How Men of Quality Resolve Differences

How Men of Quality Resolve Differences
Pudel and Peper attacks - an ugly but inevitable part of any 17th C. British Civil War, "Oh! The Shame of it All!"

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Another great Franco-Prussian War playtest!

Had a great playtest session with Disgruntled Fusilier, the mad genius behind "Sound Officer's Call!". If not actually Disgruntled in real life, I'd say he is at least almost "gruntled".
In addition to accessing a good-sized table, this session has the benefit of a veteran grognard who has never played the rules but knows and likes Neil Thomas' "4-Base Games" e.g. those in "Wargaming: An Introduction" and the spin-offs. As a 1-1 session, I will be able to focus on introducing the rules and taking pics, which I completely forgot at last week's large group playtest [and it is therefore not posted].

Best of all, this will be a double-reported game, with posting on both of our blogs!

The forces are the strong divisions I borrowed from the original customer for the rules. Each side has a brigade of 2 regiments / 2 battalions plus a smaller skirmish unit of a few chasseur / jager companies, and some batteries. The main difference is that the Prussians have cavalry integral to their infantry brigades. The French cavalry is together in a separate brigade. The Prussians also have an independent cavalry brigade with no batteries.

The Prussians are all elite except for average Cavalry. The French are all average but have the special Veterans rule which allows them to rally as Elite but the Generals do not aid in rallying - the Soldiers know them too well!

French guns drop half as many dice as Prussian Krupp guns, 2 v. 4, and have a 24" range v. 30" for the Prussians. The French Chassepot has a 9" range v. 6" for the Dreyse gun.

So the forces have different strengths and weaknesses [actually, do the Prussians have any weaknesses...??] and it should be an interesting fight.


Looking down the table we have the Prussians to left and French to right. Fairly obvious are the terrain objectives, which are the 2nd-level hill in the table center [dominates surroundings given the 24-30" range of batteries], two towns on the left side and one on the French.

While the Prussians have two objectives on their side, they are widely spread - the French town is fairly close to the large center hill objective, making their immediate goals pretty clear. The winner needs 3 of the 4 for a decisive win, or to at least contest 1 for a 2.5 - 1.5 marginal win.

Table Left. French [me] looking at the left - a town dominates the area, and a Prussian brigade is close but not right upon it. Will it go left to the town or right against the large hill? opposing it I have a French Brigade that is to help secure the near hill and hopefully contest the town on the left. We'll see...

Prussian View. The hill to right is an easy grab, and the high hill will provide an excellent base of fire against the center hill objective. Putting both batteries atop it would make French defense difficult and provide excellent support for an infantry attack. As there's nothing else nearby, as long as the town is secured everything else can go after the center hill.

Table center. Prussians have another strong brigade in the center. With batteries, squadrons and plenty of infantry, they can drive on the main hill supporting the other Brigade, support their cavalry or try for my town. What will they do??

I've the Imperial Guard [who are a shadow of Nap I's fact, they are rated average for this game] brigade in the center. It has an extra battery and will hold the near town - which guards our route of advance, supply and the generals HQ [convenient to the cafe and cat house].

They are also to secure the hill to front which dominates the entire area - this is mission critical for the French since their batteries will be able to equal the Krupp range from the hill top. If they are able to contest the Prussian town, great, but most likely the Guard will provide some critical support to my outnumbered cavalry.

Prussian View. The center hill looks ripe to be overrun by cavalry, but they can't hold it without support or - even better - relief. The town is good as held, and the road leads straight to the French HQ, cafe and cat house...what are we waiting for??

Table Right. Four Prussian cavalry squadrons face three French, who are supported by two batteries of horse artillery. As French artillery is inferior to Prussian, only outstanding skill with the batteries will enable my squadrons to keep the Prussians from collapsing the French right flank and take their town! Hopefully the Guard will prevent such a catastrophe... supplies are scarce in this area, as are cafes and...cats.

Same side from Prussian view. They will take the hill immediately, a key to their side as the hill provides a bonus in melee if you are uphill. Yet, the squadron can charge off it, so an advance on my part is highly unlikely without support from the nearby Guard infantry.

Table Left.
The Prussians send a battery and battalion against the town, perhaps a skirmisher is headed there also. Looks like the rest is headed into the valley while cavalry squadrons keep the brigades in contact. The right brigade takes the crossroads with three units.

The French race to the hilltop objective getting a lone battery atop the hill immediately. They send a skirmisher to harass the Prussian movement against the town and one ligne battalion to work in the valley and slow any flanking attempt.

