Thursday, August 27, 2020

Simple Wargame #4: Eagles Cheaper than Brain Cells SYW Edition

 Simple Wargaming - "Eagles Cheaper than Brain Cells"

Admittedly I'm running a little late in my posting as this game was played last weekend.  A weekend that featured a gaming double header with mutliple "simple" wargames including another game of my "Eagles Cheaper than Brain Cells" Grand Tactical Horse & Musket game, and a game of Worthington Publishing's "Hold the Line" American Revolutionary war board game but played with my 15mm AWI minis.  (Hold the Line) will be another post, as this one is all about addressing "the questions" for "Eagles..."

Scenario 2 - Pitched Battle!

The battlefield.  The Prussians must capture the hill and hold the crossroads.  

Tough looking troops!  The Austrians have dedicated 2 infantry regiments and a battery of guns to hold the hill.

Prussian infantry ready to advance!

It's important to note that I played this with my single-based Seven Years War 10mm forces and NOT Napoleonics (which Eagles was originally made for). I thought it was a nice time to show off the single based units since I've been talking up the concept so much lately.

There were 3 easy-peasy mods used - infantry were "sluggish" meaning no pre-move turn.  All turns had to be completed at the end of movement.  Also the Prussians got their volley fire rule, meaning if they were ordered, they fired with an extra die.  The Austrians were "resolute" meaning if they were assaulted and retained an order, they could use it in the assault combat.

This is a "set piece" engagement with multiple objectives - the hill and the crossroads.  Winner holds both by the end of turn 15.  The Austrians (red player) hold the initiative.

The Prussian Battery and a single Regiment hold the crossroads - meanwhile the Prussian Dragoons ride out to meet the Austrian Dragoons!

The Prussians start the battle leaving their artillery battery which can range the table, and an infantry regiment to guard the crossroads.  They set out with 3 infantry regiments to assault the hill.

Similarly, the Austrians set a detachment aside to capture the crossroads consisting of 2 x infantry regiments and their cavalry (dragoons).  Both sides rolled the same amount of units:

4 infantry regiments, 1 dragoon squadron, 1 artillery battery.

Both sides score low for orders initially with the Prussians outscoring the Austrians and moving their infantry up to the hill on a march order.  The cavalry will meet in the middle and do what cavalry does - charge!

The Prussian Cavalry riding to meet the Austrian cavalry!

The Prussians are starting to regret leaving a token detachment at the crossroads as 2 Austrian regiments bear down on them. Meanwhile, the hill confers cover for the defenders (Austrians) and Prussian fire is 1 less D6 effective. One of the Austrian volleys against the Prussians scores 3 out of 3 possible hits, leaving the Prussians "disorganized" (yellow die).

The yellow die on the left Prussian regiment denotes a "disorganized" regiment that has taken serious casualties.  in this case 3 hits in a 3D6 volley - ouch!  They will fire with 1 less D6 for the rest of the game.

Blue dice are orders.  Note the unit with the commander does not have an orders die as the commander confers a free order.

The Prussian Dragoons are charged by the Austrian Dragoons. Since the Prussians are "ordered" they can countercharge - which they do to good effect. The combat is so violent that both sides are gobbled up in the ensuing cavalry battle.

Dragoon vrs Dragoon combat on turn 4.  Note the significantly reduced strength of the Prussians assaulting the hill.

Austrians are bearing down on the defenders of the crossroads now!

A valiant defense at the crossroads but the Austrians eventually gain the upper hand. 

After some fool hardy assaults, the Prussians smarten up and use volley fire to soften up the Austrians. Their volley fire rule will help by allowing them to negate the Austrian cover advantage on the hill. Meanwhile a knife fight is going on further south as the Austrians assault, fall back, rally, and assault again. The Prussians are holding on by a finger nail.

This reaches an incredible climax when the Austrians, with the initiative, attempt to rally from 6 hits (one more and they're toast), and fail their rally attempt.  The Prussian battery has retained an order and so can fire.  They do so and EVERY SHOT MISSES.  This was probably a defining moment of the game as the Austrians moved in to assault the crossroads and the battery next turn.  Once the Austrians seized the crossroads, victory for the Prussians became impossible.

The Questions!
OKay onto the Simplicity Questions!

How Long did the game take to play?
1 hour and 26 minutes due to the fact that there were only 6 units on a side.  More would have been outstanding.  Eagles takes a bit longer than OHW due to the orders and initiative phases - which are both instrumental to the game.  I have a full complement of medium and heavy cavalry, as well as elite infantry units with plenty more on the painting table.  my aim is to fight a mid-sized battle like Lobositz or Prague with EAGLES and see how that goes.

