Monday, August 21, 2017

Action at the Schnellenbach Bridge

Drumpff gets his work detail going.

A quick recap on our story so far.

  • An allied British-German column has orders to blow the key bridge over the Schnellenbach.  A Hanoverian engineer and a group of  pontooniers have been beavering away but there is still work required to finish prepping the bridge.
  • Relations between the engineer Drumpff and the British CinC Campbell are very poor.  Drumpff's plan is to let part of the French column cross before blowing the bridge, but Campbell's having none of that.
  • Campbell's men have erected some barricades around the bridge.
  • The French have managed to get some light infantry across the river, but their main force will arrive on their own side of the river.
Terrain wise, we have the Schnellenbach running across the table and uncrossable on table except at the bridge.  There is a stone Inn, some walls and a few houses at the bridge, all on the eastern (allied) bank of the river.  The allied right flank is quite wooded on their side of the river.  There is a long low ridge on the western (french) board edge and a small hill on the allied left flank.  East of the river are a small farm and a patch of rough ground which lies along the river bank.

I gave each side two fixed deployment points following normal SP rules - both chose an exploring officer as supports hence the second DP.  The French could place one anywhere on their own board edge and the second along their left hand board edge on the far side of the river.   Only their two groups of light infantry plus an officer could use the second DP.  The Allies put one DP in the village by the bridge and the second halfway between the village and the woods on their right.

When you use the DP, no units appear on table until they get the right chit drawn enabling them to deploy.  Curt was originally against using the DPs and wanted just to deploy his units where he wanted to from the start.  I figured it fit the scenario well with the French possibly spread out from their approach marches and the allies needing time to form up.  Plus he's a bit of a control freak so I figured it does him good to get out of his hermetically sealed comfort zone from time to time.  As GM I quite liked the effect of using the DPs, and the fall of the chits seemed to favour the allies.

 Figures are mine as are the buildings and bridge.  All other terrain is Curt's.  Photos are also mine, and I managed to not get a single shot of the main French force.
An overhead view of the bridge.

Keith's Highlanders man their barricades.  Behind the line are Campbell, his drummer and the physic Dr. Schubert.  One group of infantry are Royal Scots masquerading as highlanders - Curt insisted on a fourth group of them but I only have three.

Fischer's chasseurs appear in the woods on the right flank and the wrong side of the river, from the Allied perspective.

A mad padre rouses the local women to take up arms over the deprivations of Drumpff.

Phillips tried a charge with one squadron of his Light Dragoons against the Chassuers.  They were repulsed quite handily.    Micro dice track shock and the round marker indicates the Allied DP on their right.  This was unfortunately the highlight of the day for the French.
A badly lit photo of the Allied line to the right of the bridge.  Highlanders, a Hessian gun crew and two groups of Jaegers.  Jaeger fire was very effective, especially against the French leaders.

A view from the French position.  Note the Inn keeper and staff taking shelter behind the Jaegers.

The French deploy a group of Voluntaries de L'Armee in the woods.  Note the strategic chip bowl in the background.  Having failed with the sword, Phillipson resorts to skirmishing with mounted carbine fire with much better results.  I don't what to think about the impact on British cavalry doctrine.

The denouement of the action.  Work complete, the work crew and Drumpff scurry over the barricades.  Drumpff is shot by Campbell but only wounded.  He therefore takes out his claymore to finish the job while everyone else turns their back so as to not see what happens.  

This leaves us with the main French force - five line infantry groups, a gun and a group of Hussards.  I have a grand total of no shots of their fate, an epic fail.  I suspect that this is due to their line infantry being made up of my old Rafm figures painted 15 years ago for Louisbourg and I wanted to focus on the newer troops painted last winter in the Painting Challenge.  I'll get some new French line infantry and work on these for the next challenge so that there are shiny toys on both sides.

And what became of the French assault on the bridge?

  • The formation of line troops came on pretty earlier and advanced on the Allies.   The gun crew and Hussards followed in good order, but then the play of the chits ran against the French.
  • I did Stacy a number of disservices rules wise, and should have caught a problem with his deployment of the line troops.  These came on three groups wide and two groups deep.  Historically they should have come on in a line, which would have also put more muskets in the firing line.
  • Good firing from the Jaegers and Hessian gun racked up shock on the groups and Stacy had a hard time removing it.  A large part of the problem came from accurate Jaeger fire who wounded two of the three leaders with the group, putting them out of action for a turn and then dropping his total command points from five to three.  
  • Stacy returned fire with both the line and the gun crew and got some results, but the skirmish formation and walls made it an unequal battle.  The French gun did manage to force their opposite number to retire - we may need to review the effectiveness of counter battery fire.
  • We realized afterwards that Stacy misread the impact of shock on movement, and he thought that the amount of shock on the formation prevented forward movement.  At worst he would have been down 2" off a d6 or 2d6 roll, which meant he could have moved forward.
  • I completely forgot to remind Stacy that he had a holyman who could remove up to a d6 shock once per game.  My bad!
By the time that Drumpff (finally) had the bridge set to blow, the French force morale had been whittled down considerably largely due to seeing several leaders get wounded.  He retired and with Drumpff out of the way, Campbell lit the fuse to blow the bridge.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Schnellenbach Campaign Movements Pt II

