- I re-set the table so that we had the same battle as for our test of Age of Reason. This in itself I regarded as a minor triumph, as I'd actually never done this before and desperately hoped James' photos would suffice for the job - judge for yourself by comparing with the initial shot for the Age of Reason playtest.
The French and Bavarians had barely got going as parts of my force advanced. The infantry move being 4" and not all forces moving every turn, it was quite obvious that many turns would be required to bring the action to a conclusion. BLB suggests about a ten minute turn time, to explain precisely this, but on the whole the ANF prefers larger but fewer moves to this kind of solution to the problem of command and control.
Here in the Allied centre not much had happened. My strategy was the same as before, to hold back the cavalry and see what could eventuate.
A nice view across the battlefield from the Austrian right/Bavarian side of the table. The moving mechanics had been mastered by this point, nothing too hard there. Keeping the lines together was evidently to be quite a challenge, though.
The forces looked as if they were about to engage each other, and were certainly closer now in the centre. It was of course very unlikely that the French would be kind enough to refuse their centre as they had done when we'd used AOR. What would they choose to do? Not a great deal, when they found themselves with the ability to move only 1/4 of their force. Fortunately the Bavarians could usually do a great deal more as they had a much finer commander.
On to Move 4, and I at least had already decided in my own mind that this was not a rules set with which I was especially comfortable. I've never personally liked 'pip'-based systems of command and control, the random nature of the resultant moving has never seemed particularly realistic, although I am of course aware that many others disagree.
A view across the lines for Move 4, with the rules open for good benefit to show we really were using them. You can clearly see the way in which the Bavarians have advanced well beyond their French compatriots (well, colleagues) and that even the French line looks rather ragged.
The same viewed from the French vantage point. The temptation for the French to advance is plain; but the command and control problem would be the only obstacle.
The Austrians had been able to position themselves in a relatively unified way to face the Bavarians. Four moves up, and no firefight yet. The guns were completely out of it.
The Bavarians had at least got themselves into a neat line with their cavalry drawn up in support. A fast learner, Mark!
By Move 5 we were really hoping for some action. To be fair, very little time either in reality or on the table had actually elapsed. In fact, if anything, if one were to take the 10 minute per turn idea literally, it was becoming evident that the action would be over within a much shorter space of time than historically plausible. Easily remedied, then, by extending the notional time period to say, half an hour - but then, what of the restrictions on movement for the troops?
As we mused these weighty questions, the Austrian right flank finally came into shooting range of the Bavarians, and battle truly commenced.
Here's how it looked forward from the French command vantage point - nothing much in danger, nothing much in doubt - nothing much of anything, truth to tell.
Here is a view from the French right flank showing the Austrians advancing, but there is evidently plenty of time to deal with the threat.
Now a shot of the real action, here come the Austrians against the Bavarian line.
That huge gap on the French right again. We are wondering whether a lot of the skill in any WSS battle consists in how you deploy initially - there just is not enough flexibility, even without rigid divisional structures of any kind, to shift forces around the table very much. Artillery are a fine example of the issue.
As with AOR, an extremely tempting manoeuvre is to swing one unit to the side, enabling the unit behind it to come into action. According to the BLB firing rules, both battalions were able to fire.
A much clear view of the same engagement. It's a particular situation that we will keep under close review as it can definitely influence the outcome of a firefight.
Here we are: the Austrian infantry in the front line, despite having suffered very heavy casualties, passed morale to attack the Bavarian grenadiers. BLB insists on two morale tests, one to see if you do charge and another to see if you charge into contact, but our Austrians passed both despite crippling casualties at point blank range from the grenadiers.
And here they are in perfect view. Concern was mounting over this series of events by this stage, so James was kept busy with the camera.
So a more strategic view of the melee is available. Note the heavily reduced Bavarian line battalion also still sticking around for the fight.
Despite the ferocious firefight and melee on the Bavarian flank, nothing much had happened elsewhere. One of the effects of the 'pip' system not allocated by division but by unit, is that as things 'hot up' on a flank or particular part of the battle, pips are increasingly allocated to it. In other words, the disparity between events on particular flanks has a tendency to snowball.
This is nicely brought out in the photo below, the Franco-Bavarian left is heavily engaged - and bear in mind that we were only one hour twenty minutes into the action - say two hours at a stretch - whilst the rest of the army on both sides has hardly moved at all. James and Mark were however by this time deeply involved in the mêlée and James' comments follow below. But as the time-honoured phrase has it, at this point I made my excuses and left.
"So, a situation in which we would not expect an infantry battalion to enter mêlée—charging a formed line of good quality troops, being reduced to 1/3 strength on the way in—had resulted, not in the breaking of the weaker unit, but a draw. This was not due to fabulous luck on the part of the Austrians, but average die rolls on the part of both sides. We did not think the melee should have begun, let alone ended this way".
ah yes, I forgot to mention above, the Austrian and Bavarian units that became involved in the mêlée in move 8 had earlier both improved their morale level due to a positive morale test, Austrians now 'élite', Bavarians 'guards' for the rest of the battle, hmmm...So, said Austrian battalion was reinforced by a battalion of regular line infantry and was now opposed to the near full-strength Bavarian ‘guard’ battalion, which was reinforced by a line battalion of their countrymen. The Bavarians received nine D6 and the Austrians seven. This produced five ‘hits’ for the Bavarians (4 or above) and three for the Austrians. The difference of two meant that the Austrians lost four figures and the Bavarians two. The Austrian ‘élite’ battalion now eliminated, the line battalion took a morale test, rolled a ’6’ and so passed. The mêlée would now go to another round (move 10) in which there was the opportunity to reinforce with the next units in line. Thus we had a growing maul which would last for at least 30 minutes. Not quite our impression of the period.
To conclude, below are a few photos of the units involved. It brings me great joy to see these figures finally on the tabletop. While not the 'showroom' quality of many painters and bloggers out there, they are clearly what they are meant to represent and, over time, I'll work on adding more detail (and yes James, sticking the riders on the horses!!). I'm also pleased that we have been able to field two reasonably-sized armies of the War of Spanish Succession almost completely from my 'collection' (the exceptions from Mark's collection are immediately apparent). Some of these troops date back to the 1970s - I have a long way to go to bring them up to a better standard, but I am highly motivated to do just that.