29 December 2016

A Christmas Week Solo Wargame: The Action at Soßklopse. . .

Two shots of the opening positions held by General de Latte's scratch force of Zichenauers, who are attempting to hold off a Stollenian advance while the rest of their army a day's march to the northeast attempts to escape.

Following The Battle of Doltz in mid-August 1776, the Zichenauer Army under General Phillipe de Latte began a leisurely withdrawal southwest from the field, inexplicably turning to the northwest a week later.  Pursuit was taken up Stollenian General von Drosselmaier, called out of retirement from his estate outside Dorpat in light of General von Bacuhschmerzen's continuing tummy troubles.  

On the morning of September 9th, von Drosselmaier caught of with a scratch force, assembled by de Latte to hold off the uncharacteristically rapid Stollenian advance, so the rest ff the ZIchenauer Army could make its escape.  De Latte's force was positioned along and just behind a ridge line running from the southwest to the northeast.  Von Drosselmaier's troops came onto the field just to the east of the small farming settlement of Soßklopse, his cavalry and guns passing through the village first, followed by his infantry and a company of jaegers.  A warm wind blew lightly across the late summer morning causing the standards and guidons of the respective regiments to flutter in the breeze and the Stollenian Army pressed rapidy forward toward the waiting Zichenauer line. 

 And a couple of photographs rom the opposite (eastern end of the battlefield, showing the early positions of the attacking Stollenian army, commanded by General von Drosselmaier.

The basic scenario is based heavily on Holding Action (1) on pages 14-15 of Scenarios for Wargamers (1981) by Charles S. Grant.  I've reduced the forces somewhat in keeping with troops I have at my disposal.  At the moment, I'm rather light on the necessary infantry, which I guess will be the next big painting project after those 150 or so cavalry.  Anyway, the Stollenians must acheive a breakthrough by dusk while the smaller Zichenauer force must hold on until dusk to allow the rest of its army to escape.  I'm setting a limit of eight turns, representing approximately 30 minutes each, which means the action begins at about 2pm.  The rules used will be Call It Macaroni, largely plagiarized by yours truly from Donald Featherstone and others.  Buckled up?  Here we go!

-- Stokes

Turns One through Three (2pm-3:30pm). . .
These were taken up primarily by General von Drosselmaier moving his infantry, artillery, and cavalry into postions just to the west of the tiny farming settlement of Soßklopse.  By Turn Four, events gathered speed, and the game became more interesting with lots of dice rolling.

End of Turn Four Update (3:30pm-4pm). . . 

Von Drosselmaier's company of jaegers on his right flank are now embroiled in a hot exchange of fire with a half company of enemy Croats in the wood on the northern end of the ridge held by de Latte's troops at left.  Five casualties have resulted on each side.  Meanwhile, von Drosselmaier has brought up his dragoons and cuirassiers and put each squadron into line on his left flank to cover the approach and eventual deployment of his infantry brigade and battery of guns in the center.  De Latte, thus far, has chosen to remain in a purely defensive position along his ridge.  His lone deployed gun in the center of his front line has taken shots at von Drosselmaier's squadron of cuirassiers each turn so far, but, much like during the Battle of Doltz, has neiher managed to find his range, nor score any hits.

End of Turn Seven Update (5pm-5:30pm). . . 

By the close of Turn Seven, General de Latte's let flank had melted away thanks to the crack shots of the Stollenian jaegers and General von Drosselmaier's two-gun battery in the center of his position.  For its part, de Latte's single deployed gun finally managed to inflict three casualties on the Stollenian cuirassiers.  The next turn or two could be crucial to how things play out and whether, or not General de Latte can stop the Stollenian advance..

End of Turn Nine (5:30pm-6pm). . .

General de Latte's left flank continued to disintegrate through Turn Eight (dusk), as well as an extra Turn Nine, thanks to unrelenting pressure from Stollenian line infantry and rather aggressive jaegers.

While the enemy Leib (Grand Duchess Sonja's Own) Grenadiers began to role up the exposed enemy flank before them, de Latte's right lank was threatened by General von Drosselmaier's squadron of dragoons.

