Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Advance Guard.. may remember that DG was down this weekend, so we grabbed the opportunity for a long awaited game - the campaign is progressing nicely, and I have no doubts that within the next few days we will almost certainly have a major engagement, but not yet, so I took the opportunity to set up a game set in the War of the Spanish Succession using as many of the units I have as possible...

...whilst trying to figure out what the scenario would be though I had a quick flick through the Teasers (link here) and decided that the time was right to try the "Advance Guard" scenario... summary - the scenario is about the advance guards of two separate armies both arriving in the same area at the same time, but with subtly different end goals.. if I start by showing the table top I'll explain further - please click on any of the pictures for a bigger view..

..over on the left in the middle distance is a town, in the bottom right corner there is a substantial bridge.

The advance guards arrive midway along each of the long sides, and have a primary objective of securing one of these features, with a secondary objective of also securing the other - needless to say primary and secondary objectives for each side are different, so in our game the French arrived from the right and had the primary task of securing the bridge, the Allies arrived from the left and had the primary task of securing the town.

..the clever bit of course is that each advance guard also has a secondary objective of securing the other feature - and you can't win the game unless you have both. Truly fiendish, as you are forced to juggle your forces to maximise your chances of winning the game - but there are many alternatives... of which more anon. order to do this then, the Allies had:

~ seven battalions of close order foot (one of which was Guard), two of which had battalion guns - a mix of English, Scottish and Dutch units
~ three squadrons of cavalry (all English)
~ a medium field gun

..and the French had:

~ eight battalions of close order foot (one of which was Guard), two of which had battalion guns - some of these units were slightly under strength so as to balance the forces..
~ three squadrons of cavalry
~ a medium field gun

...the game started at 0900 "real time", and the scenario also allowed for the arrival of reinforcements from the main army from about 14:00 "real" time.. with my rules this would be after 30 moves (in the rules I use each move represents 10 minutes and allows each player to either move or fire, one player being the moving player and one the firing player - we then swap the roles for the next turn).

We used a simple mechanism - I had a roster comprising 3 additional units per side, we then three an 8 sided dice with the following possible results:

1. All three reinforcement units from now.
2. Choice of two reinforcement units in an hour.
3. Choice of one reinforcement unit in an hour.
4. Reinforcements do not arrive.
5. Choice of two reinforcement units from now.
6. All three reinforcement units in an hour.
7. Choice of one reinforcement unit from now.
8. Reinforcements do not arrive.

This would be done in secret so each of us wouldn't know what the other player had managed to get. We also agreed that units arriving “from now” could be deployed whenever the player wished, so it didn't have to be immediately if you wanted to keep your opponent guessing! The reserves would deploy on the table on the centre of the home players edge..

..the game would end after 60 moves - 19:00 "real" time. It sounds like a lot of moves, but I would say that DG and I can whip through the moves in less than half the time the move represents...

So some more pictures - this is the French force detailed to take the primary objective, these comprised DG's best troops, good infantry (3 battalions including the recently painted Lee's) and all his cavalry (3 squadrons)

..and this is the Allied forces ensconced within their primary objective already - DG and I diced for sides and I got lucky that my initial objective was largely within my deployment area.. saved me some time! These were Dutch infantry (3 Battalions & the field gun):

..this however, is the force I put together to try for the secondary objective - a fine body of men comprising all the cavalry and my best infantry - 4 battalions of English/Scottish infantry, one of them Guards, and one of them with a battalion gun..

...and this was DG's assault column - a subtly different approach as he had put his best men on the defence of the bridge, but he had bolstered the assault with a field gun..

..on to the game - if you look at the following it will help to explain where and how we each planned our attacks:

~ The British assault launched reasonably well once I'd managed to wheel my cavalry into line on the right flank of the infantry - the whole force then pushed forward. I have to say that for the whole of the game I never had any doubt about this attack - the sight of four battalions of infantry climbing the hill in the face of DG's cavalry never looked like it was going to be in doubt... in short order the infantry blasted successive cavalry squadrons out of existence with (quite fantastically lucky!) dice throws:

..and Schomberg's (the "black horse") saw off one of the others as seen here - you can see that DG's cavalry are already "shaken" (the yellow pin):

DG had placed Navarre across the bridge to hold it - his best infantry - and the river was impassible except at the bridge, in fact it looked like DG had an almost impregnable position there..

~ meanwhile, I was getting distinctly worried by the way his assault on the town was moving forward with great purpose..! I had moved to quickly occupy two of the buildings, but had left one of the battalions as a reserve in the event they were need to plug holes or support one of the other units. The field gun soon opened up on two of the battalions and scored some much needed casualties, slowing down the attack. To be considered to have taken the town DG had to have no enemy units within a line march distance of any part of the feature, so I thought my position was quite good - nothing like brick walls to break up an attack, but then he started to deploy his field gun, and then occupied part of the village himself! The reserve battalion deployed to attack one of the French battalions coming through the wood (see next picture) - and this soon led to the first melee of the engagement which was successful, but casualties from musketry soon caused a morale check and they routed... this was the low point on this flank.

