Friday, 19 September 2014

Seven Years’ War Game—Age of Reason

This reports the ANF's first game of the Seven Years’ War in the European theatre (James and Mark have played French & Indian War game previously using the Ranger! rules). Would the action run as expected, a kind of 'intermediate' between Napoleonics and WSS? 

Mark had done an amazing job, producing forces for both armies, largely from scratch, in just the past six months. He found a scenario in Miniature Wargames magazine based on a battle of the War of Spanish Succession that took place in northern Italy and adapted it for his available forces of Prussians and Austrians.I had an initial conversation with Mark about the scenario, as it seemed to me probably the best strategy for the Prussians to retire at once, abandoning the redoubt, but we agreed that would be 'out of scenario'

The scenario began with the Austrians (James) coming on in strength against my small Prussian force defending the redoubt and river crossing. The painted on thin blue lines are creeks, which restrict movement and prevent infantry fire on the turn of crossing, but do not disorder (they were irrigation channels in the original battle).

Here you can see my two brigades - the Prussian infantry placed alongside the creek in two lines, with the reserve brigade occupying the redoubt. My concern was of course simply to preserve my force, and ideally, hold up the Austrians until whatever reinforcements were coming turned up (I had no idea how many, or when).

Turn 1

The Austrians advanced in strength towards my small ‘forlorn hope’, so I moved the Kleist Freikorps hussars to support my left flank. Facing such a numerical and qualitative superiority in cavalry on my left flank, I began an assiduous campaign of psychological warfare to try to persuade James to move his troops. However although I succeeded in persuading myself that James' deployment of the cuirassiers and dragoons was flawed, so that my protestations to him were quite sincere, I failed to convince him - and it turned out he was quite right! One surprise move by the Austrians was the advance deployment of their artillery ahead of the redoubt, I fired as soon as I could on it. The lines of advancing Austrians already looked very ominous, though.

Turn 2

The Austrians came on. I refused my left, forming the sides of an open square, to face off the on-coming infantry and cavalry.It was a complex manoeuvre, involving  a series of about faces and retirements, which I thought the rules handled excellently. 

In a surprise move, James sent the battery from his third infantry brigade, which was coming through the wood in the rear, off to his left in front of the redoubt. Not wishing to have them under artillery fire, I withdrew the Kleist Freikorps infantry from the redoubt (a move that I later learned had Mark and James stumped,imagining some complex plan that I did not in fact have!) but leaving the gun in place to fire.

Fortunately for me help was at hand as the advance elements of Mark’s Prussian reinforcements began to arrive..

Turn 3

Taking his chances, James charged the Modena cuirassiers  at my ‘flank guard’. James and Mark learned in our first game of Age of Reason that cavalry in the WSS do not pose the same threat to infantry as in the Napoleonic era. They are a bit more threatening in the SYW and, being cuirassiers, he had a reasonable chance of success, provided that they could make contact.

Expecting that my best chance was to stop them with fire, I decided on that option rather than to form square. This is where it began to go wrong.

The Austrians passed their morale test to charge, I then rolled to determine the range at which my infantry would fire and achieved the lesser result of ‘close’ range (as opposed to point blank). So, no battalion guns for my boys. My infantry passed their morale test, so got their chance to fire.

Oh, what rubbish dice! I only inflicted one casualty. The Austrian horsemen shrugged off this minor loss and crashed into my infantry. James’ good dice were the inverse of my poor as he capture the colours and then got the best possible result of rout for my infantry and full breakthrough for his horsemen. Have a look at the photo below. It should have worked, my 'corner' defence: but it didn't.

The cuirassiers carried on, breaking one more unit (capturing another colour) and forcing the third to retreat, ending an unexpectedly devastating charge well in the rear of my troops. I remembered rather sourly doing the same thing to Bavarian infantry with a British cavalry charge in a WSS battle back in the '70s: payback time for the South Gernans! I was relieved that I had moved the Kleist Freikorps hussars in support, but how would they fare against heavy horse, even if the latter were disorganised?

James had massed his cavalry on his left flank, despite my bold assertions that it was the wrong strategy, so that the Modena cuirassiers had strong support from the Brettlach cuirassier regiment and the Saxony-Gotha and Archduke Josef dragoons.

