies on the move, and the cards can easily be tailored to suit particular features.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bad News

Middle age is clearly catching up on the Elector Ulrich von Luftberg. Flush from his recent success and the banishing of his enemies in Aschenbach, he was counting on a genteel slide into old age, with his only focus being marrying off his eldest daughter suitably and reaching some kind of rapproachment with his illegitimate son Conrad, as he adapts to life as an invalid. However, it seems this is not to be. Shaken awake last night by his Staatskanzler, he was presented with news from his spies over the border in Aschenbach territory, where the recruiting cantons have been reported in a fervour of activity.

The news is bad – in fact, it’s awful. A spy had infiltrated the training grounds for the army’s general maneuvers, and sent back a series of hurried (but well-detailed and sensitively tinted) watercolours, portraying what he had seen. It’s enough to chill the blood of a far hardier man than the Elector…



















Monday, October 27, 2008

Rules for Siegecraft

As promised, the rules I used for the recent siege of Flussburg. The rules for this battle of digging and fighting are a home-made mishmash I’ve drawn up myself, as a kind of fast-play melding of the M&R rules I’ve used up until now and the Age of Reason rules which tackle some siege mechanics. The ‘Konig und Kaiser’ house-rules for sieges are as follows:


TURN SEQUENCE
Proposed Digging
Redeploy
Sorties/Assaults
Bombardment
Casualty Recovery, Complete Digging, Advance Clock

Proposed Digging Phase
Each side sets out troop bases to mark out it’s intended trench works. The first parallel can be built to any length in turn 1 (to provide the ‘starting trench’.) After this, any trench can progress at the following speeds:
8BW(Base Widths)/Turn for any works over 4BW from the Glacis edge
4BW/Turn within 4BW of the Glacis edge
3BW/Turn on the Glacis
For the Defender, digging counter-approaches:
4BW/Turn on the Glacis
2BW/Turn beyond the Glacis

Redeployment Phase
All units can be moved and repositioned as desired. Defenders can move anywhere inside their defences, while attackers can move anywhere inside a continuous trench system. Note that artillery cannot move and fire in the same turn.

Sorties/Assaults Phase
The attacker and defender may fight each other by launching attacks on each others’ works. The side which launches a sortie/attack may move to within 1D6 BW’s of the enemy before setting up, to simulate surprise as they try to sneak up and rush the enemy.

Infantry bases move 2BW; hits on a 6 at short range (0-2BW) and at long range (2-4BW), but a saving throw is permitted at long range.
and guns don’t move at all, but can be removed voluntarily to simulate the crews running away.

Artillery fires only on every third turn (as each turn represents a shorter period of time.) Range 16BW, but all infantry caught in 3BW of the 45deg. Canister fire arc are hit on a 6. This canister arc of fire from a battery in the fortress is also assumed to fill any section of ditch/covered way that it overlooks.

There are no AT’s, and no SP’s – bases are removed as casualties if they are hit.

In close combat, each side rolls a dice and modifies it (-2 if Artillery or enfiladed; +1 if Grenadiers; +1/+2 if defending trench/rampart.) If less than enemy, recoil 1BW and the enemy advances to occupy the space you previously held; if less than half the enemy’s score, destroyed and enemy advances.

Troops carrying Gabions move at half speed, and need 1 turn to set them up & create a trench. Overturning/filling in trenches requires 1 Turn.

Bombardment Phase
Cannon that didn’t move this turn may fire. Range is 16BW. Artillery does not get it’s saving roll if hit, but will get one from fortifications/trenches. No suppression – the first artillery hit is marked, and the second destroys the battery. The fortifications saving throw is ignored if the firing battery has 'enfiladed' the barrier, by firing from parallel or behind the line of the protection.

No fire can be directed on the fortress walls or troops in the ditch except from the Covered Way. The Covered way gives no protection if fired on from under 1BW away. To knock a breach 1BW wide in the wall requires a total of 3 hits.

Howitzers and Mortars have a max. range of 8BW and a minimum range of 4BW. They fire like normal artillery but ignore all cover and can hit targets in the ditch.

