Monday, June 23, 2014

1756 Invasion of Candy Land

Frederick the Great, with designs on starting a war with Austria on his own terms, deigned to invade one of Maria Theresa’s allied minor states. While his planning had initially been for a campaign to take Saxony, a sweeter target emerged in the form of Candy Land as his first target.
A new plan was thus set in motion. Frederick’s army advanced in 3 columns as they invaded.  These forces would converge where Candy Land Straße begins and would march on its capital, Candy Castle.  The Prussian Vanguard had two small brigades. The first was grenadiers and jägers with some artillery. The second was a small cuirassier brigade. The main body of the Prussian army was 2 brigades of infantry along with the bulk of the artillery and siege guns.  The third force was all cavalry comprised of a brigade each of dragoons and cuirassiers to screen the flank of the advancing army and converge on the castle with the rest of the army. The remainder of Frederick’s army gathered near the border with Saxony for that eventual conflict.

This battle was fought using Black Powder rules on a 5x24 table at “The Weekend”, a small local convention gathering held in Lancaster, PA  Figures are 28mm and a combination of Minden Miniatures, Eureka, RSM, and some Old Glory. The gingerbread men were from Victory Force Miniatures.

The Prussian Order of Battle for the Invasion of Candy Land is thus:

  • Brigade
    • Jägers
    • Grenadiers (2 Units)
    • Medium Gun
    • Battalion Gun
  • Brigade
    • Cuirassiers (4 units)
Frederick’s Main Body
  • Brigade
    • Musketeers (4 units)
    • Battalion Gun
  • Army Artillery
    • Jägers
    • 3 Heavy Guns
    • 4 Medium Gun
  • Brigade
    • Musketeers & Fusiliers (4 units)
    • Battalion Gun

Cavalry Force  
  • Brigade
    • Dragoons (4 units)
  • Brigade
    • Cuirassiers (3 units)
Now, the Austrians and Saxons were not standing idly by as Frederick put his invasion plans in motion. When the word came out that Candy Land was being set upon, Maria Theresa sent available forces and even the Saxons marched to the help of their neighbor. Candy Land itself had a very small military, with only one regiment of grenadier guard and a very small artillery park. Trained were several battalions of gingerbread troops who had never tasted battle. The rest of the citizenry of the land could be mobilized, but was generally under equipped and not wholly suited to the task.

Army of Candy Land
  • Brigade
    • Kandie Guard
    • KG howitzer battalion gun
    • Gingerbread Sepoys (2 units)
    • Partisan Rabble (4 Tiny Units)
    • Austrian Medium Guns (2, in redoubts)
Saxony Relief Force
  • Brigade
    • Grenadiers
    • Musketeers (2 units)
    • Fusiliers (2 units)
    • Battalion gun
1st Austrian Relief Force
  • Brigade
    • Grenadiers (2 units)
    • Pioneers (Tiny Unit)
    • Austrian Feld Jägers  (small unit)
    • Frei-Korps (small unit)
    • Medium Guns (2, in redoubts)
  • Brigade
    • Musketeers (4 units)
    • Battalion Gun
  • Brigade
    • Hungarian Musketeers (2 units)
    • Grenz (2 units)
    • Battalion Gun
2nd Austrian Relief Force
  • Brigade
    • Dragoons (3 Units)
  • Brigade
    • Cuirassiers (5 units)
 Setup Pictures and Battle Synopsis

The Hungarian and Grenz Infantry march from their camp.

The Austrian line forms as the Prussian Vanguard comes into view.
The center of the Austrian battle line. Here, grenadiers hold a village and the Austrian command surveys the unfolding battle from a low rise.
The right flank of the Austrian 1st Relief Force.
To right of the Austrian infantry force, the Saxons would be deploying along the final road approach to the castle.
Elements of the Candy Land newly formed 1st Army of Molasses out in front of the castle.

Pre-game view of the table from the Gum Drop Mountains and Candy Cane Forest side.

