Monday, November 15, 2010

Trial by Fire (updated)

Last weekend I got to play two games of non-solo HofT, putting the current version to the test. A fairly full slate of much better pictures of the Friday night game than my cell phone took may be found here. As far as I can tell, chronologically the pictures start at 30 and count backwards to 1 then finish with 31.

The game was an encounter in a very constricted valley between fictional 18th Century armies. ( I was a little concerned by the amount of terrain, 2 large woods and a large hill which was partially broken ground, a little bit open and lots of difficult. Not your prime 18thC battlefield, but sometimes its the challenge that helps make a game interesting.  ) Les had made a few adjustments to the number of hits per stand and shooting modifiers for a couple of unit types to capture the desired feel for his armies. These are Bravant (dressed after the French fashion), Drakenburg (dressed after the Austrian fashion and proudly bearing Dragon banners) and the blue clad Stutz-Baerkatz. (Thank you Les for reminding me of the proper identities of the forces otherwise known as Not-French, Not Austrian and Not Prussian. The part of my brain that is supposed to remember fictional countries names seems to be faulty, especially when it comes to non-English names. Its been 12 years since I first took a part in one of the Hawk's  Not Quite Seven Years' War games and I still struggle if I don't have crib notes to hand.)

The Bravant cavalry rudely disrupts the deployment of my Stutz-Baerkatzers . 
Lentulus' 10mm Pendraken figures

To start the game off, we diced for sides and then each side selected an equal number of units from the available pool of troops plus a battalion gun per brigade. Ron took the Bravant army and entered the Western board edge with 4 brigades totalling 2 Elite Heavy Cavalry, 1 Irregular Cavalry and 3 Regular Cavalry, 2 Elite infantry, 8 Regular Infantry, 2 field guns and 2 battalion guns. He deployed in conventional 18thC format with 2 lines of infantry in the center support by guns and cavalry on either wing. 

The Stutz-Baerkatz forces under my command entered from the Northern corner of the Eastern edge with 3 Brigades comprised of 1 Heavy and 1 Medium cavalry, 1 Elite infantry, 4 line infantry, a gun and a howitzer. My plan was to push ahead, occupy a small ridge with cavalry on my left, garrison a village in front of it as a strong point and then see what my allies were up to.   The Drakenburg forces entered from the South with 3 brigades including 2 Elite and 1 regular cavalry, 1 Irregular infantry, 4 infantry, a field gun and 2 battalion guns. They sent some Grenzers into the wood and sent the cavalry around it to the left, while the infantry marched right towards my entry point.

The first couple of turns were interesting,not for what happened but because it became obvious that when using 10mm troops and measuring distances in centimeters with a set of rules designed for inches, the a 4 ft x 6 ft table become the equivalent of a 10 ft x 15 ft playing surface. LOTS of room for maneuver and a lonnnng way from one flank to another if you change your mind.  Making the most of his central position, Ron blocked the passage around the woods with one cavalry brigade, sent an infantry brigade to seize the central heights and marched the rest of his force straight at me.
 An overview early on. Bravant to the left, Drakenburg at the bottom and Stutz-Baerkatz to the right.

The ball opened with a cavalry clash by the woods and a rather successful attempt by the Bravant cavalry to disrupt and delay my deployment allowing Ron to reach the town ahead of me.  Ron's hussars managed to sweep the Grenzers out of the wood then spent the rest of the game lurking there, blocking the road and preventing the Drakenburg cavalry from returning to support their infantry. That left 2 Bravant heavy cavalry units facing 3 Drakenburg units and despite heavy losses on both sides, the last reserve won the cavalry fight. On the far flank the cavalry charge ran over a gun, pushed back and then broke one of my infantry regiments. Then to my relief, the Bravant cavalry were pulled back to protect the rear from the victorious remnants of the Drakenburg cavalry. The remaining Bravant and Drakenburg cavalry eyed each other from opposite sides of a defile for the rest of the game, neither willing to risk destruction leaving the way open for the enemy to ride around the rear of their infantry.

The cavalry charge had forced me to deploy farther back than intended but taking advantage of having the initiative I was able to move forward far enough to prevent Ron from occupying the town without a fight and to deploy my howitzer. A couple of lucky shots later and the town was burning out of control. A daring (if I do say so myself)  strike by my cuirassiers caught one of Ron's guns as it tried to deploy forward and then my cavalry rallied back and basically sat out the rest of the game, waiting for an opportunity. In hindsight, sending them far out around the flank might have been a better use of them.

At this point we had reached a stalemate. On the allied left, Les's infantry faced Ron's infantry ensconced behind a difficult slope. It would be suicide for either side to attack over the ground with regular infantry. On the allied right, a burning village separated  the armies with each deployed ready to repel an attack. By now the evening was drawing on and Ron decided to be sensible and head home. I was keen to see how the infantry fight would go if the terrain was better and had naught but a cold empty house to look forward to for my night in town so Les and I agreed to downgrade the hill slope to broken and I picked up the reins of the Bravant army and launched the attack that Ron had set up. 

The climax of the battle as the Bravant break through the Allied lines and threaten the high command. Picture from Lentulus's Photobucket album.

The terrain made it difficult to launch an attack once I started shooting so a  prolonged firefight ensued as I crept closer. Eventually, as numbers were starting to tell on the side of the Bravant, an opportunity arose to throw in part of the 2nd brigade against the flank of the Drakenburg line and in short order both of the Drakenburg brigades went shaken and then collapsed. The Stutz-Baerkatzers had not stood idle and attacked around both sides of the village but on their right, the attack was not pressed aggressively and the Bravant were able to effectively refuse the flank.  On their left the attack was met by the Gardes with their usual sang-froid, which is to say that they fired their muskets into the air and then became disordered. Luckily the enemy decided to shoot them to pieces rather than pressing their advantage and with the Gardes out of my way, my remaining artillery could open with effect. Since the Stutz-Baerkatz brigade had already lost a regiment and a gun to the cavalry assault early on, it didn't take much to shake them and soon the whole center was cracked wide open with the remaining allied troops heading for their respective  battle lines.

Unfortunately, I didn't note what time the game began or even what time the preceding supper at the pub ended, nor what time we finished or how many turns we played, something like 10 or 12 turns in 3 hours I think, but to me the game seemed to flow smoothly, kept my attention and provided moments of tension and swings of luck but in the end it was the players' battle plans and choices that were carried out and won or lost the day. In other words, the rules worked as planned and as they did in my solo test games. On to Saturday and a 7 player AWI game but that's another post.


  1. Sounds like a good, successful gaming session, Ross. Although I must say that I would have preferred that you simply used "French", "Austrian" and "Prussian" to NF, NA and NP . . . those capital "Ns" made it more work to figure out who was who.

    -- Jeff

  2. Yeah I hear you Jeff, I couldn't call them French etc because they weren't really, but I was lazy to use initials. I should get the proper names again and update the post.


  3. The NF are "Bravant", the NA "Drakenburg"(both duchies), the NP are Stutz-Baerkatz ruled by the Markgraf of Stutz and Stadtgraf of Baerkatz.