Saturday, March 27, 2010

CW2010 Postscript and acknowledgements

One final note, I had a great deal of fun as co-GM with these St. Michel games but that would not have been possible without the wargamers who came and played. I had meant to ensure that I had notes on everyone's name and what their role was but alas, in the excitement of the day(s) I forgot! So I know all of the names of some of the gamers and some of the names etc  so I have chosen to list none at all but you know who you are and   I am greatful to you all, without you, I would not have had such fun. (and be grateful that I haven't posted some of the candid mid-game photo's I took of you!)

Thanks also to Rob & the HAWKS without whom the games wouldn't have happened at all.

and in keeping with Lawford & Young's exhortation to glorify your victories, my especial thanks to Rob & Geoff for letting my troops capture a gun and 2 colours :)  and my sympathies to the many widows of Wachovia.

Friday, March 26, 2010

CW2010: GAME 5 The Retreat From Rosmark

Both sides spent a difficult night in St. Stephen. Under cover of a truce, parties moved through the streets assisting the wounded and clearing away the dead. One can only picture the horrors of chipped paint and broken muskets not to mention the possibilities of snapped ankles which they must have encountered. The game of war is not for the faint at heart.   

By dawn, the armies faced each other across the narrow streets of St. Stephen. The Schoeffen-Buschhagen forces had been reduced to one amalgamated regiment split between the embattled cottage at the foot of the bridge and the far bank and a weak squadron of Hussars gathered from the remnants of the original 4 squadrons.

The Rosmark forces were deployed with the 2 companies of Queen's regiment in town supported by MacDuff's on their right and the King's Regiment in reserve. The cavalry and artillery were posted on the far right in anticipation of the arrival of the main Pragmatic force returning from their raid on St. Michel. They did not have long to wait.

Fitzjames' Horse spurred forward at the first sight of the enemy cavalry and a swirling melee soon filled the narrow gap between the Norwood and the fields surrounding the town. A force of pursuing cavalry from St. Michel was soon at hand and both sides fed squadron after squadron into the churning battle.

While the Pragmatic cavalry held the Northern Allied cavalry at bay, their infantry columns marched on heading for the bridge.
The Rosmark artillery opened fire, cutting swathes through the enemy columns, one shell struck a Fredonian artillery caisson and the 1/2 battery disappeared in a spectacular explosion.
In town, the Queen's Regiment was ordered out of their cover and sent forward to try to cut the Pragmatic army's retreat. Enfiladed from across the river and unable to break into the stout cottage, they were cut down and forced to retreat. The King's regiment took their place and suffered the same fate. As more Pragmatic infantry streamed onto the field, the Stanz-Anwatch and Wachovian light infantry deployed amongst the woods and hedges surrounding St Stephen and began a telling fire on the Rosish infantry.

As the King's Regiment was forced to retreat, MacDuff's extended themselves in an attempt to cling to a foothold in town. It was to no avail, increasing Pragmatic pressure, including a fierce charge by the Grenadiers, drove MacDuff's back to the outskirts of town.

The retreat of MacDuff's left the Rosmark battery exposed. In a flash, a squadron of Wachovian Hussars charged only to be met by their old nemesis, the Yellow Hussars. Another prolonged melee saw the final destruction of the Wachovian Hussars but they had done their job. Under cover of the cavalry melee, the Wachovian infantry had deployed and advanced on the guns. As the victorious Yellow Hussars rallied back, the guns had to retreat with them to avoid being over run.

At last, there was a break in the main cavalry melee as the remnants of 2 Pragmatic regiments broke to the rear and the exhausted Rosmark troops  rallied back. Both sides brought up fresh cavalry reserves but the bulk of the Pragmatic army had already passed by and their path over bridge was open. The Pragmatic Army's escape had been bought by the lives of their cavalry and the bravery of the veteran Schoeffen-Bushhagen infantry. The Northern Alliance warchest had been saved and the enemy chastised though not destroyed. Honour had been served and further blood shed would serve no further purpose. The Northern Alliance cavalry was called back to wathc as the weary Pragmatic Army marched over the bridge towards home. The Raid was over, further retribution could await another day.


CW2010: Game 4 Counterattack!