When Campbell trudges into the Inn at the Schnellenbach, he finds that Drumpff has made good use of his fine horse and preceded him by several hours.  Drumpff took the best room at the Inn and the company of a couple of local working girls.  He has left instructions (and a lot of gold) with the Innkeeper that his is not to be disturbed unless "the Inn is on fire and the gunpowder is likely to blow".  Fred the Innkeeper has had a lean war and Drumpff has lots of coin so he was not likely to give up this potential goldmine.  Dr.  Schubert noted that there were worse ways for him to interact with the locals and suggested Campbell let him be.

Fred also has a note from Drumpff.

Great day laddie!  I had a look at the bridge and it’s a well-made structure but I can rig it to come down.  Best case is that I have it ready for noon tomorrow but end the day is more likely.  Please keep those Froggies off my back until sundown tomorrow then we can play out the great scheme on the day after.

Over in the French camp things were progressing more sedately.  FitzJames had become quite smitten with Mlle Marbot, but it looked to be a long siege.  First parallels had been dug and probing attacks made of the revetments.  However the defence showed their mettle through accurate counter battery fire and the occasional sortie.   
Situation at the end of the first day.

Situation at midday on the second day of the campaign
In the French camp, it was decided that they would use their pontoons as canoes and trip and ferry some light troops across the Schnellenbach.  The  exploring officer "Pathfinder" Fremont would lead the force off road, hopefully reducing the likelihood of delay.  The allies kept their cavalry close at hand and sent their exploring officer ("Pathfinder" Freiburg) off to keep an eye on the French.  Freiburg had a swing and a miss, so the French had much better intel from their cavalry scouts.  Meanwhile he had his highlanders grumbling as they assembled barricades at the bridge and Drumpff had his pontooniers had at work getting the bridge ready to blow.  Drumpff reports Campbell this is one heck of a solidly made bridge I can tell you that for sure!   But don’t you worry laddie we’ll get her ready to blow by the end of the day.

Campbell had also worked on getting friendly with Drumpff's hard worked pontooniers with a plan in mind once the bridge was set to go....

Situation at the end of the second day.  Fremont was winning the battle of the pathfinders having first found a crossing point and then guided the French force to it without delay - consistently rolling Vegas.  In fact his rolls were so good I ruled that the French could get their two groups of light infantry across the river by nightfall.  Meanwhile the Allies Freiburg had another swing and a miss looking for the French although cavalry patrols (not marked on the map because I initially missed Curt's instructions for this - my bad!) found Frenchmen on both banks of the Schnellenbach.

At the bridge, Drumpff had worked hard but the bridge was not quite set to go - the job was legitimately much tougher that he originally indicated .  Campbell had also worked hard getting into the pontooniers' good books and building more barricades.

So for the morning of July 23rd, we had the following situation.

  • Work on rigging the bridge to blow was almost finished but not quite.
  • Campbell had built barricades on the east (Allied) bank of the river.
  • The French were moving to attack the bridge with most of their force on the west (French) bank but some light infantry on the east (Allied) bank.

So we ended up with an assault on a defended bridge with equal numbers, a situation I was hoping to avoid.  Curt felt that letting the French get across the river was a bit gamey, but so be it.   I couldn't see the French having a chance in hell without the flanking force.  Plus the campaign balance was dependent on Drumpff causing problems, but that balance went as I had to take Drumpff out of the mix to keep him alive to blow the bridge!  I figure if players game the scenario then the scenario gets to game the players  back.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Schnellenbach Campaign Movements Part I

I based this campaign on one of the campaign ideas in the "Dawns and Departures" supplement to Sharp Practice.  However, I tried to added more character with mixed results, mostly due to player reactions.  The original game called for the Allies to blow the bridge and defeat the French, based on the idea of blowing up the bridge when a portion of the French force had crossed.  I added the Drumpff and FitzJames characters and figured that the addition of Drumpff would make the Allies job much harder and so modified the victory conditions accordingly.

