Friday 17 March 2017

The Battle of Tapio-Bickse, Hungarian War of Independence 1849 - a BBB AAR

Well if last weeks game was a bit 'left field', this weeks one certainly was. As planned we met up to fight a small battle from the Hungarian War of Independence, which to be honest I'd never heard of. At college we covered the effect of the 1848 Revolutions on Britain in terms of the Charterists etc, but what happened in Europe was only briefly covered if my memory serves me correctly.

As with all of the Bloody Big Battles scenarios, there is a nice piece of history included to put the scenario in context.  Without going into too much detail, broadly speaking our game starts with the Hungarians having caught part of the Austrian Croatian 1st Corps napping in the village of Tapio-Bickse. The Hungarians have pushed them out of the village, but the Croats have recovered and are about to counter-attack to try and retake the village. Both sides have suffered in the firrst encounter, leaving most of them Disrupted.

This is a very small scenario, with the Croats only having 2 Brigades of infantry, supported by some artillery and a cavalry Brigade. The Hungarians have almost double the number of troops, half of which are re-inforcements. The Croats importantly have better quality troops at the start, with the on table Hungarians frankly a pretty shoddy bunch. However the reinforcements are a different matter, being both Trained and Agressive. To quote from the Scenario Notes:

"Much will rest on how the first three turns go, while the Croats have a slight superiority in numbers and quality. It is set up so that dice favour them, they may be able to repeat the Otachaners' dramatic charge that routed both Dipold and Bobic and captured 10 guns. They could then be in a good position to block the road against Gorgey's reinforcements"

We were both looking forward to this scenario after last weeks game and Dave chose to be the Croats, with the caveat that if he lost he could blame it on history. Funnily enough this is an excuse that I've used before in my games! So with the table set we were ready to do battle.  

An overview of the table, with the main objective of Tapio-Bickse on the left hand.
Bde Dipold in Tapio-Bickse, with the Croats poised to launch an assault to regain the village.
Bde Bobics can be seen in column of march with their supporting artillery, whilst Mesterhazys' cavalry Bde have just crossed the bridge over the Felso-Tapio stream.
Things got of too a flying start with Rastic's Bde launching the predicted assault on the village. Dipold's Bde failed to halt them with Defensive fire...
...whilst Rastic's Offensive fire saw the loss of one stand of infantry, but leaving them Low on Ammo.
Losing one stand meant that Dipold's Bde became Spent as they were Raw infantry.
In the ensuing Assault, Rastic's Bde made short work of the Hungarians, with them losing two stands...
...which caused the Bde to break leaving Rastic in control of the village. Naturally Dave gave a big thumbs up to Rastic's Bde, whilst I was somewhat stunned, apart from uttering a few Anglo-Saxon phrases. Certainly not the best start for the Hungarians.
To add insult to injury, as Bobics' Bde advanced and deployed into line just outside of Tapio-Bickse, defensive fire from the Croats saw the Hungarian Bde lose a base and become Spent.
After an eventful first Turn, the battlefield looked like this.
The Croats were in a better position than the Hungarians, who had moved Mesterhazy's cavalry Bde forward to protect the gun on the hill.
After a blistering start to the game, Turn 2 seemed quite sedate in comparison.
As the Croats reinforced Tapio-Bickse, the Hungarians withdrew slightly and deployed their artillery, to try and form a better defensive line.
At least the Hingarian re-inforcements had started to arrive, albeit somewhat slower than hoped due to a poor command roll for Kiss' Bde, which then slowed everyone else down.
At the start of Turn 3, the Croats moved out of the village en masse, to take the fight to the beleagured Bobics Bde. Once again some stunning die rolling...
...led to another big thumbs up from Dave as Bobic's Bde was more or less hors de combat. My thoughts at this point in the game do not bear repeating.
Halfway through the Turn and the Croats are certainly gaining the upper hand.
A glimmer of hope finally arrives as the Hungarian reinforcements cross the bridge and start to become a threat to the Croat Bdes.
Mesterhazy's cavalry Bde at least managed to survive against twice as many cavalry, but was pushed back as a result. Bobic's Bde is not looking to be in too good a position.
The Hungarian reinforcements somewhat strung out, but getting close enough to start affecting the game.
The Hungarian reinforcements caused the Croats to have a rethink on their position, which led to them withdrawing partially into Tapio-Bickse.
The Hungarians deploy their artillery into a massed battery, but their line of fire is blocked by their own infantry.
A view from the Croatian side.
The Hungarian pressure has forced the rest of the Croat firces into the village of Tapio-Bickse.
The Hungarians try a form of oblique manouevre towards the woods on the hill to avoid the artillery in the village. Kaszonyi's cavalry Bde is moving on a wide arc on the right flank to try and threaten the Croatian cavalry on their own left flank. The remnants of Bde Bobics fails to move due to a poor command roll, leaving the bulk of the Hungarian artillery being unable to fire. A case of some Blue-on-Blue called for...?
The Croats can do little other than react to the general advance of the Hungarian troops.
Bobics Bde still refuse to move, causing immense frustration. the hungarian infantry have moved onto the edge of the woods, ready to push towards Tapio-Bickse. Kaszonyi's cavalry Bde have moved to the edge of the stream, forcing the Croat cavalry back to try and maintina their line-of-coummunication.
The Hungarian troops have moved into position at then end of Turn 7, ready to try and win the game in the final Turn.
Batter late than never, Bobics Bde have moved out of the way of the massed Hungarian guns.
The final Turn and could the Croatian troops manage to hold on to the village to win them the game? Kiss' Bde and Leiningens' Bde both move into the assault and the Croatian troops fail to halt them with Defensive fire.
Some good Offensive fire followed by an assault saw the Croatian troops comprehensively beaten, leaving the Hungarians in charge of the Tapio-Bickse and winning the game, literally with the last roll of the dice!