Casualty Recovery Phase
Half of all losses in the last turn (rounding up) are permanent losses and removed. The other half (rounding down) are assumed to have been lightly wounded, routed, etc. and otherwise return to action. Troops lost in Sorties/Assaults are all permanently lost by the attacking side.

Complete Digging Phase
All those troops placed for new works in the Proposed Digging phase, and haven’t been disturbed by combat or hit by artillery, now place trenches.

Advance Clock Phase
Mark off a turn – this equates to 2 days in the ‘real’ world.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

KISS Lobositz!

KISS meaning ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’ of course! Instead of a campaign, I thought it’d be interesting to refight a quick one-off historical battle, and report it in it’s entirety. I’ve picked a DBA-esque re-enactment of one battle - In 1756, Frederick the Great fought his first pitched battle of the Seven Years’ War, at Lobositz. The rules are my own hacked-down, simplified version of the ‘Horse, Foot & Guns’ rules freely available on http://www.phil-barker.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/ - recommended!

Background
When Frederick invaded Saxony and held it’s army down at Pirna, the Austrians prepared an army to relieve them. However, Frederick didn’t await it’s arrival and rushed to intercept it, ultimately crossing over into neighbouring Bohemia and catching the Austrians by the town of Lobositz.

Terrain
The Prussian army emerged from a valley onto the plain around Lobositz, which was formed by hills to their north and south. South was the Homolka, while north was the larger Lobosch hill, whose slopes were covered with rough going in the form of walled vineyards - filled with Austrian Grenzers.

Before the Prussians, across a short distance of open ground, lay the Austrian main army. The right flank backed onto the impassable River Elbe, while the left sheltered behind a small marshy stream called the Morellenbach. The centre spanned the gap between these two features, taking in the town of Lobositz itself and a sunken road that ran south from the town to the Morellenbach.



The Battlefield - at this scale, a manageable 2ft x 2ft!

Historical Outcome
Thanks to heavy fog reducing visibility, Frederick began believing he was only facing an Austrian rearguard and started with a probing cavalry attack. This was forced back, which together with a mounting artillery battle and clearing fog, it became clear that the main Austrian army was present. Unfortunately the Prussian cavalry reinforced itself and attacked again, only to become tangled up in the marshy Morellenbach and forced to withdraw by the Austrians’ fire.

Things in the north progressed better, although very slowly, as Prussian infantry fought uphill through the vineyards to clear the Grenzers off the Lobosch slopes. Each army steadily reinforced the struggle, which dragged on for hours before the Prussians finally took the hill. Attacking on to the Austrian right wing, they pushed the Austrians back through the burning town of Lobositz, and after 7 hours of fighting the Austrians withdrew without pursuit from the exhausted Prussians.

Forces
Taking my figures from the excellent Duffy book ‘The Army of Frederick the Great’ I’ve based my armies roughly on numbers rather than battalions. Each base is around 2,500 infantrymen or 1,500 cavalry, which gives me a force of:

Prussia
4 Cuirassiers
3 Dragoons
1 Grenadiers
5 Muskets
1 Artillery

Austria
4 Cuirassiers
1 Dragoons
1 Grenadiers
7 Muskets
2 Croat/Grenzers
1 Artillery


The initial deployment, as seen from above.


Special Rules
Prussian Cavalry – as Seydlitz had not yet risen to prominence, the cavalry was not yet completely reformed and it ran out of control in the battle, showing more aggression than skill. Consequently, Prussian cavalry must always make follow-up moves to contact if possible, and cavalry groups will require 1 command PIP per turn to not charge spontaneously.

Surprise – Unaware of Austrian positions, the Prussian army’s movements are limited at first. All PIP costs are double until either the first cavalry combat of the day, or the first Prussian base is lost.

Fog – Artillery fire for the first 12 impulses has a -1 modifier.

The Refight!
Starting out, two bases of muskets were sent up the Lobosch hill to clear off the Grenzers. This proved every bit as frustrating as feared, with the Grenzers in their element amongst the rough ground and the Muskets floundered around, trying to get to grips with them.




