Friday, 13 April 2018

Loitering Around Bad Faschingskrapfen

Loitering Around Bad Faschingskrapfen

With the campaign's initiative swinging to the Austrians, Scheittekatte has spotted an opportunity to drive the French away from Gross Lardsdorf to the fringes of a nearby spa resort. Spurred on by rumours of a delightful tea-room and sauna, Scheittekatte is in the mood to hand out another drubbing. After a strong start, Volte-Face's forces are on the defensive. As luck would have it, we rolled up the "defence in depth" scenario which seemed perfect.

The French were allowed to deploy in two lines. The first (advanced/secondary deployment point) was placed in the centre of the board, just to the south of the track running across the battlefield. The main deployment point was placed at the back of the board, between a derelict farmhouse and a copse of trees. It's game over if the Austrians capture the main deployment point or if either side's morale collapses to zero. The French started with a slightly higher morale, perhaps boosted by the return of their trusty artillery piece.

The French Voltiguers deployed first but as you can see the entire Austrian force deployed rapidly afterwards. The plucky Austrian Fusiliers entered on the road, enhancing their potential to move fast, accompanied by the Grenadiers. The Grenzer took off from the other side of the board. Whilst this showed his hand, Scheittekatte wanted to push on and hopefully get through the first deployment zone before the French had time to respond. It also meant that the French could not concentrate their forces on one point and simply stand behind cover and blast away.

Into turn/phase 3 already. Volte-Face deployed his larger Fusiliers unit in the centre where it became snarled up on terrain and walls. Bad decision! The larger unit would have been better held further back in reserve. The Grenzer were already half way down the battlefield and threatening to scoot quickly onto their main objective. Well, scoot may be pushing it a bit far. Faced with crossing a big hedge, Longabuscu delivered a rousing eastern European "huzza" and charged on, only to find his Grenzer lollygagging behind the aforementioned shrubbery. They had rolled a mighty 4 on 3D6 - in fact they alternated between lung-bursting sprints of over 15 inches and pretty much standing still for the rest of the game. Ah, the delights of random movement!

As the Austrian Fusiliers trotted gallantly down the road to join the fray, Blase's Voltiguers seemed caught in two minds. They leapt the hedges to close the distance, then shimmied back into cover, before sniping at the Austrians from the safety of the hedgerow. In SP2 you just never know what might happen. Last time out the Voltiguers could barely hit a barndoor with a very big barn-door hitting stick-thing. This time it was different. You might just be able to see that pretty much every shot hit and caused either shock or a casualty.

Disaster! Calamity! Schiettekatte was hit ... it looked like being the shortest game in history. After the usual blundering around the rule book, we discovered he's been knocked out (no doubt dreaming of fluffy meringues) and would hobble around on a gammy leg for the rest of the game (owing to the gout). This left his Fusiliers already badly mauled and hanging in the breeze within range of the fearsome Italian cannon.

Whilst Scheittekatte slept gently behind his soldiers, the battle then ebbed towards the centre-ground. Here, Volte-Face's larger unit had split - he sent off Sergeant L'Excraimont and an 8-man group to harass the Grenzer whilst the remaining two groups formed up to deliver a volley at the cocksure Hungarian Grenadiers led by Kapitan Hamsarni. Volte-Face's formation definitely came off the worst.

Scheittekatte groaned as he came to and limped back into action. In a fit of derring-do he steadied the Fusiliers who surprised everyone by nearly annihilating the left-hand Voltiguer group (above, bottom right). Nearby, Flatulento gesticulated wildly and finally brought his cannon around to point at the Austrian Fusiliers. Scheittekatte held his breath as his Fusiliers were pounded by two successive rounds of canister split by the tiffin chip, which gouged holes in each flank and piled on shock. Ooof. All three Fusilier groups wavered and withdrew, causing a dip in the Force Morale. Alas, three flags came out in a row and poor Flatulento realised that he had been supplied with damp powder. No amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth could alter the fact. This meant that all future firing from the cannon was halved. This undoubtedly saved the Fusiliers and probably swung the match back towards Austria.

Hamsarni's Grenadiers continued to cause mayhem amidst Volte-Face's once proud ranks of conscripts. Meanwhile, Scheittekatte launched into a courageous speech about the homeland (and its range of exquisite puddings), consolidating his decimated formation into two full groups. The shared shock was considerable but it gave him a fighting chance to withdraw in order and rally the troops out of range of the canister.