All morning long, the wounded had been filing down the road and over the bridge. The Schoeffen-Buschhagen regiments defending the bridgehead checked their flints and looked to their priming again and again.  Why were the Hussars hanging about the river bank instead of being out scouting? At long last a dust cloud arose to the south and from it emerged a tight body of red coated cavalry, Fitzjames Horse. The inevitable Rosish counter attack had begun.

Riding rapidly forward, Fitzjames had caught the Hussars by surprise, these had two choices, flee in ignomy or wheel around and charge. There was little doubt, the trumpets called out and the troopers wheeled forward. With luck, they could clash briefly with the heavy horse and then be away, the trumpets sounded from the red ranks and both sides spurred forward and the opposing cavalry met with a clash. The Hussars tried to pull away but the red coated troopers' blood was up and they were in no mood to let the enemy escape.

In minutes it was over and the few remaining hussars were scattered in flight or being marched to the rear by their captors. The next job was one for infantry and guns so the red coated Horse rallied back .
As the Rosish infantry columns marched on table and began deploying, the defenders shifted their positions to meet the threat. A gun and von Nordenhafen Regiment deployed to defend the town and a stone wall just east of it while the Adelmann Regiment occupied the approaches to the bridge.

 The Rosish infantry brigade deployed with the Queen's Foreigners pushing up the river bank to take the bridge, the King's Regiment deploying opposite the stone wall supported by 2 guns, and MacDuff's forming a 2nd line in the center.

Under a steady fire of shot and then cannister and musketry, the King's men, the 2nd oldest regiment in the Rosish army, advanced on their foe. On their right, the Rosish artillery commander seemed unable to find a suitable gun site as the battery shifted from position to position with hardly a shot fired, but at last they opened with effect, temporarily silencing the defending gun. Disdaining to retreat, the SB artillerymen called on infantry to help man the gun as a company of the King's regiment charged forward with bayonets lowered. They had time for one blast of hastily loaded cannister before the white coats were on them, stabbing and shooting the hapless gunners. The carnage had been great, however, and the Kings Regiment, having lost 1/2 of their numbers fell back in accordance with the accepted customs of war, but they fell back dragging their captured trophy and no Schoeffen Buschhagen troops made a move to interfere.

Near the river bank, the Queen's men rushed forward but getting over excited, broke ranks and small parties dashed ahead to assault the houses. A gallant but forlorn attack and the survivors carried their supports with them as they fellback. (ed note: In Charge! only those troops within 1/2 move of a house can break into a house when attacking it and several times during the last 2 games, the Rosish player found himself having to leave 1/2 his assault party beyond the walls, unable to fight but forced to also fallback with the lead elements and rally after the inevitable repulse)   Time and  again they rallied and pressed forward, at last coming on in order and unleashing disciplined volleys at the enemy who gave them back fire for fire. Amidst the smoke and carnage all was confusion but at last the Queen's troops acknowledged that they had met honour's demands and in accordance with the rules of war, fell back to reform leaving the battered remnants of Adelmann's clinging to their position in a cottage covering the approach to the bridge, the same one so stoutly defended by St Stephen's burgers during the initial battle of the campaign.

Dusk was rapidly approaching as the veterans ofMacDuff's Fusiliers, the oldest and most decorated unit in the Roshish army, stepped forward over the bodies of their comrades and marching forward until the officers could touch the stone wall with their swords, unleashed a terrible volley, lowered their bayonets and charged with a wild yell.

The men of von Nordenhafen stood bravely at their posts, and died, the ensign giving his life as Captain Macpherst of the Colonel's company snatched the colour from his dying hands. Chasing the remnants of the enemy regiment from the village, MacDuff's men captured the town but darkness had fallen and the Brigadier called them back. The main enemy forces were expected in the morning and holding the ground that had been won while the King and Queen's regiments reorganized was more important than risking a night assault on an enemy position whose strength could not be assessed.   

 (A recreation of the capture of the colour by Captain Macpherst. Interestingly, other pictures show the colour being captured by a sergeant of MacDuff's but the Captain has been awarded the Order of St. Michel and is acknowledged as captor though there is no doubt that he was ably seconded by the sergeant and fusiliers of his company.)

