Thursday, October 18, 2012

October Black Powder Game- The Battle of Mucklerburg

Two weeks ago there was the tumultuous throw of dice and shouting of orders as the Prussians and Austrians clashed in between the fictional towns of Schlopowicz and Mucklerburg.  The Prussians were slightly outnumbered and given orders to basically hold the line between the towns. The Austrians and Saxons were to drive North.

The game I was invited to run locally was a straight up affair of Black Powder using most of the suggested rules changes from the Last Argument of Kings supplement for the SYW. I nominated two army generals from the six players attending, and asked both sides to draw up a plan of battle given the forces at their disposal, a strategic goal, a rough map, and limited knowledge of the enemy. Units had flavor attributes, but we did not play with the commander attributes leaving that up to the personalities of our real players. :)

Here's the briefing as provided to the Austrian side.

And here is the Prussian briefing:
 Note that the Prussians are aware of a swampy area at the southern end of the River Schlop. Also communicated to the Prussians and not in the briefing is a small ford across from Schlopowicz. These details were to provide some fog of war and battlefield friction, but were mostly irrelevant as the Austrians chose to focus much of their effort at Mucklerburg.  This was however a much more difficult task than they thought.

The Austrian Order of Battle 
(mostly deployed from the table edge starting with forces on the Eastern side of the battlefield)
Left Flank -
      Cavalry Brigade (Dragoon x2, Cuirassier x3, Field Gun x2)
      Saxon Brigade (Musketeers/Fusiliers x4, Battalion Gun, Heavy Gun)
      Hungarian Brigade (Hungarians x2, Grenz x2, Battalion Gun)
      Austrian Brigade (Austrians x4, Battalion Gun, small unit Jagers in woods)
Right Flank- (Marching north to Mucklerburg)
      Grenadier Brigade (Grenadiers x3, Heavy Gun, small unit Lacy Frei-Korps, tiny unit of Pioneers)

Prussian Order of Battle 
(deployed on the table, Jagers hidden in woods outside Schlopowicz)
Left Flank (Marching south to Mucklerburg)
      Infantry Brigade (Musketeers/Fusiliers x4, Battalion Gun)
      Infantry Brigade (Musketeers x4, Battalion Gun)
      Cavalry Brigade (Cuirassier x4)
      Cavalry Brigade (Cuirassier x3)
Right Flank (Guarding Schlopowicz on other side of the river)
      Grenadier Brigade (Grenadiers x2, 2 Heavy Guns, 1 Field Gun, Jagers)

The miniatures used were primarily Mindens, with one brigade of Sash&Saber Prussians, one brigade of Eureka Saxons, some RSM gun crews and Austrian light troops, two Old Glory units of Prussian Cuirassiers (the only SYW figures in my collection I did not paint), and some visiting troops lent by one of the players in the form of two of the Austrian gun crews and the two Dragoon units (not sure of maker on those.)

Opening Moves 
(These graphics were created by the Battle Chronicler program after the fact and in my best attempt at recreating actual events as they unfolded that evening)

Here's a picture of the battle in its opening phasing. The table is 6 foot across and about 12 feet or so of width allowing for a nice frontage of 5 brigades per side. Most infantry units were 30 figures, with the cavalry units being 12 figure units.
The Austrian cavalry while on the table haven't actually arrived due to some order issues. For those familiar with Black Powder, one must order the brigade before rolling dice and in the zeal to get into the battle, our Austrian Cavalry Brigade commander must have left his riding boots in his tent!

In the above picture's foreground, one can also see the Prussians invested in 2 of the 3 town blocks and the Austrian Grenadiers on the left having emerged from the forest road in march column deploying to either side in a plan to attack the church. Unfortunately, the Austrian Jagers ended up disordered in front of the attack for the remainder of the battle and in such a position that the Grenadiers could not interpenetrate to attack without overlapping the units...We'll be revisiting that with some house rule that allows disordered skirmish formations to be bounced or withdrawn as an initiative move. The effect in this game of the blocking disordered unit was that the Grenadier's assault never went in at the Austrian planned main point of attack. The entire town would never be captured to allow follow up forces to march on the road north..

While a stalemate was happening on the eastern edge of the battle, the Austrian cavalry was finally making its presence known.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. As this force was positioning to strike the weaker Prussian cavalry brigade the rest of the center was being lost!!!

Here's a few graphics of troop movements.

And here are some pictures of the troops on the table in the unfolding action. A critical decision that was to prove fatal was the Grenz unit going into skirmish formation. With the combined fire of two battalion guns it repulsed one battalion of Prussians...

 But then the might of the Prussian cavalry came thundering in. No closing fire for skirmishers and they are unsupported on their flanks. They were ridden down. Curiously the two battalion guns won a draw against the Prussian infantry battalion which ended up being forced back soon after.
 As events were starting to transpire, a unit of Austrian Dragoons threatens the smaller Prussian Cuirassier brigade as the Saxons move up in perfect formation.
 However to the right of the Saxon brigade things are rapidly becoming undone. The break through move of the Prussian Cuirassier unit after destroying the skirmishing Grenz brings them right into the second line unit of Hungarians who also do not get closing fire due to the cavalry contacting them in the breakthrough. They soon follow the Croat skirmishers off the table and the cuirassiers turn to face the remainder of the Hungarian/Croat brigade.
 And then it gets the rest of the cavalry brigade begins to exploit the gaping hole to run down the battalion guns on one side on the way to the Austrian brigade and threaten the Saxon brigade's interior flank on the other side.

With the rest of the Hungarians gone, and facing the rear of the Saxon Brigade, the Curiassier unit on the left of the picture (the first one into combat) is well on its way to being praised by Frederick himself. The field is most certainly held by the Prussians at this point, or at the very least the Austrian attack is so blunted that they would not be able to continue their march north.


The group playing is a well established experienced group of wargamers, but who were new to Black Powder.  Tough lessons learned by the Austrians were the consequences of going into skirmish order opposing cavalry, and not getting the Austrian cavalry on the table due to rolling command initiative prior to stating orders. But the die rolling was hot on the Prussian side of Mucklerburg anyway. The Prussians tied up their best foot and guns on the far side of the river not knowing where the Austrians would focus, but in the end they wouldn't be needed to hold onto the battlefield and prevent the Austrian advance.

In terms of general game play, conforming the long linear units seemed to have some plausibility sacrificed in terms of playability and one rule, like the case of the disordered jagers being unable to extricate themselves, affected the outcome directly. As the GM, I made a mistake in allowing an extra Prussian unit to fire down the road in between townblocks, which in hindsight is something I would not do in future games.

Hope you've enjoyed this battle report. I turn my sights now to painting up more Austrian and Prussian Cavalry. I also plan to run this game again before the end of the year at one of the local hobby shops.