Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Battle of Steenwijk

Time for the big push, as Von Krumper crosses the Noordschelve river to put himself on the same bank with the Luftberg army, beat it, and then be in the provincial capital of Brederdam by dinnertime. A long month of buildup has seen him leap into motion, with the river carefully surveyed for crossing points and the pioneers prepped with a bridge of boats to make the move. All this preparation didn't go unnoticed by the enemy however, so by the time the bridge was assembled the Luftberg army under Von Hentsch was ready and waiting, with a cordon round the expected bridgehead. Von Krumper selected a crossing near a small tributary waterway, the Steenwijk, which formed a bell-shaped enclave which could be easily defended from counter-attacks.

Von Hentsch planned to have his infantry and artillery on some low rises back from the river as his apparent main line, but this was all just a lure. With the Aschenbach troops drawn on, hopefully with their right flank in the air, the Luftberg killing blow could descend from his left wing, a regiment of Cuirassiers and another of Dragoons, along with a full regiment of infantry.

Things start well enough with the columns of Aschenbach infantry crossing over, led by a screen of Hussars and then the Grenadier Guards in the lead.

Like clockwork! The infantry cross over and deploy into two lines of a regiment each, plus a battalion in reserve. The only disruption comes from the odd long-range cannon shot and the crackle of musketry from the Croats and irregulars in a small copse over the Steenwijk.

Devil take the hindmost! The lead battalion of Grenadier Guards takes it's orders to full execution, powering on ahead to tackle the enemy line with no thought to the slow and careful deployment behind in the main body. Boldness or Rashness? Time will tell, although the Luftberg line is rattled as Schrammel's infantry regiment takes a pounding.

The hussars try and drive off some Croats to their front, occupying a small bit of woodland. Sadly the Croats prove infuriatingly effective, raining a constant, debilitating fire onto the horsemen and also into the flank of the infantry from across the Steenwijk. Such disorder is intolerable! The Aschenbach deployment out of the bridgehead starts to struggle.

And then, the cavalry are loosed! The two battalions of Cuirassiers charge, supported by the Dragoons, and sweep into the flank the blue infantry were about to occupy. The Hussars, milling about in front of the Croat-filled wood, are sent bowling back and the horsemen crash into the lines of infantry battalions, causing mayhem. Even the king Von Krumper himself gets a nasty scare as squadrons suddenly bear down on his command post!

With all the attacking weight being taken by the cavalry across those flat, marshy fields, the Luftberg infantry struggles to keep pace with the fight. Still, the Grenadier Guards are taught caution by letting themselves get flanked and hit in the front by musket and cannon fire. (When will these damned Grenadiers stop rushing headlong into trouble?!)

Vexed with shot! The Aschenbach infantry units pushed back into the bridgehead find no respite to reform, thanks to the skirmishing fire of crack-shots across the stream. The bluecoats volley back, but it's pretty ineffective and saps the strength now needed to hold off the Luftberg cavalry.

The battle in full swing. The Grenadiers manage to pull themselves back from the tip of the breakout, while the infantry battalions wheel round to fire on the horsemen trying to form for another charge. Both armies have now ended up turned through 90 degrees, fighting at right-angles to their artillery lines. The gunners on both sides of the river send shots ploughing lengthwise down the lines of infantry and cavalry alike. Can nobody get any elbow-room to move around here?

Realising drastic action is needed, Von Krumper calls across his reserve regiment of cavalry from the far bank to try and counter the Luftberg horse. They make it over, but fail to deploy out of column. Desperate to give them some protection and win some room to deploy, he is forced to commit his last untouched reserve unit - the second battalion of the Foot Garde. The grenadiers follow their black-and-yellow regimental banner forwards and fire volleys into the disorganised Luftberg Cuirassiers, buying the Cuirassiers the protection they need.

