Monday, April 27, 2009

Fighting Retreat Post-Mortem

So, after much delay and hold-ups, the battle finally happened.  And the Luftberg army slips away intact, to fight another day, thanks to the newly arrived Tobias Ludwig.  No small achievement, but getting Erich von Kleintrink was also a massive bonus.  Will the Aschenbach cavalry ever again have quite the same zip?  Only time will tell. 

The battle was fought out with a reduced force, thanks to my ongoing rebasing and expansion programme, but the thing I noticed most?  The game didn’t suffer for it.  Less units were on the tabletop, and like 99% of all wargamers I suffer from that creeping megalomania that ‘more means better!’  It’s quite encouraging to learn, not least because it encourages breaking up the two armies on campaign from monolithic blocks into smaller groupings.  I know it’s an anachronism to bring in a Napoleonic Corps-system to the mid-18th century, but some less formal  detachments, wings or advance-guards should fit in nicely!  Plus, I won’t have to wait until 2017 when all the miniatures are painted. 

The new basing makes it possible, in a big way.  The forces would’ve looked pretty lean and uninspiring under the old system, but the new basing makes them look much more substantial.  Also, I made a few improvements on appearances in other ways, such as working out how to take photographs without the flash and having a little tripod stand to reduce blurs in close-up shots.  The resulting pics are definitely more colourful and bright, as my old photos tended to cast big shadows on the background.  I also began using unrolled balls of cotton wool for smoke, which are required as game markers to show ‘fired’ units.  I had used tufts before, but now with more figures per unit, it seemed better to have them produce thick blankets of musket-smoke.  I quite like the look of them!

On a practical level, the game was played out using my usual Might & Reason Rules set (still excellent) and caused the uncontrolled Von Kleintrink to wreck any hint of tactics.  I had initially envisioned the game as a long-running hit-and-run race between columns trying to cut each other off along a road, but it didn’t turn out that way.  Each army had only two ‘junior’ commanders, who simply wound up colliding headlong.  In M&R, your army general gets ‘command dice’ which he uses to reroll other dice that don’t suit him – the better the general, the more command dice he gets.  With only sub-commanders present, they basically knocked about as they chose – attempts to activate them frequently wound up with them becoming ‘inert’ when action was required, and on occasions where disengaging and manoeuvring was the best option, commanders rolled ‘attack!’ options that sent them plunging headlong into disastrous situations.  Von Kleintrink seems to be very much the aggressive subordinate, ill-suited to independent command but very good when placed under some steady direction from Von Krumper.  Perhaps it’s best for von Kleintrink to be out as a casualty, rather than having to report back on his failure and explain how he got a prime regiment of Cuirassiers shot to fragments for no gain.

Ludwig did a good job with his infantry, considering they had no reserves or artillery support, and there was even a surprise discovery.  The Croats had made it onto the flank of the Aschenbach line, but their fire proved as undecisive as ever (they were at half-strength, because I had, erm, only painted one base.)  I was at a loss how they could prove useful – clearly I’m just not a ‘light infantry’ sort of wargamer – when the Luftberg infantry charged to close combat (a standard move for Luftberg, who can’t outshoot their opposite numbers in a one-to-one firefight) but as I read the rulebook, I realised that the outflanking bonus in close combat counted for light infantry as well as formed infantry, and it didn’t matter how strong they were. 

At last, a genuine bonus for the previously ill-used irregulars, who can now hover menacingly on the flank of any line and prove endlessly enervating for attacking enemies.  At full-strength, even firing on flanks will prove painful, while the -3 dice roll modifier for flanking in close combat means they are able to tip the scales against most attacks.  They are also pretty difficult to scare away, so it looks like the Luftberg army will abandon it’s previous practice of sticking the Croats under the worst commander and leaving them ‘inert’ in some isolated backwater.

Well, that’s enough chat for now, but I’ll be back soon to cover the next step in the campaign in the imagination world, and the progress of my massive miniatures expansion project in the real world.

Monday, April 20, 2009

FIghting Retreat, Part 2

The second charge went ahead, followed by the Aschenbach infantry which deployed out into line. Von Fleiger’s dragoons were once more repulsed, this time causing chaos as they fell back through the deployed blue ranks behind. However, with Kleintrink at their head the Cuirassiers were not to be denied this time and they smashed Raab’s dragoons aside. In the confusion, General Van Der Dijk was knocked from his horse and captured, but this misfortune was outweighed moments later – General von Kleintrink himself was unhorsed in the scrap, his horse falling on him and crushing his leg. The old scrapper had to be rescued by his retinue and borne off to the rear for an urgent date with the surgeons, while his command went leaderless.

