Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Fontenoy AAR - Part III

The town of Fontenoy was garrisoned with up to three battalions of Austrians, two 3-pounders and one 6-pounder cannon.

The left flank of the Prussian Infernal Column had to pass by the town of Fontenoy, which was packed full of Austrians who were armed to the teeth. Cumberland/Frederick did not want to allocate the troops and resources that would have been required to take such a strong position as Fontenoy.

Accordingly, Frederick told off the Anhalt Dessau Regiment, or IR22, to demonstrate in front of the town so as to draw the attention of the garrison on IR22 instead of the Infernal Column.

IR22 advances towards Fontenoy. Aren't they a stirring sight?

There really wasn't much action on this part of the table. The Prussians advanced towards the town and lost two stands of infantry from its lead battalion, but their morale held strong. Once the Prussians reached the entrenchments, they were able to deal with the two Austrian 3-pounders and kill off their crews with musket fire. 

Once that happened, the Anhalt Dessau - first battalion - moved in front of the entrenchments which oddly enough offered them some protection from Austrian musket fire. This is pretty much how the rest of the game went in this sector.

IR22 Anhalt Dessau regiment of two battalions launches an assault on the entrenchments at Fontenoy.

Things were pretty well in hand so the MacGuire Regiment was released from garrison duty in Fontenoy and sent to help the Austrian defense of the center ridge area.

Since they were not needed in the defense of the town, the brigade commander ordered the first battalion of the MacGuire regiment to depart from the town and redeploy in the gap just to the left of the town. The second battalion is barely visible in the upper righthand corner. They were held in reserve ready to enter the town if the garrison was having any trouble.

1st Battalion MacGuire Regiment marched out of Fontenoy's entrenchment and deployed as the right flank of the Austrian troops in the center. This was fortunate for the Austrians because the Prussian Winterfeld Regt. made a left wheel in the direction of the gap in the Austrian line (between the ridge in the center and the town) and MacGuire was there to stop them.

Late in the day, the MacGuires retired back towards Fontenoy in order to open up a lane for the Austrian cuirassier brigade that was moving up to attack the Winterfeld Regiment. The Anhalt Dessauers watched this development and decided that it would be wise to fall back so that the Austrian cuirassiers would not hit them in the flank after an inevitable win over the Winterfeld battalions.

The Alt Modena cuirassiers (blue flag and facings) and the De Ligne Dragoons (green coats) trotted forward to slaughter the depleted battalions of the Winterfeld Regiment.

Sometimes, though, things turn out a little bit different from expectations. Both battalions of the Winterfeld Regiment stood fast against the charge of the Austrian cuirassiers and won the cavalry versus infantry melees. They were, however, in "Shaken" morale status after fighting the melee, as are all units that survive a melee. This made them more susceptible to routing if they took more casualties and had to test morale again.

This is indeed what happened, resulting in both battalions of the Winterfeld Regiment routing to the rear seeking secour from the Austrian cavalry. Nevertheless, Frederick the Great was heard to say,

"Those men of Winterfeld's regiment are veritable lions in battle."

The Winterfeld Regiment, though severely depleted in men, somehow managed to fend off the attack of two Austrian cuirassier squadrons.

When the Austrian cavalry appeared on the battlefield, the Anhalt Dessau regiment retreated back towards its original starting position so as not to have its flanks exposed to a potential cavalry attack.

As the Anhalt Dessau regiment retired back towards its original starting point, they received the good news that the battle had been won in the center and that the remains of the Austrian army was in full retreat.

After the battle, the grim task of taking care of the fallen must begin. Casualty markers illustrate the ebb and flow of the battle.

Casualty Markers - why use them?

I know that some people have an aversion, for personal reasons, to using dead or wounded wargame figures and I completely understand that. Others don't see the value in taking the time to paint them when the same time could be spent on painting soldiers to march in our ranks.

However, there are other uses for the figures. I use them as markers - one casualty disk is placed on the table where ever a stand of figures takes place. For example, if a battalion of infantry has six stands of six figures, whenever the unit accumulates six casualties I remove the stand from the table and place a casualty marker in its stead. The marker does not follow the battalion around the table, but rather, it remains on the table ground in that exact spot where it was removed. This way, I can follow the course of the battlefield action and see where the hardest fighting took place. The picture above illustrates this and it is obvious where the heaviest fighting occurred - atop the ridge in the center of the battlefield.

