Friday, November 24, 2017

Seven Years Bad Luck

On Thursday Ron and I tried out a Seven Years Portable War Variant. (Our 1st Portable Wargame test game was actually played in this unsupported period in 2011. See 6 Sides of Death )
Minifig Horse Grenadiers, which I painted for Ron a few years ago, going into their first battle.
Ron suggested that we start with the Ancient rules since they had light & heavy cavalry and infantry as well as artillery however he also suggested that we face the hex angles to give the game a more linear feel. This would give each unit 2 front hexes, 2 flank and 2 rear and meant battle lines were needed to protect units. It worked like a charm.

Turn 2, on the next turn the Hessians in the town wuld spring an ambush by opening fire.
We did make a few other minor changes midgame as we came across anomalies.

One was to disallow artillery fire over head on the flat as being not only technically problematic, apart possibly from howitzers, but also contrary to customary artillery deployment at the time.

Another was was to change the -1 combat modifier for  light troops in woods (the only units allowed in) which is in the ancient rules for the +1 for troops  in woods which is used in the 19thC & 20thC  rules. This was partly in view of the success of light troops in woods in actions such as Fontenoy not to mention North America but also because 2 opposing light units in woods were incapable of inflicting hits on each other since they started with 5,6 to hit then subtracted  -1 for being in woods and -1 for the enemy being in cover!   (Bob, if you are reading this, can you explain the thinking behind the -1 for ancient light troops and Barbarians fighting from woods? )

Turn 6ish?. The Austrian army is deployed and pressing forward (The Austrian right wing of Cavalry and  infantry is off screen). My reserves are still hidden in dead ground but it is early days. 
My plan was to display my artillery supported by a few infantry on the ridge on one side of the pass with some troops in hidden ambush positions on either flank and a reserve of cavalry and infantry in deadground behind the middle of the pass. My General commanded 2 guns, 3 heavy cavalry (1 elite), 5 infantry (1 elite) and 2 light infantry. (45 SP/EP of 15)

Ron had a seemingly endless horde of bullet proof troops.

My plan was to do as much damage as possible while allowing myself to be pushed back to my main position, holding the cavalry for a counter-attack if I saw an opening. As far as I could see Ron's plan was to deploy while testing my positions and then advance minimizing  his own casualties, making use of his numbers and taking no risks unless it became necessary near the end.

Turn 9/10ish? Both sides' battle lines are deployed. I have fallen back to my primary position across the narrowest part of the pass and remain fairly confident that I can hold till dark.
It appears that I made several serious miscalculations but the big one was assuming that given average die rolls, the distribution of SP loss and Recoil results would be fairly even given the 50/50 results chart. They were even except that while my smaller army inflicted mostly recoils, it suffered mostly SP losses!

The net result of this was that I was forced to launch my cavalry counter attack earlier than planned or lose the ability to do so at all as I rapidly approached  my Exhaustion Point while Ron's army arrived at the crucial point fresh and had been scarcely slowed by having individual units recoiled. 

If the dice results had been reversed my plan might have worked but it is a desperate plan that relies on dice!

Turn 13. My army is exhausted and Ron has blown a huge whole through my line. There was nothing to do but retreat the 2 battalions on my left and surrender the surrounded ones on my right.

Once again, the way the EP works makes reserves next to useless for a small army unless committed near the start of the battle or unless the army can avoid taking damage at all.

My mind has been pondering things such as dividing an army into Brigades or Divisions, each with their own Exhaustion Point so that a Reserve can be kept but on the other hand if my troops had been pushed back more often early on instead of losing SP's, then my Reserve cavalry would not have been forced to attack early  or not at all.

An all out attack on the head of Ron's army as he deployed (like his in the last game)  would have given me a much  better chance of inflicting enough damage to exhaust his army before it made it through the gap  as long as some of my units remained alive near the end.

I'm not sure how well a Fabian plan of not contesting his advance across the first 2/3 of the table other than by showing ambushes and retreating before contact would have worked. His rear elements were barely slowed as it was and possibly the battle would have started in earnest with my troops fresh on the last position, roughly around the same time as my army was teetering on the verge of exhaustion.  That also might have worked.

More playing is required!


  1. Ross Mac,

    It is interesting that you started from the point of view of using the Ancients rules rather than the 19th century ones for your SYW battle. Doing the latter might have avoided the apparent anomaly regarding Light Troops.

    My understand of the use of Light Troops in Ancient battles was to harry the enemy, and by putting them in a wood, they could do so from cover. To negate their effect, they can be engaged by enemy Light Troops, as a result of which the two sets of Light Troops effectively cancel each other out ... hence -1 for being in woods and -1 for the enemy being in cover. The only way for the stalemate to be broken is for a Commander to enter the fray and to give some leadership to his troops or for him to withdraw his Light Troops.

    My own thinking is to make all SYW Heavy Cavalry equivalent to Cataphracts as they seemed to be used in a similar way. I totally agree that Artillery (except howitzers) would not be able to fire over other troops.

    I think that using separate EPs from each brigade or division would be an excellent idea, and it is one that I have considered adding as an optional rules for larger battles.

    Thanks for the very interesting and thought-provoking battle report.

    All the best,


  2. Thanks Bob. Unfortunately light troops in woods are better off being dealt with being attacked by Heavy Cavalry or Heavy infantry. These could not pursue a recoil but would hit on a net 5,6 vs the light troops at a 6 but it would stop the lights from shooting and they can only take 2 hits and an SP lost from skirmishers is as good as any other.

    As per the choice of period we thought the ancient rules better reflected that smoothbore muskets were most effective at very close ranges which the +1 for Heavy Infantry in melee provides as well as not being able to fight effectively in woods. We also wanted light cavalry though none were used in this game and light infantry.

  3. Certainly do have a liking for 25mm Minifigs - great armies!

  4. Interesting ideas Ross. I think using the Ancients rules sounds perfect. My poorly educated idea of Light Infantry in SYW was as an elite so would resolve hits differently to line infantry.
    The unique EP for different parts of an army is also an interesting thought which needs trying.