Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Black Powder - Dresden 1813


On Sunday, as consolation for having to postpone our Wagram mega-game yet again, we got together at the Hall of Heroes to refight the second day of Dresden, 1813.



I was allocated the Prussians, 3 doughty brigades representing Lt-Gen Friedrich-Heinrich von Kleist's II (Prussian) Corps of the Army of the Reserve.




My Prussians would come on in the corner of the table, opposite the Royal Gardens, actually, half way inside them, as the rest of the gang had fought the first day of the battle on Saturday and had done quite well...could I now keep my end up?


Although I was familiar with the history of the battle, I suspended disbelief - the French were on the defensive, right? 


I deployed quite aggressively, but was wary of the position batteries in the redoubts - I exploited the Prussian ability to use skirmishers and artillery flexibility to present hard targets...


Philip designed the scenario and umpired the game...


Which clearly required double rations of tea!


My opponent Vic - Marshal Gouvian St-Cyr - lost no time in attacking the Royal Gardens...


And my less protected left flank...



The allied cavalry, deployed well to the rear and hampered by the torrential rain overnight, nevertheless made it up in time to cover my exposed flank.


This allowed me to concentrate my artillery, vapourising at least one unit of Young Guards into red mist...however there were a hell of a lot of Guards pouring out of Dresden like wasps from a disturbed nest!


Speaking of artillery, the French had plenty of field artillery as well as the position batteries - however they were a little careless with it - Philip had decreed that any off road movement risked getting lost in the morass if 2 successive 'bog checks' were failed. Marshal St Cyr duly lost 3 batteries in this way! Probably out of character, after all they named the French Military Academy after him!


However the pressure on the Royal Gardens was relentless, and I had to resort to supporting the skirmishers and lines with columns, taking severe casualties...


Fortunately the Russians, as well as securing my right flank from the start, were now appearing on my left as well - things were on the up!


Threatened by Guard Cossacks, a unit of Young Guards had the embarrasment of having their square broken by mere Landwehr - well done lads!


However, just as we ''ians'' - Austrians, Prussians and Russians - were starting to relax, the French Old Guard showed up...


The French players were going all out to attack - so much for the 'defence' of Dresden!


The Old Guard promptly cleared my artillery off the battlefield without so much as breaking step...


However - Prussian all-arms combined tactics saved the day - multiple cavalry charges from supporting cavalry stabilised the situation. Elsewhere on the battlefield the Allied team had managed to contain the onslaught of the Guard, and Philip judged the game to have been a minor Allied victory. Huzza!

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Team Yankee - Showdown at Schellerten


In the early hours of Wednesday 7th August 1985, the Third World War was approaching its third dawn, but already the night had been torn apart by the violence of full spectrum, high intensity armoured combat...



but the full fury of the storm's epicentre in the NATO Northern Army Group (NORTHAG) AOR was to be the now infamous town of Shellerten…



In the predawn darkness a company sized Air Assault detachment of Afghantsi Desantniki 



had landed at the nearby village of Heinde and seized the strategic bridge over the Lehrbach river.




Simultaneously, the NVA Motor-Schutzen of the 11th Motorisiertes Schutzen Divisionen launched a daring night attack to brush aside the NATO covering force and seize two bridges over the Mittleland Kanal.



Their success would then be exploited by Soviet Motor Rifles...


and Tank formations. The plan, dreamed up by cunning Soviet General Staff strategist Colonel-General Bryanovitch Brianski was to combine elements of the Covering Force, Defence of Schellerten and Hell's Highway scenarios into one single war winning mega game...but was it - you know how this goes:

A Bridge Too Far?


At all events, the highly skilled yet horde like Motor-Schutzen of the National Volks Armee led the whole ambitious undertaking off to a flying start...


By dint of skilfull infiltration and spearhead tactics the wily Ossies were able to sneak very close to the vital Mitteland Kanal bridges 


before being detected by the lightweight US Cav covering force...


Resistance was fierce...


but soon became futile as the Warsaw Pact emphasis on amphibiosity and fast river crossings paid off... 


and the objectives were soon outflanked then seized!


