Another Dogday afternoon

Well this Saturday saw it happen, Lord Bluster and the Normans finally caught up with the Skraelings led by the legendary Chief Half-baked and his fearsome band of Indian warriors. The battle was one of the hardest yet for yours truly against Joe N. a master wargamer whos reputation on the battlefield and dice rolling is well known throughout the area. I myself am considered by many to be pretty good and roll well especially when “cornered” so I was confident of giving a good account of myself but still figured to end up one more “head on a stick” outside of Chief Half-baked’s lodge!

The battle was intense and therefore I devoted all my energy to the game and none to pictures or notes on the battle so the report will be sort of brief and of course seen from the Norman perspective….Joe can post his rebuttal in comments below…

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My Normans were led by Lord Bluster.

We started with terrain, of course the Indians wanted as much as possible and the Normans as little as possible, so we ended up with 3 pieces, 2 woods and a marsh. I picked a marsh, a mistake that I would suffer with all through the game as it plugged up the center for quicker movement of my troops. Good for my normal Norman strategy of delay and counter attack but this time I was forming a “Panzer Wedge” of armor and attacking. I hoped this would throw Joe off his game a bit and figured that a quick closing with his warlord was my only hope.

The Skraelings have the ability to mimic your battle board in SAGA and can be much like fighting a mirror image of your own army. They also regenerate units (some say like zombies) from their dead pile but this is really to represent other near by villages joining the fight. On my side I felt the Normans would be a tough fight for the Indians since my mounted troops could outdistance them (if they could stay out of the woods!) and quickly exploit opportunities as they appeared. I also realized that much of my battle board would be useless to them since the battle board abilities were tailored to mounted troops and could not be used by them at all. I also decided to not use the usual “levy bowmen” as I figured the Skraelings could out shoot me easily and a rapid close into hand to hand where my superior armor and weapons would quickly tell on his lightly clothed warriors was best. Instead of the levies I brought out the “Flemish Mercenaries” a fun unit that is much like an armored tank for the Dark Ages. Hard to kill, painfully slow, but if you can close packs a punch in melee!

The complete unit of "Flemish Mercinaries" for SAGA. I painted the group using a limited color palette to create a sense of a professional unit for hire.

The complete unit of “Flemish Mercinaries” for SAGA. I painted the group using a limited color palette to create a sense of a professional unit for hire.

The game started with me winning the setup roll and placing my Warlord in the center, and followed with my force of 12 Hearth guard (1 x 8, 2×4), 8 Warrior crossbow men, and 8 Flemish Warrior Mercenaries. All in a sort of wedge formation in the center aimed at the marsh between the woods. Infantry forward with cavalry in the rear.

Joe setup in typical Indian fashion Javelin armed warriors to the sides behind the woods with 2 huge bands of bowmen covering the center, his warlord to the rear with the women and children…ohh I mean he was protecting the helpless ones.

From the start of the game I pushed forward just a bit at first, Joe and the Skraelings also moved forward into the woods on either flank. I had led with my crossbow men which proved to be a mistake as they died under a hail of Indian arrows but kept the Skraelings busy. I had forgotten how SLOW the dammed Flemish were and had to rethink my plans for them. I pulled them out of the marsh and funneled them up the center towards the Skraeling bowmen. If I remember this was the point that Joe pulled his bowmen and his Warlord back to the left behind his warriors. I pushed up the middle while feinting to the right with a small hearth guard unit to keep his warriors grouped there interested and away from the left. My second Hearth Guard unit had ventured into the woods, immediately being brought under attack by Joes Warriors javelins there but some good saving rolls by me kept them together long enough to Melee with them, succeeding in pushing them back with heavy losses. My Normans were closing the ring on the Indians and if I could just move fast enough.

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Most of the battle it was interesting that I never really rolled that well with the SAGA dice to get a lot of ability board use and found myself just using activations to rest and move as fast as possible before the Skraelings could re deploy. My 8 man Hearth Guard unit was making the end run up the open land left of the woods on the left.

The fight was intense and Joe played hard, he didn’t get any better dice then I did and when he did I managed to counter with great saving roles, once my Normans closed into close combat it was pretty much decided but Joe once again showed his ability by bringing a fresh unit onto the board just as I was about to close with his Warlord. This last fight was on the edge of the Skraeling rear board and showed how important and chess like the rules can be. After meleeing the “fresh” unit Joe’s unit having “lost” should have retreated but given that in the rules that if a defeated unit cant because of enemy troops or terrain be pushed back the winning unit moves back. This had the effect of allowing me to move out of his units zone of control therefore not forcing me to attack him but being able in my last move swing over attack and defeat his Warlord! Pheewww! What a game, well fought and a nail biter to the end. Many have fought Joe and his “Skraelings” and nearly all have fallen to them. I’m lucky to have won…I was happy midway to just have pushed him back and caused some concern never thinking I would carry the Chiefs “beads” back to Normandy. Thanks Joe! A great battle with a great warlord!

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My “hero” bowmen up left and the woods they cleared of Welsh warriors!

The evening was coming on but I stayed for one more battle with Dave D. and his Welsh! The Welsh are a real tough fight and Dave knows how to use them! Fortunately my levy Bowmen got their range and nearly wiped out some of his units!. Using nearly the same type of aggressive tactics coupled with good roles be me and poor ones by Dave the Welsh nearly went down but in the end, Warlord on Warlord I bit the dust……

It was a good day at the “Dog Pound” and “a good day to die!” thanks to all.

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The last moments in the battle with the Welsh. I thought that with this force I could crush the Welsh warlord but he used his Hearth Guard block me and ran for cover behind some other troops. My band fought well but lack luster dice, time, and good shooting by the Welsh did them in. The point were even up until I lost my Warlord.

AOE Napoleonic’s “The Battle of Souffel”

In an attempt to guard Frances borders while he defeated the main Allied force (British and Prussians) Napoleon had stationed several “Observation Corps” on the most vulnerable approaches. On June 28th 1815 French General Rapp and 19,000 French infantry and around 2,000 cavalry squared off against Austrian Crown Prince Eugene, 34,000 infantry and 4,500 cavalry, this was the very last battle of the Napoleonic wars.

Newly conscripted French infantry prepares to defend the town and river crossing

Newly conscripted French infantry prepares to defend the town and river crossing

 

An English reporter for the London Times (Percy Wordsmith) sent this eye witness report while traveling with the Austrian army.

Map showing initial French deployment (Yellow) and Austrian advance (Orange).

Map showing initial French deployment (Yellow) and Austrian advance (Orange).

French troops had spent most of the early morning pushing civilians out of their homes and out of the villages. Other French units set to work clearing fields of fire building barricades, and improving their lines along the river until the scouting Hussar units galloped back across the bridges with reports of Austrian columns fast approaching. As the French hunkered down in their defensive positions the far side of the Souffel river bristled with the bayonets from half a dozen Austrian columns. Huge Austrian brigades nearly the size of French divisions maneuvered around each other in an attempt to quickly close with the French. The French artillery opened up on these columns, seldom causing real damage but throwing them into disorder and slowing them down. In the center Austrian heavy cavalry pushed to the center causing the French horse batteries to withdraw and French heavy cav to counter the move in order to guard the flanks of both towns.

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Austrian commanders position their supporting Artillery battery’s with a cheer ans a “Hats off” salute!

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French Cavalry and a Horse battery cover the center

Austrian forces in the center had finally started to push across the bridges but were repulsed at both crossings by stubborn French resistance losing a few troops along the way. The Austrians retreated back across the bridges to regroup and await the redeployment of their gun batteries in a better supporting position. Over two hours had passed by now and as general Rapp anticipated the Austrians had detected his weak undefended left flank. Reports of Austrian cavalry and guns crossing there in force were now coming into his headquarters, Rapp quickly dispatched an ADC to Colonel Merlin commanding the French cavalry to move west to block the Austrian flanking move. Rapp also gave orders to send a brigade from each of his other divisions to also move into a blocking position to the west allowing his cav to resume their job as a mobile reserve in the center.

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Austrians mass and move to the assault. Austrian Cav gives french Cav something to think about in the center.

