Saturday, 21 January 2023

More ECW archaeology on the telly

I came across this article in the Guardian online (yes I’m a tofu knitter). There’s a programme which covers it on BBC2 on Sunday 22nd (today) at 8PM GMT.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/jan/21/coleshill-towers-remains-history-english-civil-war?utm_source=newsshowcase&utm_medium=discover&utm_campaign=CCwQ6oK1wrOip4kqGM-RgsLGlP3WswEqJwgwEMeB3Z3ftYXAHBj__6mv7dXGq5QBKg4IACoGCAowl6p7MN-zCQ&utm_content=bullets

Post Script

Whilst the Guardian article manages to avoid that inaccurate trope of the Civil War (“between Charles I and Cromwell”) it adds a new one. Between “forces loyal to Charles I and Parliamentarians trying to topple him”. Agh!!

Sunday, 1 January 2023

Poor Maria-Theresa! - AWS Campaign Concludes.

I played through 1745 today. It started well for the Austrians, beating a Prussian field army away from Olmütz, allowing a siege to go ahead. Before the city could be taken the Prussians had concentrated a larger force and beat the Austrians, drove them off and beat them decisively on the plains north of Vienna. Despite Saxony swapping sides (bribed with the promise of compensation at the expense of Bavaria), the odds were too great.

In Italy the Bourbons besieged Florence but still hadn't taken it when Austria sued for peace.

Over in France, an invigorated Cumberland struck down to Strassburg, putting it under siege. The French field army attacked and broke the siege.

One piece of good news for the supporters of the Pragmatic Sanction was that the Jacobite incursion was unsuccessful (needed a 3-6 on a D6), meaning that the Pragmatic Army didn't need to send troops to Britain.

In the peace negotiations the following year the following trades were made:

  • Maximilian Joseph and Charles Emanuelle are returned to their thrones in Munich and Turin respectively.
  • Prussia retains Silesia (including Breslau), but under Russian pressure are forced to relinquish Prague and Olmütz.* 
  • France agrees to the Dutch having garrisons in the border fortresses of the Austrian Netherlands.
  • Britain, France and Spain conduct some horse trading in their colonies.

*Russia are not in the game but historically they marched through Europe (paid by the British) to threaten the French towards the end of the war. In my rationale the Russians don't want a too powerful enemy challenging their attempt to dominate Poland. The Prussian King, ever watchful of the cost, decides to cash in his winnings and consolidate his hold over Silesia.


Post Game Thoughts

The biggest criticism I will make is that the Prussians are too powerful vis a vis Austria.  I have a few ideas on how to temper this, one of which is to introduce some kind of kleinekrieg that interdicts Prussia's supply lines. The boardgames Maria has a fairly simple mechanism for this. I'll see if it is easy to adapt.

The battle rules need a revision as too many battles are foregone conclusions, and once one side gets a clear advantage the other side can end up losing more and more in successive combats. This bit will take a lot of thought.

I will make the campaign season shorter. The sides can achieve too much in any given year. Campaigns rarely started as early as April as the grass wasn't long enough, so I'll trim that end. I might also impose attrition on any forces who are not in Winter Quarters in November.

Overall, however, I'm pleased it worked as well as it did. The obvious thing with this is that it doesn't need to be played on a table. I need to work out how I can play it on the computer. This then opens up the possibility that it could be a multi-player play by e-mail game if there's enough interest.

Saturday, 31 December 2022

AWS Campaign Update

Apologies, this has turned into a long post. In case you don't read it all, I'll wish you a Happy New Year now. All the best for 2023 dear readers.


This is going a lot more smoothly than I expected. I got in another two hours early this evening (so four in total) and I have reached the Spring of 1745.

Battle rules are based on the 'combat value' of the respective sides plus a D3. Each base has a CV of 5, less any 'hits'. A base , remember, represents about 20,000 troops. One downside of this is that if the gap is more than two there is no hope of the weaker side winning. I might change the dice roll to a D6 or average dice. For the time being, there is no difference in the CV of respective armies.

One of the things that have gone well with the rules is that battle is risky if the sides are evenly matched. At times, thinking from the point of view of the 'active player', I have held back even at the risk that a friendly fortress would be lost. Doubtless I've made some mistakes in the decisions too. But overall, this is playing out reasonably historically - a French army and the Pragmatic Army spent several months dancing around each other, not daring to risk a battle until the end of campaign season approached when there was a chance to recover losses.

