Monday, May 26, 2014

Volley and Bayonet: Game 2. Battle for April Heights (part 2)

The (inconclusive) conclusion of the battle. Part 1 saw the battle develop with a deep salient in the centre by the french. The 2 flanks are isolated from the centre by lakes, and the austrians are attempting a double envelopment, and solidly pushing back the french flanks. The battle is set to go epically sideways for whoever loses first in the centre or (either) flank.

Turn 4 (French) bottom half of the turn.
 The french cavalry and flanking divisions move back steadily, giving space rather than getting shot by superior musketry.
 The french centre lurches forward again. While there is minimal gunfire, the cannons have been limbered and advanced, so that the following turn there should be good possibilities for damaging the austrians.

This was one of those turns I found weird, that there was a lot of movement, but no real troop commitment to battle. Perhaps the gamers play inconclusively, rather than the system?
 Turn 4 (french). The left flank sees the flanking division on the hill change formation to threaten the austrian screening cavalry division.

A reserve division on the heights is repositioned, and reinforced with some of the (unattached) army cavalry to face off against this flank threat.
 Turn 5. The Austrians advance vigourously on the french right flank. This time they are able to bring some of the french units under fire by cannon and musketry. Some disorder and hits are delivered. The french are running out of space on this flank.
Turn 5 (french) Across the central plateau we see the two armies lining up again.

The french cannon are within range of the austrians to bombard next turn. And numerous infantry has gone stationary (an big increase to musketry and close combat).
Turn 5 (french)
The French rearrange forces to create a rear guard on the backside of the plateau, as the Austrian cavalry continue an envelopment maneuver. It's almost a shame that there is no baggage marker, or knowledge about lines of communication and retreats, as in real life I suspect this would be seriously concerning to the French. It concerned me, but I was assured by my fellow commander it wasn't a big deal.
Turn 5(french) Larger view of the most of the table.

Final Austrian Turn 6. The clever bastards pull back over the crest, denying us a chance to cannonade them again (which worked to great advantage the first time).

In all honesty, this would probably take us at least another turn (or two) to close and hurt them. Meanwhile the developments on the flanks and rear would take precedence to the course of battle.

Terrifyingly, the austrian flanking cavalry has wrapped around ENTIRELY (white based cavalry just above the grey town marker). There's a lot of troops that can be moved to address the issue, but the French right flank (bottom) seems to be hanging in the wind.

I believe the talk was to abandon the right flank and charge these cavalry to address the rear threat. Infantry from the centre would hold the town and the stretch between the river and town.

Final whole table view.


While it's still my second game, both have ended up quite inconclusive. I'm uncertain if this is the time we have to play, the nature of the players (they know each other quite well and expect certain actions from each other), the rules, or, as has been suggested as an issue, the challenges of the table layout each time. There is some rustiness with the rules from some of the players, so that might improve speed as we game more.

There is something to be said for the low model counts required. The rules seem to have a fairly simple basic mechanism. For a pickup game I like the wing by wing setup on a random diagonal, it certainly gives some extra capacity to create flanking moves, and be surprised by the terrain you need to deal with. The fast movement speeds (especially with march moves) gives lots of capacity for impressive flanks and to and fros.

The command and control seems to be fairly basic, with strict limits on how far troops of a formation can be from the commander. There seems to be lots of commanders available generally, although this probably speaks to the army creation decisions more so than anything else.

Having units stay on the table damaged till they are destroyed gives some nice eye candy. I have yet to encounter what happens with heavily damaged formations as they get exhausted (can't advance towards the enemy) and worse.

I'm intrigued by the army lists in the second edition book which give more of a national character to the armies. There are rules for skirmishers being sent out and reattached to units which might be a bit more complex than the current way we play. I still have insufficient grasp of the rules to really understand what would be good or bad to choose. Perhaps a historical refight would be fun to propose. Not too sure what the other gamers in the group would think of the idea though as I've only met them a handful of times. Presumably this could eventually save our host from the voiced hassles of creating both sides of the opposing armies.

I definitely believe that some sort of victory conditions/victory points system would be useful. It would encourage more decisive engagements at certain points on the table, and allow the commanders to make more nuanced decisions about whether to risk their forces beyond simply: will this contribute to eventual victory of myself by depleting the enemy/preserving myself. Having written this I suspect this is part of the reason we are getting indecisive battles.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Volley and Bayonet: Game Two - Battle of April Heights (part 1)

I managed to attend another Volley and Bayonet game mid April. It would appear that the scheduling tends to hit long weekends when more the gamers of this group can attend for a solid number of hours. Once again the Austrians faced off against the French with no particular backstory nor objective other than crush their opponent.

This group played 1st ed for many years, so the new army lists in the 2nd ed are not utilized by them. The actual army lists played this day only differentiated with slight differences in troop quality and proportion of medium to heavy guns. The french (with higher troop ratings [morale]), ended up with a noticable deficiency in horseflesh. One of the gripes of our host is that he has to create both sides of the army typically (as he is the most familiar with the rules and has the book). I'd actually be quite interested in seeing how V&B deals with historical scenarios, or using the historic army lists to impart more of a distinct national flavour to each side.