Once again what a cracking game! For once we actually managed to play all of the Turns and the outcome literally hung in the balance right until the final roll of the dice as to which side would emerge victorious.

Post Game Thoughts
So as always some musings on the game:
  • Even though this was a very small battle in terms of the number of units, it felt much bigger as there was so much going on right from Turn 1. This is in large part to the way the scenario has been constructed, so all credit to Chris Pringle for this.
  • We both felt that this scenario would make a good demo game for the rules, as there aren't too many units, therefore making it easy to get to grips with things.
  • It was nice having some cavalry action that felt like it would have an effect upon the game. In fact for a future bash we may look at the 'Kurudere' scenario from the Crimean War.
  • Once again this felt somehwat Napoleonic in nature, which is not suprising given the weapons used by both sides. In fact post game we felt that this scenario would not feel out of place in the Peninsula War. Dave is going to look into some scenarios from this conflict that may transfer well to BBB. Should be fun.
  • Both of us have really enjoyed these games set circa 1848. So much so that I've ordered a Ralph Weaver book on the Hungarian Army for a bit of background detail and future 'what if?' scenarios. We may even look into playing some more of the scenarios from the Yahoo groups set during this war. 

Sadly this may be our last game for sometime due to Dave's work commitments, but what a last game to go out on if this is the case. I might get around to basing up some units for BBB and who knows even painting them!

Saturday 11 March 2017

The Battle of Isted/Idstedt, 1st Schleswig-Holstein War 1850 - a BBB AAR

After some interesting and entertaining games set during the fictional Prussian invasion of England, this week saw us return to some 'proper' historical gaming in the form of the the Battle of Isted from the 1st Schleswig-Holstein War 1848 - 1850. Now most of us probably only know of this war due to Palmerston's purported quote on the Schleswig-Holstein issue: 

“Only three people have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein business—the Prince Consort, who is dead—a German professor, who has gone mad—and I, who have forgotten all about it."

Not a famous conflict by any means, as the 2nd Schleswig-Holstein War is, generally speaking, better known. I think this is a shame, as both conlficts have a lot to recommend them, but not if you are the authors of the 'Black Powder' ruleset:

"We pass over the early wars of German unification without much feeling of regret - the Schleswig War (Denmark versus Prussia) and Second Schleswig War (this time with added Austrians) are not without their supporters, but whether we would want to encourage them is another matter."

I am firmly a supporter of both conflicts, so do not agree with the above quote. 

Enough of the background 'history' and on with the game. Once again 'Bloody Big Battles' was to be our chosen ruleset and full details of the scenario can be found in the BBB Yahoo Group file . Broadly speaking both sides are evenly matched, with "the Danes having numbers and more active troops against the Schleswig-Holsteiners with better equipment and a strong position."

The map of the game can be found below, with the only change being that I lost the top and bottom sections to allow me to fit everything onto out standard 4' x 4' table. The Schleswig-Holstein forces are in Blue with the Danes in red.

I chose to be the Danes, mainly because of watching and enjoying a lot of Scandinavian dramas on the BBC, which in my book is as good a reason as any. Once again no notes were taken during the game as it was full of action from start to finish. Hopefully I can remember most of what happened, but it is a few days since the game so my memory may play tricks with me...