The siege aspects are coming along nicely, but still have scope for improvement. The siege section has grown bigger than the battle section, which in a way is appropriate for the period. There is no real jeopardy, when all factors have been taken into consideration the siege length is determined and the clock starts ticking. There is an element of luck to the siege length, but this is determined at the beginning of the siege. I argue (to myself that this is because it is known how long supplies will last). I will consider, however, adding an element that could mean that the siege lasts a bit longer or a bit shorter than expected.

This brings me on to the question of the minor powers. Bavaria, Piedmont, Saxony and to an extent Spain. I have limited the availability of siege trains to the major powers (Austria, Prussia, the Pragmatic Army*, each with one, and France with 2 siege trains). This is a useful way of stopping sieges happening willy-nilly, but it does mean the minor powers have little 'agency'. In particular, they rely on allies to dig them out when they lose their only city. Which might actually be fine. But it still nags at me. I haven't yet found a reason or opportunity for Saxony to change sides, and it simply gives the Prussians an extra base, until the Prussians turn on them. 

Enough of the reflections, what has happened in the campaign so far?

1740-42

Prussian Theatre

After capturing Breslau early on, the Prussians managed to beat Austria a couple of times in battle. Due to losses against the French, the 'Austrian player' sued for peace in the Winter of 1741-42, ceding Breslau 'permanently' if Prussia pulled back. This allows Austria to concentrate on the French, Spanish and Bavarians. So quite historical so far.

Italy

After some to-ing and fro-ing, the Franco-Spanish (hereafter 'the Bourbons') capture Turin in September 1741. By contrast the Bourbons suffer defeats in the field. In 1742 things turn decisively I favour of the Austrians, defeating the Bourbons again in the field, capturing their siege train.

Bavaria/Austria

An indecisive 1741 is followed by a similarly indecisive 1742, but there is a bang at the end as the Franco-Bavarians capture Venice. A pro-longed campaign into the Winter (with hastily added rules on extra attrition) sees Vencie recaptured after a decisive battle. The Austrians capture the second French siege train! The Austrians proceed to Turin whilst the battered Bourbons keep their distance in order to maintain a force in being.

In the Autumn, alarmed at the Austrian successes against the French, Frederick breaks the truce and invades Bohemia and Moravia.

1743-45

Low Countries

The Pragmatic Army assembles in the Austrian Netherlands. Forces from Britain, the Dutch Republic, Hanover and Hesse-Kassel. French forces concentrate to oppose them. Throughout 1743 and 1744 nothing of significance happens until at the tail of the campaigning season, urged on by their Austrian principal, the allies attack the French near Stassburg. The allies suffer a minor defeat, but the campaign season closes and they retreat to Brussels.

Prussian Theatre

After a long siege Olmütz falls to the Prussians, then the siege train is despatched to Prague which also falls later in 1743. Disaster for the Austrians who only have a small force to oppose them. Austria starts 1744 weakened by the loss of Breslau, Prague and Olmütz. It is unable to do anything to recover lost ground. The Prussians crush the Austrians, outnumbered 2:1, outside Vienna. Fortunately before the Prussians have got their siege train to Vienna Winter falls.

Prussians besiege Olmütz.


Bavaria/Italy

In the Spring Turin falls to the Austrians. After another defeat in northern Italy, an abortive attempt to unite with the Bourbons in Italy causes the Franco-Spanish allies to seek an armistice. This will give them time to recover losses and rebuild a siege train. This suits the Austrians who want to deal with the Prussians. This also suits Charles-Emmanuele of Piedmont who recovers his capital and pay his army to take the field again.

The Austrians aim to recapture Turin while the French are advancing through the passes into  the Ligurian plain.

The Austrians, outnumber the Franco-Bavarians in the Danube region and open the siege of Munich. The siege lasts all Summer before the city is captured. The Spanish cross the Tyrol and eventually unite with the Franco-Bavarians. The combined Wittelsbach-Bourbon army offers battle, but the Austrians knowing they don't need to fight, fall back on Münich. Meanwhile the French descend on Italy again and attack the Piedmontese holed up in Turin again. Turin falls for the third time.