This system is a bit more difficult for cavalry units.  I base my cavalry two figures to a stand and have 12 stands within each cavalry regiment. That would add up to many many stands needed to depict the cavalry actions. So instead, I use a horse casualty marker to designate where a cavalry melee took place.

Another use for the casualty markers is as a game token of sorts that can be used to determine victory conditions. For example, the side with the most markers on the table could be designated the loser or the number of markers could be but one of many factors that will determine the winner of the table top game. I sometimes use the red coated markers to show where a unit routed. The number of routs in the game could be another victory condition for the game.

Looking at all of the casualty markers in the picture above, it generates some ideas for after-battle vignettes such as civilians looting the dead, stretcher teams taking the wounded to the hospital area, some civilians digging a grave. Those ideas admittedly start to border on the macabre so I don't know if I would do some of them. Once I saw an ACW war game where there was a hospital vignette placed in an out-of-the-way area on the table. It had a pile of amputated limbs near a surgical table. That's too much for.

I'd be ok with a stretcher team of one soldier dragging off his mate in a blanket or a soldier giving a drink from his canteen to one of the wounded.

Other cleaner ideas would include broken cannon wheels and disabled wagons, maybe even an exploded ammo wagon or something like that to scatter across the battlefield.

Food for thought.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Fontenoy - Part 2, Battle in the Bois de Berry

Croats and Jager play The Most Dangerous Game in the Bois de Barry
While the main event was unfolding in the center of the war game table, one of two under cards was heating up in the Bois de Berry woods located on the right flank of the Prussian attack of the Infernal Column.

Historically, the woods were occupied by the Arquebusiers de Grassines - French light infantry - that held off Ingoldsby's brigade of British troops for much of the day. As a result, the Arquebusiers de Grassines were able to discomfit the British column as it moved towards the French center.

The Prussian player knowing this, deployed his jagers into two groups, one skirting up the periphery of the woods to protect the Itzenplitz (IR13) Regiment as it marched past the woods; the other group diving right into the woods in search of the inevitable Austrian light infantry that were frequently found in such environments. To add some weight to his attack, the commander of the jager contingent sent in a battalion of the Diericke Fusilier Regiment (IR49), looking very colorful in their bright orange togs.

Prussian jagers prepare to enter the Forest of No Return to screen the advance of the Prussian musketeers, seen in the middle distance of the photo.

Unbeknownst to the Prussian jagers, there was quite a surprise waiting for them, the  Redoubt d'Eu,  should they make it through the entire length of the woods.

Two battalions of Croats, in red and brown, waited in the woods for the jagers.
The Diericke Fusiliers (IR49) followed the jagers into the woods to lend the weight of steady formed troops to the  hunt.
The Prussian fusilier advance was relentless. The Croats could do nothing more than fall back. They took a volley of musketry which left them momentarily Shaken (see the red disk on the ground in the above picture).

Gradually, the Prussian fusiliers were able to push the Croats out of the Bois de Berry woods.
The Diericke fusiliers pushed their way through the woods, firing at the Croats and occasionally charging them. The Croats would melt away into the depths of the woods, but still the fusiliers came on until they emerged from the woods and found the Redoubt, and a battalion of the Austrian Luzon musketeers waiting for them, with muskets leveled.

However, the second battalion of the Itzenplitz (IR13) climbed the plateau in front of the Redoubt ahead of the fusiliers, so they took on the Austrians instead. The Diericke fusiliers formed into march column and moved behind the Itzenplitzers so that they could change into line formation and add more muskets to the fire fight.

Austrian Luzan regiment defends against the 2nd battalion of the Prussian Itzenplitz regiment, while more Prussian fusiliers march up the slope from the woods.

Marshal de Saxe pulled his wicker chariot up beside the Redoubt and watched the battle unfold in front of him. He had his escort squadron of uhlans to protect him.

Marshal de Saxe in his wicker chariot watches the enemy emerge from the woods.

At about the time that the Luzon musketeers and the Itzenplitz lads crossed muskets, the center of the Austrian battle line was collapsing and Marshal de Saxe gave a general order for the army to withdraw from the battle, covered by a still viable and largely untouched cavalry contingent.

