Friday, May 29, 2009

Highlanders for Hire

If you visit the Reich Duchy of Beerstein you can witness the arrival of the Saxe-Urquhart Dun Haggis Highlanders, under hire to the Reich Duchy of Beerstein.
Ach, it's loverly, 'tis. Warms the throat (I mean "heart"!) and brings a tear to the eye.
The lads are bonnie, too! All of Saxe-Urquhart is proud of oor lads and their commander Anguish MacDour of Clan Haggis this day!

(The figures are Capt. Bill's own and nice job, too!)
(The name Anguish is "borrowed" from George MacDonald Fraser's book "The Reavers")

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Bridge on the River Wrye, part 3

The Battle for the Bridge on the River Wrye (or Wreibrucke)
Initial reports of this small but important action were confused and conflicting. Everything from an almost total victory by the Soweiter forces over the Batrachians to the Batrachian forces handily gaining control of this key bridge.
(as I played the game I changed from using a die roll to determine which actions were taking place to using cards, with a few tweaks of my own. Sometimes, with the die roll or the cards you will get actions which you can't use or don't want to use, such as an action to fire when there are no targets in range or an action to move when you just want to stay put. I take those as lulls in the overall battle. It may be you get several of those in a row followed by a flurry of shooting, for example. To me that feels like a more realistic depiction where battles have lulls, intense firefights, spurts of movement, etc., and even the odd movement when one group decides to go head in some direction you hadn't planned. This can result in units messing up your plans as in the case here where some of the Batrachian infantry blocked their own cavalry. Or in another "play" of the battle, a cavalryman headed off on his own, found a ford (had to roll a 6 on a die 6), and nearly managed to cut off the retreat of the Saxe-Goldberg Engineers.)

The true story, as much as truth can be known in these matters, is as follows.

The Soweiter forces, comprised of a large contingent of Mayeux Musketeers (10 figures), a much smaller detachment from the Saxe-Urquhart 86th Highlanders (2 figures), and a detail of Saxe-Goldberg Engineers (2 figures), under the overall command of Colonel von Kleinewitz of Ober-Umlaut, were tasked with holding the Bridge over the River Wrye, or failing that, destroying the bridge to deny it's use to the Batrachian army. To that end the Soweiter forces arrayed themselves on and around the sturdy stone bridge.

The Batrachian forces approached the bridge with the aim of securing it for their own use as it would help shorten their supply lines. The Batrachian forces were comprised of the Queen's Musketeers (14 figures) and a small detachment of Moutarde Dragoons (2 figures), under the command of Captain Jean di Jean of that same cavalry unit.

The battle opened as shown in this first map.

As they appeared on the scene about half of the Queen's Musketeers moved forward to the northwest (this happened as the result of a "decision check", which can cause some figures to move in a random direction if you fail the check or give you the opportunity to choose your action if you pass the check with a high enough score. Otherwise there is no effect.). This was probably not a very good move on their part as it blocked the cavalry from moving forward.

After the 2 sides eyed each other just outside of effective musket range the Batrachians started moving their whole line forward (I drew several cards that were not usable by either side or resulted in no action before finally drawing a move card for the Batrachian side).
This brought the 2 sides into musket range and the first volley from those who could fire resulted in equal casualties. That could've been some concern for the Soweiter forces as they were slightly outnumbered and could not afford to continue to lose equal numbers of casualties.

After this initial exchange of fire the Col. von Kleinewitz ordered some of the infantry flanking the bridge to move onto the bridge to replace the casualties there. The Batrachians moved closer to the bridge and the Soweiter forces on the bridge itself moved closer to the center of the bridge to defend it.

There followed more shooting by both sides, less effective than the initial exchange. The Queen's Musketeers then charged onto the bridge and into melee with the Mayeux Musketeers and Highlanders defending the bridge. Because the bridge restricted acces the Batrachians were unable to take advantage of their slight advantage in numbers. In the ensuing melee both sides suffered casualties. For a while, though, it wasn't looking good for the Soweiter forces as 1 Queen's Musketeer seemed to be fighting like a man possessed (it was down to 1 Queen's Musketeer to 2 Soweiter troops - the most that could fight at a time given the width of the bridge. The Batrachians couldn't get more troops up because the next in line were cavalry. I could fit 2 infantry OR 1 cavalry in the width of the bridge.). In the end that lone Musketeer was defeated and the Moutarde Cavalry stepped up to take their turn at trying to take the bridge.