The Luftberg horse falls back, a spent force. None of the four battalions have been broken, but each one has three hits marked on it and all are disordered. In other words, they're blown, exhausted, incapable of further offensive action. Why, my little nephew Otto could ride them down on his hobby-horse! However, several battalions of Aschenbach infantry have broken up under the charges, the slowly tightening arc of whitecoat infantry, and (above all else) they can't get any peace to recover from disorder or casualties thanks to the endless lashing fire of the irregulars across the whole bridgehead

Losses are heavy for Aschenbach, and many of the remaining units are badly shaken and set to rout if pushed hard. Von Krumper has had enough of this grim field, and orders a withdrawal. The Cuirassiers trot back across, never used in the day's fighting. Following them come several shaken battalions of infantry, glad to get across to the friendly shore. Last out are the hussars and the Grenadiers, forming a tough rearguard that proves off-putting enough for the exhausted Luftberg infantry to fail to pursue. A dejected Von Krumper recrosses the Noordschelve from his untenable bridgehead, the breakout a failure. The poor fellow seems stunned by the calamity!

Over at Felix Von Hentsch's headquarters, it's celebratory schnapps all round! The enemy have lost three out of their seven infantry units and failed to get across the river. Rarely has there been such a spectacular and crushing defeat for Von Krumper, and this represents a personal triumph for Von Hentsch - now in the glory of his greatest and most clear-cut victory!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fun on the River

Time to gear up for another fight, this time as the main Aschenbach army crosses a large river and the Luftberg army tries to fling them back. I'm currently on holiday this week, but as it's for my relatives visiting I am not getting much time for wargaming, frustratingly enough! Still, there's a fair bit of preparation to do, so I'm busying myself with that - making little pontoon bridges out of card, and such.

Let's take a look at the forces on hand for the fight:

Aschenbach Army (HRH Von Krumper commanding)
IR1 v. Zaub Garde Regiment (2 battalions)
IR2 v. Klink Infantry Regiment (2 battalions)
IR3 v. Grumble Infantry Regiment (2 battalions)
IR6 v. Rechnung Infantry Battalion (1 battalion)
CR2 v. Kurbitz Cuirassier Regiment (2 battalions)
HR1 v. Ritter Hussar Regiment (2 battalions)
Artillery Battery No. 3 (2 sections)
(Also various impedimenta, such as siege guns, baggage, etc.)

Luftberg Army (Graf Felix Von Hentsch commanding)
IR4 Negrelli Infantry Regiment (2 battalions)
IR6 Karlovic Croat Infantry Regiment (2 battalions)
IR8 Schrammel Infantry Regiment (2 battalions)
CR1 Haas Cuirassier Regiment (2 battalions)
DR1 Raab Dragoon Regiment (2 battalions)
Artillery Battery No. 3 (2 sections)

Overall, this gives two closely-matched opponents. Aschenbach has grenadiers, better infantry and good commanders, while Luftberg has the better cavalry force, skirmishing troops and is defending a river. Sounds like a decent fight, at least!

I decided to make this one a bit bigger than normal, and realised that I could field each unit at a battalion level instead of my usual 'unit=regiment' scale. As such I have been painting and basing my Aschenbach Grenadier HQ bases, plus digging around for a few extras. I have managed to cover everything with the exception of two things - I have only one unit of Aschenbach Hussars and Luftberg Croats, so fielding two battalions of them was something of a problem. I decided in the end to have one battalion/squadron of Hussars in play at one time for the Aschenbach player, considering that one battalion would need to remain off-board to guard the pontooneers, siege-gun artillery park, and so on. If the hussar squadron in the fight is destroyed I will allow another one to enter, it's role guarding the rear-areas doubtless now being taken over by disorganised bands of straggler hussars and demoralised troops which were routed off the field.

For the croats I have raided my spares-box for odd figures and found some old models of line troops in tricornes, advancing in skirmish-like poses. I've discarded them as I was unable to fit them in with the revised unit formations, but I can put them to use now - they will represent the citizen militia from the capital Brederdam, which Von Hentsch will have doubtless swept up in his force when he marched out of the city, to act as irregulars, local guides and scouts through the sandy flatlands at the mouth of the river. I'll give them a quick paint into 'civilian' coats and colours, and they should fill out the Croat bases to give me two skirmisher units.

As soon as I can get a few hours of quiet-time, I'll be battling away. Photos and report to follow!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Muckenmire's Defenders

The Luftberg army has the unenviable job of defending the province from invasion, and starts out dispersed across a fair part of it. The general from our last campaign, Felix Von Hentsch, has been glowering away in the provincial capital (in my mind, he's been 'bumped' to a backwater posting as military governor, following his mixed success in the Spitzplatz campaign. Looks like events have pulled him back to centre-stage!)