Table right.A strong Prussian force heads into the valley along the road, and is set to seize the woods. The cavalry advances cautiously, suddenly under the barrels of four batteries.
French guard send their batteries and a battalion to support the cavalry. The other three battalions head into the valley figuring to hold the center hill's flank and slow any drive on the French HQ. The entire French right moves up aggressively, placing a battery on a small knoll and all cavalry squadrons up front reserve? 

Alors, nous sommes Francais - en avant!
Turn 2, table right.  
The Prussians form quickly, with a rock-solid center on the hill and hussars / cuirassiers flanking it. The fourth squadron of hussars dashes forward to challenge their counter-part but loses a base in the process. The other French squadrons form deep, hoping to challenge and hold the cuirassiers with fancy hoof-work.

Turn 2 Table Center. This quickly develops into a very interesting fight for both position and firepower. The French got a lone battery on the hill which is hazarded by a lone squadron, but the French have the Infantry support. The hill is split between the commands, with two Guard battalions on the right and ligne battalions to the left.

Doesn't look like the Prussians are making a serious attempt at the hill objective, however. Perhaps a double-envelopment is in the works? Supporting fire from the left-flank Prussian battery dings a battalion.

Table left. The Prussians have the force, but the French like to dance. French Chasseurs are on the lower hill level, while a Prussian battalion takes the town. Lost that race! Prussians are making strong effort down the valley...hmmmm.

Turn 3, left flank. Fighting heats up as battalions deploy into line and red markers pop up everywhere denoting a base loss. Base losses are measure of combat effectiveness, not actual casualties [per NT's design philosophy] and can be rallied off in part. Sustained pressure that leads to all four bases lost removes the Unit, so at 3 of 4 bases lost one should definitely retreat and rally up the unit, if possible. If not...ah well, c'est la guerre.

Prussian battalions have managed to not be outranged, mostly through maneuvering but partly through French aggression, and/or sloppy staff work. Prussian cavalry [far right] did get hammered by infantry fire. Vive la Chasspot!

The chasseurs made a mad dash and occupied the town just as the Prussians were about to march in! Exciting as this was, their firepower was not enough to keep them from charging and evicting them immediately, and they lost several hits in the process - I think only the town's 5+ save prevented them from evaporating. This Unit will be the left-flank here for doing their job as an auxiliary so well!

Turn 3, Table Right. Squadrons jockey for position. French left pull back and let the guns do the work, but the Prussian squadrons do not evaporate. Wisely, both sides have a battalion advancing to support the cavalry.

Turn 3, table Center. The Prussians are rapidly advancing via...the woods? I just realized how important they are, as they are going to outflank my batteries and my cavalry. I have the hill secure, but it is clear I will have to pull back at least 6" from the woods and await their advance out of it. Merde!

Turn 4, left flank. Prussians do not sit on their laurels and indulge in fast times at Clairmont High. They advance out of the town with their jagers supporting and drive on the French chasseurs who are now 2 Hits from destruction!

In the valley, the French line battalion just hangs on thanks to some inspiration from the general. Prussian cavalry starts to move left, there not being anything to be gained fighting uphill against the French [except maybe a good poem]. The challenge to the hill has not fully developed yet.
tactical note: a Prussian cavalry charge would likely destroy the line battalion in the valley. Command coordination of the well-supported Prussian Brigades is essential [but hard].

Turn 4, table center. Prussians swarm out of the woods while the jagers retrograde off the hill. Fire from the krupps and battalion takes a stand off the Guard on the hill, and the Guard on the road are almost destroyed by a timely Prussian charge from the woods - time to pull back!

Turn 4 right. The cavalry have shifted farther out, away from pesky shooters and re-aligned. Prussian squadrons have been weakened by artillery fire.

Turn 5 right. Still, it doesn't seem to help, as the Prussians drive off a French hussar squadron and push back their lancers. The hussars fail morale and end up facing away, thankfully covered by their sister squadron. The lancers pass and retrograde just a bit, ready for more action! pay attention, this unit will go on to win laurels in this battle...

Turn 5 Center-right. Prussians boil out of the woods and their cavalry are pushing back the French; they perform an orderly retreat covered by a rallying Guard battalion and their chasseurs. Clearly, the French will need help from the hill.

Turn 5 center. Fire devastates the Guard unit at the top of the hill, while the Prussians advance down the valley, chasing the devastated line unit in its retreat to the woods.

Turn 5 left. The chasseurs dance for one more turn, distracting two Units. The Prussian cavalry continue to shift left, but perhaps down the valley was the better choice? Neither my advice nor Steve's intent saw this possibility.

Turn 6, left. 