I will post the Prussian attack on the town of Fontenoy within another day or two because I didn't want to make this post overly long.

 I am thinking that it might be fun to set up a very large wooded area on the game table and just conduct the fight in the Bois de Berry woods. I think that I have enough trees to cover and area of 6 feet by 4 feet for a small game within the game.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Fontenoy Battle Report - Part 1

Prussians (left) attack the Austrians deployed on the ridge between the town of Fontenoy (top middle of the picture) and the Bois du Berri woods (you can just see a little bit of it in the lower left corner, where the red Croats are).

I fought the battle of Fontenoy over the weekend using my 30mm Minden Austrians and Prussians standing in for the French and the British, respectively. I used my own one-page Der Alte Fritz rules which you can download for free on the Fife & Drum Miniatures web site Here .

The after action report will be divided into two posts so that I can show more pictures without one excessively large post showing everything. It will be easier to read and follow if I break things down into Part 1 - The Attack in the Center or The Infernal Column; and Part 2 - The action on the flanks in Fontenoy and in the Bois du Barri.

For a description of the table top setup, please refer to my earlier post Here .

The picture map above indicates the key terrain elements of the Battle of Fontenoy. Please click and double click all pictures to see the enlarged full size view.

I played the battle as a solo wargame starting on Friday night (2-3 hours) and finishing the game on Saturday (4 hours). Normally such a game would run for 5-6 hours, but since I had to move all the figures myself, roll dice for both sides, etc., it took an extra hour or two to play Fontenoy as a solo wargame.

How to Play a Solo Wargame
You may ask, "how do you play a solo game without any built in bias for one side?" The answer is simple: each turn I ask myself, "what are the most advantageous moves that I can make for Side A, and then I do the same for Side B. So I'm not going to pass on the opportunity to charge into the flank of one side's infantry. Likewise, I don't let the knowledge of what I may plan to do for one side get in the way of the other side's tactics. Afterall, if I am making a move that offers the greatest advantage to one side, then it shouldn't affect the tactics that I am using "in the moment" for the other side. I have used this methodology for years in playing a number of solo games, with great success.

The Battle of Fontenoy - a potted history 
In the actual battle of Fontenoy, fought during the War of Austrian Succession in 1745, the Duke of Cumberland's Pragmatic Army of British, Hanoverians, Dutch and Austrians attempted to relieve the besieged town of Tournai, which was invested by Marshal de Saxe's French army. De Saxe  intercepted the Allies on favorable round of his own selection and awaited the likely assualt by Cumberland. T

he British contingent of the army had the tough assignment of attacking through the center of the French battle line. Each flank of the British attack was enfiladed by French fire from the town of Fontenoy (on the British left) and the Bois du Berri woods. The British doggedly advanced through the hail of musketry and cannon and encountered the first French battle line, comprised of its vaunted French and Swiss Guards. The French Guards were mowed down by the British fire and the redcoats continued to advance deep into the French center. 

However, the galling fire on their flanks caused the British regiments to bunch in together and inadvertantly form a massive column of battalions. The French called this 'The Infernal Column" because it came on and on despite all efforts to stop it. Finally, a desperate French cavalry attack put a halt to the British attack and Cumberland ordered a retreat, which was conducted with great skill and fortitude - no panic for these redcoats.

Let our Battle Begin

The Prussians:  The Prussian attack was organized into three brigades:

Right hand brigade - two battalions of the Itzenplitz Musketeer Regiment (IR13) supporting the center brigade's right flank. Also a battalion of Jagers and a battalion of Diericke Fusiliers (IR49) traipsed through the Bois du Berri looking for the French - they seek them here, they seek them there, they seek them in the woods.

Center brigade - two battalions of guards (IR15) and one battalion of grenadiers.

Left hand brigade - two battalion of the Winterfeld Regiment (IR1) supporting the guards brigade's left flank, and two battalions of the Anhalt Dessau Regiment (IR22) assigned to attack the town of Fontenoy as a diversion.

The Prussian heavy cavalry (5 squadrons of cuirassiers and 2 squadrons of dragoons) brigade commanded by von Seydlitz was held in reserve, ready to exploit any break through by the Prussian infantry.

