Saturday, 31 August 2019

Found it!

For a decent price from Abebooks.

Picture from Amazon UK

I last read this in the early 1980s. I can remember devouring it in the sun in my parents' back garden one summer. Prices have been over the top whenever I've looked on line, at least as far as I'm concerned, but it's worth spending fifteen quid on including postage.

For the uninitiated, Lord George Sackville was the commander of the British cavalry at Minden, 1759. When ordered to attack he refused, and the opportunity to turn victory into triumph was lost. He had some (half) plausible reason*, but nevertheless was found guilty at a court martial the following year and stripped of all office. He somehow later regained favour with the new king, George III, and, under the name Lord George Germain, rose to become Secretary of State for the American Depratment in 1775. So he ended up being a baddie on both sides of the Atlantic.

* at least that's how I remember it from reading the book before, and his earlier service showed no evidence of cowardice.

The book, when it arrives, will no doubt lead me to hanker after armies for the western German theatre in the SYW. Redcoats will make a nice change, and I could get away with using some Prussians as Hessians and the like. And the French will come in handy too for Rossbach, so it'd be good value really. I'd probably have to do the Reichsarmee then too, but at least that will bring some much needed colour to the Bourbon-Habsburg alliance. Then I'll be just about complete for the SYW.

...mind you there's the Swedes, Spanish and Portuguese to think about...

Kolin Playtest - Part II

Having run through how the Kolin game unfolded, I'm going to review the Bellona et Fortuna rules in two parts:
  • how well did the mechanisms work?
  • how well do the rules hang together overall?
This is difficult because, well I wrote the bloody thing and I understand it, but that doesn't mean anyone else necessarily will. Have to work hard to overcome any bias. I have a lot invested in it. Never mind not calling someone else's baby ugly. There's a natural tendency to view your own through rose-coloured spectacles.

This post has worked out to be quite brief by my standards, so there's more chance of you getting to the end.



How did the game mechanisms work?

Turn sequence
OK, but I kept forgetting NOT to move routers immediately after Combat. Routing is an 'Enforced Move', and these are supposed to be done at the beginning of the 'phasing player's' turn. Another Enforced Move would be an 'uncontrolled' charge - I had in mind something like the famous quote from Mollwitz, "Are we to stand here and be shot like dogs?" There is a rationale for this. Troops who engage in Combat cannot move and vice versa. This is partly on the grounds that you can't fit in two things in the time you can normally do just one, and partly to keep the turns churning quicker.  So is my forgetting a case of needing more time to learn the rules or does this illustrate the sequence is just too difficult? I think it's probably the former (it's a long time since I last played these rules) and I should have been keeping an eye on the turn sequence. It may be a product of playing Polemos for years - in Polemos routs happen immediately after combat

Orders/Comman & Control
The process generally works well. However, I kind of lost track of which generals command which units (probably on account of having combat resolved at base (unit) level. Does it matter? Why not just keep it as I gamed it and have them linked to whoever is nearest general. Also don’t fuss about different levels between CinC and division level.

Combat
By far the most used, and tweaked section. Would banding bases together in brigades or divisions help speed the game up? Or would it just lose some ‘flavour’? Simple answer is to try it.
I made a number of minor tweaks to the Combat tables. Among the more significant points to address:
  • remove the disordering effect of routers unless the lines they burst through are <1BW away from the routers starting point. (As it was it caused too much damage to reserves).
  • modify the plus factors for Discipline levels in Combat Resolution. It gives too big an advantage to Skilled/Crack.
  • add provision for infantry to attack cavalry. I had some Prussian cavalry stuck flank on in front of Austrian infantry for ages
  • consider making combat something between higher level formations to speed things up. Probably but how to define who gets what pluses and minus when there are troops with different qualities in the same formation?
I also forgot to do Combat Outcome. It may not matter but it could speed the game up. It also requires keeping track of which units belong to which higher formations. Hmmm. At moment inclined to delete it.

Troop Discipline and Temper
Was it a problem to remember and get it right? No! Keep it as it is.

Attrition
Are two types of Attrition confusing? Not particularly. But you have to pay attention to what the Combat result say as it isn’t always intuitive which one to use (though there is logic to it). More testing needed.


How well do the rules hang together overall?

Anything missing?
Victory conditions or army morale. What brings about the end of the game? Having something explicit will help.

Did it play well as a game?
Yes overall

Was it easy to remember what to do? Can these be improved upon?
Not always - see comments above about rout moves, which type of attrition to use and Combat Outcome. Needs some thought. Also moving routers too soon.
Testing for orders (lower dice roll is Good) is the opposite to Combat (lower dice roll is Bad)  - To counter this I'd have to allocate better generals lower IRs and bad ones lower. Or am I missing something?