Having captured additional artillery, the Austrians are able to launch simultaneous sieges. Munich's days are numbered.
The Piedmontese left to their own devices as the French approach Turin



The Prussians gather around Vienna.

Winter 1744-45

The Pragmatic Army recovers its full strength at Brussels, whilst the French do likewise. This time they have a base in Italy in which to overwinter.

The gain of Munich partly makes up for their losses and the Austrians recruit to 3/4 of their maximum. Equal to the Prussians, and with 3 siege trains!

Bavaria and Piedmont are out of the game. For now. But what to do about Saxony?

Snapshot of the campaign tracker

Cities and Electorates 'controlled' by the rival powers. The side who holds the majority chooses the Emperor.




Friday, 30 December 2022

War of the Austrian Succession Campaign - Table ready

It didn't occur to me that I had created the wrong impression about the campaign. Here are a few pictures which will explain what I am planning, as well was showing the set-up. Battles will be fought out on this table (all the 'action') taking place within a hex.

The campaign that inspired me on the Polemos blog was a campaign played on a table. In fact a whole war. One end of the table was Denmark, the other was Russia. This one stretches from France to Prussia and central Germany to northern Italy.

Austrian heartlands from the south. Danube at the bottom and the Elbe and Oder running northeast respectively. The Prussians are parading in Potsdam at the top !

Bohemia, Saxony and Prussia from the south. Prague at the bottom (the one building model in the correct place!) That's Dresden beyond the wooded 'mountains' - the Saxons are waiting for an opportunity.

France looking from Paris towards Strassburg. The French have two large armies, each with a siege train. Other major powers only have 1 siege train each. The problem for the French is they have 3 possible fronts - the Low Countries, Germany and Italy.

Talking of Italy, here's the view from the south. Florence nearest the edge.Venice top right with an Austrian force just beyond. Turin in the middle by 'the Alps' with the small Piedmontese army. Munich beyond the mountains with a small Bavarian army. A slightly bigger Spanish army is waiting at the bottom. 

The whole 'map' looking from the west to the east.

Anyway, it's now past 4PM and lots of chores, prevarications and preparations mean I am only now ready to start. Wish me luck!

Thursday, 29 December 2022

The Wars of the Austrian Succession - a campaign in a few days

OK. This is going to be both ambitious and relatively ad hoc.  I have had this in the back of my mind since the Polemarch wrote about his Great Northern War in an afternoon. At the time I made a couple of comments along the following lines (with slight tweaks this evening).

Objective ‘cities’ that the powers have to hold at the end to win points.

  • Austria: must hold Breslau, Munich and Florence.
  • France: Brussels, Munich and one Italian city.
  • Prussia: Magdeburg, Breslau and Dresden.
  • Britain/Pragmatic Army: Antwerp, Brussels and Liege.
Loss of a ‘city’ during the game means a loss of influence, I.e. base(s).

Also, an idea from the board game Maria is to play the struggle between France and Austria for control of the Imperial Crown by ‘winning’ the majority of the 9 Electors. This second idea might make the game too complicated. When does the clock stop ticking on this and what effect does controlling the Emperor have.

The Map

I drew up a stylised hex map of the middle strip of Europe with France and the Austrian Netherlands in the west, Italy in the south, Germany in the north and Austria to the east. Here it is. The Alps are in black, and other ranges/forests in green.











Rules

What remains is to decide on the rules for movement, the size of the armies, army replenishment and of course combat. Here are my thoughts:

Turns

Each turn represents 1 month?

Campaign season is from April to November, except 1740 which starts in October.

Might have to revise this as that adds up to about 60 turns. Still, I have 4 more days off work.....

Movement

Open hex: 1 hex per turn

Cross rivers: 2 turns (or maybe dice instead to see if a crossing is successful?)

Cross forest/mountains: 2 turns (or 1 plus take a 'hit'?)

Alps and Adriatic/Ligurian Seas: impassible

Replenishment

Armies can sustain numbers based on the number of cities held.

France and Austria will have an extra allocation providing they hold certain key cities (e.g. Austria must hold 3 out of Vienna, Venice, Prague and Breslau: France must hold Paris and Strassburg).

Reinforcements start with any friendly army in the Spring, subject to there being an uninterrupted 'supply line'.