With the battle grinding to a halt on the French right, the focus switched flanks (above). Over on the French left flank, the Grenzer had galloped their way past some sniping Fusiliers. Well, perhaps they stumbled their way there. Longabuscu was heading towards the plucky Cliche and the French rearguard, who had swung over to halt the pesky Transylvanian skirmishers. After a brief firefight which rather mauled Cliche's formation, Longabuscu's chip came out again and he elected to charge the hapless French. Cue drumroll and ... the sauntering skirmishers ended up two inches short of making contact. How Volte-Face laughed.

Next: a fourth Red Flag was pulled out of the bag: Longabuscu claimed the bonus round and this time made no mistake. How quickly the tears of joy can switch to tears of pain and frustration! It was a rather one-sided contest as the French had already suffered significant shock and casualties. 7 brave Frenchmen died and they were heavily defeated, driven back nearly off the board. Cliche had challenged Longabuscu to a duel but he came off second best. There he is running away in the picture below, mumbling something about a date with a local girl. The remnants of his unit hid in the trees, attempting to convene with nature in an effort to overcome the shock and shame of their dismal failure. The French morale plummeted but the game was still in the balance, especially with the cannon aiming once again at the Austrian Fusiliers who could easily snap.

The game careened towards a conclusion. On the French left, the Grenzer were hit by accurate shooting from Blase's Voltiguers. Longabscu was forced to consolidate his troops and shock into one group and retreat back around the farmhouse, out of range. But he still had his eyes on the primary deployment point.

On the other flank, Volte-Face and Hamsarni blazed away at each other, neither commander being able to bring his troops under control to do anything else. Volte-Face did use a "pas de charge" earlier in the game to bring the shock down but he was suffering casualties and was pretty much stuck by this stage. Flatulento's cannon continued to persecute poor Scheittekatte but never quite managed to break the Fusiliers.

Then the coup de grace. Longabuscu spent 2 turns leaping wildly over hedges and urging his Grenzer to seize the deployment point. With a reluctant air of bemusement, his troops continued to move erratically but they finally seized the objective with a mighty cheer. The French were defeated!


Volte-Face (still trying to get his troops to stop firing, even though the battle ended yesterday and the enemy had left the field):
Bon sange! Another close-run battle. I honestly did not expect the Grenzer to be able to reach the objective, both given the distance and the likelihood of halting the main Austrian advance. My Fusiliers should have deployed at the back of the board and therefore switched places, but I don't think I'd do too much different if the scenario came up again. The cannon caused a lot of damage again and I honestly feel that the game would have ended in a relatively quick French win if the dreaded damp powder roll had not happened. Cliche, of course, was abysmal. I mean, he barely moved, failed to do much damage on a first-fire at close range, managed to get most of his men slaughtered in fisticuffs, lost a duel and then ran away. That pretty much accounted for the entire army's loss in Force Morale!

Scheittekatte (supping on a sneaky aperitif from his knapsack):
Ha, my boy! What a show! We gave the crapauds a darn good thrashing with a lesson in grand strategy, sound tactics and linear formations. You disagree? Preposterous. Here, help yourself to a garlic croissant whilst I explain. Yes, the Grenzer were able to claim the victory objective, but my regulars laid the platform for their success. They tied up the cannon and the majority of the French force, allowing the nimble Grenzer to do their thing down the flank. Yes, yes, we are thankful for the Grenzer success in fisticuffs but any old fool can charge and defeat Cliche these days (and the charge very nearly failed, had it not been for my masterful use of 4 flags - all part of the grand strategy). The honour and glory should go to the Grenadiers and I will write as much in the dispatch. Now, hand me that weisswurst and go book me a place in a local spa where I can recount the battle in the company of a few local delicacies.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Wincing at the return to Piessting - Updated

**It turns out we rather mutilated the "shock" rules in the first edition of this report. As luck would have it, we had some spare time and managed to re-run the ending. Same outcome (poor "crapauds"). I've updated this report. If you read the old one - sorry and just imagine that Scheittekatte slipped into a strange Austrian-pudding inspired vision ...**

This was a modification of Scenario 4 from the SP2 rulebook - Escort Duty. The French, flushed with the success of kidnapping several Austrian sheep, now face the simple task of escorting them back to camp via their deployment point. The Austrian commander is tasked with intercepting the column and "fleecing" the French of their captured animals. Scheittekatte's honour is surely at stake.