Are the rules written in a clear and easy to understand way?
Hard for me to judge.

Does it work for solo play?
Yes. The Command & Control mechanism was designed to allow this.

Does it seem to feel right for the period and level of combat?
Yes. In my opinion.
It might need more development in the pluses and minuses to get the balance to feel right e.g. between diff troops in combat

Conclusion

Bellona et Fortuna works well generally. I need to keep testing and developing it. Can it be used now to play a game? Certainly. Can someone else use it now without in-game guidance? That's the $64,000 question. Anyone fancy a go?

I'll probably revert to the ECW after this (I have some follow-up on the earlier Cheriton posts). But having not felt inclined to wargame the SYW for nearly two years, my wotsit has been rekindled these past couple of weeks by reviewing and testing my rules.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Kolin Playtest - Part I

Well the ambitious playtest of Bellona et Fortuna was undertaken on Saturday in the dining room of Schloß Nundanket. It was a good place to be on a day when the temperature outside was around 30 degrees Celsius as the dining room is on the colder, north facing side of the house. Jeff Berry's Obscure Battles tells us that on the day the battle itself (18 June 1757) the weather was clear and hot.

This is the first of a two-part piece on the playtest to make it more manageable for me (finding thinking and writing time is easier breaking it into bite-size chunks), and more manageable for my reader to digest. This first part is a straightforward account in summary of what happened. The second will be more analytical and go into what I learned.

I used the expedient of identifying the generals' Initiative Ratings by the number of figures on the command bases. 3 figures = an IR of 3; 2 figures = IR of 2 etc. All were either 2 or 3 and were spread evenly along both lines, with no particular rationale. The '3er' in command of the Prussian left wing cavalry (technically the advanced guard in reality) represented old Hans Joachim von Ziethen even though in the actual battle his lack of activity might not merit this. But I actually had painted up my diddy 1/300th scale figure as the man himself complete with eagle wing on his hat, so it would have been a shame not to. For balance his opponent on the Austrian side (Nadasty) was also a 3er.

I did start out with the intention of recording a blow-by-blow account of each turn for later analysis, but that idea quickly ran out of steam. Partly because it was, well work, and partly because I got too engaged in the game. The first turn I made into a double move turn - I decided the Austrians didn't want to do anything, apart from stockpiling 'ADCs' for later use. This brought the Prussians into contact with the Austrians all along the ridgeline quite quickly.

Initial clash all along the line
No fancy tactics, just straight into them. Actually, not very different from reality when most of the divisions waded into action too soon, rather than en echelon as Frederick intended. Daun sent some cavalry (Saxon Chevaux Legers) off to back up Nadasty's hussars on their right. Two regiments (bases) of Prussian infantry have turned to mask the skirmishers in the wood.
Same stage but an eagle's view
On the Austrian left-centre Austrian cuirassiers charge into Prussian musketeers (who stood up manfully) while Prussian cuirassiers crash through Austrian dragoons. The action got quite confused here as pass-throughs occurred and some units attacked nearby enemy units whilst others turned to face their first opponent. It became a swirling cavalry action with units facing all sorts of different directions, and I really had to concentrate on making sure I followed the process step-by-step in order not to lose the thread.
Over on the far left it's honours even after the first clash of the hussars. Two bases of Austrians, opposite the chaps at the top of the pic below, have been pushed a long way back out of shot. The two units of Prussians have pulled up after their opponents skidadled. One unit of Prussians have passed-through the Austrians in the centre of the pic (the ones marked with a casualty figure) and have turned to attack the nearest enemy unit (in the flank). Finally two bases of Prussians (painted as the von Reusch 'Death's Head' regiment, who weren't at Kolin in reality) have been thrown back.
After the first clash of hussars

Meanwhile, in the centre the picture is more confused (see pic below). Over by the wood the Prussians have seen off the first couple of regiments of Austrians - one heading into the wood and one going behind it. Four bases of Austrian cavalry are turned to the east (i.e. towards the top of the pic) ready to plug the gap. Just slightly further 'west' (i.e. towards the photographer) the Prussian cavalry by contrast has failed against the Austrian infantry and artillery on Krezcor Hill, and been pushed back in disorder (note the dice which I'm using as inelegant Unsteadiness markers). Slightly further west again, Prussian dragoons (in light blue) have turned to attack the Austrian battery in the flank supported by a regiment of infantry. Coming still further west the Austrians on Pzerovsky Hill are looking strong with plenty in reserve.
Mixed tidings in the centre
Closer up view of the action on Krezcor Hill. The dice spots show the Unseteadiness points accrued. There's a unit of Austrian cavalry with two Loss markers.
One of the problems for the Austrians as the action unfolded was that some units in the second lines incurred Unsteadiness points as units in the front line routed and burst through them. This impacted on their ability to tackle the Prussians. This happened quite a lot. Maybe the rules need to be tweaked to reduce the risk of disorder occuring this way?

After a few more turns things really begin to change. For a start you can see I'm having to use more and dice as Unsteadiness markers (all sorts of shapes are pressed into service). The Austrian left flank has been smashed and the only saving grace is that the Prussians on this flank are disorganised and disordered - it's going to take a lot of effort to pull them into some kind of useful shape to exploit the situation. Good, just as I intended the rules to play! Up on Pzerovsky Hill the Prussians contact the Austrian second line.
The Austrian left flank is shattered while the Prussians crest Pzerovsky Hill further off
By this stage the Austrian losses in terms of bases routed off the board, or in some cases reached the 3 Loss marker stage for automatic removal, had really eaten into their initial advantage. The Prussians had lost maybe 1/4 the number of bases, although several were severely disordered. One notable unit routed was the famous Lieb Garde - probably because, as the Jolly Broom Man spotted, they were not in their yellow breaches so they didn't feel they were cutting the mustard as a Crack regiment. [Rule Amendment #64: minus 1 for Guard in wrong colour breaches]
Close up of the Prussians hitting the Austrian 2nd line on Pzerovsky Hill
Over on the right the two opposing hussar forces are lining up again after sorting themselves out. The gaps in the Austrians' lines have been plugged by the Saxon Chevaux Legers.
In the east, the light cavalry are ready to reconnect, resulting in....
....Ziethen's force being scattered!
This was the one bright spot for the Austrians as the end game came into sight. The Austrians have all but lost Krezcor Hill, with not much left to retake it with and.......

...the second line have been pushed off Pzerovsky Hill. The Prussian infantry have been badly knocked about too.
End game: Pzerovsky Hill captured!
On the western flank the end is nigh.



















Out on the western flank, the re-organised Prussians are ready to sweep the remaining Austrians away.

So it looks like the Prussians have removed the threat to their continued siege of Prague. The Austrians still have a decent amount of cavalry to mount a rearguard action and the Prussians look in no shape to pursue anyway.

I had an enjoyable time, especially as updates came through from Blundell Park 😁. I identified several small tweaks that I'd like to make - the one noted above could have led to things playing out differently in the centre: in fact it could have turned out more like the real battle in the centre. It took 12 turns, and 5 hours of real time to conclude. Partly this was down to needing to think about things too much (more familiarity needed, but also more 'tightening' of the rules required - the two are probably connected). The pages of the rules that were referred to the most (and scribbled on the most) were the five Combat pages. Looking back now I forgot to use the Combat Outcome section which deals with the impact of unit actions on higher level formations - maybe that isn't needed! It's certainly difficult to remember which units are in which formations, because once the action unfolds, bases end up all over the place.  Another thing that might help finish the game is to have explicit victory conditions. But overall I'm still pleased with the way the rules play.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Set-up for playtest

18th June. An aristocratic general, leading the army of a major empire, faces off against the age's pre-eminent soldier. He cunningly uses the reverse slope of ridges to defeat the advancing blue-clad enemy. No not Waterloo. This is June 1757 and the Battle of Kolin.

Right so I've dug out the SYW models and prepared the table ready for a playtest tomorrow. I'll need to get organised with note-taking and pictures.  I'm basing it on Old Fritz' first defeat. I played it once before with my son as the Prussians, with an old set of home made rules and he thrashed me. I blame it on the rules - not enough luck and too much based on the quality of the troops!

There's an excellent account and painstakingly thorough maps here at Obscurebattles.com. The author also has some photos of the ground itself. For a potted version read on below.

Kolin is a town in the Bohemia region of the Czech Republic about 35 miles (55km) east of Prague. After the battle of Prague, the Prussians besieged the Austrians, most of whose defeated army, under Prince Charles of Lorraine, was in the city. Meanwhile Fritz' nemesis, the Field Marshal Graf von Daun (whose father had also been an Austrian field marshal in the WSS) was gathering together elements of the defeated army with troops marching from eastern Bohemia. It was only a matter of time before Prague fell through hunger (the Prussians were rubbish at siegecraft so were unlikely to take it any other way).  Daun was edging closer, but he wasn't ready to leave the safety of the hills. Frederick had left the larger part of his army to invest Prague and took a small corps to join with Bevern, whose smaller force was keeping a watching brief on Daun. Frederick could probably have stayed put watching Daun whilst the Austrians in Prague starved themselves to surrender.