Another issue with the rules as written is the treatment of rivers.  In the rules, these can be crossed anywhere with a chance of delay.  This didn't work with a bridge blowing scenario - if the river isn't a problem why do we care about the bridge?  So I treated the thin rivers on the map as likely crossable in most places and the thicker rivers as more formidable obstacles.  These required a bridge for an army to cross but I hinted that they might be crossable by light forces (i.e. without baggage, wagons, guns etc) at other places.

Early movements were pretty basic.

The French started at the Abbey where FitzJames linked up with the Marbot family, French nobles who he was to escort to a shrine in the woods on the French side of the Schnellenbach.  The Allies started on the road and moved west (north is to the right on the map) into the woods.  Both sides sent out cavalry scouts (light arrows) and exploring officers (horsemen figures ) on recon.  Both side received reinforcements, mostly because I had new figures that hadn't been selected in their Support options and I wanted to get these on table.  Meanwhile a convoy of allied wounded appeared on the French bank of the Schnellenbach in the woods.  These moved to the bridge on the Schnellenbach where they were spotted by the Allies' exploring officer.
 Off map, Curt decided that the scenario didn't suit his tastes and tried to rewrite it into something better for him.  First  Campbell, informed Drumpff that he will not condone any shenanigans by him or his men with local civilians or other members of the force.   "For this mission he is my subordinate and the expectation is that he will observe the chain of command and master his men."

Trumpf replied that  he “won’t take orders from a sheep rustler in a skirt from the most god forsaken province of the Hanoverian empire.  If I were in charge I’d rebuild Hadrian’s Wall and make the Scots pay for it.  This is my plan and I’m the one telling you what to do Campbell.  You be careful or I’ll have my connections transfer you to some hellish American backwater that will make the Highlands seem like paradise.”

Campbell was probably the higher ranked officer, but we're talking different branches of two different armies.  Plus Drumpff had a lot of social power and was on the permanent establishment.  On the other side Campbell was in a unit raised for the duration of the war and which was seen as an bunch of irregular infantry best suited to sheep rustling and raiding.  Campbell also had zero social clout in England let alone Germany and the Scots were considered wild savages on the fringes of civilization at this point in history.

 Now life got interesting.  On  the map we see the French move south and the Allies make a double move west up to the bridge.  The cavalry scouts find each other but avoid contact.  Meanwhile the exploring officers are able to slip through the cavalry screens.  The Allies scout finds the French main body while the French scout finds a potential crossing point north of the bridge.

Off map, Campbell will remind Drumpff "that his only orders are to escort Drumpff and his engineering party to and from the bridge - nothing more.  Campbell's orders state nothing of Drumpff commanding the column."  Actually they din't say anything about Campbell being in charge either...

Campbell then slapped him in front of the men, calling him "a pox-ridden whoreson whose only talent was being able to escape his mother's all-too-accommodating legs."   Campbell will then demand satisfaction the next morning at dawn unless Drumpff gives him an apology and withdraws any pretence of commanding the force. If Drumpff accepts the duel, Campbell will ask Phillipson to be his Second. If Drumpff refuses, Campbell will add coward to Drumpff's list of character traits.

Drumpff replied that it's his plan, his work to blow the bridge and your just there to escort him.

When you slap him he says "I could have you hanged for that Campbell, and have your family shipped to the wilds of America.  Now get your barbarian countrymen up to that bridge before I change my mind."   With that he gave the pontooniers instructions and rode off towards the bridge at top speed leaving the highlanders to march in his dust.

I decided that there was no way he was fighting a duel as he considered Campbell way to far below his social standing.  There'll be no loss of honour because society agrees that Campbell is a hairy barbarian and because Drumpff has no honour to start with.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Schnellenbach Campaign French Breifing

Summer 176x, somewhere in Hesse

A few days ago you were enjoying a fine chicken along with a glass of the local wine when an officer from one of the senior infantry regiments rides into camp.  You recognize him as being the Chevalier du Fosses, an Aide-de-camp to the army commander Broglie.

Captains St-Andre and Mohr, I have orders for you from le Marechal the Duc de Broglie.    We have information that the Allied army has plans to destroy a bridge over the Schnellenbach.  Le Marechal has plans to use this bridge to attack the Allied flanks and you are commanded to seize the crossing before the Allies can destroy it.

You will be accompanied by Monsieur FitzJames.  He gestures to a young officer from the Irish Brigade.  The officer in question is unfamiliar to you but the family name speaks of a bastard line of the exiled Stuart kings of England.   He has important tasks to complete that do not concern you at this time, except that you must ensure that he is able to complete these.

While FitzJames sees to his horse and belongings, Du Fosses speaks to you quietly.  Take care of the young wild goose.  He has the heart for battle but not the head yet.   Le Marechal wishes FitzJames to acquire some seasoning, and thinks that this is an ideal opportunity.  Let him think that he is acting independently.  His tasks may take him away from your column for a day or so which is fine as long as no enemy is in sight.  Perhaps for these periods you could allow him the loan of some Hussards or Chasseurs who can report back to you on his progress.  How ever, make sure to firm a firm grip on his reins once the enemy appears – especially if they are English.  He is keen to take revenge for the Boyne and Culloden in one afternoon.  But give him an opportunity to feel that he has played a significant role.

You can take three companies and a battalion gun of your regiment.  Le Marechal has arranged to attach some Chasseurs and a squadron of Hussards to your force. Use this purse plus your own resources and powers of persuasion to recruit additional companies, equipment and leaders to accompany you.  Fortunately Mohr is on excellent terms with the regimental quartermaster thanks to some “arrangements of mutual benefit” in the past, so equipment should be easy to obtain.  St. Andre can play upon his family name and connections in the army, plus some outstanding gambling IOUs, to attract additional officers (and their companies) to your adventure.

Travelling With FitzJames
The first of FitzJames tasks is to visit the Abbey at Michaelsberg in square 4.  You have travelled there and remain camped on the Abbey’s grounds while FitzJames goes about his task.  It is pleasant country and Bach was quite right about the quality of their vintages.

FitzJames is a Leader I as per the rulebook and will have his own command chit in the scotch bottle.  He gets distracted easily so his actions will be somewhat random and controlled by the GM.    If you are in command range with him, you can spend one of your activations to suggest how he should best focus his efforts.  Your odds will improve if you are in direct contact with him.

FitzJames has some signs of a privileged upbringing but is appears to be of more limited means currently.  He is quite well educated and has considerable charm and powers of persuasion.  You suspect that he must have quite an effect on women and speculate whether “Fitz” can be squared.    

During your travels he speaks passionately about the Stuart claims to the throne.  He wants to avenge his family name and you fear that he will attempt to do this at the first opportunity that he sees the flag of the “Hanoverian usurpers”.   His family’s hopes have been dashed many times, at Culloden in the last war and at Quiberon Bay in this war.  You suspect that they may be running out of wars to reclaim their throne.

Campaign Objectives
1.      Capture the bridge over the Schnellenbach intact
2.      Defeat the Allied force sent to counter you
3.      Allow FitzJames to complete his tasks.
4.      Keep FitzJames under control
5.      Give FitzJames the opportunity to earn his wings.  See the Blooding the Dauphinoise section in the rulebook.

Your Forces
Cambis Regiment
  • 3 companies (groups) of regulars
  • Level III leader
  • Level I leader

Bercheny’s Hussards

  • 1 squadron (group) of scouting cavalry
  • Level I leader

Fischer’s Chasseurs

  •  1 company (group) light infantry
  • Level I leader

 Regimental Artillery

  • One light gun and 5 crew
  • Lieutenant Lefebvre (Level I leader)

36 points of supports from the following list.  Note that some of the extras have additional effects in the campaign.  These have been marked with an asterisk.
 You can argue among yourselves as to who gets to play which role, but let me know your final decision.
St. Andre comes from an old military family.  His mother tongue is French but he speaks good German and some English.  Mohr is one of many German officers in the French army but speaks good French.
 FitzJames speaks impeccable French and English (think either Trudeau in either language) and basic German.
The Hussards speak Hungarian (actually Bercheny was Transylvanian but honestly who can tell the difference) as their first language and basic German and French.  Their officers may have better language skills.
 Fischer’s Chasseurs are a motley crew, but mostly German.  They have basic French and the officer may have better language skills.
The rest of the army is French but will have basic German.  Officers may have better German or English.
  Before you select your forces you can ask questions of du Fosses, your quartermaster, Bach or FitzJames.  Each will answer a limited (random) number of questions before becoming distracted, incoherent or frustrated.
You will start in Square 4 on the map on the morning of Monday July 20, 176x.

Points Per
French Regulars

French Grenadiers

Voluntaires de l'Armée
Engineering Group & Cart
Includes bridging equipment
Light Gun

Leader I

Leader II

Upgrade a leader
Per level
Doubles command range
Spirits & Tinder Box
Helps light fires
Holy Man*
See rules plus helps heal casualties
Each Specialist
Marksman, Dipper, Cracksman, Silent But Deadly
Unlimited cannister reloads during campaign
Water Cart
See rules
See rules plus helps heal casualties
Scout or Exploring Officer*
See rules, plus lower chance of getting lost plus scouting
Ammunition Cart
Allows reloads
Colour party
See rules
Mule train
One lot of water plus one of ammo