"Where are those shots coming from?!"


The cavalry promptly rode out into the valley, where two Cuirassier bases moved forward from the rest. The Austrian Cuirassiers and Dragoons in the valley, peering out into the mist, suddenly found themselves being charged by a wall of Prussian horsemen. The Austrians were swept away by the Prussians, with the dragoons scattering into the Morellenbach marshes to the rear with the Prussians in hot pursuit. This proved a mistake however, as the Prussians soon found themselves under heavy enfilading fire from the Austrian Muskets lining the opposite bank.



Prussian cavalry, heading for the sunken road with Lobositz on their left and the Morellenbach on their right

Repulsed by this solid defence, not to mention the constant harrying fire from the artillery batteries in the Austrian centre, they fell back. The Austrian s were so encouraged by this robust defence, they moved two of the five Muskets on the south wing into a march column, and redeployed them to Lobositz in the northern sector where Prussian attentions were clearly focused.

A slight pause followed, with the Prussians laboriously reforming their Muskets and cavalry after their repulses, while the Austrians rolled high PIP dice and accomplished their redeployment with a speed and deftness that would’ve done Old Fritz himself credit – most unhistorical! Meanwhile, the Austrian cannons continued to thump ineffectually against the Prussian main line, and the Prussian cannon on the Homolka sat silent, discouraging any advance by the whole Austrian right. On the Lobosch, the Muskets once again wasted more scarce Prussian PIPs by failing to bring the fight to a conclusion against the Grenzers.

Finally, Frederick despaired of the long delays and resolved to attack the main Austrian position, Lobosch or no. The cavalry would lead off and guard the right of the line, while this swung like a door hinged on the (screened) Lobosch to skim past the Austrians in the town, crushing their right wing against the Elbe. Things began well enough, as the cavalry swept out once again and promptly overran the battery. However, the undisciplined horsemen allowed enthusiasm to get the better of them again, and they charged on heedless of the risk. They swept right on to the town of Lobositz, bristling with Austrian Infantry – totally impregnable to horsemen, who were comprehensively repulsed.



Horses and houses - never a good idea.
The PIP dice were once more loaded in Austrian favour, as the Prussian line crawled on forward at a sluggish pace while the Austrians rushed to form a new line facing southwest to meet them.


The lines clash (a slightly blurred pic, no doubt due to the fog!)

The two lines crashed and blasted away, but the town protected the Austrians enough to let them steadily gain an upper hand with flanking fire, unpicking the Prussian line from right to left. The Prussian Grenadiers made a brave attempt on the left of the line, pressing into close range for volleys, but the rest of the Prussian line recoiled back and the grenadiers, unsupported, were finally routed. The Prussian line wasn’t destroyed, but was forced back to reform and long turns ticked by as meagre PIPs had to be squandered rallying troops and stopping the cavalry charging over the Morellenbach.

However, the Austrians had no intention of advancing themselves out of the protection of Lobositz to be beaten in the open, or trying to advance on the left flank where the Prussian guns could break them up. Things came to a final head when the Grenzers on the Lobosch forced the Prussian muskets back again, then diverted some of their strength to fire on the reforming Prussian grenadiers’ flank. Faced with a further withdrawal, and a seemingly endless standoff between the two forces, both Frederick and Browne decided – in true 18th century style – to break off the engagement. In effect however, the result was a Prussian defeat compared to the historical outcome.

Aftermath
No great upsets to history. The Austrians, faced with an intact Prussian army, would have been unable to march to the Saxons’ relief as planned, and Frederick would have been free to invade Bohemia the following year to make his date with disaster at Kolin.

The rules played out very well, although I was a bit caught out by the results being mainly for withdrawals and retreats, rather than elimination. Most infantry are indestructible unless caught in rough ground or by mounted troops in the open. It seemed quite effective, anyway.