The town was connected to the capital in those days by a road called the Kaiserstrasse (roughly the modern route 12).  Fritz had beetled down the Kaiserstrasse hoping to outflank Daun. Over-confident in his own skills and in his troops, Frederick was outnumbered 52,000 to 34,000. Still if he could pull-off that flank move he'd be able to roll the Austrians up from the right. He'd almost failed with the same trick at Prague a few weeks before, but was to succeed spectactularly with it at Leuthen 6 months later. But Daun was not Charles. He was a wily, thoroughly professional soldier. Between the wars he'd been largely responsible for reforming the Austrian army putting it on a sounder footing. The area around Kolin was also the area where the Austrians had held their pre-war manoevres, so they knew the landscape well. Daun's army was able to perform a complicated switch of axis and when the Prussians were ready to turn south, they were beginning to occupy the ridges in front of the Prussians. And significantly they made use of the reverse slopes.

Looking east, Prussians on the left. The wide strip on the left is my rough and ready 'Kaiserstrasse'.

Eastern end of the field looking towards Krzeczor with the Oak Wood behind


Prussian right flank. Schönaich's heavy cavalry and Bevern's infantry

Opposing them are Puebla's infantry

Austrian right flank. Hussars under Nadasty. This flank should have been a swirling light cavalry affair, with Ziethen, leading the Prussian hussars opposite. On the day, both sides were lethargic.

Austrian masses, mostly on the reverse slope of Krzeczor Hill

View from reverse of Przekovsky Hill, i.e. west of the previous shot

'Croats', i.e. Grenzers hovering around the Oak Wood.

Prussian right flank in front of Novi Mesto, ready for the big push.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Intermission

I was hoping to get some playtesting in this week. Rouva Nundanket and the 13-year olds have gone to see her mother for the week. Unfortunately Real Life, in the form of that four-letter word beginning with W gets in the way. By the time I'm home and made dinner and eaten I don't have the motivation to get the toys out. Saturday may be different though so watch this space. Especially as the weather forecast is good and Other People will be going where I want to go and probably get in my way, so I might just stay in

In the meantime I'll carry out my threat to inflict some photos of Pendennis Castle on you. Apologies they're not the best quality, I took them with my phone, and I'm well, cra* at taking photos. All are external shots as the family were not keen on having a proper look, and I indulged my naive expectation that I could be spend quality time with the family.

For anyone not aware of this example of early artillery fortification, it was built as one of a string of coastal forts under Henry VIII's reign in the 1540s.  It was built with thick walls and plenty of space to mount large guns, on a circular plan. Earlier medieval castles usually didn't have the space, or strong enough platforms to mount heavy guns.  So Henry's forts were the latest thing in modern military architecture, right? Right?

Errr, no. Almost as soon as they'd been built they were out of fashion. All the smart princes in Italy were building fortifications with angular bastions which had no dead ground.  Pendennis Castle was in pretty continuous occupation and use by the English, then later British, military right up to the 20th century, with many modifications and additions over the centuries. What guaranteed this was the castle's strategic location, which with its non-identical twin St Mawes Castle, controlled the narrow entrance to Carrick Roads one of the largest natural harbours in the world.

Historically, Falmouth was the first major landfall in England for Atlantic crossings and became a sort of news hub. I think it's where news of Trafalgar first arrived and news got to London before the ship bearing Nelson's body reached the capital. Carrick Roads is fed by several rivers, in beautiful wooded valleys, in a beautiful part of the country. The rivers are tidal quite a long way inland and are an object lesson in the limitations of landward transportation. Well worth exploring.
Original 16th C tower with gun ports (now glazed in)
Gun embrassures on the eastern curtain wall



Why it's here. View across to St Mawes Castle about 1 mile away. Sorry for the appalling quality, but I posted it for 'context'



Gate on the western side, built in 1700
Looking north from the edge of the western ditch

View looking south along the ditch to the original castle tower
The grassy bank on the left is actually part of the later additions to the castle, when it was surrounded by a bastioned enceinte or 'Vauban fort' to give it its more common name. Side note: you know you're in a narrow field of interest when even the 'common name' for something is unknown by most people.


Bastion flank on the north east corner of the site.
When we saw this my beautiful bride instantly said 'Svartholm!' Needless to say I was impressed, and this is one of the many reasons I love her. Svartholm is actually an island with a 'Vauban* Fort' off the southern coast of Finland, which kind of oddly is still usually known by its Swedish name (unlike 'Suomenlinna' its near contemporary off Helsinki). In an aside to the aside, the RN landed on Svartholm in the Crimean War and knocked the fort about a bit on their way to blockade St Petersburg.

* Pedants, like wot I was, would point out 'actually it's an Ehrensvärd Fort'.





WWII guns, south east corner of the site

Ack Ack gun position? Tip of the headland







Outwork on lower slopes of the headland. Not sure whether this is contempory to the main tower

Apex of a bastion. For some reason one of my favourite views of the fort.
This looks like the base of a modern gun position on the eastern side of the headland (i.e. facing the entrance to Carrick Roads)
Last but not least I took a couple of snaps of this funky lass at the Lost Gardens of Heligan. This is several miles 'up county' from Falmouth as my former outlaws would say.