The game ends if one side's morale reaches zero; if the French exit by their deployment point with their precious flock; or if the Austrians somehow manage to capture all of the sheep.

We've taken to adding some minor objectives, something along the lines of Muskets and Tomahawks but more of a "bonus" to add a bit of flavour rather than create a points-based system. Volte-Face aimed to rout the Grenzer (who have been a constant nuisance). Scheittekatte was aiming to get the Grenzer into melee.

French forces:
With a reduced force points total (60-ish rather than the 70-ish of recent encounters) and given the need for speed, Volte-Face decided to leave the Italian cannon at home today. With Volte-Face carrying a minor wound (therefore at Level III), this left a few points spare for an extra leader to accompany the skirmishers. This unit will need to move fast, so rallying that extra shock will become very important. Given Cliche's recent poor performances, he'll be tasked with escorting the sheep!

Line Fusiliers x3 (24)
Leader Level III [Major Volte-Face] #1
Leader Level I [Sergeant L’Excraimont] #2
Light Infantry Chasseur in Line x2 (16)
Leader Level II [Captain Cliché] #3
Voltigeur Skirmishers x2 (12)
Leader Level II [Captain Blasé] #4
Leader Level I [Sergeant Rallier] #5

Austrian forces:
Scheittekatte decided on bringing along his trusty Fusiliers in three groups and the battle-hardened Grenzer under Longabuscu. Both formations dropped their minor leaders. This battle sees the welcome but slightly risky return of the Jaegers (and their floppy hats - but you know my opinion on this matter), this time accompanied by a sharpshooter. The Jaeger officer (Schweitensauer) was severely wounded in our very first battle, so he has been replaced by the tough veteran, Lieutenant Wincing who is a local man and therefore no stranger to the difficulties associated with Piessting.

German Fusiliers x3 (24)
Leader Level III [Colonel Schiettekatte] #1
Jaeger Skirmishers x1 (6)
Leader Level II [Lieutenant Wincing] #2
Grenzer Skirmishers x2 (12)
Leader Level II [Lieutenant Longabuscu] #3


The French started with some poor rolls - starting with a force morale of 9 compared with 11 for Scheittekatte. Volte-Face also rolled a lowly 1 for the number of turns his force could move up the board before the Austrians deployed. An inauspicious start for the "crapauds".

On the other hand, Blase fairly flew down the field with his skirmishers over the next two turns. To his dismay, Scheittekatte deployed in a field on his flank, knocking back a fine brandy he'd captured at the previous battle and generally blustering about in his usual manner. Actually, Scheittekatte had taken his formation on an educational antiquarian picnic, so the rank and file were quite relieved to see the French and moved towards them with uncharacteristic fervor. Meanwhile, Volte-Face's bad day continued by declaring an advance for his formation and rolling a miserly 2 on 2D6. This caused Cliche's unit which was shepherding the sheep to lurch along at the back at a shambolic pace.

Blase seemed unperturbed by the arrival of Scheittekatte's Fusiliers so the sudden appearance of Leutnant Wincing's jaegers (replete with a sharpshooter) certainly did not ruffle his feathers. Eager to get stuck into the action, Wincing let rip at Blase's skirmishing Voltigeurs but did little more than cause a couple of points of shock. The sharpshooter expertly picked off a pheasant in the tree but that's beside the point. With Tiffin out of the bag, the French forces were actually looking in decent shape, with the right hand side of the field pretty much free for Cliche to "pas de charge" his way off the board to secure the victory. Volte-Face began to add a confident swagger to his stride.

First real engagement
With a twirl of his sword and a mouthful of apricot dumpling (which he'd been saving under his hat for just such a moment), Schiettekatte marched his brave Fusiliers to the hedge and promptly received a devastating first-fire from Blase (see below). The left-hand group in particular was already reeling. Tiffin arrived early and Wincing's jaegers took the chance to finish reloading.

Next round. Wincing was drawn immediately and shot off again at effective range into the Voltigeurs, causing some further shock.