 De Latte's hussar squadron charged the enemy jaegers as they emerged from the wood on his left, but suffered 25% casualties due to enemy musketry and skirmish fire and turned tail before closing with the enemy.  Spooked by this development, De Latte and his aide Major Paolo di Biscotti also quit the field, leaving their guns and remaining troops to fall into Stollenian hands.  The Action at Soßklopse was over.  A rare and resounding victory or The Grand Duchy of Stollen, due more to luck and the speed of von Drosselmaier's advance rather than any articular tactical aptitude on his part.

Post-game Reflections the Next Day. . .

The Call It Macaroni rules seem to work pretty well, which you might expect given their heavy reliance on Featherstone's own rules, although I might consider doubling movement rates to bring troops into range/contact faster.  I believe Bill Protz does this in his Batailles de l´Ancien Régime 1740-1763 rules.  Something else that gives me food for thought involves the effectiveness of jaeger and croat skirmish fire, which was bloody in this particular game.  Now, General von Drosselmaier's jaegers managed to throw a bunch of high scores at very close range to the enemy company of croats, so that might simply have been a case of luck with the dice.  But this company of 15 figures almost seemed too effective based on my reading about 18th century light infantry, what it did, and could achieve during the 1740s-1760s versus, say, Napoleonic riflemen and voltigeurs for example.  I might need to reduce effectiveness a bit here to bring things in line with the mid-18th century. 

Another part of the Call it Macroni rules that might need tinkering concerns the artillery.  Now, both sides finally managed to inflict some damage on each other the last several turns of the game, but it took forever for my 25-30mm guns and their crews to find their ranges and then roll to determine the number of hits suffered by the other side.  This is a point I have wondered about before, so I'll pose a question to those more knowledgeable that I.  We are talking about professional 18th century soldiers.  Would it be correct to assume (I know, I know. . .) that artillery crews using smoothbore cannon would only need to role the range-finding D6 only UNTIL they find the correct range to their targets?  Or did actual guncrews in the smoothbore era need to establish correct range before each and every shot fired?  Of course, I am talking about longer ranges and cannon balls here.  Obviously, cannister range is something different.  What are your thoughts on the matter?  Any suggestions?

Finally, the Action at Soßklopse was a solo affair, and General de Latte's scratch force acted in a purely defensive role with very little tactical movement until late in the game when his squadron of hussars charged von Drosselmaier's jaegers as the latter emerged from the woods.  The hussars were repulsed, taking 25% casualties and turning tail rather than closing with the enemy.  Had they been able to do so, they very well could have threatened and turned the flank of Stollen's Leib (Grand Duchess Sonja's Own) Grenadiers, and the outcome of the game might have been very different.  But, as the saying goes, almost never counts except in games of horseshoes!  In any case, the game was set to last eight turns (until approximately dusk), and was even extended by an extra ninth turn since things finally heated up and became really interesting so late in the game.

All in all, The Action at Soßklopse was an enjoyable experience, lasting a little over three hours yesterday afternoon.  The Young Master joined me down here in Zum Stollenkeller for a good part of it, and set up his own battle with the soldiers brought to him by Santa Claus for Christmas this year.  He also observed closely what ol' Dad was doing on the table with his own toys and had all kinds of questions about the various branches of troops on the table, and what I was doing a with the dice.  Young Master Paul also wanted to know when I was going to have another battle once I had cleared everything away and replaced my soldiers in their plastic storage tubs before supper early yesterday evening.  I suspect that we'll have to have a small battle soon using his soldiers and some very simple rules in much the same way that Der Alte Fritz staged a game with his daughter using teddybear armies now quite a few years ago.  Wasn't that way back in 2007?  Anyway, Stuart Asquith's refight of Sawmill Village using children's wooden blocks in one of the Wargamer's Annuals a few years ago comes immediately to mind, and we might just have to incorporate the use of M&M candies into our game too.

-- Stokes 

 The Young Master in the midst of his own battle nearby here in Zum Stollenkeller during our mutual foray into the world of toy soldiers on Thursday, December 29, 2016.


Fitz-Badger said...

Had to "google" for a translation of the name. This should be a delicious game! :)

Steve J. said...

Lovely looking game and the I think the bases for the woods are great.

Neil Moulden said...

Splendid just splendid. A very inspiring set up and game.

Allan Tidmarsh said...

Great little game..

Wellington Man said...

Wonderful, as always, Stokes.

Your artillery question is intriguing. It's a subject for a PhD thesis, preferable involving numerous practical experiments! I think this question is second only to the even deeper mystery of what was it was that really made cavalry charges effective.


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