Pre-game view of the table from the Molasses Swamp and Candy Castle table end.
The game begins.

Prussians are dealt cards from the classic board game that can act as command modifiers for brigades on the properly colored road tiles, to allow extra movement, or for other special game effects if the command roll failed

The Allies and Candylanders used the cards the same way. In addition, the cards could be used to place the local rabble bases, and also the pink card with the gingerbread man allowed a unit of gingerbread men to crumble away and reappear somewhere else on the table at any pink road tile. 

Prussians find the Rainbow Trail.
By drawing an orange card on turn 1, the Prussians are able to bypass much of the road with the main body of the army. This will greatly speed their march to the castle with the artillery train that will follow the brigade beginning to enter play in the picture.

That cavalry attack didn’t work as planned.
On the right, the Prussian Cuirassiers launched an attack across the field at the Austrian line already engaged by the Grenadiers. Two of the four cuirassier units remained after the ill-fated attack on the formed Austrian line. Broken, the cavalry brigade is attacked by the Grenzers and would shortly retire from the battle altogether. The beleaguered grenadiers suffered from some loss of cohesion in mounting their own attack and find themselves outnumbered 4 to 1 in this sector of the battle. 

 Despite this, the Prussian grenadiers presence will stall both of the Austrian brigades successfully so they play no further part in threatening the Prussian main attack.

In the center, the infantry brigade in advance of the army’s artillery train finds itself distracted early on by some Austrian Frei-Korps in the Lollipop Woods. This force however was too small to threaten the Prussian deployment occurring to launch an attack toward the gun redoubts next to the village. In the foreground the limbered artillery train makes its way towards the Candy Castle.

By the end of the game, the Prussian infantry brigade was attacking the gun redoubts next to the village.


Kandie Guard charged by Dragoons and a melee is fought.
Disordered by gum drops, half the dragoons will fall back.

Both the Kandie Guard and the Gingerbread Sepoys had their share of fighting.

Earlier one of the Gingerbread units tries to get its crumby mitts on the Prussians.  They were repulsed, but this did help slow up the attack in the center a bit.

The Prussian center advances.
 The 2nd Prussian infantry brigade had some earlier command failures, but was pushing hard at the thin Saxon line in the center. The area currently occupied by the advancing Prussians in the picture would be where the artillery train would emerge and unlimber to have guns within range of the castle walls.

On the extreme left of the Prussian advance, a massive cavalry battle was fought from the 2nd turn until the end nearly the end of the game.

 The initial phase of this struggle had the brigade of Prussian Cuirassiers fighting the brigades of Austrian Dragoons and soon the Austrian Cuirassiers. The Prussian Dragoons contributed later, but were also thrown at the Candy Land forces where they were repulsed.

Cavalry on both sides of the melee had units shaken and exhausted, but both sides  were rolling well on their break tests. Eventually the Austrian Dragoon Brigade would break, and the Austrian Cuirassiers were left mostly intact with 4 fresh units. They were however outnumbered 2 to 1 by the mostly spent but recoverable Prussian Cuirassiers and Dragoons.  Two brigade commanders were present and Frederick himself was approaching to begin the cavalry rally and renewed attack.

The Outcome
The Prussians had deployed their artillery train, with most of the heavy guns in range of the castle walls. These were in no danger of being overrun, and would be a big contributor to degrading the Saxon line for the Prussian infantry attack that was lined up. The cavalry on this side would likely be reconstituted by the commanders such that they would stop the Austrian Cuirassiers and possibly be available then to support the rest of the castle assault. The Prussians did lose the smallest brigade of cuirassiers and was on its way to lose the small brigade of grenadiers as well. However, the allies had lost a Dragoon brigade, would likely lose the Candy Land brigade, the Saxons, and Cuirassiers, along with the castle beginning to come under artillery fire. The bulk of the Austrian infantry could effectively be held up long enough for what we determined would be a Prussian victory based on position of the armies and their status.

