Wargame Thoughts and Commentary

Strassen Stream-A Black Die Test

On the 16th of November we fought a large WSS battle on a relatively flat terrain marked by only a small stream, light forest, a small village, Strassen, and two rough (class III) hills. The primary purpose was to test the black die concepts, as well as introduce hussars, howitzers, and a new Officer Action Card definition to play. We also tried a variant on the Multiple Bucket, die allocation, methods. The game was played by three gamers on a side`and treated as a meeting engagement. All units and officer ratings were strictly by the published rules. The Allied Army was made up of 14 Infantry battalions, 6 cavalry and 3 Dragoon units, 5 artillery-4 heavy, 1 light, and a 3 unit train, plus 5 command stands; A total of 332 figures over 36 units. The French had 15 infantry 7 Cavalry plus 2 dragoons, 6 guns including 5 heavy, and 1 howitzer, a 3 unit train plus 5 command groups; a total of 353 figures over 38 units. There were nearly 700, 28mm figures in 74 units on the table! For all that, the game was conceded after 3 hours of play.

Here is a battlefield map:



The Battle of STrassen 3
(Trains not indicated on battle map, but were located near the road exit for the French, and behind the British position.)


The initial set up of the terrain was intended to be simple with only a few necessary variables, as the primary purpose was to test the new black die rules, plus a few new changes to Officer Actions. We also introduced Howitzers, and Hussars to the scenario. Objective markers were kept to a minimum, with each road exit being worth 10x, the hills each at 8x, The bridge at Strassen stream at 8 and the three structures of Strassen village valued at 6x each. As it was a meeting engagement, it was decided that both armies would draw their phase cards from a randomly shuffled deck. The two sides rolled for the deployment of each arm, with high man having the choice of deploying or forcing the other side to do so.

In all cases, the winner chose to have the other side deploy so they could take advantage of noting his initial positions. The order of deployment was placement of artillery first, then infantry, followed by cavalry, and then, lastly the placement of command stands. The French won all rolls, except for the last for command. Units could be deployed 16” onto their side, which left 16”, or roughly 800 yards between the armies. This was somewhat farther in than the usual 12”, but I was anxious to get into action for the purposes of the Black Die Test as soon as possible..

The two armies had been rated the night before, and the results may be found on the Yahoo! Site in the Files section under Battle of Strasssen Steam. http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Repiquerules/files

We also used a new method of dice allocation for a multi-bucket game. We assigned dice values and quality corrections as per the standard rules, but we did not simply total all the dice into one pool and divide it into equal buckets of the sum of the players on a side plus two ( one “share” for each player, plus two shares for the CinC, one of which he distributes to any or all of the players as he sees fit prior to the game beginning, and one he can give to any ONE player on the RRR card after the first turn) Instead, each command was determined (primarily by nationality) and its total was entirely its own. From each 15 dice were contributed to the CinC’s single bucket, that he could then give in any number he liked, on any RRR card phase, to any player’s force he chose.

If any one player runs out of dice the game is over and his side loses, unless on the same turn, the enemy also suffers a player running out of dice. At that point, the battle may rage on, but it is usually called a draw in our group. I am writing an article on the Multi-Bucket concept that is more inclusive and complete than the one posted here a few weeks back.

Ratings and initial dice numbers are found on the yahoo site at the Battle of Strassen Stream folder in the Files section mentioned above. The number in parentheses after the total is the roll over number. We only issue half the total in the initial bucket, but then when it is used up, we flip it over for the other half of the dice-when it’s empty again the player is out of dice, and his troops are able to do nothing but retreat. To facilitate this we usually have two dice buckets per player one for the active dice and one for the “used” dice.

The Black dice rules in effect, and the new rules for Officer Action card, Howitzers and Hussars are all in the Strassen folder.

The Battle:

1-Players
Left-Front to back-John Mumby (Montpellier and Philip), Chris Caudil ( Villars and Conde fils), Brent Oman (Durant);
Right- Front to back- Ed Meyers (napping Van Voort), Terry Shockey (Eugene and Kronprinz Carl), Greg Rold ( Marlborough and Cadogan)


The Battle kicked off with a strong French attack on their right using the combined cavalry of the Spanish and the French Cavalry Reserve under Montpellier. This was hardly a surprise as Mssr. M. had an established reputation as being a hothead and rather foolhardy with his cavalry. It was a glorious advance-full moves straight ahead at the enemy flank cavalry.

French RW Cavalry Attack

At the same time, the Spanish infantry advanced upon the hill and its objective, while from the opposite side the Dutch Infantry, including the Dutch Guard, moved on the same objective. On the left flank of this action the Spanish artillery opened fire on the limbered Dutch Artillery which was attempting to gain a flank on the enemy units on the hill. That fire led to the civilian limber crew immediately depositing the artillery piece jus beyond the stream. The crew manned the gun, as best they could< as the limber gang fled the field!

IMG_0486

It was hard fought on this flank and many troops( and dice) were lost as the two sides fought furiously for the hill. Eventually, the Dutch Guard prevailed and their morale (and dice) were improved by a good roll for the objective. The Salisch regiment also caught the charging French/Spanish cavalry with a flank fire that destroyed the Conde Regiment, and sent the Curassiers du Roi back with grave losses. The tide had turned on the Allied left as there had been extreme losses of French troops and morale, for little gain by the Franco-Spanish force.
The Commnder of the French Forces, elected to cease any further efforts in this area, and the Franco/Spanish commander was down to less than a dozen dice! Other than an very high mortality among the Dutch Standard bearers, caused by some clumsy tactical moves by Van Voort, the Dutch had weathered the attack and had a firm grasp of the hill.

