Saturday, 9 December 2017

Black Powder - Murfreesboro


The good news is this will be a shorter batrep that usual since MS Photos decided to do a disappearing trick with half of my photos - you can't delete a single photo of your own without a confirmation process more stringent than launching a Polaris ICBM, but MS can make half a folder disappear in a puff of smoke! OK rant over, now for the fun stuff!


On Saturday, 8 wargamers met up at the new Hall of Heroes venue in the heart of Campbelltown's CBD to replay the battle of Murfreesboro. This battle was otherwise named after the Stones River...



Terry did a great job of researching the scenario and setting up the table, and added a few ingenious house rules and twists to reflect the features of that battle in the Western Theatre. Apparently something special was going to happen on Union move 4. Reinforcements no doubt!




All of the Confederate troops were armed with shorter ranged smoothbores, but which gave them an extra dice at close range to 'pour it on' - in the close country around Murfreesboro, a definite advantage in my view, particularly as the two armies started the scenario well in contact!


The battlefields was dominated by large tracts of open woodland, which provided light cover but limited movement to one bound per turn, no matter what the command roll. The Union army started the battle on the back foot, spending the early morning concentrating on making a good breakfast - not unwisely in my view - a good soldier is always on the lookout for his next meal or kip...


Therefore only Johnson's Bde, nearest the camera in the photo above, on the Union side was allowed to activate during turn '0'.


My overall plan, as Union Commander, was for Alejandro, on our extreme left flank, to advance forward where he was unopposed, and roll up the deep Confederate right flank...


Meanwhile Craig and our new mate Dave in the centre...


and I on the right, would simply contain the outnumbering Confederate hordes to our front and hope that they would be drawn off as Alejandro threatened their open flank..


The Confederates pressed forward eagerly enough in the front and right...


but, enjoying the cover of the light woods, we were confident we could hold...


Pretty soon we were engaged in firefights all along the line - but Alejandro's flank march into the Rebel deep flank was foiled by the difficulty of moving in the woods, and Breckenridge unhistorically moving off his hill to meet him - despite having a Staff Rating of 6!


Given the obvious difficulties, I asked Alejandro to abandon the whole idea of pressing forward on the flank and come and support Craig and Dave in our centre, which was looking a little swamped... However Alejandro was getting stuck into Breckenridge and felt he should continue with at least half his force - which proved to be a wise call, as that rebel brigade broke next turn...



But it was in move 4 that Terry, as scenario designer, struck his blow. He secretly gave orders to Dave, a newcomer to the game and thus only in command of a single Union brigade, Sheridan's, to carry out his move before anyone else...Running low on ammo, Dave retired his entire brigade from the centre of the Union line to the edge of the table!


Fortunately, and realistically, Terry had not informed the other Confederate players that this was going to occur, so they did not have a handy reserve in the vicinity to exploit the gap left in the Union centre...


Which a lucky command roll allowed Craig and I to plug with our second line units...


So that the line was restored, albeit now a very thin blue line...


However the Confederates had also received some grim punishment, and were not likely to be able to break through any time soon, so we called the game after move 5.


Always great to play a historical scenario with an umpire or scenario designer who can introduce quirks from the actual battle. A good looking, exciting game in great company. I think our Black Powder novices from Yass, Dave and Bruce, who had dropped in for a look but soon found themselves as brigade commanders, had a good time too!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Black Powder - Wagram Practice!



Today we had our first practice game for our Battle of Wagram mega-game project, planned to be fought over a weekend late in 2018...I first blogged about the concept of the project and called for volunteers here: Wagram - Call for Volunteers



I was very lucky and privileged in that well over a dozen wargamers from all over Australia responded to my megalomaniacal call for a massive game. But as you can imagine, few are going to travel inter-state for a mere practice game - so today it was simply, L-R: Victor, Philip, Terry, Vic, Caesar and Alejandro.



For a practice game I merely asked for a single 12 x 6 table, so we fudged a representative part of the Marchfeld and plateau, bordered by the Russbach brook, with Baumersdorf in the centre, today only represented by a single building. On the day the table will be 3 times this size, and dotted with far more impressive villages!