My Evaluation of the Scenario & Game
I was a bit uncertain how such a crazy Imagi-nation game might be received, but the players enjoyed it and I had several bystanders offer their positive thoughts as well.  I had used the cards from an old copy of the actual kid’s board game of the same name, and that helped complete the parody/homage to a fun game turned into a wargame. Players did enjoy the tactical elements of the game as well. It was for all intents and purposes a SYW game just in unusual terrain and with some difficult objectives for the Prussians. I’m very glad the Prussians pulled the correct color to allow a shorter travel distance for their artillery and some infantry. In hindsight the odds would have been otherwise stacked against them on having to maneuver the winding road nearly its distance if the Austrians gave even a modest defense of the area. I was surprised by how long the cavalry battle went for.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Battle of Altendorf 1756

 Inspiration and Background
In 1756 Frederick kicks off the Seven Years War in Europe by invading Saxony.  Historically the Saxon army is isolated by the Prussians and surrounded in their camp.  Austrian efforts to march to their aid are thwarted. The battle of Lobositz is an Austrian defeat in this time. Empress Maria Theresa orders General Browne to relieve the Saxons and he marches with 8,000 picked troops in a wide march around the Prussians. They intended to link up with the Saxons; however nothing was going well for the Saxons and their repeated river crossings or other troop movements were thwarted by the Prussians. So, the Austrians march away and the Saxon army surrendered a few days later.
With that in mind, I wanted to change history a bit. I’d starting collecting the Eureka Seven Years War Saxons and was itching to use them in a battle with my other troops. Here at Altendorf, I’ve contrived a way to represent something in the spirit of what may have happened in October of 1756 if the Saxons had a bit more pluck, or the Prussians had a bit less luck.

The scenario that unfolds starts at the point where Browne has reached Mittelndorf with his hand picked force. We are going to take some liberties in the force compositions. How egregious these changes are to history we will leave to our audience. For one, there were no Cuirassiers in Browne’s force. Also, a few units that show up later in the war make an earlier appearance.  Having let the Austrians have some Cuirassiers it would be unfair not to give their worthy opponents the same. Also, the force mix of my Austrian-Saxon army having 1 more brigade of infantry, I often give the Prussians an edge in cavalry to compensate and did so here as well to make a more balanced convention game. When I do have a better selection of painted troops at my disposal I will align the forces to be more accurate. Historically, the Saxons had a poor showing and with all types of calamity operationally surrendered leaving us no big Saxon/Prussian battle to reflect on in a game. Here though I will allow for a little in excess of a brigade of some Saxon infantry and guns to have made it through the Prussian encirclement. I place these just outside of Altendorf, the next village over from their Austrian friends. 

What follows are the details of the game ran this past Saturday at NJCON, a great 2 day convention in central NJ. This game had space for 12, was played with 10 participants (5 per side), and wrapped in 4 hours. The rules were Black Powder with many of the Last Argument of Kings supplemental rules. Figures were mostly Minden, with Eureka, Sash&Saber, RSM, and a few Old Glory.

Each side was given briefings and allowed with limited information of the enemy to deploy their forces with limitations. Here’s the two maps provided to each side and the choices. It's important to note that this was a 4x16. Along the long edges it was essentially thick woods, gullies, and streams. Thus, what the armies were fighting in was a thin stretch of land like a valley. There's an impassable hill near the Saxon camp, and one of the Prussian lines of advance comes down a much larger hill with a gradual slope where the road comes in from Bad Schandau, but flanked on either sides by difficult woods on steeper sides.

Prussian Map

The Prussians would be marching on to the table from the Southwest. Here are their deployment choices and selections.
·         March Road 1 – Any Infantry or Cavalry Brigade, no Heavy Guns.  (Choice- Both Infantry brigades, Dragoons)
·         March Road 2- Any (Choice- the heavy guns)
·         March Road 3- Any (Choice- the grenadiers, then both cuirassier brigades)
·         March Deployment 4 – Any Infantry, no cavalry, no artillery, no battalion guns. One unit enters in any formation per turn. (Choice- the gers only)

Furthermore, After they finalized their orders, I had the Prussians roll for road quality, it being October and historically a bit of rain and assumed mud. Road 1 was good allowing up to 3 moves on to the board, Road 2 was very poor allowing only 1 move onto the board, and Road 3 was poor but allowed 2 moves on to the table. Once on the table, movement would be normal.

