Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Maurice SYW Wargame - The Battle of Smoker's Grove

Technically the War of Maria's Mirkin was over. The Protestant powers had twice beaten France sending her armies scurrying back over the Rhine and into French territory. But Britain had not played enough games so another scenario was invented ... Austria would strike northward to try and sever the line of supply and communication between Hanover and the advancing British and Prussian forces. A win for the Catholic powers at most would end the war in a stalemate. 

Thus the battle began. Terrain for the battle was Forest. A low number of features were selected by each side ... all woods. The objective was therefore placed in an open field as other higher terrain features were not present. It would be the battle of Smoker's Grove. It would be the battle that I (the victor) felt outplayed in many regards. I did not have the initiative but was instead reactionary for several phases of the battle. 

The Anglo-Dutch deployment of Lord Rodney Cocksmoker. The open terrain would hopefully aid the Austrians with their larger cavalry force. The British reserve waited in column to react to the direction of attack. 

The Austrians (Feldmarshal Wolfenberg) deployed out of cannon range (the British had three batteries to nil) and tried to convince the Brits that they could go either way. In reality the strong left push was obvious as was their cavalry force that would threaten the flank and draw away valuable reserves from the action. Stretch a small army and it will break ... the idea ... would it work? (Note the Austrians have a notable that enables units to move freely through terrain.)

The stalwart British and Dutch ... Steady Lads, Lethal Volley and Great Captain = National Advantages. 33 points ... leads to a small force. 

The Austrian foot ... which way would they push? Oblique order and Cavaliers = National Advantages. Oblique is one of the best advantages in my humble opinion. Underrated. 

The Austrian right flank. Three units ready and willing to turn a flank. 

The Austrian left ... almost all these units had arisen to elite status over the course of the campaign. 

Against the elite cavalry wing of Austrian stood the outnumbered cavalry forces of Britain, Holland and Denmark ... all trained however. A push here with the Cavalier national advantage would yield results for Austria.  

The British send four foot units forward to try and cut down Austrian maneuver opportunities. 

The Austrians moved their infantry to the left. This was the plan but I did not adhere to it. I felt afterwards that this was almost the point where I surrendered initiative. The question was ... will the British four regiments continue to advance or would the rest of the line come up? Was the British commander ... Lord Rodney Cocksmoker (of the Bristol Cocksmokers) near suicidal or did he have a plan? If the advance continued these isolated units could be molested in the extreme. 

About now the Austrians passed ... hoping to draw the British further forward and gain more high span useful cards ... their wishes were granted as both Coordinated cards were received. Many of our players believe this to be the most powerful card in the game. (it allows for players to activate two forces in the one phase.) 

With the Austrian forces employing a Chief of Staff and two notables in charge of each cavalry wing, the span of each card was doubled in ordering these forces. This has enabled the Austrians to threaten the flanks of other armies consistently. 

They marched out to the left ... continue or push back? If I returned I could isolate the four regiments pushed forward. If four units were taken then that would leave the British in a terrible position and battered in morale. 

Lord Cocksmoker engages his reserve. Will it be too late? These could support the infantry or threaten the Austrian cavalry that were supposed to be turning a flank. 

The Austrian infantry had been ordered back to their original position. The lure of taking the four regiments that were isolated so far in front of their army was too great. Was Cocksmoker committing suicide or was some plan afoot? With the Oblique advantage the Austrian commander (me) felt certain he could move 5 or 6 units into firing position on just four. With three cavalry on the right (ready to charge into the flank or onto units weakened by musketry) he felt secure. The three advancing British units in reserve could threaten the right wing cavalry so caution was needed. Again, the Austrians were reacting to the British moves. 

The Austrians took a risk ... carry out the plan ...  instead of preparing the infantry line to fire upon the British - the cavalry were moved into charging position. The Austrians were back on the original plan. This was going to hurt. 

Choose your targets men ... charge without mercy. One unit moved back to get around the rear of the centre if required. This could additionally threaten the flank of the British reserve that was advancing. The Austrian has too many units for the British to counter. Their firing would need to be superb. 