Reminder: don't forget to check the Sharp End of the Brish blog by my co-conspirator Rob Dean, for more on setting up and running the games as well as the view from the other side.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

CW2010 The Defence of St. Michel

As dawn approached, muffled drums beat the long roll and the defenders of St. Michel fell in and were marched to their appointed places.
In St. Michel itself, the St Stephen Folk Battalion and a regiment of North Polemburg Militia, occupied the houses. In close support were the remaining companies of MacDuff's Fusiliers, 1 gun of the Rosmark Frontier Artillery and 2 guns of the North Polemburg artillery. Off to the far left, hidden behind and in a small woods and hilltop farm was North Polemburg's Queen Jennifer's Regiment and a company of the Volunteers of St. Lambert.
On the right flank, behind a low ridge, were the massed cavalry squadrons of the army. The white horses of the North Polemburg Dragoons, Rosmark's Crown Prince Dragoons, Fitzjames Horse, Yellow Hussars and the Lancers of St. Lambert, 11 squadrons in all. Ensconced in a farm on top of the hill were the Hawks, one of the North Polemburg Regiments who had marched to stand with their allies in their time of danger. (Rumours that the North Polemburg were already massed on the Rosish/Schoeffen-Buschhagen border for another purpose, have never been substantiated.) Covering the inner flank of the Hawks were the remnants of the Pandours.
As the morning mist cleared, the massed forces of the Pragmatic Army could be seen, filling the narrow defile between South Wood and Forest Hill. It seemed impossible at first that so many troops could be squeezed in to such a small area, but based on reports about the column which had forced its way through the Walmar River Pass, the defenders expected to see even more troops. (Rumour has it that one of the allied regiments disappeared over night leaving the attack one regiment short in addition to the heavy losses suffered when forcing the pass but this has been officially denied. The official version is that the Kamdenjard and Burgdorf-Reuthenheim contingents were back in barracks and had never been included in the campaign. All we can say for sure is that they were not engaged in any of the battles)
Due to inaccurate maps, the Pragmatic artillery had been positioned on top of various hills with the expectation of being able to fire over head in support of the attack. Once the morning mist cleared, it became clear that the hills were not high enough and the attack had to go in unsupported while the guns were advanced. On their left, the Wachovian and Stanzback-Anwatch light infantry filtered forward through South Wood, supported by a composite allied cavalry regiment. The opposing squadrons eyed each other through the day but an attack by either looked likely to incur casualties for little gain. It was left to the VieganBurgher and Von Hoggendorf Composite Regiment to lead the attack into the mouth of the defender's guns.
As the attacking infantry reeled from the heavy doses of cannister, a new threat emerged as the Volunteers of St. Lambert advanced from cover on their flank and opened fire. Queen Jennifer's Regiment followed behind them and a long drawn out musketry duel with the Konig Rupert Jaegers ensued and any advance on that flank stalled.
In the center, the Fredonians then advanced along with the Saxe Kirchdorf contingent which they were brigaded with. The Yellow Hussars and Pandours had been extended to the left to try to cover the gap in the middle of the defensive line. Seeing the enemy infantry advance, the Hussars drew sabers and charged.  The infantry, caught by surprise, fired a ragged long range volley then the Hussars were amongst them, hacking and slashing.Within minutes, the remnants of the infantry was streaming to the rear while the Hussars rallied back clutching a trophy to hang in the village church. Beyond the Fredonians, the SB Prince's Dragoons had edged forward then, fearful of the cannister fire, edged back and finally waited, fretting until the path was clear. By then it was too late and the Rosish Hussars had rallied behind their light infantry, redy to attack again.
A brief pause fell over the battlefield as the Pragmatic army reordered its ranks and prepared a new assault under the cover of an intensified barrage. On the right, the reconstituted Wachovians came forward. (Word is that the Bollmer-Hunz contingent was issued Wachovian uniforms and pressed into to service to make good the previous day's losses.)  On the left, the Stanzbach-Anwatch Regiment and light infantry advanced and opened a long range fire which was answered by the Pandours and the Hawks.
In the center, the Combined Grenadiers advanced resolutely but suddenly there was a pause and then the whole army began to slowly fallback. The High Comand had looked at its losses before a serious assault had even begun and considered the long road home. The game no longer looked worth the candle and suddenly getting the army home became the priority.

Would one more regiment have helped? or would it have merely added to the butcher's bill on both sides? Historians will argue the point for years as they will debate why cavalry was posted in front of the town, why the guns were scattered along the line, why the infantry attacks were pieceme and why so much infantry was deployed in front of the irrelevent farm position. As always such moves can never be proved rght or wrong in themselves but perhaps future amateur historians will refight the battle and see if thay can do better.
The Pragmatic Gold Wagons heading homewards.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

CW2010 Battle of the Walmar River Pass

On the day after the 1st Battle of St. Michel, the Pragmatic Army trudged its weary way towards the town of St. Michel and the enemy's war chest. As they approached a defile where the Walmar River passes through a defile formed by rocky hills, brish and marsh, there was a sudden stir at the front of the column. On a low rise across the line of march could be seen a battery of guns supported by infantry and cavalry. Rosish forces were going to dispute the passage.

Design Note: This scenario was designed as a mountain valley. Logistical constraints in getting the game to and from the convention forced us to concede that 30+ square feet of hills was not going to be practical. The main effect of the terrain was to have a narrow area of clear terrain on either side of the river, a strip of difficult terrain on either side and an area of impassible terrain on either edge. We used a varity of smaller hills interspersed  with rough ground, brush etc which would slow movement to replace the lower slopes on either side and added some steep impassible hills to replace the inaccesible upper slopes. Originally I had planned to paint ground clothes for each scenario with the spots for houses etc marked on but that didn't happen. My back up plan was to bring my glossy sectional wide river but it got missed during my frantic late night packing (perhaps if I hadn't played that impromptu Black Powder game....nah) so the river came from a bolt of cheap fabric, cut on site for the 1st game.  
The Rosish defensive position must have looked formidible to the advancing column. Straight ahead was a 2 gun battery supported by 2 companies of the crack MacDuff's Fusilier Regiment. On the eastern bank could be seen 2 more companies of MacDuff's including the Grenadiers. They were supported by the Yellow Hussars and Crown Prince Dragoons. Unseen to the approaching troops were 2 companies of Prince Michael Pandours in ambush in the woods.
The Pragmatic army deployed with the Hussars and the SB Konig Rupert Jaegers on the east bank and 1 gun of the SB artillery and a combined Wachovian and Standzbach-Anwatch light infantry regiment on the west. The troops on both banks advanced warily, waiting for their supports. On the west bank, a long range artillery duel broke out but was over almost as soon as it began. One gun in the open is no match for two behind cover! Help was soon at hand in the form of the 2 company Wachovian Regiment and volunteers were called forward to help man the gun. Disdaining to be daunted by the Rosmark position, the Wachovians formed line and advanced, supported by the light infantry.

 Impatient as always to be at the enemy, one company of MacDuff's pushed forward through the woods and deployed into line on top on a small but steep knoll. Seeing what looked like an easy target, the Wachovian and Schoeffen-Buschhagen Hussars twirled their mustaches, drew their pistols and charged.
In their eagerness to snatch this prize, however, they misjudged the steepness of the hill and their line bent into a crescent as the center struggled up the hill. As the ends veered in towards the waiting thin blue line, a crisp order was given, the muskets leveled briefly and then unleashed a deadly volley at point blank range. The Hussars were shaken momentarily but the men of the west are no cowards and the Hussars twirled their mustaches again and pressed forward, pistols belching smoke. Perhaps sabers would have been of more use for no matter how fancily the Hussars were dressed or how prettily they doubled their dice, the veteran fusilers calmly pulled them from their horses and bayonetted those who were too proud to surrender.

At last the Hussars recognized the futility of the endeavor and began to turn and retire. Too late! While they were engaged in melee, the Yellow Hussars had ridden forward, eager to revenge their humiliation at the Battle of Sawyer's Farm. As the Pragmatic Hussars turned, the Yellow Hussars hit them from the flank and after a brief melee, scattered them to the winds. It was well after dark before enough Pragmatic Hussars could be gathered to reform a scant 1/2 squadron.
Across the river, the Wachovian Regiment advanced boldly forward into a hail of canister, pressing forward in support, the light infantry engaged the guns and a company of MacDuff's that pushed forward on the flank. Unable to advance farther without exposing the guns and unwilling to retreat, the fusiliers traded long range volleys for the aimed fire of the enemy skirmishers.
As the cavalry on both sides fell back, the Pandours pushed forward and enaged the Jaegers in a prolonged light infantry duel. Behind them, MacDuff's Grenadiers came forward, lined the river and opened fire on the flank of the Pragmatic infantry as it pressed forward. Behind the shattered remnants of the Wachovians came companies of Vieganburghers and Fredonians, a regiment of Stanzbach-Anwatch infantry and more guns. Behind them, squadron after squadron of heavy cavalry spashed across the ford and advanced to support the jaegers.
As the fire fight continued, it became apparent that the green coats of the Jaegers were more suited to skirmishing than the red pantaloons of the Pandours and that regardless of valour, close ranks of volley firing line infantry are no match for the aimed fire of light infantry. As the Wachovians fell back to clear the way for the next assault and the SB Prince's Dragoons advanced, it was clear that it was time to go. On the east bank, the Pandours covered the retreat of MacDuff's and the cavalry while on the west bank, the guns limbered up and headed to the rear covered by the remnants of MacDuff's who rapidly followed them before they could be caught by the advancing hordes of enemy infantry.
Due to the prolonged musketry, both MacDuff's and the Pandours had taken significant losses but the Pragmatic army had suffered even heavier losses with both the Hussars and Wachovians being virtually wiped out along with most of the 1/2 battery of SB gunners. More importantly, the Rosmark guns were safe and the Pragmatic army had been held up long enough to allow reinforcements from North Polemburg to arrive at  St. Michel.

Weary but triumphant, MacDuff's Fusilers march home with their new Wachovian friends in tow.

Friday, March 19, 2010

CW2010 1st Battle of St Stephen (Game 1 NQ The Raid on St Michel)

The sudden appearance of  enemy Hussars on the far bank of the river causes a stir amongst the Rosmark officers.

On the morning of March 11th, the garrison of the border town of St. Stephen consisted of the St. Stephen Folk Battalion (2 companies of militia), B section of the Rosmark Border Artillery and 2 squadrons of the Yellow Hussars. (The 2nd squadron was on patrol duty). By chance, Colonel McNamara and the Queen's Foreign Regiment was bivouaced just east of town. As the troops were drawn up for morning inspection, a sentry sounded the alarm. Two squadrons of hussars could be seen riding up from the south west. Friend or foe? A raiding party or a patrol? Colonel McNamara quickly assumed command as senior officer.  Within minutes the Hussars were close enough to be identified as a composite  regiment formed of squadrons from Schoeffen-Buschhagen and Wachovia. A swarm of jagers and a long column of infantry followed in short order and there was no doubt, The Pragmatic Alliance was up to something.

For a few minutes it looked like the Hussars might gallop across the bridge and make a dash for the gun  but discretion overcame valour and they fell back to a hill overlooking the bridge. The Konig Rupert Jagers and a battery of artillery deployed across from the southern end of the town and began a long range pestering fire. Under cover of their fire, the SB Adelmann Regiment deployed into line at the foot of the bridge then sent 1 company storming across into a hail of cannister.

Reeling from the fire, the attacking infantry took shelter near the bank while the combined grenadiers of Schoeffen-Buschhagen rushed over the bridge and assaulted the closest building, supported by the grenadiers of Stanzbach-Anwatsch. 

The brave burghers of St. Stephen were undaunted at this assault by the Pragmatic Alliance's finest. Assault after assault was thrown back but as the attackers began to spread  out, an order to reinforce the Stone House  was misintrepted, the entire garrison of the unengaged quarter of town moving to meet the foe leaving a fatal gap in the defences. The growing numbers of attackers signified that it was time to go before the defenders began to suffer heavy losses. As the infantry formed column and marched off, the SB artillery finally found the range and laid out 1/3 of the Irish company of the Foreign Regiment. The defenders marched off, all units intact including their gun, proud of a valiant defence but just 1 casualty too many to claim that they had inflicted twice as many as they had suffered.