While the infantry on the bridge battled it out in hand-to-hand combat there was sporadic exchange of gunfire by those forces on either side of the river who had clear shots. This caused a few casulaties before both sides got their forces lined up on the bridge and further shooting would endanger their own men.
Meanwhile, back on the bridge the Mayeux Musketeers and the Highlanders managed to destroy the Moutarde Cavalry, mainly by being able to bring 2 infantry against 1 cavalry at a time (the infantry got 2 rolls and the cavalry only got 1, but the cavalry did have pluses for attacking on horseback). Still it was a close run thing.

With the cavalry destroyed the remaining Queen's Musketeers took their turn at trying to take the bridge. An extended melee took place, both sides growing exhausted. And even though the Batrachians had more troops they couldn't bring their superior numebrs to bear.
In the end the Soweiter forces emerged triumpant, if much reduced in number.

With this victory the Batrachian supply is more extended than their commander would like and they are vulnerable to raids on supply trains. The Batrachians may be forced to halt their advance or seek some supplies by other means.

(Sorry for the lack of good pictures - I guess I need more experience with photgrahphing during games. I can't really tell much from the little screen on the camera, but it takes time to download them onto my computer. I think I need to get the right balance of lighting, flash, distance, etc. Also need to make sure the batteries are charged before I start! lol).

(The Sacre Bleu! rules are pretty simple, without lots of modifiers and no real morale rules, just the "decision checks", but with some tweaking of the rules and the scenario I managed to play a fun game in a short amount of time. I will likely try more scenarios of my own in the future - and tweak the rules as I go. I can also add things like character and morale as I go if I decide to.)

The Bridge on the River Wrye, part 2

I am breaking this report up into 2 posts. This one contains depictions of the forces during the battle, along with some notes ("out of character" notes in italics). An "accurate" account of the actual battle along with maps will follow in a later dispatch.

Most of the artists' depictions that follow are based on some of the initial incorrect reports of the battle (these were some of the better pictures, taken on a sunny afternoon, before my camera's batteries faded. Many of the later pictures were taken after dark and for various reasons did not turn out well)

This first picture is incorrect. In the actual battle the Soweiter forces were arrayed on the bridge and to either side of the bridge on the far bank, while the engineers were held in reserve in case their expertise was needed. (I changed the Soweiter forces initial deployment as I found if I had to blow the bridge they could be cut off from their line of retreat.)
In reality the Batrachians had fewer cavalry and the Queen's Musketeers approached in line not column. (I changed the formations and number of figures in later games - approaching in column didn't allow the Batrachians to bring all of their musketry into play.)
Another inaccuracy is the river was closer to the center of the area of the battle and did not curve off to the north as shown in this depiction. (I moved the river closer to the center of the table, giving the Batrachian forces a better chance of reaching the bridge with enough forces to have a chance of taking it. It also meant shooting could start sooner as they didn't have a sfar to go before targets were in range.)
Some of the early reports indicated that the Soweiter forces devastated the Batrachians with their musket fire. (After this I reduced musket range and chance to hit, only keeping the better chance to hit for the first volley. Although, in this first game both sides fired - it's just that I rolled much better for the Soweiter forces than for the Batrachians).
Another depiction from that first report. The Batrachians were pretty much decimated by the time they reached the bridge, even before any hand-to-hand fighting began.
This is a more accurate depiction of the initial Batrachian deployment, although it still shows more cavalry than they actually had. (I changed the Batrachian inatry deployment to line - gave them a much better chance of causing some serious damage to the Soweiter forces before reaching the bridge as they could get more muskets firing.) The numbers for the Soweiter forces are more accurate, but the deployment is incorrect. They were arrayed on and behind the bridge, rather than in front of it. (Another reason for changing their deployment is it gave them a better chance to downplay the slight numerical superiority enjoyed by the Batrachians.)