 Here an image is missing ... the British forward units advanced and used the Firefight card (in the Austrian phase) to precipitate a volley phase into the unprotected flanks of the Austrian infantry - who were relying on this turn to form up out of marching formation. This was the cost of advancing the cavalry. I felt confident with 8 infantry units against 4 I had the troops to absorb the blow even if events went awry. This was the case. Although units sustained 2 and 3 fatigues each stayed in the fray. The line held ... now the volleys would turn to Austrian advantage. 

The Austrian cavalry charged ... a good result ... each won weakening the British forces. Another charge would result in defeat on the right for Britain. Maurice cavalry charges sometimes require a little persistence. 

Now only two British units remain of the advance guard. The Austrians had flanked the line through the forest allowing four units to pour fire into three. It greatly aided the Austrians that two units - which were the main targets of the British - were elite making them much harder to damage. 

Now two remained. Could the British reserve close and flank the flanking cavalry? 

It was about now that Lord Rodney Cocksmoker (of the Bristol Cocksmokers) asked for the Honours of War. He took off his tricorn and bent to his knee (possibly knees) in supplication. The Austrian Fledmarshall Wolfenberg hesitated ... then refused ... the potential Epic Points for taking two more units were much more advantageous. Claiming problems with translation the Austrian officer refused Cocksmoker's request. This sealed his doom. In England the noose now awaited. 

Aloof, haughty and sure of his superiority, Wolfenberg stared down at Cocksmoker whose cheeks were smeared with tears as he pleaded with all his suctioning stamina ... but his efforts were greeted with aristocratic and dominant disdain.

Weakened by musketry the last forward British unit would be swept from the field even it it managed to win the combat ... (the Brits used on their advantageous cards to bolster their own combat score and reduce the score of the Austrian cavalry. But it was not enough - The elite cavalry status and the hits sustained tipped the scale of the combat.) The infantry were ridden down. 

The centre ... once there were British infantry ... now a semi-circle of Austrian attackers demonstrated the pressure of fire and sabres the British advance guard was subjected to. The right of image, however, shows the vulnerable position that the Austrian cavalry were in. But by now the Brits had lost their final two morale points. A roll of 1 or 2 would have extended the game by but a turn. The Austrians may have had a units damaged but nothing could halt this slaughter. 

The Austrian left flank. Three rampant elite cuirassier units ready to bear down upon the last of the flank. But this did not occur ... the Brits withdrew from the field hotly pursued by the Austrian cavalry. 

In the end a terrible victory to the Austrians. Six units were lost to but one ... and that one was a mercenary unit gifted to the attacker at the beginning of the game. No Austrian units had actually fallen. But the Austrian commander was left wondering ... so much of the game had he only reacted and was the British commander displaying desperate or almost suicidal tendencies? Or was this a good idea pushed too far? It was an aggressive tactic that reduced the choices of his opponent and caused me to prevaricate on my original plan. 

The Austrians eventually returned to their plan and annihilated the cavalry wing of the British. Their numbers of infantry accounted for the superior British troops. Their elite infantry clung on despite tremendous pressure then the centre was surrounded and dispatched. 

 The Anglo-Dutch were cut to pieces on the battlefield and then in pursuit. The Austrians gained 6 Epic points bringing them only 1 point from victory in the entire campaign. Lord Rodney had tried to push an attack that limited Austrian advantages and torn initiative from the enemy. But the plan ultimately failed. More elite troops, numerical advantage and a return to the Austrian flanking plan ripped apart the British troops sending their morale steadily plummeting until a major victory was reached. 

Hurrah Austria! Hurrah the Empress! France was saved and the Protestant powers driven back. The War of Maria's Mirkin has been declared a draw. With a single battle, even a defeat, the Austrians will win the campaign. They are undefeated in 5 games and a cavalry army - that was considered ungainly and difficult to use at the outset (mostly by me it's commander) - has ultimately triumphed over smaller more infantry specialised armies. To rub salt into the wound the Austrians gained their 4th notable after this battle ... this increases yet again their ability to command troops over a wider area while their enemies must keep theirs compressed. 

1 comment: