Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Battle of Nichtschlaftenstein

While the plotting and excitement continues to rise over the forthcoming family reunion, news arrives of a battle along the Nidda River in Frankszonia's northern reaches ....

The Battle of Nichtschlaftenstein

(Theoretically, this occurs somewhere in the Tannes Berg on the communications route between Hesse Fedora and the Hesse Seewald army threatening Frankfurter)

The first thing one needs to note about this battle and its long after the action report is that the whole thing was done when I was supposed to be asleep. Being an adult, I didn’t need to burn a flashlight under covers (which always resulted in too many figures being knocked over or out of place when I was a kid), but I did need to use reduced lighting so I wouldn’t wake up the wife. Similar considerations will show up elsewhere in this report, I’m sure (grin).
Anyway, I’d decided that my leg pains and toothache between them were going to prevent me from getting any sleep, so why not a little wargame? I grabbed a bit of green foam core (it had gotten bent, so the wife didn’t want it for an art project .... measured 18" by 28" or something ... and yes I measured, but remember I was very sleepy). Quick testing showed that I could prop this up as a level board on my beside table and a nearby clothes tub with the aid of a few books (around here, there’s ALWAYS a few books in reach :)). Obviously, then the game would have to be a small one. I considered using the Two Hour Wargames stuff, but the bag with the all important die roll charts was too far away (I would have to actually get up to get it). On the other hand, having spent a lot of time with the Koenig King rules lately (and no, I don’t have them memorized, I’m just a slow learner), I felt I could fudge something off of that system.
Now this presented me with a new problem. K.K is written for games using 15 or more units per side. Even in 15mm this would be too much. Moreover, my usual K.K. collection resided in the front room where our houseguest was supposedly also sleeping. Now I happen to have a stack of various little plastic armies in the bedroom ... but as they are based as if 25mm figures, they also would require a much larger playing field. So I decided to fudge it.
After washing down the last of the candy with my bedside water mug, I decided to do what I’ve often done before. Shift the focus from the brigade to the battalion. Koenig Krieg has an interesting initiative system in which the initiative swings back and forth throughout each turn. It has always generated a bit of surprise and excitement and even tension for me as a solo gamer. Normally, one rolls initiative to control the sequencing of brigades. Since I didn’t want to have that big an army, I would roll for the battalions instead. (Works fine if each side has less than 10 battalions to fool with).
Now the problem was how to fudge up the battalions ....
As many of you know, my wife and I are invalids. As a result, I’ve often been at the receiving end of the surprising generosity of wargamers. Very often, when I’d buy a batch of figures, they’d throw in a few bits of odds and ends ... one of this, two of that ... so forth. So I wound up with wound up with two, 8 figure battalions of green coated Freikorps (actually, they were supposed to be indians ... from arguably the worst every cast commercially figures – the old Giant of Hong Kong set, — indeed, most of the figures actually wearing tricorns on the board that night came from that set ... even though I’ve long, long ago lost 90% of them ... including all the Hessian grenadiers ). An “Allied composite battalion” (mish mash of Napoleonics, I think ... I gave them to the redcoats) of ten figures. A British Grenediers (very old Airfix, I think) of ten figures. Two British line battalions of 10 figures (actually Colonials, red coats, blue pants, white pith helmets). To command them, I pulled out the V. Ballpark figure (a British officer type for Nappys but mounted on a rocking horse).
Now I did have enough of those Giant tricorns to make three battalions of twelve figures each ... and some bicorn figures that made a nice 10 figure battalion. ... Also, enough loose, unassigned single figures to give the blues 4 officers (I decided to give the Freikorps to the Blues too, but to make their commander “unreliable” ... which meant he had to roll every turn to see if he did anything).. With all this I had a hundred figures on the little bit of foam core. I also dug out some “cannons” I’d made long ago from pipe cleaners (blues got one, red got two, of which I designated one as an howitzer). When I plopped two paper houses and an hedge line (which I was using to mark the edge of a “woods” ... I expected the board to chock full.
Not only did the board not fill up, I actually had space to consider some maneuvering.