The Danish forces in position as dictated by the scenario.
We moved the Schleswig-Holstein 2nd Brigade (by the Turn counter) onto the table due to having removed their deployment area due the table being too small.
A view from where the Danish 2nd Division would enter the fray.
The Danish 4th and 5th Brigades enter along the stream by the village of Popholt.
Part of the Schleswig-Holstein vanguard wisely withdraws to a better position to trade space for time and establish a defense in depth. Both sides get to grips from the off, with low ammo and disruption markers already evident.
The Schleswig-Holstein troops manage to quickly occupy Isted, one of the objectives of the game.
Turn 2 sees the rest of the Danish 1st Division arrive.
The Danish 1st Division struggles to move out of their deployment area and past Popholt. However they try their best to move their 6th Brigade along the right flank to move towards the Claypit, another of the objectives. At least their numbers are having an effect on the Schleswig-Holstein vanguard, which is disrupted and in one case spent.
Despite the pressure on the vanguard, the Schleswig-Holstein troops have taken up strong defensive positions in Upper Stolik and have reinforced Isted.
A view from the Schleswig-Holstein side, where the 3rd Brigade is still inactive along Lake Langso.
The Danish 2nd Division arrives as the 1st Division sporadically pushes forward, whilst the Schleswig-Holstein 3rd Brigade moves out across Lake Langso towards Upper Stolik.
The view from the Danish 2nd Division towards Upper Stolik.
The Schleswig-Holstein vanguard is under severe pressure as the Danish 6th Brigade continues to push towards the Claypit.
The action hots up right across the board as both sides shoot at each other, with many low ammo and disrupted markers much in evidence.
An unsupported Danish unit pays the price as it moves to attack Upper Stolik, but the Schleswig-Holstein troops have all been left low on ammo.
The Danish troops line up ready to move towards Isted.
The Danish Guards in action by the Claypit, which is weakly held but is a great defensive position.
The Danish troops push forward towards Isted and Upper Stolik, as part of the Schleswig-Holstein 2nd Brigade moves along the rear to try and be in a better position to support the rest of the army.
The action intensifies at Upper Stolik.
The Danish centre pushing towards Isted and attempting to flank Upper Stolik.
The Danish troops pay a heavy price as they attack towards Isted, which is strongly held with 3 batteries of artillery in support.
The Danish troops push on out of Popholt, having taken it in assault and attempt to move past Isted to try and isolate it from their lines of communication.
The Danish troops resolutely push forward all across the board.
At heavy cost the Danish troops have captured Upper Stolik.
The attacks falter outside of Isted due to effective artillery support.
The Danish pressure continues as both sides continue to take casualties.
Upper Stolik is the scene of heavy fighting as the Danes manage to hold onto the village despite determined Schleswig-Holstein attacks.
The Danes cannot make any headway towards Isted...
... but they have managed to capture the Claypit and are closing in on cutting the road to Schleswig.
The Danish 3rd Brigade arrives, forcing the Schleswig-Holstein 2nd Brigade to divert and meet the threat.

Sadly at this point time defeated us and I completely forgot to take photos of the final Turn!!! However looking at the situation we agreed that the Danish troops were in a better position and had gained a minor victory of the Schleswig-Holstein forces.

Post Game Thoughts
Well what a game that was! It lasted over 3 hours and was full of action from the first to the last Turn. In fact I can safely say that was the best game we have had with Bloody Big Battles and all credit to Mark Smith for coming up with such a great scenario. Given that so much happened during the game, I'll try to comment on the salient points that we talked about during and after the game:

  • The scenario notes recommend 4 players and for the game to last around 2 1/2 hours. I think we did well to almost complete it (we finished Turn 7) in around 3 hours with just the two of us.
  • This is simply a great scenario and one that we thought would make a great club type game, with an umpire and some 'blind' markers to add a certain level of friction. Visibility was limited to 12" for all of the game, reflecting the fact that the battle took place during a foggy and wet summer day. Having 'blinds' would help reflect this and the fact that the commanders sometimes lost contact with their units during the battles due to the poor visibility.
  • With quite a few units only having muskets, it felt like a Napoleonic battle for much of the game. This meant that the artillery was a really important factor and one which Dave used to much greater effect than I.
  • Re-reading the rules post game, we got a few things wrong, but nothing that materially afftected the outcome of the game. As a result I'm making a short aide memoire of some of these points so that (hopefully) this doesn't happen again.  
  • Once again the 'Bloody Big Battles' ruleset has come up trumps. I cannot recommend these rules highly enough. If you get the chance, give them a go. Hopefully you will get to enjoy them as much as we do.
  • Having bought figures for both sides from Pendraken Miniatures excellent 1st Schleswig-Holstein War range, I really should make a start on getting them based. I have the books, I have the rules, I just don't have the figures for a game yet. The story of my wargaming life?
So, next week we are sticking with something a bit 'left field' and gaming 'The Battle of Tapio-Bickse 1849' from the Hungarian War of Independence, which is not something you see gamed every day...