As dawn started to lighten the western sky the Soviet Motor Rifle and Tank Columns passed through the jubilant Ossies - it was now their turn to shoulder the burden of liberation...Western onlookers were shocked at the speed and ferocity of the Warsaw Pact onslaught..


But could it maintain its momentum in the face of heavy opposition?



Initially both the Tank and Motor Rifle columns made good progress on the open road network, with the glimmering light of dawn hampering some NATO long range missile fire...



But with the Soviet main effort soon identified, opposition of a more traditional kind revealed itself in masterfully sprung ambushes...


With dawn in its full glory revealing the cost of high intensity operations without due regard to flank security...


Opposition was particularly stiff in the village of Schellerton, with doughty British infantry rising to its ages old traditions of tenacious defence...


The traditional Soviet remedy was applied in increasingly desperate quantities...



But with negligible results...



Firepower of a more direct kind was marshalled around the unfortunate village...


Meanwhile the armoured columns were held up, still very far from the increasingly desperate Desantniki in far off Heinde…


Finally, the ruined village's stout defenders were finally deemed sufficiently pinned down to make an assault worthwhile...



Schellerten had been liberated from the imperialist yoke, but at what cost?


The armoured thrust had ground to a halt, well short of Heinde, leaving the gallant Desantniki survivors, abandoned and out of ammo, no choice but an honourable surrender...

My thanks to Bryan Sallans for all the hard work of organisation and for his daring Afghantsy coup de main, my fellow Warsaw Pact commander Trevor, and the gallant NATO commanders Stephen, Colin and Marc for a great and memorable game!

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Black Powder - SYW - The relief of Glatz?


It’s not often I get the opportunity to play out the Seven Years War in 28mm scale, as God intended. However, my longstanding playdate with Greg finally came off and I turned up at his place confidently expecting to see an array of smartly painted figures from his amazing collection.


However, after having a mug of hot coffee thrust into my cold hands before I had even properly crossed the threshold, even my high expectations were topped by the trouble Greg had gone to set up a thoroughly organised and beautifully laid out table. Now when I say every detail had been taken care of, I am not exaggerating. There were piles of army themed dice for each army and tape measure at all corners of the table. Casualty marker dice were based and ready to go, white for below stamina and red for at stamina. No less beautifully painted casualty models, for each nationality, were ready to denote disorder. His table measuring 8 x 5 instead of the standard 12 x 6, Greg had scaled down movement and range distances accordingly and these were printed and laminated at one’s elbow! You get the picture…Even surpassing the standards you’d expect from a chap who hobnobs with the Perry twins…
 

The table itself was beautifully landscaped, including the southern outskirts of Glatz itself, but what particularly pleases my eye was the trouble Greg had gone to convincingly render the slopes of the ridge, using a framework of geo-hex tiles covered with Cigar box battle maps to convincing effect.

As much thought had been put into the scenario. The Austrians were on the operational offensive in Silesia, marching north to relieve the besieged Fortress of Glatz. The Prussians were on the tactical offensive in this scenario, hoping to smash back the relieving army quickly prior to renewing the siege in full force. 
The relieving Austrians, rightfully wary of the formidable Prussian infantry, had adopted a temporary defensive position on a slope, and, being Austrians, had gone to the trouble of preparing field defences, with about half their lines and both batteries protected by gabions. The Prussians had 10 moves to evict the Austrians from their ridge, and had a slight numerical advantage, 3 brigades of Infantry over the Austrian pair of foot-slogging brigades. 

Both sides had both a Heavy and Light cavalry brigade, and I think the Prussians also had two batteries, although the BC of one Prussian battery was so keen and eager his team spent most of the battle in limber moving around the field trying to find the perfect textbook location in which to unlimber…you know the type, the one who won the Sword of Honour at the Academy, but ‘doesn’t like to talk about it’ - much – ‘nuff said!

