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!)