So, emerges the Battle of NichtSchlaftenstein. In the west of the little flat space in the hills lies the tiny village. In the northeast lies the wooded rise of NichtSchlaftenberg ( I did mention that the foam core board was a little rumpled). A small and insignificant creek trickled down the middle (caught the mug before it fully spilled when one of the cats decided to jump onto the bed).
Our loyal Frankszonian forces (the blues under Brig. Nathan) march in from the northwest corner. The Britischerwurst (reds under Lord Ficksnore) from the southeast. Ficknsore is an experienced, creative, but rash leader who has a force of fairly elite men following him (good shots, close order drill, and a battalion of Grenadiers). Nathan, on the other hand, though an experienced officer, as are his subordinates, tends to be rather methodical in his approach. Surprisingly, however, the first initiative falls to Nathan who throws the Militia into the village. After this first bit of luck, however, Ficksnore’s brilliance seems to dominate as he moves his forces in a coordinated manner on board.
Ficksnore wants to draw the Frankszonians into the cross fire of his artillery, so he holds back the Red Line and starts the Grenadiers confidently to drive the militia out of the village and his allies to secure the wooded flank. Since Nathan has a battalion of lights (I held back the two figures lying down, as I intended to remake them into casualty markers anyway), he sends the light infantry into the woods to challenge the composites. Meanwhile he marches his two line battalions, one behind the other, to support the militia. The small battery covers the left of this movement, while the Freikorps is also ordered towards the woods.
In the next turn, Ficksnore manages to get both of his batteries firing into the village, and though the militia takes light casualties, it holds its position and the village does not burn. The forces in the woods engage in a firefight (the new rules gave the Frankszonian lights only three dice against their foes five ... this would have repercussions later, but given the disruption factor or whatever, this round the honors were about even). Seeing the grenadiers pressing forward, Nathan orders his artillery to focus on them. The Frankszonian artillery will perform quite well, ultimately weakening the grenadiers enough that their attack on the village will fail). Unfortunately, the Freikorps leader refuses to enter the woods to support the lights this turn.
In the next turn, the grenadiers open musketry on the village, but the first battalion of the Frankszonian line is able to come up on their flank and deliver a resounding volley! (Out of ten total dice in this firefight, btw, not one single solitary hit! .... and then a cat knocks over the dice box, so I have to move the whole battle onto the bed, get down on hands and knees with a flashlight and pick up the dice, and then get reset again .... all without disturbing the wife! (Woosh)). The Frankszonian lights do get driven out of the woods in this turn, but the Freikorps leader posts one battalion to confront the woods while marching the other to capture the Britischerwurst howitzers. Those howitzers had damaged the Frankszonian first battalion enough that it fails to charge the exposed flank of the grenadiers.
So, on the next turn, The Grenadiers storm into the village (where the militia amazingly stands fast). Nathan anxiously brings up his second battalion hoping to drive the redcoats back before they can consolidate. The Britischerwurst line advances to support the howitzers and to stop the Freikorps charge. Amazingly, the militia holds on in the village and much bedraggled Grenadiers are driven back in disorder (carrying Lord Ficksnore with them). The British line does score a few casualties against the Freikorps, but the Friekorps does manage to overrun the howitzers! The advance of the Frankszonian 2nd battalion also manages to take the recoiling Grenadiers in the flank, driven them back through the Red line ... and then to drive in a battalion of the Red line!
Covered by the composite battalion and the 2nd line battalion, the Reds retreat into the hills, barely avoiding a cat astrophe named Tweetie who was looking for any leftovers from an earlier feeding ...

