Monday, November 23, 2009

Battle Honours

I know some people have a great enthusiasm for book-keeping in wargaming, but I personally tend to avoid most of it. However, when running an imagination campaign with a manageable number of regiments, each with their own name, a little bit can be rewarding. I have been keeping a simple spreadsheet of my units for this campaign, and writing down if they were present in each battle or skirmish - plus adding any notable feats of arms that stick in my mind. The process is pretty straightforward and undemanding, plus it gives some decent regimental 'narratives' over time. Here's a few typical examples:

Luftberg Infanterie Regiment of Negrelli (No. 4)
Present in Passditz battle-line but unengaged. Did not take part in rearguard.
Fought in Redoubt-storming near Spitzburg, flanked enemy and nearly won fight, but was forced to retire.
Fought at Froschbach. Attempted to attack flank of Grenadiers over marshy stream, but took heavy losses in stream.

Aschenbach Kurassier Cavallerie Regiment Von Kurbitz (No. 2)
Fought in Passditz and routed opposing cavalry.
Took part in pursuit after battle, routing Dragoon reg. D1 and captured General Van Der Dijk, but was caught by the fire of 3 enemy infantry regiments and greatly weakened by heavy losses.
Recovered and refitted in reserve, then was in action again at Froschbach. Charged repeatedly and was heavily engaged.

As you will see from the two examples above, the histories can quickly begin to take shape. I'm hoping the process could eventually begin to make more and more 'real' connections, such as two opposing regiments that repeatedly tangle with other could develop a rivalry, or perhaps a unit that fires particularly effectively in a few fights may be judged to have a particularly zealous drillmaster and get a permanent bonus, etc. The possibilities that emerge over time are good for firing the imagination!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Big Roundup

Today is something of a significant date in the Blog's history. To the best of my reckoning, this is about 1 year ago from when I resolved to carry out my big 'expansion' project. About 3 months ago I suddenly threw myself into painting and basing when I realised today was imminent, hoping to have it all done. I thought success was unlikely, but I wanted the spur to keep me active. The result is - exactly what I wanted!

From having about a third done, a third partially painted, and a third untouched, I have made huge bounds forward over the last few months. Now, how did I do? Out of a grand total of 74 bases across the two armies, I have 56 completed bases and just 18 still to do - 75% completed! Considering most of the completed ones are the 'heavier' infantry bases with a dozen figures compared to the cavalry's five, that's pretty good going. In fact, if I had abandoned the blog and not fought the battles over that redoubt and the monster clash at Froschbach, I could plausibly have managed the target! Proof that all painters should set achievable targets to encourage themselves along - I strongly, strongly recommend it!

After all that, how have things fared in games-world? Well, Aschenbach have yet again won a battle in the open field. The cavalry proved itself able (with some careful handling and some infantry support) of taking on double it;s own numbers. Things looked like the army was about to be overwhelmed by the size of the enemy, but the superior Aschenbach firepower in the Might & Reason Rules came to the rescue. That was the first time I think I've seen Grenadiers at work in full strength, and in the open - and it's alarming! They were chewing through enemy infantry regiments with virtually no damage in return. To put it in perspective, the standard Luftberg infantry unit has 6SP's (strength points) while the Grenadiers have 8SP's - and in fire they effectively double it, making the contest 16 to 6. They can very nearly take on three-to-one odds!

The only moment of brilliance for Luftberg arms is the dubious advance by General Ludwig into the boggy stream, which saw an infantry regiment effectively wrecked in exchange for flanking fire onto the Grenadiers, which did at least do some damage to the giants. No doubt Ludwig will maintain this was just the sort of long-odds stuff needed to save the day, although his rivals in the army will argue it's just proof of his immaturity and evidence of why he shouldn't have been promoted over them, dammit.

Poor General Felix Von Hentsch! Beaten twice in the field, the war is not doing his military prestige any good. Can he possibly tolerate a rival in Ludwig, even as he needs him now? The Elector Ulrich Von Luftberg (Victor of Vogelhof, etc. etc.) must be sharing the pain of the Empress Maria Theresa, railing against competent-but-uninspired commanders that keep on losing to the bluecoats after respectable performances. They're such a tough army to beat!