Another of the reasons I love her (Mrs N, not the funky lass), she picked me up a copy of this for half the price on Am***n. The book I've read twice now in translation, and I'd highly recommend it. You could characterise it as Finland's All Quiet, but it's more than that.

and this for €3 (which I think I've seen before - very strong on atmosphere, and you feel like you've been in a forest bunker by the time it finishes).

Some links if you want to find out more:

For Fortophiles
English Heritage

Wiki page

For Finnophiles
Author of 'Tuntematon Sotilas'. Ironically his surname translates as 'Castle'

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuation_War

Late edit: for better photos of Pendennis see the attached link to VaubanToMaginot

Sunday, 18 August 2019

The Hazard and Doubtful Chance of Wars Part III - Upon the divers humours and characters of regiments

‘”What a pity!” some officers say. “The only troops we have are recruits!” As for me, I love the recruits.  They do not know what danger is, and they stand up manfully in their first battle.’ (De Ligne quoted in Duffy, The Military Experience in the Age of Reason.)

Most wargame rules classify troops in two ways. Troop type and some classification covering 'quality' which might be an amalgamation of training and experience. Sometimes in rules which tend towards the 'grand tactical' level, this second classification might also include strength in numbers. In Bellona et Fortuna, as well as Troop Type there are two qualitative factors to consider: Troop Discipline and Troop Temper. Each base will have a classification under both Discipline and Temper categories.

The idea behind having both Troop Discipline and Troop Temper is to reflect the range of possible behavioural characteristics of units in this period.  Newly raised units could be green or poorly trained, but could put up a stiff fight (British regiments were often led by un-professional officers, but were perceived as being as brave as lions).  From a slightly earlier period, we have the example of the 9 French battalions of recruits lying where they fell in their ranks at Blenheim.  This is why I have shied away from traditional wargaming terms like elite, veteran and raw.  In themselves they do not permit the variability of conduct seen by units historically.  Veteran troops are often seen as a cut above run of the mill “trained” troops – but we sometimes see historical comments to the effect that battle experience can lead to a greater forboding when action approaches and that performance can tail-off with prolonged campaigning.  Not all veterans were necessarily well trained. Similarly in some armies the “elite” troops were not necessarily more skilled at their basic task than line troops, it’s just that they might have tried to live up to an expectation of bravery without having the tradecraft to match.

I've set-out below the three ways troops are classified in Bellona et Fortuna, what the classifications are and what they mean.

Troop Type
This describes the six main types of troops and their respective main modes of operating. 
Infantry:
Most Infantry, whether known as Grenadier, Musketeer, or Fusilier, are formed in close order and are armed with a flintlock musket and bayonet. They deliver fire by volleys upon a given command and rarely have to exercise individual initiative.
Skirmishers:
Croats, Jägers, Chasseurs and Freikorps infantry.  Fight in an irregular (i.e. skirmishing) fashion.  Of limited use in open battle during this period.  Many are classed as Drilled, except real scum like most of the Freikorps which are treated as Undrilled. No distinction is made between troops armed with smoothbores and those armed with rifles, the accuracy and range of the latter is deemed to be counter-balanced by the faster rate of fire of the former.
Horse:
Cuirassiers, Gendarmes, Household Cavalry, etc. The heaviest cavalry, used solely to deliver a mounted charge.
Dragoons:
Medium cavalry, also capable of scouting and screening as well as a mounted charge.  Dragoons were often seen as a cheap alternative to their heavier or lighter counterparts.

SYY Prussians. Heaviest in front, slightly lighter behind. The dragoons at the back were painted around 30 years ago.
Light Cavalry:
i.e. Prussian Hussars after 1745 and British Light Dragoons from 1759 (shades of WRG 1685-1845 there!).  Can perform a genuine battle cavalry role as well as carrying out the scouting/screening function, albeit slightly less effective than dragoons.

Even lighter (everyone has the Death's Head Hussars right?)
Irregular Cavalry:
Unlikely to face up to a charge of regular horse, but excellent at scouting and skirmishing.  Not very reliable in mid-18th century pitched battles.  Cossacks would probably count as Undrilled Brittle Irregular Cavalry.  Most hussars are Drilled.
Artillery:
Heavy field guns used in support of troops in defence or attack.  Given that they moved and deployed on the battlefield using civilian transport, once deployed they may move at 2BW per turn.  If part of an infantry/cavalry formation in march column move at same pace. Re-deploying means guns limber/unlimber. Light pieces such as battalion guns are not represented.