Size of Armies

This is a tricky one. Maybe 1 base per 20,000 in the army at the start. Prussia would get 4 bases. Maybe double that for France, and 1.5 for Austria.  Maybe 1 for Bavaria, Saxony, Piedmont etc and a couple for the Pragmatic Army.

Combat

This is even trickier. I suspect I'll start off with one system and it'll evolve through the game. Perhaps 5 points plus a D3 per base engaged, total up the points and determine the winner. Not sure how to determine losses yet. Loser to retreat 1 or 2 hexes depending on scale of defeat.

To capture cities will require siege trains. These will move at normal rate up rivers, double rate downstream. Otherwise they'll require a 3,4,5 or 6 on a D6 for normal hexes. Sieges will take 1 turn plus 1 turn on rolling a 3 or 4, or plus 2 turns on rolling a 5, or plus 3 turns on rolling a 6.


The table is set, bar putting on the rivers/seas.

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Any suggestions would be gratefully received. As long as they don't involve going forth and multiplying.



Tuesday, 27 December 2022

First Zoom game.....and a belated Merry Christmas!

As trailed by Jonathan on Palouse Wargaming Journal, I hosted my first Zoom game this evening with Jon taking on the role of the Americans and Steve W the part of the British.

All was set for a 5pm start (GMT). I set the table up this morning and tested the visuals. All working. One laptop to host from, a linked large screen with inbuilt camera for the view from the American side and another laptop as one of the 'participants' to take video from behind the British lines. I even tested a phone as a mobile camera. So 5PM came and I logged in. Jon joined shortly after and....we couldn't hear each other. Schoolboy error. I hadn't set the meeting up with audio! In my defence I've only used Zoom as a guest and work remote meetings are with a different system and everything is automatically set-up. Still, live and learn. We actually managed to get a new meetings started at 5:30 and finished not long after 9.


The Scenario
The game chosen was set in the the American War of Independence, with an imaginary setting. The British had got intelligence that a nearby town had a stock of shoes awaiting the Continental Army to collect them. A blow could be struck against the rebels by seizing the shoes. And the town. The colonials wouldn't be able to march far in bare feet! As far as the British knew a small force of militia and riflemen guarded the approach to the town. Two brigades were despatched by Cornwallis - one made up of 1 light and 2 line British battalions; 1 was a small Hessian brigade of 1 line and 1 grenadier battalion. The British had 15 turns to exit the road at the top of the board. Unbeknownst to the British, a brigade of Continentals (3 battalions) had already reached the town and were able to join the battle after hearing reports of battle.

The game map. 4 feet by 4 feet. Most is self-explanatory except the black line is a fence, and the stream can be crossed (1 turn plus a disorder point).



The Game
The onus was on the King's men to attack, which they duly did with two battalions either side of the road and the lights and a light gun behind. Subsequently the Hessians entered on the road. On the American side, until firing broke out along the fence line no attempt could be made to bring the Continentals on board. This took a couple of attempts. Here are the few shots I remembered to take of the action.

The British have stormed over the fence to the left of the picture and chased the Militia off (right). The beads represent 'Disruption Points'. Each point penalises firing and melee and once a unit gets 5, additional points cause casualties (i.e. removal of bases).

The Continentals begin to arrive!

Meanwhile the riflemen have lined the stream as a second line behind the militia.

After a further assault the militia are driven across the stream with heavy losses, but the rifles begin to take a heavy toll of the British line in the form of Disruption Points. Troops can rally off these, but they have to remain inactive. As fast as the British rallied them off the riflemen added them back on again.

DP note the white beads) build up on the Brits). Meanwhile one unit of Continentals are lining the stream and begin a fairly ineffective fire on the British and Hessians. At this stage I thought the Brits stood no chance.


But I reckoned without the stout Germans and the aggression of the British commander (Steve). They stormed across the stream and push both he Continentals and the rifles back. In fact the Continentals got shredded over the course off a couple of turns.

By the end of 15 turns, the Americans had only two stable units remaining. The Brits had four, albeit slightly attrited numbers wise. The Americans had prevented the British from seizing the town before they could spirit the shoes away. But it had come at a very heavy cost. Questions would be asked in the Continental Congress about the loss of so many expensively trained and equipped troops! Overall, we agreed the honours were even.