The jagers see off the chasseurs with a rapid advance and rapid fire that removes them from the table. Another Prussian battalion is now free to advance down the valley. 

The French form up in the wood and their general attaches to help them get themselves together. The Prussians develop their attack on the left side of the hill, entering close range. Three French v. five Prussian battalions? I am now thinking that the hilltop objective is going to be turned even as my right is also retrograding!

Turn 5, center-right. The Prussians quickly form up and the Guard hangs on with a combination of rallying and fire. The chasseurs hold the town and the weak French batteries are flanking the advancing Prussians, but - unlike Napoleonics - the Prussian battalions are the most dangerous units around! 

So the below pic shows not a cunning French trap against inexperienced Prussians of 1813, but a dangerous drive against weak French elements by Prussian infantry of 1870.
I have to takes awhile to get used to the fact that altho this period LOOKS like Napoleonics, it certainly isn't.

Turn 5 Right. A fascinating situation has developed. The French batteries are distracted by putting fire in support of the town objective. Desperate French charges have paid off and both the lancers and hussars have driven back their opponents while the far hussar unit rallies. This has been an exciting flank! Who says cavalry is no use in this period??

Around this time, Steve and I were both yawning, so we called the game. As designer and host, I declared it a draw that favors the Prussians. With a little more attack power, they would be easily contesting the French town.

The alleviating event on the right was masterful work by the French cavalry brigade commander... well, perhaps more that the French lancers either won every melee or passed and barely retreated when they lost! They are the right flank heroes. The Prussians needed one battery over on this side, which is my fault as the scenario designer. Actually, the Prussians should have had 2-3 more batteries for a more historical accurate TO&E, and we should've borrowed them from his ACW 15mm box.

In the center, Steve chose not to contest the hill but try to envelope the flanks. This was working and both French brigades were under a LOT of pressure, with a unit or two ready to be removed if only there was just a bit more offensive power. I am also learning more about this period and the rules [altho I wrote the rules] and I am seeing more and more how cavalry will play a critical role in the second phase of infantry attacks.

To the left, Steve quickly secured the hill town and only the chasseurs slowed his immediate advance in support of the flanking movement against the large center hill. A Prussian charge against the French in the woods was defeated by poor dice and the French held - for now. I see the French continuing to be pressured and perhaps lose a unit or two on the left, altho that won't deliver the hill into the hands of the Prussians.

One thing that was a touch awkward were units near the edge of the plateau'd hill steps but angled. Didn't quite look / feel right. The fixed, rectangular shape of Units forces Units covering lower elevations to be very closely aligned with the hill edge. At present, you need to be touching the edge with your left / right corners to see / be seen from the higher elevation. 

This, combined with the large, gentle circle of the hill itself made for a few awkward moments, to a little rule to make hill contours steep/gentle, and woods heavy/light will need to be added. Perhaps as an optional rule.

This was a great fight, and a great playtest, so a grateful game designer thanks the Prussians for an evening of progress! His take on the actions is posted over at "Sound Officer's Call! here [click].

Friday, July 12, 2019

The REAL One-Hour Wargames Scenario #8; Melee: Lundy's Lane


...probably induces PTSD in gamers all over the Anglo-American world.

One-Hour Wargames Scenario #8 is one of the most-played scenarios of the book in my neck of the woods - geographic or electronic woods. It has that right balance of being easy to set up, tactically demanding and somehow different almost every time as the scenarios decision matrix is large. In other words, just the choices about set-up and reinforcements between the two forces results in several dozen possibilities. Throw in the decisions of where to send the Units once on the table and the two sides interactions and I can't do the math anymore! 

There are a couple of generally good ideas for the defender and the attacker. One being to put a Unit of skirmishers on the hill initially and then occupy the woods at the bottom of the hill. If this is not done, the attacker should immediately seize the woods with their own. Cavalry should probably be in the second wave so that forces are entering combat simultaneously. But then again, these aren't always the case! Nice job, Mr. Thomas.

So it was simply impossible not to visit the REAL Scenario #8 when my family made a recent trip to Niagara Falls. The battle is based upon one of the more ferocious fights of the war of 1812, Lundy's Lane, aka the Battle of Niagara. Today, the battlefield is a relatively small area that has been preserved mostly due to the presence of a church and cemetary that anchors the highest spot on the hill. In terms of the above map, the church would be located above the woods towards the East side of the hill.

It is a bit unclear how the real battle was fought in relation to the OHW map as Drummond Presbyterian Church and the sunken "Lundy's Lane" are not in scenario #8. The Queenston Rd. pictured below seems to be in the correct place in above scenario diagram - East of the hill.  I will therefore refer between the map and photos with the understanding that NT's orientation of the battle across the ridge / hill matches the above scenario diagram. This places the scenario woods [not shown in below drawing] just south of the battery, and the church in the center of the hill with Lundy's Lane traversing the length of the hill before hitting Queenston Rd. perpendicular to it. 