The type of Cavalry is relevant in two ways. In move terms, irregular moving faster than the three regular types (4 base widths rather than 3). In Cavalry-v-Cavalry Combat there is an advantage for each weight class higher, with the following order starting from heaviest to lightest: Horse, Dragoons, Light Cavalry, Irregular Cavalry. So Horse would be on a plus 3 against Irregular Cavalry all other things being equal.
These poor chaps (Austrian hussars) are positively flimsy compared to the guys above.
Skirmishers and artillery don’t advance into combat (i.e. base-to-base) with any enemy but take part in ‘ranged combat’.

Troop Discipline
Troop Discipline concerns the troops’ ability to follow orders, change formation and to keep order.  It will also have an effect in some circumstances on a unit’s performance in combat.
Crack:
The best trained regular troops, with faultless discipline and excellent order such as Prussian Garde and some of the better Prussian musketeer and cuirassier regiments.
We're Crack right? Prinz von Preußen. We get two stars in Duffy.

If anyone is Crack, it's us. We're the Leib-Garde Battailon. Until some button counter points out we should be in yellow breaches.
Skilled:
Very well disciplined troops who know their trade and manoeuvre with ease such as most Prussian musketeers, grenadiers, and cavalry regiments early in the SYW. Skilled status might also come from greater experience.
Drilled:
Properly trained soldiers such as most close order infantry and cavalry, but also some units who fight in an “irregular” fashion but are part the regular armies of combatants (Austrian hussars and Grenzers, jägers etc).  This may include grenadier units in some armies.
Undrilled:
Inadequately trained regular close order troops (militia, raw recruits) and often the colourful but much denigrated Freikorps.

'We may not be as smart as those colourful chaps next to us in blue, but we're Drilled. We should denigrate them.' 'Oh, get them, just because their dads were gamekeepers, think they're a cut above us.'  'To be fair though, we do like nicking stuff and don't hang around when it really kicks off.'
How might these Troop Discipline classifications affect the game? Compared to Drilled troops, Skilled troops are more likely to do what you want them to do (i.e. there are advantages on the test to change orders) and have some advantages in combat - Crack even more so. Undrilled troops obviously are less likely to do what you want. This presents one of the challenges I face in developing the rules: Troop Discipline is assigned at the regimental (i.e. base level). Where troops of different discipline levels are brigaded together, then what is the relevant level to use when testing to change orders? One option is to average out the level. Another is to ignore it altogether and just count Troop Discipline in Combat.

Troop Temper
The third classification concerns the willingness of the troops to enter and to sustain the fight. This does not encompass the impact of events on the battlefield which erode their capability, but the state of mind in which they entered the battle.  They are:
Aggressive:
Troops whose temper makes them suitable for assaults.  This will usually include grenadiers some cavalry (notably British). May also include some Austrian Grenzers for example those involved in the storming of Schweidnitz. One way I think this is a useful classification is because I think that grenadiers were not likely to be more disciplined that their colleagues in the line companies since all were trained together in their parent regiments. They might share the same Troop Discipline, but grenadiers were generally employed as assault troops and were expected to be more dashing or brave in attack.
Stubborn:
Troops who are difficult to move – either to chase away when they are in defence or to get moving when attacking.  The notable example is Russian infantry.
Phlegmatic:
Troops inured to some punishment, do not readily break but are not particularly dashing either.  Will include the majority of troops in most western style armies.
Brittle:
Troops as likely to give way as to stand.  Will include poorly led, unwilling or pressed regulars (such as the regiments of Saxon infantry and some Upper Silesian units in the Prussian service) as well as some irregulars who are more likely to evade action.  Also may include, as a scenario or campaign specific classification, troops poorly fed and poorly supplied.

As with Troop Discipline, it is worth running through what difference Troop Temper makes in the game. Aggressive troops are, as the name suggests more likely to charge or press home their attacks, and if cavalry, counter-charge so relevant bonuses are applied in these tests. Aggressive cavalry are also more likely to run amok and charge other enemy units after crashing-through enemy horse or foot. Stubborn troops will get a bonus when testing to see how they respond to an enemy attack. They will also be harder to get them moving if halted. Brittle troops will get deductions on the tests to charge home or to withstand an attack. Phlegmatic troops by contrast don’t have any advantages or disadvantages.

Ruminations
As I said previously, there may be too many classifications, and this requires more play-testing. It also requires additional record keeping/labelling since Discipline and Temper classes aren't always obvious. Are those grenadiers Aggressive or Phlegmatic? Are they Skilled or Crack? I've even had problems distinguishing between Prussian grenadiers and fusiliers (at 6mm scale it's difficult to tell how tall a mitre is). To date I have ignored Troop Temper and Troop Discipline in play-testing, keeping everything 'vanilla' flavoured.