What was the scenario?
Scenario #2 Pitched Battle from One Hour Wargames.

What happened?  
Prussians assaulted the hill.  Austrians assaulted the crossroads.  The Prussians got the worst of things and should have left more forces to guard their rear area.  

Extraordinary Events
There were many.

The Prussian battery firing a bombardment at close range and hitting absolutely nothing was shocking and opened the door for an Austrian regiment to assault.  Again it was fun watching the steam go out of the Prussians almost entirely at this point.  They lost a Regiment next turn as well at the crossroads.  INteresting how the timing and a few casual decisions made in the beginning of the game regarding the rear-guard at the crossroads sealed the fate of one side completely!  I love this stuff!

The Austrian Dragoons charged the Prussian Dragoons.  The Prussian Dragoons were "ordered" but did not have the initiative and so when charged, they used their order to "counter charge" the Austrian Dragoons.  Both sides then got the extra d6 for "cavalry charging" and both Regiments were destroyed after this round of melee!

The Austrian volley from the hill early-on which disorganized the Prussian Regiment (3 hits - yellow die and a permanent -1 firing dice) was tough to cope with as the Prussians, who needed solid volleys to dislodge their Austrian rivals.

The Prussians literally had the initiative for a single turn - 1 in 15 times!  It just wasn't a good day for the men in the blue coats but this is war.  In EAGLES, one side will start with initiative.  It can only be "stolen" away winning a dice off by 2 at the start of the turn but AFTER you place your orders.  This gambling aspect of the game is fun and makes a difference where you place your orders.  The Austrians kept the initiative for the entire battle which has literally never happened in a game of EAGLES before.

Who Won?  Why?
I briefly discussed this but besides some bad luck, the Prussians made a few bad decisions, including launching numerous foolhardy infantry charges into assault combat against a defender with clear terrain advantage.  This caused a singificant degradation in combat power and ranged fire would have been incredibly more effective.  Also worth mentioning another departure from the Napoleonic game - no skirmish fire.  So the 18th century linear formations must get up close and personal.  Here is where the Prussian additional volley die would have helped - shooting against the defenders on teh hill would have been -1D6, however the Prussians could have negated this with their volley fire rule.

Did You Enjoy the Game?  
Yes very much so.  The EAGLES rules for SYW really capture the flavor of a pitched horse and musket battle and the movement restrictions make planning a much more essential ingredient for the general.  I also loved showing off my single-unit bases and like the "feel" of them in combat, especially for a grand-tactical game like this.

Advanced Questions

HOw many consultations occurred with the rules?
quite a few, actually.  I had to look up a few things regarding firing arc, movement, and assault combat (artillery bombards at 3+ in regular Eagles (SYW modified to 4+ for bombardments) but defends itself in melee at 5+.  I had to confirm this).

It's also worth mentioning here that for the first few turns, I forgot it costs 2 orders to order a unit that is within 1 basewidth of the enemy.  The idea being that these units are decisively engaged and extricating them or making them do things is much harder.  I started doing this at turn 8 again and it made the game tougher on the Prussians, not the Austrians.

Details and Chrome that's Missing  (In my humble opinion)

As Erik pointed out in his Napoleonic Friedland 1807 game, EAGLES has some restrictive movement rules that can cause traffic jams and it's hard to get a unit out of trouble.  He suggested taking a look at how Blucher handles this and I am in the process of doing just that!

Final Thoughts
While EAGLES was made for Napoleonics (think games like Volley and Bayonet, Blucher, and Grande Armee) the slight modifications make it perfect for the more stately, slow nature of battle from the 18th Century.  

Artillery has a slightly reduced effectiveness, and infantry units are not nearly as flexible.  All of these changes were super easy to implement and I loved the effect they produced.  I've been doing much thinking about an AWI variant of EAGLES which will have some departures from the game now but will still retain the excitement of the base game.  Stay tuned for a "Hold the Line" simple wargame report soon!  I also must write up another battle report of Norm's "Tigers at Minsk" but played on my old Squad Leader board with Squad Leader counters - let me tell you that was a match made in heaven with the OP FIRE markers and "Broke" squads on the back side of the counters it really lent itself nicely to TaM play - but it's still not my 15mm minis :)

I hope everyone has had a great week.  I'm ready for some more outstanding simple gaming this weekend! 

Friday, August 21, 2020

Battle of Eckmühl Day 1 - Eagles Cheaper than Brain Cells

Erik over at "The Swedish Intelligencer" blog has been playing a bunch of "Eagles Cheaper than Brain Cells" Grand-Tactical Napoleonic games lately, including a historical Friedland refight.