Looking over my records from the battle, I decided to follow the M&R post-battle process, and discovered that the Luftberg army only narrowly had enough hussars and light troopers to stave off a pursuit that would've resulted in a major defeat - close one! Totting up the casualties and rolling for recovery, Aschenbach had a few units reduced for the remainder of the campaign, and lost an artillery battery - thanks to the Luftberg Cuirassiers running down the crews. The Luftberg army is in far worse shape. An artillery battery, a regiment of hussars, one of Cuirassiers, two of Dragoons and FOUR of Infantry have been wrecked, depleted so far that the survivors can only be dispersed to strengthen other regiments, while the remaining cadres are ordered back to Luftberg to refit and replenish with new recruits. Terrible!

So, what does this mean on the campaign? It's unlikely that Luftberg can take on anything but a fragment of the enemy army in the field, but can Felix suddenly execute a kind of klein-krieg low-intensity war to thwart Aschenbach and save the day?

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Battle of Froschbach, Part 3

The third and final part, as the battle comes to the climax. Both cavalry forces, battered and desperately trying to reform, hang back. However, Aschenbach's refused flank meant it at least has infantry on hand, who press slowly forward and deliver some volleys, pressing the Luftberg horse back yet further and breaking up their reforming attempts.
In the centre, the infantry battle develops. Luftberg infantry stare into the smoke, from which suddenly emerges first the rattle of a grenadier march being played, then the glint of polished mitres. The grenadiers are attacking! Aschenbach reduces the distance to hug up close and make all fire short-range. It proves too much for Steinkopf's boys in the middle, who flee headlong! The Grenadiers press on, and the regiment of O'Brien suddenly finds itself out of reserve. It's all that stands between the army commander Felix Von Hentsch and capture! ("Hold them off lads, I'm just going over here for a moment! I'll be right back!")
The Luftberg Infantry General La Spezia tries to turn some units, wheeling them round to contain and flank the Aschenbach penetration of the front rank. By the stream, the daringly advanced Regiment of Negrelli under Ludwig's observation gets a hammering for it's impertinence - the reserve Aschenbach regiment swings round and hammers it with volleys.
La Spezia's frantic reorganising. The line is now down to one regiment deep, and most units have been badly battered.
Now here's a classic 'Age of Reason' sight - the front-line clearly delineated by the firing-smoke of the two sides (actually firing markers in the game rules.) The Aschenbach line is shaped like a question-mark, bent back left and right by the Ludwig flanking-move over the stream and La Spezia's attempts to form a salient. The bluecoats are all-out, having nobody left in reserve.
Von Hartling brings up his reformed Dragoons to threaten a combined-arms attack, leaving his disastrously battered cuirassiers behind. Surely the remains of the Luftberg horse can't resist this?
The full battlefield bird's eye view.
Luftberg throws in it's last cavalry charge, hoping for lucky dice. Sadly it's not to be, and Aschnebach hold firm. The survivors rebound, and the Luftberg cavalry is now reduced to just four regiments, most with only a few strength points left. (Notice all the Aschenbach units with the hexagonal hit-markers too!)
Yet more crashing volleys, but the Aschenabch ones come with the unruffled regularity of a clock ticking, while Luftberg fall into increasing disorder. It's over! Literally - the turn ends, and the Luftberg army fails an army morale test, meaning it quits the field. (It rolled badly, but frankly as most units were on the brink of collapse, it probably would only have failed even more spectacularly on the next turn.)
Officers beg Felix Von Hentsch to quit the field. Felix wonders if maybe he should have just withdrawn when the Aschenbach army began marching to outflank him...
For General Von Krumper, yet another victory! Long live Aschenbach's Royal House!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Battle of Froschbach, Part 2

General Ludwig, out on the right, sees his opportunity to flank the oncoming Aschenbach infantry with fire across the river. It'll be long-range, but it all helps!
On the other Luftberg flank, the generals execute a competent redeployment - wonders will never cease! The first battered cavalry brigade falls back behind a protective screen of Hussars to reform, while the fresh second brigade under Van Der Dijk comes trotting forward. Alarmingly close, in fact, to the unlimbering guns!

Things are looking bad, here - Aschnebach's right flank are pinned in place, unable to go forward.

The main Aschenbach effort is still advancing however, into the waiting muzzles of the cannons. The attack can't be stopped to wait for the right flank to catch up however, raising the prospect of the assault falling flat, like an attack-dog leaping forward and then realising it's leash is too short. At this rate, the army will rip it's own centre wide open as the two halves drift further apart!

Von Hartling orders the Dragoons to charge the oncoming new Luftberg troopers, hoping to take the edge off them.

They batter them but rebound, having failed to get a magic high dice-roll. Looks like those Luftberg cuirassiers will be coming on!
At close-range, the Aschenbach gunners add their fire and send cannonballs plunging through the startled men and horses.

As the fire continues, Van Der Dijk steels himself for action. "Charge!"

Thundering forward, his dragoons go all-out for the Aschenbach horse, while the battered cuirassiers try to rush uphill at the cannons. They get some point-blank fire for their trouble, but they are not to be denied.

The Dragoons recoil from the tired Aschenbach cavalry lines, but the real result is on the hilltop. Both artillery batteries are overrun and the crews slain, and although one regiment is shot to ribbons and reduced to a single strength point (SP), the famous Cuirassier Regiment Schrodinger sweeps through and is only just repelled by the frantic efforts of the supporting Aschenbach infantry. Had it broken throughm it would have been loose in the Aschenbach army's rear!

In the Luftberg centre, the Aschenbach infantry now draws close. A blast of musketry cuts down the artillery crews positioned in front of the white lines. Some guns still fire, but it's a devastating volley.

Sensing the Luftberg cavalry is battered, Von Hartling attacks again and this time the adjacent infantry moves up too, lending it's fire to the struggle. He rebounds, but the blooded Luftberg cavalry soon pull back also and try to reform.

In the centre, the infantry lines pull into range and the volleys crash out along the line, and the Aschenbach grenadiers rapidly show their quality with devastating volleys hammering the enemy line.

The fire takes on an L-shape, thanks to Ludwig's fire over the stream. It can only be at long range however, and so is muted in impact. This clearly irks Ludwig...

"Attack!" Egad! A sudden rush of blood to the head caught General Ludwig, who orders his men to advance into the marshy stream (in the rules, he rolled an auto-attack order.) They can now give close-range volleys, but are terribly exposed in turn. Is this madness, or genius?

The Aschenbach regiment in reserve smoothly turns to face the new threat, but casualties are mounting on each side and the Aschenbach main attack is now stretched to a single reserve unit. The front-line Musketeer Regiments are all battered, but the Grenadiers are still largely unaffected. If the breakthrough is to happen, it'll be down to them, but they're facing heavy odds!

A plan view of the field, with the front-line marked with a yellow dotted line. The enfiladed left, paper-thin centre, and exhausted right of the Aschenbach line are all visible. It's do-or-die time!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Battle of Froschbach, Part 1

The battlefield, with both armies deployed in the morning.

On the Luftberg right, Tobias Ludwig holds the redoubt, plus light troops are on hand until the reinforcements arrive.

In the centre, Felix Von Hentsch inspects the ranks of regiments in an offset single, double, even triple line, fronted by batteries.

Over on the army's left, the largest mass of horsemen yet fielded, in two brigades under General Van Der Dijk (recently paroled from captivity) and General Frundsberg.

Facing them, General Krumper preens and fusses over uniforms before the attack.

Von Hartling at the head of the cavalry, on the Aschenbach right.

Over on the army's left, by the stream, the Grenadiers are standing ready.

The opening moves! Following a decent breakfast, Ludwig moves his Croats off to occupy the town, and then receives some good news - his two off-table regiments arrive immediately! (A slight rules-tweak here, owing to having only 50% sized units - to represent moving in column, I just turn the single base sideways.)

Marching as one, the Aschenbach army begins to move with it's customary precision.
Von Hartling trots forward, and one of the two Luftberg cavalry brigades comes on to meet him. It dawns on the Aschenbach general that the cavalry will probably be fighting over the hilltop where General Krumper had wanted his artillery to deploy in support of the main attack. Looks like the grenadiers will have to do this without support!

The long walk towards the enemy continues, with only jaunty marching band music to keep the nerves under control!

With the distance closing, the Luftberg cavalry charges...

... and recoils! The combat was mixed, but by the Might & Reason rules, the attacker always recoils and most combats are inconclusive at first, until strength-points (SP's) have been drained and then units begin to crack and rout.
With a crack and boom, the Luftberg cannon take their range and begin firing. The Aschenbach infantry deploy smoothly into fighting lines.

Von Hartling counter-charges, keeping only one dragoon regiment in reserve. His troopers rebound too, but the Luftbergers are definitely beginning to falter, and their SP levels begin sinking.