~ on the other flank the infantry advanced up the hill and cleared away the French cavalry with superior musketry - I deployed one of the battalions to keep an eye on the remaining squadron, the other three battalions and two of my remaining squadrons (Schomberg's had broken following a defeated charge on one of the French battalions) then went to attack the two French battalions 'this side' of the bridge.. a successful charge by one of the cavalry squadrons supported by one of the battalions of foot saw off the Wild Geese and subsequently the other battalion - it was a cavalryman's dream, and you could almost hear the swords clearing the scabbards as two squadrons of England's finest began to salivate....! See following:

..and that was mainly it for that flank - I tried an assault across the bridge with the Guards, but as I was only able to deploy one base wide on the narrow bridge, DG was able to deploy two overlaps and pushed me back... keeping my foot to guard against any incursions or the possible arrival of reinforcements, I sent the cavalry back to the town - I need to finish the battle there, as I needed that field gun!

~ surprisingly, things had turned round here - the routing unit recovered, and firing from the units in the houses was surprisingly effective. Priority targets were DG's assault units in the open, and in the end the cumulative casualties were enough to see those two units off. I then switched targets and with the assistance of the field gun saw off the other two and the gun..

~ things were not looking good for DG, and as midday had arrived we diced for the reinforcements - DG succeeded in getting all three units immediately, but in light of the fact that I had got a "two units now" result, decided to finish the game there and give me the victory...

Post match analysis:
  • First off I think we'd both agree that the game was an enjoyable one - though I suspect DG was less than happy with the monumental dice throwing we saw when some of the Allied units were firing! Having said that DG also had his own way in the melee's..
  • We had a concern afterwards that maybe the Allied musketry was too powerful - I give a +1 to Dutch and English units for the benefits of platoon firing which most of my reading indicates was more effective. Having discussed it though, the effects of the high dice throws would have resulted in the same result whether they'd had the +1 or not. What I think did make a difference was the strength of the allied units - you may remeber that in order to balance the sides the Allies had less units of greater strength - the effect of this (with the +1) was that Allied units remained effective for far longer - this was an error on my part in balancing the scenario..
  • The scenario is quite fiendish - talking about it afterwards both of us came up with a couple of different approaches - I wish I had pushed forward faster with my Dutch troops in order to stop DG's units occupying part of the town, but having said that there were more of his units than mine, so would I have been less succesful in the open?? DG said that one of the options he considered was putting all his units in defence of the bridge and playing for the draw - all things being equal, and me being an aggressive bugger I would have attacked, in such a strong defensive he might have been better able to beat me in detail before then going for the town?? Bottom line - lot of options..
  • For those of you who care about such things - the tea was Twining's Everyday and I pushed the boat out on the biscuits with some Oat Crunch's from the local farm shop..


  1. Steve,

    First, a good write-up and great photos.

    We played this scenario three times . . . in 25mm on a 5'x8' table using my own "Tricorne Wars" rules.

    If you go to the following "tiny" link, you'll get to a page that has links to fuller accounts of all three of our battles . . . Ubergang being our first attempt, then Fraudorf and finally Grozhof:

    You will note that usually both Murdock and I had write-ups on these games.

    I know that you and DG are using 15mm figures . . . what is the size of the table you are playing on?

    -- Jeff

  2. Excellent report as usual. But I am beginning to feel a bit sorry for the poor Frenchmen. They seem to lose rather a lot!

    But I guess it's historically accurate for the WSS :-)


    Tim G.

  3. Thanks Jeff/Forge..

    Jeff - as I wanted some distance between the town and the bridge, I added the 2' extension which takes the table to 8' x 4'...

  4. Morning Steve,

    Wow, what a great game! Interesting scenario, pretty figures, and a neatly set-out table. Could it get any better?

    Best Regards,


  5. Steve that sounds great. We must give this a go at the Grimsby club. Excellent work.

  6. Hi

    Nice photos an AAR. I am a fan of table-top teasers but I play solo. Is this scenario suitable for solo play?

  7. Rafa – first off “thanks”, but second, that’s an interesting question!

    With some assistance I would “yes” – ask a friend, or one of the guys on OSW, to determine the deployment of one side, before you open the email/envelope containing their deployment though, you decide your deployment. Once you’ve set up your side you can then find out what the other player has decided and then play from there solo…

    Other than that it might be possible to think up a number of set pieces – for example,

    1/. attack primary objective with all units
    2/. Defend initial objective with all units
    3/. Defend initial objective with 25% of units (or name the units) and use rest to attack secondary
    4/. Etc.

    Once you’ve deployed your units dice for the set piece that the opponent will use….

    Some chance cards could cover off arrival of the reinforcements after a period of game time…