Command values are important in Black Powder at the best of times, but Greg had introduced an interesting wrinkle which I think adds interest to a hypothetical scenario when not dealing with historical figures: As the Austrian player I has 5 brigade commanders, 4 were average and one was below average – but I had to decide where to put him. I think this is historically justified – surely an Army Commander had some say in how to employ his generals! In the event, never having much success with my cavalry, I appointed my duffer the Lt Cavalry Brigadier – most of his regiments were ‘marauders’, so how much trouble could he get into?

I did very little to adjust the deployment I had found the Austrians in before the game: Light cavalry covering the left, slightly trappy country, 
the Heavies covering the right flank, supported by some light infantry ruffians skulking in the woods, and the regular infantry Kaiserliks manfully holding the centre ground of the ridge in-between, with the artillery posted in two batteries approximately mid-way along. 
I did tinker with the Heavy Cavalry slightly, deploying them from column of squadrons into line. Much smarter looking, I always think, and nothing too controversial I would have thought…

As the attacker Greg had the first move, and his heavy cavalry opposite mine, no doubt alarmed by my redeployment, began an initially measured but undoubtedly purposeful canter towards the Austrian Heavies. And that was about it, Greg experienced the first of his difficulties in getting his infantry brigades forward as fast as he would have liked. Frederick was not present on the field, and so his Brigadiers were a little too relaxed this early in the morning.

On the defensive, I had little to do other than some sporadic bombardment at long range, and failed to sort the heavy cavalry out to meet the looming Prussian heavy horse onslaught… My first regiment of Cuirassiers, caught in line by two Prussian regiments, duly suffered…and Greg was able to follow up with a sweeping advance and destroy the regiment.

With the Prussian brigade now strung out it was now the remaining Austrian Heavies’ turn to capitalise on the Prussian disarray… 
and destroy the weakened and blown Prussian hard chargers. Still as these things tend to, the pendulum swung one way and then the other until both opposing Brigades were broken. Effectively the right, western flank was at an impasse, with only the Austrian lights present, and those scally-wags weren’t stopping their plunder of the cavalry detritus any time soon…

Right across the field of honour on the left flank, the two Light cavalry brigades eyed each other warily and jockeyed for position – I thought I detected an opportunity to catch a Prussian unit without support early on but my duffer failed to issue the necessary orders to capitalise on the fleeting opportunity…

In the centre, the Prussians were still suffering from command issues which meant that their centre brigade were still back on the touch line, their Brigadier lingering over his breakfast in that Gasthaus with the charming barmaid with the cornflower blue eyes. This meant that the two other brigades advanced against the Austrian defences unsupported and each receiving the undivided attention of one of the two Austrian batteries. 

Both assaults were seen off by a combination of artillery firepower and fast volleying, although I shan’t pretend that there weren’t a few sweaty moments...
 – especially since the Prussian Grenadier units shrugged off their first break tests, but when the smoke had cleared the Austrian line was battered and unbroken, 
whilst the Prussians were too tough to retire but too weakened to maintain a serious threat.

Returning to the glamour of the light cavalry out on the left flank, my exasperated Army commander had finally ridden over and gripped the situation, so that this time it was the Austrians who led the dance…

By this time the Prussian centre Brigade commander had finally taken leave of his new found friend, she sealing the tearful goodbye by presenting him a large frilly handkerchief from under her voluminous skirts – I assume it was a handkerchief – and the fresh brigade finally marched off to its rendezvous with destiny.

Seeing the Prussians ready to launch a second assault with fresh troops, 
the Austrian Army commander issued a few choice words to the now chastened Light Cavalry Brigade commander – fatherly words of gentle encouragement no doubt - and headed back to the centre of the line to put his battered infantry in order to receive the fresh onslaught.

Once again left to his own devices, our hapless light cavalry hero lost his head and stuffed up again, losing his second regiment in the process! The Austrian army had now lost 2 of its 4 Brigades, so was now a broken army – a well-earned Prussian victory, although, to be fair to the stoic Kaiserlik foot sloggers, probably much to the relief of the third Prussian infantry brigade who had yet to feel their fire! 

My thanks to Greg for his hospitality and a wonderfully presented and enthralling game.

(Note to self - I must not, not! not! start a 28mm Seven years war army!)