Then the move of the day. Longabuscu's chip finally arrived (Grenzer). He swithered about deploying to the left of the Fusiliers - a safe move which could have allowed the Austrians to block the inexorable French/sheep march down the field. Unexpectedly, the Grenzer deployed to the right of Scheittekatte's Austrian Fusiliers and promptly hopped over the hedge to take a position roughly to the flank of Volte-Face's French Fusiliers (below). Unfazed, Cliche simply ran his formation (and fluffy companions) straight ahead. At this stage, with the sheep already a third of the way to down the board, there was a general consensus that things were going downhill rather rapidly for poor old Scheittekatte. He had even dropped his lucky bratwurst and was generally feeling somewhat glum.

Meanwhile, the firefight between Blase and Scheittekatte continued to blaze on, with shock and casualties beginning to mount both ways. Blase smartly withdrew his Voltiguers to effective range which meant that the Fusiliers were at a disadvantage (skirmishers add one to their dice at this range). The Grenzer loosed their first fire at Volte-Face. This caused some shock to the nearer groups but somehow managed to kill two unsuspecting Fusiliers at the far end of the line. Longabuscu also took the opportunity to scoot his skirmishers a touch closer to the French line, threatening a charge. Tiffin.

The decisive moment (below)
Longabuscu's chip came out at the start of the next round and he declared a charge into Volte-Face's formation. It was not a flank charge as they began in the front arc, but it was 2 groups of Grenzer (rated "aggressive") against 1 group of Fusiliers and a supporting group at half-effect. Volte-Face's formation was broken by this (I am not sure we went for the "bad things happen" at this stage but I doubt it made a difference as you will see ...)

Fisticuffs was brutal. The Grenzer bayoneted 4 Fusiliers and caused 8 shock over the 2 groups. The French were at a serious disadvantaged but still managed to kill 3 and cause 4 shock. Perhaps the French would survive? Volte-Face spat on the floor and cursed the day that the Grenzer were painted, steeling himself for the inevitable withdrawal. Scheittekatte, meanwhile, whipped out a strudel of victory and wolfed it down - the Grenzer had achieved their minor objective of getting into fisticuffs.

**So this is the bit we royally messed up ... by "leapfrogging" the withdrawing French groups over/through one another by applying shock left, right and centre in a feat of remarkable agility and poor morale rolling. So one fisticuffs incident led to the French morale evaporating inside 3 minutes. It was amusing but looking back not really the spirit or intention of the rules. So what actually happened once Scheittekatte woke from his gastronomic-induced vision?**

Well, as the pictures above show, we picked up at the point where the French lost fisticuffs (more narrowly than expected). They withdrew as a block and because both groups now had excess shock they were forced to withdraw again. This time, instead of leapfrogging away to oblivion, we applied the excess shock of the first group to the second group and left it at that. Volte-Face still faced four "bad things happen" rolls (slightly better than the infinite rolls he faced last time!). In a quick rules check, we realised that Volte-Face was attached to the first group and therefore counted as an extra man for shock purposes. Handy.

Predictably, however, ol' Volte-Face rolled abysmally and his force morale still dropped from a relatively cock-sure 9 to a certainly cack-handed 6 in no time at all.

Tiffin was pulled, but Cliche's formation had not activated, so with a gutteral, dialect-heavy "hourra" they surged forward a mighty 3 inches. They stopped at the wall - bemused by its germanic structure and what appeared to be skulls instead of cement (good old citadel walls). In true French fashion, they settled down to a deep philosophical discussion about the nature of dry-stone walls whilst the next round began.

What happened next was unexpected but really shows why SP2 is so engaging. The next 8 chips were blue in colour (except for a further Tiffin) and things started to look almost rosy for Volte-Face. Scheittekatte was left to wail and gnash his teeth in frustration until a ranker handed him a sausage roll to distract him - any of the Austrian chips could have been decisive.

The Voltiguers redeemed themselves by pouring fire into the Austrian Fusiliers. Each group of Fusiliers was now very close to snapping and without an NCO it would take an age to rally the shock. Scheittekatte did some quick calculations and realised his morale might drop drastically if one more round of firing hit the Fusiliers before his chip came out.

 Then Volte-Face's chip allowed him to steady his troops and rally them a bit after the fisticuffs.