I think I went a bit too far with the Special Rules for the Prussian cavalry. Maximum pursuit moves would’ve been adequate on its own, and the requirement for spending a PIP to stop spontaneous moves was a bit unrealistically enervating. They may have been overeager historically, but they were acting like French medieval knights on the tabletop! I forgot my own advice – KISS indeed…

Oh, and one last thought – the tight PIP budget means you need to limit moves and attacks to only what’s needed. The Prussians could’ve probably taken the Lobosch if that was all they tried to do, rather than try to take it, launch cavalry attacks, and move infantry all at once. Ah well, you live and learn – or at least, Frederick did…

Monday, October 20, 2008

Winners and Losers

Half the fun in campaigns which you record is looking back over the way things unfolded. A blog proves very rewarding for this, I’ve discovered. Looking back over it all, the clash at Vogelhof was the decisive moment – Aschenbach never really recovered from their heavy losses, and despite a pair of minor victories in the following months they didn’t have the strength to produce an upset at Althirschburg. Not that it was a foregone conclusion, as I honestly didn’t know who was likely to win the campaign when I started it – if Luftberg had lost Vogelhof, they’d have probably gone down to a decisive defeat rather than achieve a decisive victory. For what my opinion’s worth, here’s my personal countdown of the winners and losers from the campaign…

The biggest winner must surely be the Elector Ulrich von Luftberg. Architect of the campaign triumph, the victor on the field wherever he appeared (including the critical battle of Vogelhof,) and now the new owner of a brand new province!

Erich von Kleintrink, the furiously hard-charging commander of the Aschenbach cuirassiers, also emerged as one of the more memorable characters in the kingdom. He charms ladies the way that he drinks, and drinks the way that he fights – hard and fast. Denied at Vogelhof in his scheme to turn the enemy flank, he then led the raid that wiped out the Luftberg Hussars and helped demolish the Luftberg force outside Flussburg, before taunting death repeatedly at Althirschburg with a series of charges that would have won the battle if the Aschenbach army wasn’t so weakened. Surely, we’ll be hearing from him again.

The Line Infantry of Aschenbach also buffed their reputation, by repeatedly cutting through their Luftberg opposite numbers in various battles, thanks to their tight drill on manoeuvring and musketry. Only with close artillery support and heavily superior numbers were the whitecoats able to compete. Their finest moment was probably at the Battle of Flussburg, where they forded a river in front of the enemy and then deployed to sweep him off his hilltop through weight of firepower.

The Luftberg Artillery corps proved itself in siege, and also in the two key battles of the campaign. Without clouds of canister being routinely hurled at every Aschenbach infantry attack, the army owed it’s victory in large measure to the gunners.

One individual regiment of note must be Luftberg’s KR No. 2, the Schrodinger Cuirassier Regiment, for it’s feat at Vogelhof. Smashing aside a regiment of dragoons and then routing the startled foot guards of the Aschenbach army as they forded a river was a pretty spectacular achievement by anybody’s standards.

And the Losers…

Grenadiers of both Luftberg & Aschenbach armies had a hard time. I’ve already mentioned the disastrous performance of the Aschenbach guards, but all other grenadiers failed to really grab a defining heroic moment. The Luftberg Grenadiers held the village of Vogelhof impressively, but everywhere else the regiments all had a similar tale – battered by artillery and musketry, steadily declining in strength through various engagements, but never overrunning a battery or piercing an enemy firing line as compensation. Ah well, that’s luck I suppose…

General van der Dijk, of the Luftberg army’s cavalry, seemed particularly ill-starred. Perhaps it’s because he was the sub-general with the best rating, he found himself picked out for the most difficult tasks, which then promptly proved too much for him. His Hussar detachment was wasted by disease, then wrecked in an attack by von Kleintrink so one-sided it didn’t even make it to the tabletop. He then topped this by getting beaten at Flussburg, the one battlefield defeat of the campaign for Luftberg. Still, perhaps he’ll bounce back into favour.

Prinzregent von Krumper – don’t even mention the phrase ‘learning experience’ to him! Odds-on favourite to win at the start, but reduced to a battered husk of an army cooped up in a breached fortress, accepting dictated terms. Clearly, the knack of getting a victory from the Aschenbach army’s qualities has not yet been learned. Could a defeat of this magnitude even push his sickly father over the brink and – whisper it - produce a threat to the succession?