Similar to the previous game our start time was a bit soft as we needed to assemble the forces to play. Our suggestion to our host at the end of the game to save time (for all) and aggravation (for him) was to reuse the army lists, and simply box up each army into trays that can be pulled out for the next game. There would also be a continuity advantage as the players could get used to their force. We'll see if the suggestion has found fertile soil or not.

General Murray is unimpressed with the inconclusive nature of battle.
We bashed through a decent number of turns and got firmly stuck into battle, but once again ran out of time. Again the closing speeds were a bit surprising. Once stuck in, I definitely noticed there appears to be the tendency to move up the guns, bombard for a bit, and then the following turn move your forces in to attack (maybe this is historical?). There is a lot of movement of battle lines to and fro without real results, maneuver being used to move just in and out of firing range of musketry and/or cannon. There definitely was some challenges with the massive hill in the centre of the table slowing the artillery and creating visual sighting challenges (for charges and musketry). It was thought without the hill we would have gotten a much more decisive result in the time we played. I'll have to give it another couple go's, but this is the 2nd game that terrain resulted in indecisive engagement (again, this might be relatively historical, as we know that commanders spent a lot of effort trying to choose where to fight their battles).

On to the battle!

Austrians. Set up occurs in alternating 1/ dice for which wing (or centre) you need to set up first. Game play is across the diagonal (also randomly diced for).
The french force.
Table shot. You can see the large hill dominating the space between the armies. The small lakes also act to hem in the troops.

Hills don't slow troops down almost at all, but seriously slows artillery down. Artillery seemed to be the main hammer to weaken your opponent, and due to command ranges, the slow down of the hills held up the general advances.
The austrians swing wide with their left flank to try and force the French right.
The french through a strong force up the middle on top of the heights. Two reasonable strength divisions are used to block out the flanks.
Turn 2. The austrians race the french to try and take the heights (or contest them) in the centre.

On the left flank (bottom right of the photo), they continue to line up against the french right. The Austrian command takes the hill, I suppose to help anchor their own flank.
Turn 2. The French right flank moves off their hill and starts jockeying for position against the Austrian left.

In the centre, the two armies continue to close on the heights.

In the distance there is still a lot of distance between the two armies on the far flank.
Turn 2. A close up of the right French flank. The cavalry division is threatening the Austrian push on the centre.

This little sideshow would help to drag off some pressure on the centre, which the French were attempting to smash through.
Turn 2. The centre close up. The armies are still too far away even for cannon fire. Musketry occurs within 1 inch (and very ineffective at that). True infantry firefights occur in base to base contact and are bundled into close combat.
Turn 2. French Left. A single flanking division on the left has moved onto the hill, (and skirmishers to the villages (grey) to threaten the wide looping flanking move of a cavalry division.

Meanwhile an infantry division seems to be moving for the gap between the lake and trees. A french reserve division has been left to slow it down.

Turn 3. The austrians move up smartly in the centre and begin to cannonade the french. Infantry is also within 1 inch and begins to attack the advancing French which aren't in the most ideal position.
Turn 3. On the french right, the flanking threat is addressed by the Austrians charging off the hill to hem in the cavalry division.

While infantry are unable to move into base to base contact with horse, they can move up and hit them with musketry. Cavalry is more expensive, and much more brittle (2 hits vs 4 hits) than infantry.
Turn 3 (Austrian turn) table shot.
Turn 3 French. In the centre the french advance their own heavy cannon (vs the austrian medium) and begin counter battery fire. Poor rolls don't do much, although 1 austrian battery is destroyed this turn.

The french in the valley move up the hill, accomodating to the 90 degree bend in the austrian deployment. At the base of the hill some dragoons are covering the flank of the french centre.
Turn 3 French. The french cavalry division is definitely outgunned by the infantry, and begin a slow fallback up the hill.

The austrians will continue to follow them, getting in shots periodically and causing slow but steady casualties on this flank. An interesting dynamic will develop where each side is potentially wide open for a flank attack depending on whether the centre of the flank crumples first.
Turn 3 French.
The austrian cavalry division falls back to rejoin a second cavalry division facing the french flank division ready to die on the hilltop.

The flank division had some crack infantry so they were fairly safe.

Meanwhile the austrian infantry will have some trouble moving around the lake against the reserve division. Trained/drilled troops (basically everything except irregulars and landwehr) get a free turn, at some point in their move, otherwise all troops must move forward or oblique up to 45 degrees. It can make negotiating a turn and facing the 'correct' (safe) direction challenging at time.
Turn 4 Austrian.
Those perfidious white coats! A daring and tricky maneuver by the austrians. With 2 cavalry divisions, they use one to screen the french flanking division (on the hill in the top left).

The second has been moved forward to assist their infantry division with an attack on the heights flank. Things were looking pretty shaky on the french left flank all of a sudden.
Turn 4 Austrian.
The centre, under pressure, moves back and straightens their line.

The cavalry at the base of the hill charges forward to engage the french dragons that were holding the valley floor, and the flank of the french centre.

The french wiff their rolls, and the austrians handily destroy some cavalry, further improving their cavalry superiority.

Turn 4. Austrian.

The french left flank is brought under continual pressure, as the infantry move up to fill the gap the french retreat had left them.

Up next, Part 2 of the game!