The clash between the infantry is drawing nearer, and the cavalry are already locking horns. The Aschenbach infantry begins refusing it's right wing, and most of the guns deploy here too, immediately behind the cavalry battle. Can the horsemen of either side secure the crucial flank for the main attack? Will the grenadiers be attacking the Luftberg centre with friendly artillery pounding away in support, or white-coated horsemen charging into their flank?

(To be continued...)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Approach to Froschbach

The blog has halted recently due to that troublesome 'real world' getting in the way once more. I recently managed to hurt some muscle in my neck, which gave me a painful 'lean' for a few days with my head cocked to one side, and this brought pretty much all hobby activity to a standstill until it wore off.
In games-land, I have managed to paint up around two thirds of my figures, when in a sudden 'flash of inspiration' made me realise that I could fight a 50% scale Might & Reason battle between the full armies for the first time in about a year! Each unit has two bases in M&R, but by just using one base per unit and halving all distances I was pretty much set to go! The battle has been fought out and - following the pause for recuperation - now completed, so my plan is to blog the battle and post photos over the next few days of the week.
Following his failed attempt to push the Aschenbach army back, Felix von Hentsch has revealed he is at least present in strength. For the Aschenbach army commander Gerdt Von Krumper, this means a chance to sieze the initiative and strike! A flanking march round the southern flank with virtually the entire army will avoid the fortified lines of each side, and bring on an open battle. The disadvantage is all the Luftberg cavalry is watching the southern flank, so any attack will not be a surprise and most likely will meet a fully drawn up Luftberg defence.

The scene for the confrontation turns out to be this scene of bucolic bliss:

The small village of Froschbach, nestled in behind some peaceful rolling hills and with a little stream meandering down a shallow valley. Hills in the west and east have little re-entrants on their slopes, plus some woods top the hill to the west. The northern area of the field affords Luftberg a flat, open plain for deployment.
Due to the circumstances that brought the battle about, namely the flanking of the fortifications mentioned before, I've added a few 'setup conditions' to the defenders, quite arbitrarily. First, their right/west flank can have a redoubt, but facing away from the developing attack. If they have to form a new line outside their works, then it makes sense for them to at least anchor it on a strong redoubt, like a pivot. It won't be facing the attack, but it will at least defend against any flanking moves.
Next, the cavalry will have been skirmishing and slowing the Aschenbach advance, so it will be required to assemble together as one mass on the left/east flank, having presumably drawn aside like a matador's cape to reveal the white infantry lines awaiting.
Last, two infantry regiments are presumed to be 'late arrivals' on the field, to represent Felix von Hentsch's understandable reluctance to completely abandon his fortified lines until he's sure that this flanking move isn't a probe, but a full-blown assault.
The infantry line is drawn up in the customary double-line manner which worked so well at Vogelhof, and nearly worked at Passditz. In fact, by placing the Croats forward and occupying the village of Froschbach, the right side of the line isn't too likely to be threatened. There's even scope to increase depth to three regiments on the left, in preparation for the Aschenbach oblique flanking attack. There's no foe like a predictable foe!
So, over on the other side of the field, what does Von Krumper have up his sleeve? Will he attack the left, centre or right? Well, he doesn't know too much about the enemy dispositions, but he does know that the stream running up the field splits him neatly into two. Either he tries to straddle it, or commits entirely to one side. The western side seems to offer nothing but hilly terrain, redoubts, and fortified villages - hardly appealing! The east is more open, but the cavalry situation here is awful. Hi sown troopers will be numerically outnumbered by two to one, although they are of higher quality. Also, following the injury of the great Von Kleintrink, can the Aschenbach cavalry recapture the old magic?
The new man, hand-picked by the military-minded king and general, is a General Von Hartling. Competent and active, he should be a worthy successor - not least because of his reputation for swashbuckling bravery, hardly a drawback in a cavalryman! Nonetheless, he's untried in command, and betting the success of the attack on his ability to overcome the odds seems a bit risky. So, with each flank rejected the choice is clear - the centre! The army will advance with it's left flank secured on the boggy stream, the right flank refused and guarded by the cavalry, while the centre, led by the grenadiers themselves, breaks the enemy army in two!
It's a plan with just enough of a crazy chance to work. Send out the orders - we attack tomorrow, under cover of daylight!