Lundy's Lane

If one wanted to have the scenario be a bit more historical, one might put the sunken lane in across the hill and the church in the center. Given the scale of the NT rules / scenario, it may be easiest to just say that the hill top gives a 1/2 Hits terrain advantage from any angle.

Should you be as fortunate as I to make the trip, the battlefield is easy to find there being a arch over Lundy's Lane itself [second pic below] but the museum and parking are not. Confusingly, there is a church across Lundy's Lane [North and a bit East of the Drummond Presbyterian] that looks like it may be the museum. We actually parked there thinking it was a combination chapel and museum [not uncommon]. In any event, check the day / times it is open and visit the small museum at the hill's crest just North and West of the arch, then head over to the much larger museum which is several blocks away.

View just inside the cemetery entrance at the top of the hill. Lundy's Ln to the right. Hard to tell, but Mr. Winkie is wielding his flintlock musket and ready to take the battery from the flank despite years of relative peace between our two nations!

Same view, just a bit farther in at the top of the stairs where Mr. Winkie was standing.  Lundy's Lane runs just to the right and the arch crosses the road [so the view is West, with the battery to the left and the infantry unit rectangles would be across Lundy's Lane to the right]. Straight ahead is the Presbyterian church that was a meeting house of some sort at the time of the battle, and which is at the highest point of the hill. Far to the left would be the starting point of Scott's brigade, advancing towards where I'm standing.

To left, dominating the center of the cemetary, is a lovely copper beech.

Straight along, top of hill just before the Drummond Presbyterian Church. Fine statue of the British commander, Gen. Gordon Drummond. I assume the church was renamed for him.

As all is well among the cousins, and has been for quite some time. So, there are several very tactfully phrased monuments for American and British casualties, all remembering the heroism each displayed in the battle and the ongoing virtues of the present peace.

Mr. Winkie gets to have a solemn moment with dad for the fallen US Soldiers.

Couldn't resist a pic of this plaque for the 5th U.S. Infantry explaining their motto.

This plaque by the VFW - placed at the 150th anniversary of the battle.

Unfortunately, there are commercial and residential areas surrounding the battlefield, so this particular view is East to West, towards the left flank of the British where their artillery battery was placed and later flanked and taken by the U.S. infantry at some cost [note the "I'll Try" motto was due to the fact that few infantry like to assault artillery emplaced uphill of them]. So, on the wargame scenario diagram, the woods would be to the left and the Queenston Rd. behind, with the US forced initial entry point well off to the left.

Just off camera to the right is a motel and parking lot, and just past that Lundy's Lane.

In this view, Mr. Winkie is single-handedly assaulting the hill. The 5th would be proud!

Below, illustration of the 5th's assault on the British artillery.I believe it occurred far right to near left - the church and hill are behind me in this perspective. To the left is Lundy's Ln.

This view is up the North [back] side of the hill. There was fighting here also, I think left to right, not straight up it [which would've been quite the climb]. In the far distance, between the trees, is the bell tower of Drumond Pres. Closer there is more of the battlefield park, and Lundy's Ln is running left/right in front of the tower at the top of the hill.

Same view, much closer at the top. The arch is ahead just to left and the church is direct ahead. The plaques explain more about the battle. To the right is the museum.

Reverse view down the North side - the trees and terrain are pretty close here.

Final views. Church to right, four engraved stone "murals" directly ahead with the cemetary above, and the reddish copper beech tree here appears a dark red to left of the flag.

Brittania rules the hill!

This was a great little pilgrimage, and I wish I had more time to see the battlefield, but we had spent the morning / mid-day at Ft. Niagara, so arrived a bit late. I hope to visit the area again on an 1812 tour, but who knows - if big Army intervenes I may have to see some other battlefield tours in places a lot less fun than Canada!

I hope this has given comfort to all the grognards of Scenario #8, and perhaps a little peace to see the battlefield in its present state, a modest commercial and residential district in the City of Niagara. What WAS that war about, anyway??

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Franco-Prussian Rules: Grand Unveiling

The Dogs of War have been unleashed!
looks like a shepherd v. poodle confrontation...

So the group gathered at 7pm, we ran thru the rules after some chatter and commiserating, and started about 7:30. We had two players for each side, so the South battle was set aside, I ran the game and assisted.