Austrian and Saxon Map

The Austrian and Saxon Players’ Briefing allowed for deployment as follows and placement of the troops on the table.
·         Saxon Camp- any Saxons (Choice- all Saxons)
·         Deployment Area 1- any Saxons, any light troops (Choice- the  light troops)
·         Deployment Area 2- any Saxons, any cavalry (Choice- the Cuirassiers. They also made an error and placed the Austrian Grenadiers here, so I sent them back to the Austrian HQ)
·         Deployment Area 3 (in the town)- any infantry (Choice- the Austrian 1st Line Brigade setup in front of the town.)
·         Deployment Area 4- Any Austrian (Choice- both the Dragoons and the Hungarian/Croat, aka 2nd Austrian brigade)
·         Austrian HQ- Any Austrian (Choice- None, but received the displaced Grenadiers)

PPlay commenced with the Prussians moving on, and they were surprised that the Saxons and Austrians were linked up with a full battle line. The Austrians of course were surprised on the line of advance of the Prussians and that most of their army was not positioned to meet it. 

The far left of the Austrian deployment, going back practically towards to Mittelndorf, begins to wheel brigades to join the battle.  Here the Dragoon Brigade maneuvers around the Hungarian & Croat brigade which itself has turned. Not shown is the small force of Grenadiers that was sluggish moving out of Mittelndorf, and closer to the action the Austrian Line Brigade in the center which also turns to face the Prussians entrance onto the field.

Bottom of Turn 2. The Austrian cuirassiers charge in on the advancing Prussian cuirassiers who countercharge. The Prussians would have the better of this, sending most of the Austrian horse back behind their second line of squadrons. By turn 3 or 4, the Austrian cuirassier brigade finds itself broken with one unit left of the five.

Flush with victory over the Austrian cuirassier brigade, the bold Prussians move on the Saxon camp. This is now the 2nd brigade as the 1st brigade is all sitting back in shaken status to rally. But wait!!  Two battalion guns and unit of fusiliers in good order block the way as this second phase of fighting in the center begins. Closing fire stops the first charge. One unit of Prussian cuirassier leaves the field. 

The Austrian Dragoons work their way in between the two brigades of Austrian infantry to get to replace the Austrian cuirassiers which have effectively quit the field. 

The second Prussian charge on the Saxon camp suffers the same fate as the first, and the lead Austrian Dragoon unit charges in to eliminate this second unit and break the 2nd Prussian cuirassier brigade. Oh my…not a good day of battle for either side’s cuirassiers.

In front of the dragoons,  the Austrian line engages the Prussian vanguard that had marched in on the road from Bad Schandau, which was 1 unit of gers and 2 units of Grenadiers. Behind them on the hill are a Prussian battalion gun and medium gun which had difficulty finding targets in the maelstrom of fighting in the center.

The Prussian infantry of the 2nd brigade and the dragoons that had marched in from Rathmannsdorf are seen here in final positioning. 2 battalions from the first infantry brigade are seen engaging the Saxons while the dragoons move forward to support the now depleted cuirassiers. Not seen here are the heavy guns that arrived slowly on the alternate road from Bad Schandau, and waited the entire game for 3 brigades to move past. (The guns were an extra force and not any player's sole command.)

On the Prussian extreme left, 2 battalions of line engage the Austrian light infantry in the wood line. From the markers it looks like both battalions are not having the best of this exchange.