It may have been the light, it may have been my tiredness, but these dice never rolled so many low numbers before ... which created a lot of surprising situations for me to enjoy.
I figure Nathan is still reaming the 1st Battalion for not charging when it should have, and I expect the Red coat troops would like to ream Ficksnore too ... but that will take another day.
The Red infantry wasn’t too worried about losing the Howitzers ... in three turns of firing, they only managed to inflict two casualties!
And how can I effectively give battle honors to a militia unit which will evaporate before my next game!!


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Photos of Vauban Fortifications

I truly wish I'd had this site available 30 years ago when writing my Senior Thesis!
A major comment, when you view the photos, look at the green stuff! Most of Vauban's works were earth works on which he deliberately planted trees and bushes to make them very difficult for the enemy to figure out the best sites for siege batteries ... much of the stone work in these photos are obviously from pre-Vauban eras!

BTW, if you don't know ... the "portrait" used for me in Blogspot is actually one of Vauban ... one of my heroes. Not only a great engineer, a brave soldier, but also a daring proponent of the idea that one should tax folks who HAVE money rather than the peasants (this last idea forced Louis XIV to retire him).


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Hunting we will go ....

The time approaches for the annual visit to Ausfhart by the Hurtshog, Stanken Fhartz.
The old castle of Einfhart has been renovated, and there's a family reunion scheduled for the annual late grape harvest (okay, it's probably later than that in real Germany, but I always liked Reisling Spatlaze Rhine wines).

Since the family is as politically united as Frankfurter itself, this is going to take some ticklish diplomacy ....

Intendent Bastille pours himself a solid cup of Benedictine (Chevert Wine is for more delicate occasions) as he sees L'Comte Beauphaup sashaying towards his office.
I'll have to paraphrase their conversation as I don't speak a word of French ...

Bastille gulps it down and turns toward the door to greet his visitor:
Bastille: Good afternoon, m'Lord. What is the occasion of the honor of your visit?
Beauphaup (taking a sniff from his pomander): Nothing especial, your Excellency ... we just require a few notes of safe passage through the lines.
Bastille: Through the lines?
Beauphaup: Well, there's the Hurtshog cousin, who's declared himself the true Hurtshog and attached himself to Hesse Cassel and his entourage;
Bastille: Permit hostile officers through the lines?!?
Beauphaup (ignoring Bastille's irritation and shock): and the Ritter Frazlewitz, the Hurtshog's illigitimate half brother ...
Bastille: Ah, the old Duke did have a reputation!
Beauphaup: NO, no. That crowd would be too dangerous, somebody might decide to attempt a radical form of legitimization, if you follow my meaning ...
Bastille (even more shocked): So, this "half brother" is not his father's child?
Beauphaup: Of course not, and there is also Bombastus Fhartz, though he'll be a special problem ...
Bastille (a little rocky): a (his voice rises an octave)"special" problem?
Beauphaup: Oh yes, he's a renegade. Casts cannons for the Turk, you know. The Papal agents will be trying to catch him, and Stagonia will be trying to buy him ...
Bastille (with heavy sarcasm): and what is the purpose of these "little requests"?
Beauphaup: Well, the old family castle has been renovated, you know: Nice French style gardens with clear fields of fire and so forth. The Hurtshog feels that a grand family reunion amid the wine fest would help him with the people outside of the city where the Resistance hides out.
Bastille: So he's throwing ANOTHER ball?
Beauphaup: Oh yes. It'll be all local girls except for whomever you and the other foreign notables bring.
Bastille: You expect ME to attend another of the Hurtshog's balls? (His voice rising and trembling)
Beauphaup: Of course! How could we hold a state ball without bringing such powers as yourself? The official invitations probably won't go out for a few weeks yet ...
Bastille: Excuse me, m'lord Count, but I feel some indigestion ...
Beauphaup: So sorry. I'll leave these documents with you ... perhaps some Fraumilch might help?

Bastille lurches abruptly for the closet, waving Beauphaup away.
Beauphaup shrugs, does an about face, and hands a portfolio to Bastille's aide as he minces out ....