The Rules
The chosen set were Loose Files and American Scramble by Andy Callan. If I were to characterise them, I would say they focus on 'battle management' by the opposing commanders. They are meant for small scale actions with say 6-9 battalion sized units as side. The challenge is to decide when to halt and rally and when to push on. All sorts of actions cause Disruption Points. Crossing obstacles, being shot at, close combat*, being interpenetrated by friendly troops , seeing friends rout and even wheeling! If you can have units sufficiently spaced out so that you can leapfrog rallying units, you can keep the pressure on. Easier said than done! Especially with limited Command Points (a brigade commander of general can only do so much).

* actually close range shooting plus the threat of bayonets.

The rules do have a number of holes which leave things open to interpretation. The players accepted my rulings on these without demure, but I will review these decision points again. I'm hoping that the relatively recently published "Live Free or Die" rules (which are based on LFAS) have tightened up these looser points.


On the positive side Jon and Steve found the rules easy to pick up, despite never having played them before. I was a little rusty, not having played them for a year or more, and Jon kept me honest with some good catches on points I missed! Both guys had an enjoyable time, I think it's fair to say. We got through 15 turns in three and a half hours, which is not bad for a ruleset new to the players.


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So in conclusion a reasonably successful first attempt at hosting. I will definitely do it again, and the guys are up for another game next week. Question is, which period and which rules?

A very belated Merry Christmas to one and all! I hope Santa brought you what you wanted. And thanks to all you bloggers, readers, commenters and friends for helping 2022 go much better than it otherwise would have!

Wednesday, 21 December 2022

"Who's that talking gibberish?"

A good pal gave me a DVD of the original (1955) version of Tuntematon Sotilas (Unknown Soldier), and I watched it through on Wednesday. With English subtitles on naturally - I'd be lost with normal conversational speed of dialogue especially as this has a range of different regional dialects. 

And what a great film it is. Very different in some ways to the 2017 version that I watched three years ago. I won't say it's any better or worse. Just different. 




Both capture the sarcasm and the moaning of the soldiers, and the divide between officers and ORs. Both also capture the humour. Some of it was laugh out loud funny. Another aspect that comes across well is the challenge of maintaining discipline in a democracy's citizen army. In essence "I'll fight but don't expect me to put up with bull."

There's more blood and gore on show in the later film. But unlike British war films of the 50s, this one doesn't entirely hold back on the 'claret'. In a way it is more shocking than the later version because it is used more sparingly. In one scene a character is shown coughing up copious amounts of black blood. In another, an NCO who'd rescued a young recruit, fell on top of him dribbling blood on the lad's horrified face when he too got injured. Another difference with British films of the same vintage is the "soldiers' language. Fewer euphemisms equivalent to "flaming 'eck" or "blighter".

One such was the morning after our heroes get blind drunk on hooch. In the morning one of them wakes up and utters the immortal phrase "Mun suullan on vissi joku syöny kissanpaska". I'll spare you the translation, but be warned if you pop it into a translation tool 😆.

I couldn't help but feel the film was partly a religious experience. The Via Dolorosa of the Finnish nation if you will. There was a lot more incidental music (as old films do). Often quite dramatic and portentous. It closed with a burial scene, the background music to which was an excerpt from Sibelius' Finlandia. Moving. But not in the jingoistic earlier nationalistic way. It seemed to have a bitterness to it. Traditionally shown on TV on Independence Day (6 December), the film is one of those common national experiences as far as I can make out. Everyone's seen it, has a view on it, and can quote chunks of dialogue.

There's some clever shots to portray the passing of the seasons or as a way to link episodes. Soldiers marching through sodden ground etc. Lots of shots of troops riding or pushing bikes, horse drawn carts and artillery, men yomping with heavy loads. Some scenes seemed to have wartime newsreel spliced in, in a way where it was difficult to see the joins. Very well done.

If you can get hold of a copy, I'd highly recommend it. Not because it's on a subject close to my heart. In its own right as a work of art.

Here's my previous post on the 2017 version https://horseandmusketgaming.blogspot.com/2019/09/tuntematon-sotilas-unknown-soldier-and.html



The answer to the question in the title (from the hooch drinking scene) was, "Koskela the Finn! Eats iron and shits chains."