The terrain in the central portion of the North was the most restrictive. It did have flanks vulnerable to some exploitation, however, and the Prussian right can drive into the large gap to the right, between the French left and their nearest friendly force in the center [trays are for setup purposes].

The forces were even in the most important Unit type, infantry, but the Prussians have advantages everywhere else:

8 Line Battalions
1 Artillery Battery - rifled
1 Chasseur Battalion - Skirmishers [more like 3 companies]
1 General, 6" Command Radius [CR]

8 Infantry Battalions
2 Krupp Batteries [which are about twice as good as French rifled batteries]
2 Jager Battalions, Skirmishers [more like 3 companies, ea.]
2 Light Dragoon squadrons
2 Generals, 12" CR

So the Prussians have twice as many guns, skirmishers, and the generals and guns are twice as good, plus cavalry support. Their infantry quality is also better. Overall,  it's a force designed for attacking with plenty of maneuver elements and firepower supporting a strong infantry core. 

Below, view South down the line. The Prussians shift right a bit and advance head-on into the stream, as their cavalry rapidly move to the left. Prussians are new to the rules [but not to gaming] while the French are led by a playtester.

Below, a bit later in the game. Looks like Napoleonics...both players need to spread out and use the generous infantry range to support maneuvering. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to visit this side as much, in which case I'd have reminded the Prussian that the Jagers move thru terrain freely.

Another view, same time and place.

French left, Prussian right - attack still developing, but the Prussians are in range and starting to turn the French left. Thing to note is that occupying towns is hazardous without proper support. The opposition can concentrate a lot of firepower if they can even partially encircle a town.

Eventually, the French left did get turned out of the town, and the Prussians began to exploit the space, but it wasn't easy.

Prussian View. They have the South [right] side of town, the French the North. Racing to reinforce the town are six more infantry battalions, two Krupp guns, a skirmisher, two generals and two hussar squadrons. A cavalry brigade is to the right ready to exploit the open field to front right.

French Side. Looking down slope, and a bit North, the French have six Infantry Battalions, a Rifled Artillery Battery and a Skirmisher to rescue the two battalions holding half of the town. Maybe they can even take the town??

Center battle develops. The Prussians have seized the Northwest portion of the town, and both sides race reinforcements forward to continue the fray. At far right, the jagers [actually, Bavarians in sky blue who do not blend in as well as "real" jagers would!] hold a wood, using their superior range to trade shots with a French battalion. Cavalry skulk behind the woods!

Center - left, North side of town to is to the right. Presently, the near portion is occupied by the Prussians supported by a Krupp battery, a farther battalion and a distance cavalry squadron. But, French Battalions are racing forward with "revanche!" on their mind, it seems.

Center. French have counterattacked the cautious Prussians and seized one Prussian town, but three Prussian battalions and a battery are massing to drive them off.

At bottom, another Prussian battalion and some cavalry squadrons await orders.

The French general was actually a bit more aggressive. The Prussian sat back a bit and didn't use the resources at hand to mass firepower and exploit the initial taking of a French portion of the town. Eventually, the French were staged for their own counterattack.

Looking down slope straight at the Prussians, the French have a rifled gun and four cavalry [two lancers, two hussars...because I think they look cool, not b/c they are different from any other cavalry in the game]. 

Looking up slope at them is a strong Prussian Cavalry Brigade, with 4 squadrons, 2 Krupp Batteries, and a General.

South side develops very slowly. The Prussians hardly move up, so I push a squadron to the left just to make them think. The Krupp batteries are dangerous but aren't set up on the right level to really damage the French. The cavalry don't advance and the French aren't quite ready to, either.

Below, French Hussars taunt the Prussians from the other side of the stream. Eventually, they at least had a bit of a rumble and the French came off the worse, largely due to a failure to roll well as the fight was straight up even.
Overall, the South saw little action with the Prussians not maximizing their significant advantage in firepower to hurt a French squadron or two and then run them over.

Overall, the players caught on pretty quickly as the game doesn't use any unusual or complex mechanisms. It's really how the traditional  mechanics are put together that make it both Franco-Prussian and interesting to play! Reviews were good, and it seems that people feel it won't be a disaster to play as some rule sets have been in the past.

Some useful suggestions were made which will have to be digested and considered carefully. They'd like faster movement, one range band differentiated, and one player didn't care for the decreased effectiveness of artillery firing at the same target. Will tinker with these for next time.

In the North, the Prussians successfully executed a point attack, taking the left town and turning the French position. In the center, a Prussian attack wasn't followed up aggressively so a French counterattack stabilized the situation. Most importantly, there was some serious chewing on the rules and the period.

So, we will call this a win, if not for either side, rather for the Period in General!