However, the Allies had already begun a flanking attack on their Right with their best troops and under the command of the CIC, Marlborough,himself! IN conjunction with the entire British command under Cadogan, the Allied mixed force of Cavalry, Hussars, and Dragoons has swept around, and through, the woods on the French Left with little resistance. To prevent the allies from strongly responding to this threat, the British infantry Led by Seymour’s Marines, And Orkney’s Royal Scots rushed the hill to the left of the woods, and through back a token effort by an on experienced commander to seize the objective with the Royal Italian regiment.

Allied Flanking attack on the Right

In the center, The French were also on the attack with a strong force advancing in the plain and a supporting force to its right storming through the village of Strassen made up of the Regiment Picardy supported by the Garde Suisse and Garde Francais.

The center attack was stopped cold by British artillery and superior fire discipline. As you can see in the photo below, both the Lyonnais Regiment and the Soissonais Regiment had acquired some black dice, and their advance was slowing and looking very precarious. This black dice were taking their toll, and rally was becoming difficult as command (yellow) dice were being diverted to the action on the hill to their left, and to counter the flanking maneuver by the British mounted forces.

Center attack fails

It was no better around Strassen. Though the French had taken the bridge and the town by a coup de main by the Regiment Picardie storming up the road, over the Bridge, and into the main part of Strassen, they were effectively bottled up by a large allied force of Prussians and Austrian Walloons, just outside Strassen arrayed in firing lines and just waiting for them to emerge from the cover of the village. Even the support sent by Conde of the Garde Suisse viewed any further advance (especially since their artillery was totally masked) as very chancy. Villars pondered his next move.

IMG_0492

Unfortunately for Villars, the situation was deteriorating rapidly. Some Piedmont Drogoons had infiltrated the wood to villas right and were peppering his second line, and making it impossible for them to advance without exposing their flank to short ranged fire which is deadly in DF. A Prussian Light Battery also took position between the Austro-Prussian firing line and the Dragoon infested wood and was also opening up on the French just across the Strassen stream. At that point the Garde Suiss took some hits and a black die. Word from his right of the impending collapse of the Spanish, and from his left of the Marlborough and Cadogan led flanking attack were very unsettling.

French Left Threatened

At that crucial moment, Durant was shot from the saddle, just as Cadogan’s Horse, supported by the Esterhazy Hussars, and Hay’s and Lloyd’s Dragoons emerged from the woods on the French Left. The only force to contest with them was a Bavarian Cuirassier unit (Weikel) and the Bouffremont Dragoons. The only uncommitted reserve for the whole army was the Maison Rouge Cavalry of Gendarmes Eccossais and Bourguingnon, and the Mousquetaires du Roi. Villars ordered them along with a few casualty free units to cover the retreat of the army as he conceded the field. The battle had lasted two and one-half hours of play and about 45 minutes of pre-battle chatter; three hours and a half by the time all had departed.

.IMG_0495
The Gendarmes Ecossais cover the French retreat as night falls.


Conclusions:

The French committed a cardinal sin of warfare and DF, they attacked essentially on the whole front with no single focus for their effort. DF punishes these general attacks very harshly as they waste a great deal of resources and energy (Red Dice) by dissipating it over a wide front that the enemy can meet in a piecemeal fashion, defeating each in turn.

This was exacerbated by one commander (Montpellier) being characterized as Foolhardy, which meant that any charge launched by him was going to be a go-for-broke effort. It did and it was. On the other flank, the player was new to DF, and opposed to a skilled and experienced Allied commander that concentrated the Allies’ major attack on that flank. All of the other sections of the allied line were on the defense and punished the separate French Attacks.

The French center in troops and leadership (especially the Superior Conde fils) was the best single faction of the French force, but never really got untracked. It might have been the best place for a concentrated French attack. Their artillery was masked for much of the battle, and the village was a very disruptive factor in their advance.

Great applause must go to Marlborough for his very personal leadership and determined, concentrated, enveloping maneuver, which, along with the serious losses caused the French by the Allied forces in the center and on the Allied left, won the battle.

Game Mechanics:

1. The black die rules were generally viewed favorably. They play very simply, and instill a slowing and retrograde unit behavior without a ton of rules or tables. I love it.

2. We are thinking that a slight initial devaluation of unit die values, particularly for very large games such as this one, would accelerate the decision point. It is suggested that all units be lowered by two die points for games with more than 20 units on a side. I.e., A regular would be worth 10 dice instead of 12, Guards 14 instead of 16, etc.

3. We used a random card play of the six phase cards, and rather enjoyed it, especially for meeting engagements.

4. The new Officer Action Rule that allows rally attempts on that phase as well as during RRR was very much liked. It also instills some increased conflicts in the gamer’s mind about whether to use command dice for rally or for combat actions.

5. Neither the Howitzer rules or the Hussar rules were tested at all! The howitzer never had line of sight, and the Hussars were rear support for Cadogan’s horse and never really in combat. Next game.

6. Train rules were in effect, but the train of both armies was never threatened. Each train was given a commander with 2 command dice which could ONLY be used to augment the normal 1 die movement of the train. I have yet to pay up the bottle of Beaujolais for the capture of the Wine Wagon.