The Graf Conrad von Hentsch, most heroic and capable officer in the Luftberg service, never really came alive as a character. He oversaw the grenadiers’ defence of Vogelhof village, but then his promising career was terminated by a stray bullet at Althirschburg. A dice roll for recuperation managed to avoid death, but a catastrophic has resulted in him being invalided out of the service, sporting an eyepatch, and having less-than-perfect depth perception.

Luftberg’s Irregulars had a poor campaign. The hussars caused damage on a strategic level, but not on the tabletop. Similarly, the Croat skirmishers were regularly just spectators to events. I thought the irregular forces were one of the key strengths of the Luftberg army, judging from it’s Austrian ‘ancestor’. Clearly an opportunity is being wasted (and dumping the poorest commanders on them probably wasn’t helping.)

However, the biggest loser must surely be the Graf Hans von Zaub, who has just seen his family’s estates in the lost provinces given away to Luftberg. Disposessed gentleman-soldier, he’ll be continuing in the Aschenbach service and existing on an allowance from the Aschenbach treasury, who are no doubt anxious to keep him around so his claim on his ancestral lands gives them legitimacy for a future war of reconquest.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Victory!



Wow, I was worried about not getting any comments back, but happily a good clutch of readers felt rightly welcome to chip in some advice. My only regret is that I didn’t seek advice earlier, when it might’ve done the defenders some decisive good! Ah well, maybe in the next campaign…

Following the unanimous vote, historical convention has been followed and a polite call for surrender has been politely accepted, with the remains of the Aschenbach army has been permitted to march out of the breach with bands playing, retain it’s colours, and leave the province.

So, the siege is at an end. I’d put a bit more attention into how to attack a fortress rather than defend one, purely for practical reasons, so tough luck to the Aschenbach troops for having to bear the brunt of this learning process! Looking back on it, the garrison seems terribly inert. Firing on the trench-works proved terribly draining on the attackers, but not decisive when they had a five-to-one superiority.

I think the first big mistake was the giant 8-base sortie launched early in the siege, which for the gain of 2 days cost the defender around a fifth of his total strength. Perhaps it shows the steepness of the defenders’ learning curve that it seemed like a good result at the time(!) and by later in the siege, more spectacular delays were accomplished with sorties of just 2 or 3 bases.

The other big shocker was the effectiveness of howitzers and mortars. Perhaps surprisingly for someone who so liked the 1992 film of ‘Last of the Mohicans,’ it never occurred to me just how effective they would be. If I’d known, I’d not have given the Luftberg army so many batteries of them, which turned the final artillery duels into a spectacularly one-sided affair. By the stage the danger they posed was clear, the defenders hadn’t the strength to attack the batteries and wreck the pieces. If they’d been more alert they could have countermined them and blown them sky-high. Infuriatingly, this very measure was actually suggested mid-siege in a comment by Frankfurter of Frankszonia, but utterly forgotten about when I was actually playing out the game (If only von Krumper had been listening a bit closer!)

Ultimately I’m happy with how the game played out. I think I learned a lot from it all about the ‘ins and outs’ of attacking and defending a fortress, and some features which weren’t clear to me before seem a bit more understandable – as a learning process, I’d really recommend it!

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So, the campaign for the Zaub provincial lands have ended, after occupying my gaming time since I started it back in mid-july. Thanks to absolutely everybody who has commented on it in that time, as I really don’t believe it would’ve been successfully completed without the encouraging words I’ve been regularly receiving!

All of Luftberg is in an uproar of celebration, following on from the peace treaty. The Zaub provinces are now ceded to Luftberg who has won a decisive victory. The Aschenbach borders now no longer lie secure on the Rhine river, and the newly-annexed provinces are poised like a dagger at the old enemy’s heartlands. The Elector Ulrich Von Luftberg has now risen to new heights of fame, wealth and glory!

Monday, October 13, 2008

And now, the end is near...