Stay tuned for the actual battle report (sorry, no pictures there - the ones I managed to take were too grainy, blurry, washed out and/or dark. There will be maps to show the key junctures in the battle. The rules I used don't really have turns in the traditional you go -I go sense or even in the sense of simultaneous movement, as I mentioned in the previous post about the rules.)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Bridge on the River Wrye, part 1

I recently bought a set of rules for small scale actions in the 18th century with "10-200 miniatures". The rules are called "Sacre Bleu!" by Agema Publications, just a few letter-size pages in a staple-bound booklet, and half that is introduction and 4 scenarios.
I decided to try them out using one of the scenarios involving 1 force trying to take a bridge and the other force either holding the bridge or destroying it. It turned out the rules and number of figures involved meant I could play the scenario very quickly, so I eneded up playing it 7 times over the course of the past week. It took less than an hour to play each game, even though I was taking notes and checking rules.
I tweaked the rules as I went and added my own permutations. The basics are very simple rules for movement and shooting, no morale tests (but a different kind of "test" called a decision check in the rules - that can have figures move on their own or give the player the option to do something he wants the unit to do), random sequence of actions (rolled up with dice - one of the changes I made after a couple of games was to use a partial deck of playing cards with a couple of twists of my own added in). I also tweaked the firing ranges and effectiveness as my first try ended up very lopsided in terms of casualties.

The forces involved changed a bit as I tweaked things after each game, but mainly included the following:
The Soweiter League forces:
  • Colonel von Kleinewitz (of Ober-Umlaut) commanding
  • The Mayeux Musketeers
  • A small detachment from the Saxe-Urquhart 86th Highlanders
  • 2 Saxe-Goldberg engineers (who took little part in the fighting, mainly tasked with blowing the bridge if it looked like falling into the hands of the Batrachians - the scenario description stated this was a strong bridge and require a roll of 2 sixes to succeed, which I only managed to do once during the 7 games)

The Batrachian forces:
  • Captain Jean di Jean (of the Moutarde Cavalry) commanding
  • A detachment of Moutarde cavalry
  • The Queen's Musketeers
Here is an aerial shot of the first setup for the battle. As you can see I used a card table with a river, some woods to the southwest, a marshy spot just to the south of the river on the east edge, and a Lego bridge (I "need" to make a better bridge one of these days).

The first game was an overwhelming victory for the Soweiter League forces defending the bridge. The attacking Batrachian forces were wiped out almost before they even reached the bridge! I also had lots of "turns" where the action was not used by the side whose turn it was (although there aren't really "turns" in the traditional sense - when you roll for an action it specifies which side takes the action, so one side could get multiple actions in a row).

In the rest of the games I moved the river closer to the middle of the table and reduced firing ranges, which gave the Batrachians a better chance of reaching the bridge with enough men to have a chance of taking it. In later games I also changed the forces a bit, mostly reducing the Batrachian forces slightly and adding a few to the League's forces.

The 2nd through 5th refights of the skirmish resulted in the Batrachians handily winning each time. On the sixth refight the Soweiter League managed to barely scrape out a win by blowing the bridge and exiting with just a little more than the required number of figures still alive.

By the 7th and final refight I think I had things working well and both sides seemed to have a pretty even chance of winning. It seemed to go back and forth as to who would win. I'll write that "battle" up in another post. I got a few decent pictures from some of the fights, which I will include in the battle report (there were issues with camera batteries, lighting, handheld shots, etc. - still working on taking good photos during a game).

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bring in the Artillery

First up are 2 more Batrachian Artillery crews. (Currently sharing the same cannon - I need to acquire another one)

This gentleman is the Batrachian Royal Coatman. The queen had heard the story about the Englishman who laid his coat down to cover a puddle so his love could walk across. The queen thought that was very romantic. So the king decided to employ a servant to carry around a coat (a genuine English red coat) in case the royal couple ever encountered a puddle when out and about.

Some scenic bits that come with Foundry sets. I'm thinking these bits like these can be used as battlefield markers of some sort.