The Austrian infantry massed to the front of my position.It really looked formidable. Battles of this size have a wonderful pleasing dynamic of their own. I felt transported back to my wargaming youth, but with such beautifully painted figures and the 'reinforcement' of Age of Reason, it all flowed so much more smoothly. 

Mark’s reinforcements could not arrive quickly enough!

Turn 4
I launched my Kleist Freikorps hussars at the Modena cuirassiers, there really was no choice, expecting a draw at best… but they won, sending the Austrian horse off in rout! They pursued onto the Saxony-Gotha dragoons, a draw being the result of that mêlée. You can see from the photo below how close my Prussians came to being completely encircled. 

A cavalry melee well worth having. 

Overview of the table at the end of Turn 4. The success of the Austrian cavalry strengh on their right is already evident. The deployment of the Austrian line to face the Prussian reinforcements is also obvious.

Mark’s reinforcements came on steadily, but they seemed to be advancing quite slowly. Would my forces be able to hold out?

Turn 5

Mark charged the von Gettkandt hussars at the Austrian battery in front of the redoubt, which was in ‘broken’ status as I had earlier driven it off with fire from the heavy battery within. Unfortunately, the creeks meant that the charge failed to contact, so the artillerists escaped… but only until the next turn.

The mêlée between the Kleist Freikorps hussars and Saxony-Gotha dragoons continued, ineffective, with neither side able to inflict casualties.If I had been a betting man though I would have said that the Austrians would win.

Help was on its way as the Prussians finally recognised that the road was the way to travel if you are in a hurry.

Overview of the battlefield and an ‘aerial’ view.

Mark’s reinforcing Prussian infantry came closer to the front, led by the grenadiers (Zvezda figures, with converted Airfix British grenadiers as fusiliers and Hat musketeers in the background—all beautifully painted by Mark). What a challenge for me, with all the WSS troops to paint!

Turn 6

James reinforced the drawn cavalry mêlée with his lead unit of infantry, tipping the balance and routing the Kleist Freikorps hussars. Fortunately for us, the Prussian 3rd cuirassiers were close at hand.

Their colleagues the Holstein-Gottorp dragoons were close at hand too.

The Austrians too had reinforcements, in the form of a grenadier brigade!

Other commitments meant that I had to leave the game at this stage, hoping that the luck was swinging and that Mark could recover Prussian pride and salvage a draw or even victory. It was not to be. 


In Turn 7 two big, multi-cavalry actions went the way of the Austrians.

The Prussian 3rd cuirassiers charged, finding themselves facing both Austrian dragoons. The Prussians were soundly beaten, General-Major von Krockau, their brigade commander, was wounded and captured and the troopers routed. Austrian General de Cavallerie Graf Porportai was also wounded, but merely retired for a turn to have his wound dressed.

On the Prussian right, Mark's von Gettkandt and von Prittwitz hussars ganged up on the Austrian Hadik hussars, resulting in a draw!

In the centre, the Holstein-Gottorp dragoons continued to have ordinary luck. Charging the depleted Gyulai battalion I for a second time. The Hungarians, now below half strength, jagged a shot at point-blank range and stopped the charge! A startling contrast with my effort against the Austrian Modena cuirassiers!

Turn 8

James charged the Harch II battalion into the mêlée to support his Hadik hussars. It saved the hussars, but both units were forced to withdraw. Fortunately for the Austrians, the Prussians had not charged, so were unable to advance in follow-up.

On the other flank, the disorganised Saxony-Gotha dragoons charged my Kleist Freikorps artillery in the flank, it failed morale and fled. The Austrians then rolled on to the infantry and broke them too! The cavalry pursued, but Mark checked and found that disorganised troops have their move halved, so the ‘breakthrough’ was reversed—phew!

It mattered little though. The Prussian army had to take an army withdrawal test, as total casualties were over 25% (29.6%). The loss of five colours and a general compared with only one colour captured, meant it was basically impossible to pass.

The outstanding unit on the table had to be the Gyulai battalion I, which finished below half strength and still unbeaten.

It had been a marvellous first Seven Years’ War game for us all, especially James - a well-deserved victory! Once again we were impressed with Age of Reason. On all occasions when we queried a rule they came out with the ‘sensible’ answer. I can’t wait for the next WSS action!

Julian Roche