The Austrian commanders however had planned this diversionary attack on the French left flank to do just exactly what it had done, weaken the center, and they choose that moment to launch a renewed assault, a much more coordinated, powerful, attack. The Austrian batteries roared, slamming shell after shell into the French defenders. The French defense remained firm and the artillery had little effect but that of making a shambles of the town. Now over the bridges came the renewed attack of the Austrians, two brigades now reformed into assault columns (thanks AOE Yahoo group) and combining their numbers for the assault against the small French brigade left in town.
On the eastern side of the battlefield the Austrians were finally sorting out the traffic jams caused by their massive and unwieldy brigades. One of the Austrian brigades charged forward across the bridge but suffered the same results as the Austrian attacks across the bridges there. The eastern Austrian push settled down to an artillery dual with the Austrian commander waiting for developments elsewhere on the field. To the west the French and Austrian forces squared off and waited for one another other to see make the first move.

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Austrian troops across the river at Souffelweyersheim spend most of the battle just tossing angry shouts and an occasional cannon ball at the French.

The center now erupted into pitched battle over the bridges of Mundolsheim and again the Austrian dragoons once attempted to cross the Souffel in the center, succeeding in causing the French cavalry to move back from their blocking position in the east  to the center, again countering the Austria dragoons. This time the Austrians Dragoons charged, the French Hussars counter charged and after a brutal fight the weight of Austrian heavy cav succeeded in crushing the French Hussars. The Austrian commander had watched intently this clash and was now joyous with the possibility of splitting the French center and even falling onto the rear of the French line to the west. However he had no cavalry reserve to push across the center and the Dragoons were far from fresh. The Austrian Dragoons sensing that this was the moment, their moment shook off their disorder and preparing too charge the rear of the French defenders to the west.

Austrian columns assault and shatter the french center, the french Officer and gun battery in the picture have been "captured" survivors flee to the rear.

Austrian columns assault and shatter the french center, the french Officers and gun battery in the picture have been “captured” survivors flee to the rear.

Meanwhile the Austrian infantry attack on the French center had succeeded in forcing the crossings, nearly destroying the defending French brigade, the French losing two regiments, their guns and their commanding general captured, the remnants falling back out of the town.

The final positions just before dark and the close of the Battle. French / Yellow, Austrians / Orange

The final positions just before dark and the close of the Battle. French / Yellow, Austrians / Orange

The Austrians now sensed the French were in trouble and pressed on, their infantry columns flooding through and out of the town in pursuit, forming up in line of battle preparing to roll up the French left flank. Once again as they had done several times already this battle French forces despite being of less than normal quality (50% of the infantry were conscripts) rose up in defiance and struck back.

French Infantry and Cavalry make a last ditch counter attack to stem the Austrian tide!

French Infantry and Cavalry make a last ditch counter attack to stem the Austrian tide!

The French reserves had finally arrived in the center and deployed with a heavy battery with in effective range of the reforming Austrian dragoons and just as they were about to charge, delivered a devastating combined volley killing several stands, throwing the Austrian dragoons back into disorder, and pinning them in place where they stood till they died. A small victory for the French but it had little effect overall the Austrians had pushed back the french left flank and now four huge Austrian brigades had were in position to move forward taking the rest of the French positions in the flank or rear…. Fate and darkness intervened at this point with the battle ending at 7:30 pm. General Rapp ordered skirmish screens and a general withdrawal towards Strasbourg.

From the Austrian camp,

Percy Wordsmith, London Times

When the victory points were added up the French were ahead, coupling that with their success in keeping at preventing the Austrians from archiving a quick crossing of the Souffel and possibly trapping Rapps main force gave the French an overall win. Herr Gausche playing the part of Archduke John did a splendid job in forcing the river crossing against a determined opponent. We learned how to do a few things within the rules that we had not come across before. Once again the “Age of Eagles” rules rose up and proved to be equal to the task and provided us with one of the best Napoleonic battles yet played by us over the years.

Rules: Age of Eagles (AOE) by Bill Gray from Fire and Fury

Scenario courtesy of the Susquehanna war-gaming group

French, 5 Commanders, 50 infantry stands, 11 Cavalry stands, 4 Batteries

Austrians, 6 Commanders, 90 Infantry Stands, 25 Cavalry stands.

A Balloons eye view of the Battlefield at the end

A Balloons eye view of the Battlefield at the end