The Elector himself, Ulrich Von Luftberg, will start off-map. There's no reason the Elector would go to such a dismal place without reason, so he'll turn up a few moves into the game with the bulk of the army - rushing reinforcements to the province and hopefully turning the tide.

Also present will be the ever-irrepressible General Ludwig and the Graf Von Bitzhelm, each commanding a force of their own and (naturally) sized appropriately to reflect their social status.

On a practical level, I wanted a dispersal of forces at the start, but wasn't quite sure how to do it. I ended up totalling the entire army's points value under the old 'Might & Reason' ruleset, and then broke it up as a percentage. I went with:

40% Main (reserve) army of reinforcements under Luftberg
25% Provincial (garrison) army under Von Hentsch, at the provincial capital of Brederdam
15% Secondary provincial army under Bitzhelm, at Hertbosch
10% Flank-guarding detachment under Ludwig, at Vriezenveen
5% Garrison
5% Garrison

I ended up assigning troops into what turned out to be pretty reasonable proportions, with some infantry and cavalry present in most, along with artillery in the big armies. While Ludwig gets a big force such as five infantry, three cavalry and one artillery units, people like Ludwig get a simple pairing of an infantry and cavalry regiment. The smallest units of all, the garrisons, turned out to be a left-over infantry regiment (stuck in the city of Oosterheide) and a hussar regiment (which was turned loose into the countryside as a raiding-group.)

The campaign is poised to be moved on shortly, and the next big encounter seems set to be Von Krumper's attempt to cross a river in the face of Von Hentsch. He's done it once before, but can he manage a contested river crossing against an alert defender, under 'Black Powder' rules? I'm off to ponder the special rules required for such a tricky operation!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Invasion plans

A whole fortnight has passed since I last posted, due to real-life work, wargame record-keeping bogging me down, plus numerous other projects rumbling on at the same - there's always something! Anyway, what's needed is a campaign overview to show how things have been developing for the protagonists.

Aschenbach are invading, and to avoid the single easily-isolated army I split the total force into three roughly equal parts. Von Krumper would take his third (styles the 'main' army, because - well, he's the king, basically!) and head directly for the province capital of Brederdam, stuck on it's little island in the mouth of the mighty Schelve river. Krumper would take the eastern road and then cross the northern fork of the Schelve by pontoon bridge, arriving on the island and besieging the city by it's landward side. Approaching directly from the north would mean attacking over a river, and the swampy ground north of Brederdam didn't exactly promise a happy fate for any siege guns hauled into it! His advance has gone well enough, but sadly he has been compelled to stop and build up supply depots to operate across the river. Something of an unfortunate delay, but now he's gathering himself for the river crossing (which is next for the gaming table.)

In the centre of this province would go the second army, led by the grizzled old veteran, General Von Grenwitz. His job is to try and clear the province north of the Schelve of all enemy troops. At best, this means capturing the city of Oosterheide, but at a bare minimum it means protecting Von Krumper's advance in the east and keeping Luftberg raiders off his flanks and supply lines. It swiftly proved that Oosterheide was strongly garrisoned with a regiment of infantry, and therefore that a siege was only going to succeed if the Luftberg army completely failed to intervene - a highly unlikely turn of events. Sure enough it proved so, as once Von Grenwitz occupied the town of Dolderburg he received news that a Luftberg army under the Graf Von Bitzhem was crossing the Schelve to his south and rushing up the road, looking for a fight. Well, as you'll have seen from the last battle report, he gave it one! The two armies met a short distance from Dolderburg and Luftberg was defeated, the battered remains pulling back to the town of Veldhuizburg on the Schelve river.

So much for the two armies, but what of the third? Well, the third and final component was placed under Von Hartling and held back for a delayed entry. It was felt that there was a serious risk that the line of the Schelve river could become a kind of impregnable moat for the defenders, and so Von Hartling is to enter in the west of the province, which lets him come out behind the line of the river where it curves north. Any Luftberg defence which had formed in the first few months would be outflanked, and the river line could be rolled up like a carpet - genius! Well, so Von Krumper naturally thinks.

The map above (which is hopefully enlarge-able, although I can never work these things out) should give some sense of where they are - Krumper is the easternmost arrow, Grenwitz is the central one, while Von Hartling's planned entrance is shown in the west as a dashed route. I will post more maps soon, when I cover the province's fractious defenders.