The midpoint of the siege has been passed, and the long-anticipated mortars are due to arrive. I’ve no intention of buying some models just for this (I’m saving my pennies for a reworking of my infantry regiments) so I can turn to the excellent Junior General for my batteries. I’m not sure how to put in a link, but you can find the site as I did through the excellent Duchy of Tradgardland site. With these guns in place, I’m set to finish up the siege!


Day 34
Following on from the Covered Way assault, the battered Luftberg infantry were quickly ordered on to dig some approach trenches, connecting the ends of the lodgement to the third parallel. As this put the third parallel back from the front line, the mortar batteries were also set up in it to open on the Zaub bastion. Aschenbach defending guns had an easy time of it, firing on the frantic digging works as well as enfilading the poor troops stuck in the covered way, now perfectly overlooked by the defenders.

Day 36
The approaches to either end of the covered way were finally completed, and digging works began at the top of the glacis for the final artillery positions – the plan being that the covered way would be kept filled with infantry to guard against sallies, while the guns were dug in just behind them and able to fire on the walls at long last.

Some of the mortar batteries proved unable to reach the defences, and so were repositioned further forward – those that could reach the Zaub bastion soon had shells arcing into the enemy positions. The heavy toll of Aschenbach gunnery continued on the covered way defenders.

Day 38
Digging works were at last ended. Guns were hauled up to the brink of the ditch, finally overlooking the wall of the fortress. Also, Aschenbach casualties were mounting from the mortars’ constant attentions, with some battery crews being smashed in the Zaub Bastion.


Day 40
Under a constant rain of shells, Von Krumper decides to concede the Zaub bastion and conserve his gunners for work elsewhere. For the first time since taking the covered way eight days ago, the Luftberg infantry are no longer enfiladed and both the target bastions are suppressed. The very southernmost flank of the lodgement is abandoned, on account of this extended area still being vulnerable from guns further round the fortress, so the captured covered way now extends only between bastion tips. Still, it proves enough and the Luftberg cannon open fire on the fortress walls for the first time.

Day 46
With no vulnerable digging works, the defenders’ guns concentrate all their fire on the Luftberg guns now knocking away at the fortress walls. Artillery losses mount on both sides, as the mortar batteries prove themselves ideal for counter-battery work. I’d always thought of them as an attacking weapon, but the defenders probably wish they had a few in the garrison!


Day 48
A Breach! The first section of wall has been smashed down, permitting a single infantry base to squeeze into the defences. If the opening is widened, the besiegers will be able to launch an assault in the comfortable expectation of success. The artillery duel continues, but with the mortars now in use as reinforcements the attackers have a distinct advantage in weight of fire, as the steadily mounting Aschenbach losses attest. Their only hope now is the running down of the clock…

Day 56
Finally, after more than two weeks of constant battering, the breach is deemed ‘practicable’ for an assault. The covered way is packed with troops, as it has been for the last few weeks, and the defenders take stock.

So, what now for Aschenbach? Upon sad reflection, they’ve been too passive in the siege and now have limited options. From their initial force of 30 infantry, only 10 now remain thanks to the ill-advised sortie early in the siege and the constant efforts of the mortars since their arrival a month ago. Numbers are now so tight that a sortie to regain the covered way would be doomed to fail. A defence of the breach against an enemy assault, as well as diversionary attacks elsewhere, would likely cause great destruction but ultimately fail. By that stage of course, the city would then be sacked and pillaged by the convention of the age – not the best outcome. Similarly however, it is possible to honourably surrender once the breach has been opened, which would save both the city and the nucleus of the Aschenbach army from which they could rebuild for future campaigns. Either way, the campaign concludes in a major defeat. How to go – fighting to the last in defiance of all odds, or with a touch of dignity and humanity?

I was trying to decide, and then just thought “What the hell – I won’t decide!” Many people posting comments on this blog had good advice for both sides, so they can have the honour of deciding. The next few comments on the blog will be taken as a ‘council of war’ vote on how to resolve the siege (If there are no comments, I’ll flip a coin.) Good luck!