The Prussian Infernal Column bull dogs its way towards the Austrian battle line.
The Austrians:  Marshal de Saxe's Austrian army held a strong position on the ridge that connected the town of Fontenoy, on their right, and the Bois du Berri woods on their left. The left was also anchored by an earthen redoubt called the Redoubt d'Eu, named after the French regiment that occuppied the Redoubt in the actual battle. Artillery was placed in both town and Redoubt that was positioned to enfilade any attack in the center. 

Front Line of Infantry: two battalions of elite Austrian grenadiers and two battalions of musketeers,

Second Line of Infantry: two battalions of musketeers

Third Line: ten squadrons of heavy cavalry

Fontenoy garrison: four battalions of musketeers

Woods and Redoubt: two Croat light infantry and a battalion of musketeers, plus a 12-pound cannon in the Redoubtg.

The annotated picture below gives one an idea of the types of troops that were deployed in the center.

Troop positions for the initial clash of front lines of battle.

Not surprisingly, the game began with the three Prussian infantry brigades moving forward at a smart pace. The jagers quickly jumped into the woods and prevented the Croats from peppering the Itzenplitz musketeers with musket fire. The Diericke Fusiliers also waded into the trees, but they could only move at half speed in the rough terrain.

My rules require an initiative die roll on a D10 die at the beginning of each turn. The higher die roll wins the initiative and gets to choose between moving first/firing second or moving second/firing first. The Austrians won the initiative on the first four consecutive game turns, so they were able to put some hurt on the advancing Prussians. There was no musketry until Turn 3, when the two sides finally closed within the fire zone.

The Prussian column of battalions moves into musket range with the Austrians.
 On Turn 4, the Austrian first fire proved to be effective as the 3rd Battalion of the Prussian Guards lost 8 figures at one go! The Guards needed to roll a "3" or less on each of two D10 dice, and they actually did it! Now it was the Prussians' turn to return the fire, and both Austrian grenadier battalions  were staggered into "Shaken" status. (it reminds me a bit of the Fish Slap Dance in Monty Python).

The Prussian Guards Brigade, in the center, begin to push back the elite Austrian grenadiers.
Prince Charles of Lorraine observes the Prussian on rush, perhaps a little bit too close for comfort.
Now the advantage shifted over to the Prussians as they would win the initiative, and first fire, for the next four game turns. It is very rare for both sides to have a run of four consecutive initiative wins in my games. First fire is very important when both armies are in close musket range, and this began to whittle down the Austrian infantry over the course of the next 3 or 4 game turns.

Austrian grenadiers versus Prussian guards in the center. Who will break first?

One of the Austrian grenadier battalions in the first line breaks!
Once the Austrian front line was vanquished, the Prussians turned their attention on the second line of Austrian musketeers and gave them the same rough treatment that the Austrian grenadiers received. This would inevitably break the Austrians' second line of infantry, leaving only the cavalry in the center to try to stop the Prussian infantry onslaught.

The Prussians attack the second line of Austrians. Regiments are identified in the picture map above.
Another overhead view of the action as the Prussian engage the second Austrian line of infantry.
On the right hand side of the Prussian column, the two battalions of the Itzenplitz Regiment (IR13) engage a battalion of converged Austrian grenadier companies. The supporting second line of musketeer infantry can be seen on the righthand side of the picture.
Marshal de Saxe watches the battle unfold (and a battalion of grenadiers routing in front of him) from the comfort of his wicker chariot. His personal Uhlans de Saxe provide protection for the marshal.

Itzenplitz takes care of the Austrian grenadiers and now pushes up the ridge to engage the second Austrian line.

Von Seydlitz holds his heavy cavalry in reserve, waiting to exploit any success by the infantry in the front lines.
Marshal de Saxe ordered his infantry to retire from the ridge so as to open up lanes for his cavalry to charge the depleted Prussian infantry. This should have worked to the Austrians' advantage, but it didn't. First the cuirassiers attacked Winterfeld's brigade on the Prussian left. Then the Saxon Guard Cavalry charged into the Prussian guard infantry. Both charges were repulsed by the infantry. Finally, de Saxe even sent in his personal escort of uhlans into a charge, and they too came tumbling back.