Now are the chaps on the left the Aggressive guys and the ones on the right those unreliable Upper Silesians or is it the other way round?

The simple solution to the complexity (if it is a problem that needs solving) is to merge Discipline & Temper into one category that covers all qualitative factors. Another way of handling this might be to find ways of removing the need for extra rules regarding 'temper'. Units who would otherwise be classed as 'Brittle' say, could start the game with already penalised with an Unsteadiness Point or more likely a Loss Point. Stubborn troops might bear an additional attrition point.  Could some method be found to reflect the Aggressive character?

That's probably it for now on Bellona et Fortuna. I hope it's been of some interest or even of use. I'd welcome any critique or comments. It's already been a helpful exercise for me, because in attempting to explain the rules and the thinking behind them, it's already made me spot a few errors and omissions and I've done some tweaks and notes for further amendments.

Friday, 16 August 2019

The Hazard and Doubtful Chance of Wars: Part II

A couple of posts back I summarised my thinking on the development of my Seven Years War rules. I also gave an overview of the Command & Control mechanism and the overall turn sequence. This post digs a bit deeper into the combat mechanisms. Before I go any further, I should have said in the previous post that the rules were really designed for the SYW in central Europe. They weren't intended to cover any of the 'colonial' conflicts in the Americas or in India. They're suitable for the War of the Austrian Succession (again in central Europe) but not for the Jacobite Rising. Similarly, they might not be suitable for the smaller scale actions in the Baltic region (Prussians v Swedes; and Russians v Swedes) of the period. Also, before I continue apologies for the length of this post and for the dearth of relevant images. If I'd been more organised at the time I'd have taken photos of combat scenario testing. So here is a gratuitous plan of the Battle of Prague courtesy of Britishbattles.com:



The aim in battle during this period was to break the will of the enemy army and force him to quit the field.  This was done through a combination of inflicting direct losses (casualties – i.e. dead and wounded) and breaking the cohesion of the enemy’s forces and therefore his ability to resist further pressure.  Armies generally represented large investments in training and equipment for the fledgling states of the time, and the consequences of loss of a war weren't as dramatic as in other centuries, so no prince would want to risk their army's complete anihilation. European trained regular forces tended to be relatively stoical in the face of danger but all ultimately had a breaking point.  All combat tended to erode the ability of units to continue to carry out the commander’s wishes.  Forces tended to be either fought to a standstill or were broken, but there was generally not the ebb and flow seen in other periods and theatres (e.g. US Civil War where units could be “broken” but might return to the fight).

Superfluous Gratuitous Graphic ("SPG")  II: The Roman  Goddess Fortuna as seen in https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortuna_(mythology)

In this game the cohesion of a force is eroded through “Attrition”.  Attrition causes units to lose cohesion and confidence.  There are 2 types of Attrition: Unsteadiness and Losses.  Unsteadiness (shock or disorder) is temporary and can be rectified either by removal of the cause or by rallying. Losses (casualties) are permanent. Markers or counters could be used to mark Attrition: Unsteadiness with say a singly based standing figure; Losses with a casualty figure. 3 losses will result in the base's removal. Any other combination of 3 Attrition markers will result in it breaking.





The Combat mechanism works by modelling the relative performance of whole units against each other in close contact (i.e. base to base), taking into account tactical situation, relative strength, Troop Type, Troop Discipline and Troop Temper*.  The impact on the whole unit is modelled rather than removing individual figures.  This is fairly similar to the Polemos Napoleonic rules, but I wanted to create something which had more 'period flavour' to represent the SYW as I saw it. The Polemos combat system ingeniously incorporates multiple dice rolling which smooths out peaks and troughs of good and bad luck, whilst reflecting the ebb and flow of attack and counter-attack.  I wanted my mechanism to do the latter former, but with a more 'linear warfare' feel. I also wanted cavalry and infantry to feel different from each other. Polemos rewards combined arms tactics; cavalry alone against infantry is not effective, but cavalry PLUS infantry and/or horse artillery is at a distinct advantage against infantry. Other than that cavalry and infantry behave very similarly.


* More on these Troop classifications in another post, if you are unlucky.

So I broke down in my mind's eye how mid-18th century combat unfolds. How does cavalry behave versus cavalry, compared to how it behaves versus infantry, and how does infantry versus infantry differ? I worked through the potential scenarios, based on my understanding.