Milling in confusion, the horsemen of both armies tried to reform but now found themselves subject to the full and undivided attentions of the infantry of each army. The lines exploded into a hail of musketry, and saddles were emptied by the dozen. Ludwig had made his line worryingly thin, flying in the face of the conventional wisdom that Luftberg infantry needed a reserve line to resist an Aschenbach attack. The advantage though was that he was now subtly angling his line inwards, enveloping the Aschenbach cavalry and infantry with interlocking fields of fire that meant the whitecoats could co-ordinate their fire and ‘gang up’ on unfortunate enemies.
The Cuirassiers of Von Kurbitz (KR2) found themselves being pounded by three enemy regiments, and were wrecked by the disorganising fire. Luftberg’s cavalry were similarly battered and finally pulled back, but the infantry proved able to resist the charges of Von Flunck’s dragoons on the end of their line.

The critical point became the left of the Luftberg line, closest to the withdrawing wagons, where the curving infantry line had just seen off the enemy Cuirassiers. The Aschenbach infantry regiment of Moglich (IR5) moved up to attack, aiming to break through the Luftbergers and turn their line. The croats swarmed round their flank and fired on them, while out of the smoke came the counter-charge from Radetzky (IR1). Trying to fend off the Croats proved to have thrown them off-balance as the Luftberg charge crashed into them and they fled from the fight!

Von Zaub, now in command of this sorry mess, realised it was a lost cause. His cavalry were so badly disordered it would take hours to reform them, his infantry were outnumbered and facing a solid enemy battle-line, and there was no way of catching the rapidly-distancing wagons. He ordered the remaining regiments to pull back and disengage.

General Ludwig had fought and won his first encounter, saving the escape route for the whole army and even beating the formidable Erich Von Kleintrink to do it. Heading back to rejoin the wagon train, the troops of Bartok’s IR9 expressed the whole army’s feelings and cheered him to the echo.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Fighting Retreat, Part 1

As the wagon-train set out, Ludwig’s escort was initially deployed in a semi-circle, covering the wagons from every direction except north. The vanguard was strengthened with Croats and Hungarians, plus the cavalry under General Van Der Dijk formed a screen all along the southern face.

No sooner was the column underway than the Aschenbach force under General Kleintrink was spotted, coming over the hills directly south of the column. They approached with Kleintrink at the forefront surrounded by his cavalry, followed by Von Zaub bringing up the infantry support in marching columns. Scorning any thought of outpacing them to block their escape, Kleintrink ordered a direct charge headlong at the escort, to scatter the rival cavalry.
Von Fleiger’s Dragoons and Kurbitz’s Cuirassiers galloped forward and clashed with their opposite numbers, respectively Klimt’s Cuirassiers and Raab’s Dragoons. The combat was speedy and brutal, with both armies’ infantry rushing to position behind the melee of horsemen. The combat was largely inconclusive, with the Cuirassiers generally having the upper hand over Dragoons, and Von Kleintrink possessed of a deathwish as ever and heroically threw himself into combat to encourage them on. However the Luftberg line took the impact and the Aschenbach horsemen were forced back to reform, galloping back between the columns of oncoming infantry.

At this point, it was honours even. Each cavalry force had been bloodied, but as attacker it naturally fell to Kleintrink to recoil from the contact and reform, but he took this somewhat badly – his cavalry had swept the field at Passditz, and now they were denied?

On the Luftberg side, Ludwig was busily forming his infantry into a single line to resist the oncoming blue force, while his wagons moved further along the road and off his flank. The obvious move was for the enemy to attack with his quick-firing infantry, pin the Luftberg force in place, and then use his cavalry to flank the whole contest and pick off the wagons. Ludwig’s own cavalry was inert, thanks to Van Der Dijk’s failure to grasp the urgency of the situation and pull back. Then – salvation! The Aschenbach cavalry reformed and came back head-on. Kleintrink’s blood was up and he refused any option but headlong attack.
Will Ludwig survive against the most notorious of the Aschenbach commanders? Will the Aschenbach cavalry ever be beaten in the field? Can the fragile Luftberg infantry line hold against the dreaded Aschenbach musketry? All will be revealed in the next post!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Holidays and Delays

The other day I was all set to finally play the long-anticipated (on this blog, anyway) roadside skirmish.  My other half was off out for the evening; oncoming summer meant it was warm, so I could set up in the loft without hypothermia; I had the number of rebased figures; I set up the terrain - in fact, I was totally ready...  Until I checked the camera batteries!  Both flat, and so I was unable to take any photos.  As that sort of thing would have me lynched (and quite rightly, too) I decided to postpone until I was back with fully-charged batteries.  

In the meantime, starting this weekend, I'm off for a four-day trip to Dublin!  I've never been to Ireland before, so it should be a nice little holiday.  I can however predict one certain contact with the 18th Century during my break - the 1759 date on the Guinness logo!