Why did the Austrian cavalry fail to break Prussian infantry units that were all shot up? It was clear that something wasn't working the way it should in my rules. I had previously reorganized all of my cavalry from regiments of 24 riders into squadrons of 12 riders, with two squadrons making up a cavalry regiment. So when a single squadron of 12 horse charged into a Prussian battalion of 18-24 figures, the firepower of the muskets stopped the cavalry dead in its tracks.

Now my perception of 18th Century warfare is that this is probably what happened to the cavalry when they charged formed and steady infantry. Think of the British infantry at Dettingen and Minden, for example.

So one solution would be to organize a cavalry charge such that 2 to 3 squadrons were hitting the infantry battalion instead of 1 squadron.  So a change in tactics might produced a more favorable outcome for the cavalry.

Another solution is to even up the odds a bit by eliminating the "fire on the chargers" part of the infantry versus cavalry melee. In other words, just let them pitch into it and start the melee and eliminate the infantry firing at the cavalry/the cavalry checks its morale, it passes and continues the charge and then the infantry tests its morale, and if it passes, then we finally get to the melee, which is the whole point of the exercise.

In my next game, I will try the "eliminate the musketry and get to the fightin' " method of melee and see how that works. I think that it will work better. 

My principal aim in my rules is to have a fast game and quick results. So I like to pare the game down to its basics. It may not be your cup of tea, but I'm focused on rules that can be used at game conventions that are fast play and easy to learn.

Austrian cavalry backstops the second infantry line.

Prussian Infernal Column has broken through the second Austrian line of musketeer regiments.

On the Prussian right, the Winterfeld regiment slaughtered two Austrian musketeer battalions, taking advantage of its run of first fires. Then on came the Austrian cavalry. I thought that the Winterfeld lads were doomed, but somehow they fended off two squadrons of Alt Modena cuirassiers and might have done some more had they not been charged in the flank by the O'Donnell Austrian cuirassiers.  In my rules, if infantry gets smacked in the flank or rear by cavalry, they are toast and so they are immediately removed from the table.

Fortunatley for the Prussians, their cuirassiers were coming up to support the infantry and so a squadron of Prinz von Preussen cuirassiers smacked O'Donnell, in turn, in their flank.

On the lefthand side of the Prussian column, the Prussian Winterfeld Regiment (IR1) presses forward near Fontenoy and devestates the Austrian MacGuire regiment with musketry and cannister. The dead markers indicate where a stand of Austrians or Prussians were removed from the table, as all six figures on the stand were casualties.

The Austrian Alt Modena cuirassiers (blue facings and shabraques) charge into the Prussian Winterfeld musketeers.

Like fierce and noble lions, the Winterfeld regiment repulses the charge of the Alt Modena  cuirassiers. The red discs indicate "Shaken" morale status adversely attained from bad dice rolls for morale, or in this case, automatically given at the conclusion of a melee to indicate a state of disorder.

Thank you sir, may I have another?

The Austrian O'Donnell cuirassiers see an opportunity to charge into the flank of the first battalion of the Winterfeld Regiment.  The Prussian Prinz von Preussen cuirassiers counter-charge into the O'Donnell cuirassiers. Note that Prussian first battalions have both a white and a colored flag, whereas the second battalion has all colored flags.

The Prussian Garde du Corps (left) and the Prinz von Preussen, 1st squadron  (right) move towards the right to counter an expected threat from the Austrian cavalry.

Overhead view showing the Prussian break through in the center ridge. The Austrians only have cavalry left to deal with the problem.
With the Austrian center broken open, the battle rests on the outcome of a cavalry charge by the Guard Saxon  Horse into the second battalion of the Prussian Guards.

Alas, it is bad news for the Saxon Guard Horse as they too are repulsed by the Prussian foot guards.

After three failed cavalry charges versus infantry, the Austrian commander decided that it was pointless to throw away more of his cavalry, so with no more infantry in his center, Marshal Saxe ordered a retreat from Fontenoy -- a Prussian victory. An overwhelming one at that.

Within the next couple of days, I will post a report on the fighting on the flanks in the town of Fontenoy and in the Bois du Berri and Redoubt d'Eu.

Jagers and Croats fight it out in the woods. More on this fighting coming soon to this blog.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Let's Play Fontenoy!

Fritz & Staff at the Savage Swan Inn discussing battle plans.