Cavalry v Cavalry
When one mounted force (A) intended to attack another (D) a number of things could happen when A charged.
  1. D might 'flinch' from contact and A might charge home and if he hit D he would be at an advantage. 
  2. D might stand and A might then decide 'discretion is the better part of Valerie'** and flinch away. Result no hand-to-hand combat.
  3. D might counter-charge and A might charge home, resulting in a clash.
  4. D might counter-charge and A might decide he had urgent business elsewhere. Result either no clash if D is't quick enough or A might get caught at a disadvantage.
  5. D might stand and A charges home. Result: hand-to-hand combat.
** 'though all of her is nice', Roger McGough

So we might end up with the two sides coming into actual contact in 4 of the 5 scenarios. In this case, and if my understanding is correct, the horsemen would ride between each other's files trying to slash or stab each other on the way, and come out on the other side. They were then faced with a number of options:
  1. Both might avoid further contact by moving in a safe direction.
  2. One side might attempt to avoid further contact (i.e. run away) pursued by the other.
  3. One side might run away and the other might rally.
  4. One side might run away and the other might go haring into another nearby enemy unit in the finest Bristish cavalry tradition.
  5. Both might turn and fight again (presumably moving at a relatively slow speed, being winded and having less room to build up momentum).
I therefore broke my Cavalry v Cavalry Combat phase into 3 stages:
     (a) both sides test to charge home – outcomes: flinch; charge home; crack troops v non-crack troops charge home and get bonus for flanking opponent if opponent has open flanks.
     (b) if attacker charges home follow combat resolution table.
     (c) if this results in a pass-through follow the Pass Through Options table.
 
Cavalry v Infantry
When one mounted force (A) intended to attack a dismounted force (I) a number of things could happen when A charged.
  1. I might panic and A might charge home and if he hit I he would be at a big advantage.
  2. I might break and A might charge home at a massive advantage
  3. I might stand and A might flinch away. Result no hand-to-hand combat.
  4. I might stand and A might charge home.
Similar to the Cavalry-v-Cavalry Combat, if scenarios 1, 2 or 4 occur,  a further stage in the process occurs. I.E. what happens if the cavalry do charge home.

If the cavalry do charge home they will burst through the infantry and either or both sides will take Attrition. Once the cavalry were through the infantry line there were a number of possible courses of action.
  1. The infantry break and the cavalry pursue them
  2. The infantry break and the cavalry rally
  3. The infantry stand and turn to fire with the cavalry also turning to have another go
  4. The infantry stand and turn to fire with the cavalry trying to rally
  5. The infantry stand and the cavalry hares off to charge someone else
  6. The infantry stand and the cavalry tries to move to a safer place.
So, like the all cavalry combat, I determined there should be three stages of cavalry-v-infantry combat but with different test/results tables:
     (a) Test to Charge Home.
     (b) If cavalry charge home follow Combat Resolution table.
     (c) Then follow Cavalry versus Infantry Pass Through Options table.

SPG IV: the Queen of Hungary's Grenzers in front of scratch built woods, with line troops in the rear

Infantry v Infantry
I think infantry is generally simpler than the other two. The first stage of the attack might result in one of the following:
  1. The defender stands in good order and the attacker presses home.
  2. The defender stands shaken and the attacker presses home.
  3. The defender retires in good order and attacker presses home.
  4. The defender retires shaken and the attacker presses home.
  5. The defender stands and the attacker stands off. No further combat.
  6. The defender retires in good order and attacker stands off. No further combat.
  7. The defender breaks and the attacker occupies the defender's position.
1 and 2 result in a stand-up firefight. 3 and 4 in a firefight where the attacker is still advancing. 5 and 6 results in a stand-off. 7 is obviously the best result for the attacker. So in game turns there are 2 stages to Infantry-v-Infantry Combat:

     (a) Test to see if the attack is pressed home and what the defender response is. 
     (b) If it is follow Infantry v Infantry Combat Resolution table.

Stage (b) might result in one or both sides taking Losses and retreat/rout for one of the sides. If both stand, the Combat rolls over to the next player's turn.

Phew!

I had to simplify all those possible scenarios, so the game phasing for Combat boils down to three stages:
     (a) Test to charge/press home
     (b) Combat Resolution
     (c) Test for Pass-through Options (cavalry only)
But the tables for (a) and (c) are different for the 3 classes of Combat.

I ran through several tests of each of the scenarios, plus one full (solo) game. I really need to run more tests, but with my growing interest in the ECW over the past couple of years, the SYW has taken a back seat. I'm generally content with how the framework works in practice but there are a few rough edges. Also as mentioned above, there is the question of Troop Classification. What I came up with is possibly too complicated, and to date I have not tested it fully (I've gone for more 'average' troop qualities in my play-testing). I'd rather start from a position of too much detail, then edit it out, than risk missing something which is too 'vanilla'.

Oh, and the relevance of the two women in flouncy frocks (there's nothing nunty about those two)? Given the role of luck in war, and the reverence for the Classical amongst 18th century toffs, I called my rules Bellona et Fortuna. Sorry M. le comte de Foy - I couldn't think of any kitchen utensils 😉.