Thursday, October 30, 2008
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
The initial deployment, as seen from above.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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…
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!
Monday, October 6, 2008
After 32 days of siege at Flussburg, in the dead of night, Luftberg made it's first serious assault on the fortress defences. Troops packed the third parallel trenches, a double rum ration was issued, and the storming parties rushed out into the darkness. The covered way assault was underway!
The plan was pretty straightforward - the first waves would charge up to the covered way and then, through close combat with grenades or point-blank firing at the crest of the covered way, beat back the defending infantry. The constant stream of reinforcements fed into the line from the trenches would make up the losses and maintain the pressure until the covered way had been occupied from the tips of the two flanking bastions. Once this was captured, a signal would go back and the following waves would bring up gabions to let the lodgement be fortified. What could go wrong? Success was expected, but the cost was debatable. Would it be too pricey?
Initially the assault went well, as the attack was spotted just as it reached short musketry range - however the defenders rapidly opened up a storm of fire, with a hail of musket balls flying every direction and the cannon in the fortress blasting shots over the defenders' heads. Still, the attack was pressed with reassuring vigour and quickly smashed it's way into the covered way in front of the ravelin. A chaotic and point-blank series of firefights and combats broke out everywhere, over the glacis, into the covered way, and even down into the ditch. The attackers had numbers, but the defending cannon kept on firing canister down into the oncoming attackers. More than a few attacking lodgements were stranded for some time as reinforcements simply couldn't reach them.
Some virtues of the defence, not considered before, began to have a baleful influence. The Zaub bastion, not yet enfiladed and cleared of guns, was able to fire repeatedly into the attackers with great effect - far better than the guns back on the main fortress wall. Also, the zig-zag layout of the covered way meant that the defenders regularly found themselves able to fire into the flanks of the attacking infantry who tried to pass either side of them.
One spectacular feat was achieved by the defence - on the covered way at the tip of the Zaub bastion, a single unit of grenadiers had been stationed. These frosty-eyed killers soon proved themselves to be quite unbelievably lucky, seemingly bulletproof and indestructible, as they destroyed and rebuffed many times their own number of attackers. The mystical forces of dicerolling were clearly with them, as the Luftberg infantry simply couldn't roll a 6 to kill them. Every time they managed to gather sufficient strength to surely tip the statistical odds their way, the cannons on the Zaub bastion would thin them out again and then the grenadiers would drive them off.
However, most of the covered way in the target sector was now taken, and the signal for gabions was successfully sent back. However, the reduced movement rate of the burdened carriers hadn't been anticipated. While the gabions were hauled up with painful slowness, the Luftberg infantry had to endure point-blank cannon and musket fire from the defenders above them on the ramparts, taking heavy losses as a result. Still, very very slowly, the gabions were dragged up and erected, then filled with earth to provide the desperately needed protection.
Aschenbach infantry on the flanks of the lodgement backed away or returned to the fortress, conceding the position. Finally, the inevitable happened and the grenadiers at the Zaub bastion peak were finally wiped out by point-blank fire, grenades being hurled in, and Luftberg troops from further down the covered way working their way along to them. With them gone, the rest of the covered way was occupied and entrenched.
The heroic defenders - medals all round!
The permanent losses for the assault were - 5 Aschenbach defenders lost, and 33 Luftberg attackers destroyed. The defenders have by now lost around half their strength, while this assault takes the larger attacking force down to around two thirds of it's initial strength. Still, the result of all this bloodshed was the covered way - captured all round the Zaub bastion, all round the ravelin, and up to the point of the Kaisertreu bastion. Problem is, as the diagram shows you in blue arrows, is that as the Zaub bastion isn't yet cleared, most of the trenches are open to enfilade fire from the defenders...