I want to take a little bit of a break from fighting AWI campaign battles and travel back to Europe to fight some tricorn era battles, namely the Charles Grant scenario for Fontenoy. I will be trying out one of the two Grant scenarios for Fontenoy in his book, "Wargaming in History - Volume 2 - Dettingen, Fontenoy and Lauffeld."  I plan to fight the scenario "The Whole Battle" but leave out the Dutch contingent and their attack from the left wing of the Duke of Cumberland's Pragmatic Army. The book also presents a smaller scenario called, "The Infernal Column"

Since I do not have any British or French Minden figures painted, I will have to use the Grant devise of substituting other nations' figures for those of the actual forces in the battle. Grant pere and fils use this mechanism frequently in their battles and so I plan to do the same, using my Minden Prussians for the British and my Minden Austrians for the French.

Another view of Frederick at the town of Vezon, behind the Prussian lines.

The tabletop layout that I am using is shown in the two pictures below. The Austrians are defending a ridge that provides some dead ground that will hide their troops from the view of the Prussians. Anchoring the Austrian left flank is the Berry Wood and the Redoubt d'Eu. The woods is teaming with Croat light infantry (substituting for the Arquebusiers de Grassin) that will pose a tactical problem for any attackers.

The Austrian center is manned by two battalions of elite grenadiers and four more musketeer battalions. All of the Austrian cavalry backs up the Austrian center.

Anchoring the Austrian right flank is the fortified town of Fontenoy.

Area of the battlefield where the British "Infernal Column" attacked the French position. In this case though, the Prussians are standing in for the British and the Austrians for the French.

Aerial view of the Fontenoy battlefield with annotations.
Here are several views of the town of Fontenoy. The Austrians have spent considerable time improving the defenses of the town with entrenchments and abatis. The town may hold up to three battalions of infantry.

The town of Fontenoy has been turned into a stronghold with entrenchments and abatis. The town can hold up to three battalions of infantry. Fontenoy anchors the Austrian right flank.

Austrian reserves await orders to enter the town.

Front view of Fontenoy, from the Prussian point of view.

The Austrian cavalry is deployed in the center and is hidden from the view of the Prussians in the area of dead ground behind the ridge. The Austrians have 10 squadrons (12 figures each) of cavalry.

Austrian cavalry is positioned behind the ridge in the center of the Austrian battle line, awaiting orders to engage the enemy.

Maurice de Saxe devised the cunning plan to draw the Prussians into a battle on ground of his choosing. He expects the Prussians to attack straight up the middle, so he has created a number of little surprises for the attacker. As the attacker marches into the center of the Austrian line, he will find that his troops are subject to an enfilading fire from the artillery positioned in the Redoubt d'Eu and from the town of Fontenoy. Light infantry in the Berry Wood will also pepper the Prussian soldiers in the right flank as they march towards the center.

Maurice de Saxe has a bad case of Dropsy, so he has to conduct the management of the coming battle from a wicker chariot.

The Redoubt d'Eu anchors the Austrian left flank.

Austrian center looking at the Prussian deployment. I added a back table for the Prussian cavalry after the initial set up and posting. This alleviates the traffic jam of figures at the table edge on the main table.

The Prussian deployment is fairly straight forward - they will simply attack in the center and hope that might of arms will force a break through of the Austrian center and win the battle. The Prussians have placed their best infantry - the Guards, in the center along with four battalions of musketeers.

The Prussian Guards (IR15/II/III) will lead the attack on the Austrian center today.

The Prussian left wing, shown below, will merely demonstrate in front of Fontenoy to keep the attention of the garrison on them, rather than on the main attack in the center.

IR22 Dessau protects the Prussian left flank and faces the town of Fontenoy.

The Prussians have seven squadrons of heavy cavalry in the center, deployed behind the infantry.

Next in line come the Prussian cavalry - 7 squadrons.

The Prussian cavalry awaits in reserve on the back table near the town of Vezon.

Prussian Jagers will enter the Berry Wood and flush out the Croats.

Prussian Jagers prepare to enter the woods to flush out the expected Croats.

I plan on playing Fontenoy as a solo game over the coming weekend and I will post a lot of pictures of the battle as part of the post game report of the action.

So what do you think, does this look like fun?