 And to top things off, Cliche grabbed a couple of flags when his chip emerged and declared a "pas de charge". The philosophical discussions about walls seemed to interfere with the actual movement, as you can see. Or perhaps his commands were lost amidst the heavy bleating of sheep and soldiers alike?

That proved to be the zenith of French fortunes. The increasingly masterful Longabuscu ordered his Grenzer to unleash another round of lead into Volte-Face's crumbling Fusiliers. Whilst Volte-Face avoided injury himself, further casualties and shock caused both groups to withdraw again. With a resigned sigh and flatulent gesture of defiance, Volte-Face turned to the increasingly familiar page that features the "bad things happen" table. Predictably, he rolled badly.

Just to show Cliche how it is done, Wincing leapt over the hedge like an expert hurdler (grazing his nether regions lightly on the way over, causing his troops to shudder - or perhaps wince - ach, whatever). The Jaegers hurtled forward 10 inches after rolling an unbelievable 3x6s - one being lost for hopping the hedge. They scooted around to challenge Cliche's plodding advance off the board. Then Schiettekatte's Fusiliers opened fire on the Voltiguers, causing one group to withdraw owing to excess shock and the formation was broken by fire. A familiar story followed ...

L'Excraimont's small group bravely shot at the Grenzer but to no avail. Longabuscu ignored irritating small group and ordered another salvo into Volte-Face's Fusiliers. This caused more withdrawals and loss of morale.


Scheittekatte's Fusiliers appeared again (after Tiffin) and that was it - one last volley into the dwindling Voltiguers meant that they had to withdraw again. With Gallic flair, Volte-Face nonchalently threw in the towel and the day once again belonged to Schiettekatte.

Cliche: he sometimes moved but how often do you see an entire formation with no shock or casualties on the losing side? Methinks the French strategy was flawed ...

The devastated remains of Volte-Face's command.


Volte-Face (lamenting the loss of his warm, woolly companions): 
Zut. Zut alors! What in the name of the Tour de France happened there? I'm not usually one to bleat about the luck of the draw but goodness me, could I have rolled worse from start to finish - even the second time around after the restart? I knew that I'd pay for pinching the kids' Easter Eggs from the cupboard. Karma. I was surprised that the Grenadiers didn't show up as they are a tough unit to deal with. And when the Grenzer deployed behind me I really thought the French were in for an easy win. I mean, I lit the cigar and pulled up the comfy chair. One more volley and Scheittekatte's Fusiliers would have run off to Vienna. Besides, all I needed was Cliche's chit and maybe a few blue flags. A couple of "pas de charge" and we'd be back at the French camp counting our sheep. Even when the Grenzer charged I thought it wouldn't make too much of a difference. But I did see the funny side when Volte-Face's formation crumbled and headed towards shock-oblivion. Never leave your flank open to a charge - it's pretty obvious! And why didn't I detach a few soldiers to scoot off with the sheep? I needed Cliche's men to even up the firefight. But well played to the Grenzer and ol' Scheittekatte seems to have turned the tables in the campaign. No lamb ragout for the boys this week!

Scheittekatte (visibly pleased at the prospect of roast lamb for tea, sipping on a celebratory schnapps):
What a victory my boy! What did I say? Linear tactics. Wins the day every time. Oh, and aggressive skirmishers m'boy, they may not be civilised soldiers but they pack a wallop when told to do the right thing. Longabuscu has proven himself once again, so we fulfilled the mission and the objective of getting the Grenzer into fisticuffs. Wincing's boys kept plugging away so he had a sound debut (better than his predecessor for sure). The Fusiliers soaked up a lot of punishment when needed. Of course, it was my shrewd tactical planning and inspirational speeches that made all the difference. In retrospect, I can't really remember why Wincing deployed so far from the French objective. Must have a word with the man, he might have ruined it all. But for now, it's back to Vienna for a waltz and a medal ceremony for me. 

On a side-note, this was a success for the strategy of choosing high-ranked officers and no NCOs. Centralised command y'see. Don't trust the NCO blighters - darned rankers the lot of them and all a bit French to have inspiring commoners at the helm. It was a bit rough to remove shock I suppose but the extra support in firepower made all the difference in my book. The French were simply out-gunned and succumbed to the genius of superior breeding / Austrian nobility. Vive l'ancien regime!