The Outcome
When we stopped play, the Austrians had a broken cuirassier brigade (at 20%), the Prussians had effectively two small cuirassier brigades broken (1 at 50%, the other 100% shaken at the time). We judged this to be a draw, perhaps the beginning of an Austrian-Saxon victory based on tactical momentum, but still a strategic Prussian victory based on position of the armies. It looked like even with the upper hand that the Allies would not push their way through what was the mass of the Prussian infantry and heavy guns being brought up, and if they did it could be at great cost.

My Evaluation of the Scenario & Game
This was the first time this had been run. The players were great. There were some surprises that the deployment options created, but I think that manner of Fog of War is good to have once in a while.  Some of the troops on the left flanks of each side struggled to get into play before we finished. This was due in small part from the overlap of only 2/3 of each army initially, the terrain and limited frontages, but more so due to some truly dire command rolls on both sides for those brigades. I will be running this again in the future, but I may change the force mixes to reduce the cavalry as they became the focal point of this battle.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

2014 Year of the Dragoon

There always seems to be more figures I'd like to paint than is humanly possible to complete. With my SYW and Imagi-nations project this is certainly true. What I've tried to do is strike some balance in playing games and the collecting/painting aspect. When I started this endeavor roughly 5 years ago I didn't know where it would take me and completion of large armies seemed very far off.  I did begin with infantry, and then some artillery. Next came cuirassiers and more infantry. Then more infantry again.  I'd even branched off to do some purely whimsical items such as the Candyland troops this year. But I've had a growing amount of unfinished cavalry growing in the background.

What cavalry? Well I took advantage of some sales from Sash & Saber some years back now and had some Prussian hussars put away. These were joined by some Minden hussars such that I have nine 12 figure squadrons primered and waiting. I even have some RSM Austrian hussars. I became interested in Eureka Saxons and picked up a number of that cavalry, including several squadrons in dismounted poses. I'd also purchased Minden dragoons for both Prussia and Austria during this time. More recently for SYW in India I have some Indus Miniatures figures and some additional on order.

But I digress from the point of this posting- Year of the Dragoon. My plan on completing (if that word can be used) Prussian and Austrian armies is to work from the heaviest cavalry down to light cavalry. With that goal and a decent number of cuirassier completed, I needed to move on to dragoons. I decided to start with the Mindens in my collection since they are a joy to paint and represent the lion's share of my SYW collection.

So far this year, I began with the Austrian dragoons, with my take on Liechtenstein, Hessen-Darmstadt, and Württemberg squadrons. I have less Austrian dragoons from Minden, as I plan to make up the different with the Saxon Chevauxleger from Eureka in some future painting. Most recently I've painted up Prussian Truchseß, Bayreuth, Langermann, Württemberg, and Oertzen squadrons. I will confess to painting based on uniform appeal, far more than any desire to recreate a specific theatre of the war.

All writing aside, I know most people come to blogs for the pictures. Here's the Austrians:

I'm a plain basing kind of guy. This is simply a 2:1 blend of Woodland Scenics Burnt Turf to Green Turf. Eventually...maybe...I'll revisit my entire collection and upgrade it consistently in one go.

For now, and my purposes in games, it matches up close enough with my new ground cloth. That’s an olive colored 6 foot by 8.5 yard length of felt cloth shown here.

On to the Prussians, who were finished up this week.

All banners for the dragoons were the DPC flags, as their RSM figures very closely match the size of Mindens, and they sold several units worth of flags on one page. That worked for me because at time of purchase I was still deciding what units to paint!! I may yet upgrade to some fancier flags (GMB or Flag Dude) in the future.

Here's all 8 units:
I'm gonna need a bigger battlefield! No, I don't game on that. It's just a mock up so I could see how these units would look on the base ground cloth. I think it's close enough.

Now while we're almost officially half done with 2014, I'm not finished with "Year of the Dragoon". I've got some dismounted RSM Prussian dragoons to paint up as stand ins for the mounted Mindens.  I've also got all the Saxon Chevauxleger and other various Saxon cavalry.

It looks like 2015 will have to be "Year of the Hussar".