One last shot before the artillery limbers and moves off.

and a candid picture of the Impartial co-GM and proud creator of the armies of Scoeffen-Buschhagen,
Rob Dean, in a typical pose.
(oh yeah, I may not be a great photographer but I do enjoy being the guy with the camera)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Not Quite The Raid on St. Michel (Preparation)

One year's uneasy peace followed the repulse of the Pragmatic Alliance's attack on Lobositz. (see ). This was broken when Rosmark and Schoeffen-Buschhagan clashed at Sawyer's Farm, the first documented encounter between the forces of these 2 countries outside of their respective alliances. In this battle, the newest squadron of pistol wielding SB dragoons destroyed a veteran squadron of Yellow Hussars and then, despite being charged while rallying, drove back the newly formed 2nd squadron of Hussars. The Crown Prince Pandours, also seeing action for the first time, took heavy casualties but were closing from the flank on the solitary SB artillery piece when the SB commander beat a parley and ceded the town, being allowed to retire with honour. The scene was set for the Pragmatic Alliance's raid into Rosmark.

(They don't call 'em semi-flat for nothing!)
(Testing the house rules showed that when attackers failed to break in, it's good for the defenders, when they break in with twice the numbers of the defenders, its not so good.....)

There were several issues to be considered when we decided to stage C S Grant's Raid on St Michel as a convention game:
1. How would using Charge! instead of the Wargame affect the game set up and play?
Based on past experience with Grant scenarios, I didn't expect the rules to be a major issue although artillery seems to be quite a bit more powerful in Charge!, especially shot & shell. Since many of the movement rates are about 50% faster, we adjusted some of the arrival times and the time limit on Game 4. The end results were fun to run and the players appeared to have fun, several coming back to play a 2nd game.

2. Could the scenarios handle the potentially large number of players and short time frames?
One of the keys to a good convention game is to see that all the players have something to do and that the games flow quickly and reach a conclusion within the time allotted. Most players are happy to control less than they normally would in a face to face game.  We decided that there were enough forces in games 1,2 & 4 for up to 6 players with 4 being ideal. We allowed for up to 10 for games 3 & 5 with 6-8 being ideal. As it turned out, we didn't fill any of the games which is unusual for NQSYW. We had 3 to 4 players for each of the smaller games and 4-6 for the larger ones. All of the games reached a conclusion within 3 hours with victory in 2 of them hanging in the balance until the last turn.

3. Would it be possible to play the games as a mini-campaign when each game might be played by a different group of players?
We were somewhat concerned about the heavier casualties that are incurred in Charge! and about players' attitudes and were thus prepared to improvise if needed to make sure that all of the games were viable. As it turned out, while several units were virtually destroyed, the casualties were even enough that it did not unbalance any of the games. Even more pleasing, the players were unfailingly diligent in not throwing away their troops in senseless attacks, even, for example, hording grenadiers for future games that they themselves would not be playing in.

4. How could we plan properly when we wouldn't be sure what troops would be available until the day of battle (there were a dozen people potentially providing troops, some of these painting troops up to the day of battle!)
After studying the force levels and counting existing troops, making alowances for planned units and possible no-shows, we determined that we needed 15 cavalry squadrons in 5 regiments on each side but only had 10 Pragmatic vs 12 Northern squardons, some in 3 squadron regiments, others being independent or in 2 squadron regiments. One possible answer was to field 2 squadron regiments but we decided to leave the heavies as three squadron regiments but fielded the light regiments as 2 squadrons. To make up the numbers, we allowed the single squadrons of SB and Wachovian Hussars to appear multiple times as the 1st, 2nd and eventually 3rd Squadrons of their respective regiments. This could have been an issue but casulaties were heavy enough that by the time they were all together, a single squadron was enough!
Light infantry and artillery was available in an abundance and some had to be left out but infantry was short, especially for the raiders. In the end we fielded all possible Pragmatic units at full strength (3 companies or about 60 all ranks) which was about 3 units short and only enough Northern units to maintain the proper ratio. This turned out to be enough and indeeed since 60 40mm figures take up considerably more room than 48 30mm ones, more troops would have crowded the table.

The next entry will recount Game 1 but meanwhile, here are the Rosmark troops mustering for morning parade at the border town of St. Stephen.