We have been struggling to paint up sufficient numbers of Austrians, and we are still well behind the curve. But I was still impressed with the size of the Austro-Hungarian army's infantry component we were able to assemble so far- six infantry brigades of 4 large Infantry Regiments :



We also had 6 Regiments of Cavalry in reserve off table - unfortunately they did not deploy in this game. Amongst us we have unlimited numbers of French models, but for today, to give the French something of a challenge, they had a mere 4 brigades of infantry. However they had all their reserve cavalry either on table or in reserve - 2 light regiments, 8 Cuirassier Regiments, and 2 Dragoon Regiments!


Just the first Division of Cuirassiers!
This mass of French Cavalry were all Terry's to command for the day, and he made the most of the opportunity, even if his arms weren't always long enough!
 

I was rather vague about the scenario - On the whole, the French were encouraged to try and push the Austrians off their plateau...I just wanted plenty of action in order to thoroughly play test the new rules that have been recently published in the latest Black Powder supplement, Clash of Eagles and give us all some data to mull over. Whilst the supplement addresses the 1812 campaign, it gives comprehensive rules and stats for Austrians, and we wanted to assess which of these we would adopt for our game. As it turns out, they are all well thought out and useful, but we will need to select carefully in order not to slow our huge game down too much.

Alejandro and his son Victor - these guys held the Austrian centre...
These were the rules we would check out for the Austrian army, which for us is characterised by well trained and brave Regiments...

A large Regiment in Division Mass - Has no flanks or rear, but can still move...
with a charismatic and brave leader in Archduke Charles, but with a slow and undistinguished middle command tier at the Brigade and Divisional level:
Some of the new rule supplements apply to all armies and easily and quickly give a much more Napoleonic feel...



and remove some of the room for interpretation so beloved of rules lawyers:




There are also some interesting new rules that make cavalry much more interesting:

As it happened in the excitement we only tried the Cavalry Deep Formation, but it worked really well for the French, and allowed much more involvement on a crowded battlefield:



So to the game itself, and how we found these new rules. Naturally Vic, on the far left, made full use of the excellent French C2, certainly compared to the Austrians, to move his infantry division right up close and personal without bothering with too much in the way of preliminary bombardment or skirmishing:


Whereas Philip, in the French centre, put in a virtuoso performance of sending in the voltigeurs and artillery to soften up Baumersdorf before any thought of an assault:



On my flank over on the right, Terry had command of the French cavalry, only about half of which was on table. But it was enough - he didn't muck around either!


The effect of the Russbach brook, by the way, was only to disorder any actual charge moves made across it. Terry took that risk, and, because my infantry was in Division Mass instead of square, could make his cavalry charge home,  rather than having to bounce back.


But was this a good thing? At this stage neither of us knew!


As is usual with Black Powder, pretty soon we were in action right along the table...


And we soon found that the large Austrian infantry units, with the benefit of their extra Flintenkartasch fifth dice...



were bouncing the French columns back most of the time.



Philip soon managed to take Baumersdorf, as his combined arms tactics deserved, but otherwise the Austrian line, with our big units, was holding pretty well against the outnumbered French:



However, against Terry's Cuirassiers, it wasn't quite so easy to hold the line!


And gaps soon started to appear!



Which allowed him to launch well ordered attacks from the right side of the brook...


After a few blunders, the French Reserve cavalry hove into view...


But look in vain for pictures of the lovely Austro-Hungarian cavalry, because our poor command ratings left it all well out of battle!


No, instead my infantry had to withstand successive heavy cavalry charges! With the new rules, they were able to stand for the duration of this short game, but probably wouldn't have lasted too many more moves!


So now we will all ponder how the new rules worked, how they will affect our scenario, and which to adopt. Given that the Austrians were in a pre-positioned, static defence, their C2 shortcomings weren't as much of a problem as I had feared, and it was the French team who were up against it in this scenario, and they did well to challenge us the way they did!

You can almost hear the cogs turning...
But for the big 2 day game, it may be more of a factor!