Reading Erik's multiple battle reports really made me want to get a game of "Eagles" back on the table, especially being one of the rules I am testing out as part of the "simple wargaming" project.  Truth be told, I have not yet fought a large historical refight with Eagles before so I felt the time had come!  Eckmuhl and the other battles leading up to Aspern-Essling have some scattered and localized actions and I found some scenarios based on the French III Corps actions in the northern half of the battle on day 1, where Davout must hold out for reinforcements and Charles picks his moment to attack.

French III Corps staring at the Austrians across the field.  

For this game I used 3D6 for French orders, and 2D6 + 1D3 for the Austrian orders, representing the sluggish nature of the Austrian command.

Grandeau's Infantry Brigades poised to seize Obersanding

The French start with initiative on turn 1.  Both sides rolled up good orders on turn 1 and move out with the French arranging themselves for an assault on Obersanding.  They'd demonstrate against Oberlaichling.  The lights in the center will skirmish with the Austrian Grenzers in the woods for almost the entire battle.  BTW, the battle was to last for 15 turns but with a twist.

If neither side had reached a "breakpoint" of 6 stands knocked out along with their geographical objectives held, I would roll to end the game starting after turn 15.  If on turn 16 I rolled a "6" the game ends.  If on turn 17 I rolled a 6 or 5, the game would end, and so on.  As it turns out, I did not need that rule in place.  More on that later. 

The breakpoint was a new concept as well.  I chose 6 units, with each unit being a victory point, and the geographical objectives also being worth a VP each.  Once your army hits its break, it must roll under the Breakpoint minus every stand that is knocked out over breakpoint.  So if you have 8 stands knocked out, that is 2 over your breakpoint.  6 minus 2 is 4.  Meaning you have to roll 4 or less for your army to stay in the game.  This also became a convenient way to end a large battle.

Turn 1 and both sides move out towards their respective objectives and adversaries!

Naturally, with 2 divisions poised against each other in such close proximity, Obersanding would become the scene of incredible violence as Brigade after Brigade from both sides smash themselves against it.

Turn 2 - Austrians steal the initiative from Davout!

The Austrians get the jump on the French and garrison Obersanding and Oberlaichling.  It's tough to coordinate all of the Austrian brigades but they are able to eventually move up a number of reinforcing brigades around Obersanding.  Grandeau's men are determined to take the village!

Blue dice are orders

Grandeau's Brigades massing to assault Obersanding!  Note the "commander" figure who represents a free order.  Alex's intent was 1 general stand per 6 units.  I only used 1 since the general roll of 3D6 per the French.  It also really made me think where to use the commander each turn.

One of Grandeau's Brigades go in to assault Obersanding!
In Eagles, you roll your current strength points, adjusted for terrain or position, in close combat.  The first assault on Obersanding is incredibly violent and destructive as the defending Austrians score 100% hits against the French Brigade, who also score 100% hits.  A French brigade is destroyed on turn 2!  The Austrians suffer 3 hits themselves.

The French go in with a fresh Brigade in another assault!

Obersanding is in French hands!

Surrounded by Austrians!  

The French capitalize on their positioning but the constant attacking is wearing them down.  Good thing I have a reserve ready!

Austrian Grenzers fighting it out with the French Voltiguers in the center woods!

French Brigades on the right move slowly into position.  

Turn 3 The Austrians keep the initiative

Austrian Brigades preparing to recapture Obersanding

Heavy fighting continues around Obersanding which changes hands again as a Hungarian infantry brigade takes it by storm.  The French are pushed back and there are a concerning amount of French infantry brigades with a significant amount of hits on them.  Time to rally some of those off!

The French are kicked out of the town!

The French are kicked out of Obersanding, but recapture it on turn 4, only to lose it again on turn 5!  This see saw action is exactly why I love these rules!  

The French in Obersanding see an opportunity and strike at the wounded Hungarian Brigade who were just pushed out, eliminating them!

The French getting greedy?  Another French Brigade routes after being repulsed by Austrian line

Turn 6 and the French are bringing up reserves and trying to rally off hits.

Austrians attempting to shut the door in front of Oberlaichling - the French advance on their right has been very ....leisurely.

Obersanding on the French left getting ready to change hands again - nothing new here!  But these are the last "fresh" Austrian brigades coming in.  This French brigade is on the ropes with 6 hits!

Bombarding Obersanding

Charles bolstering the morale of his footsoldiers during the battle!
Turns 7 and 8 see the lines become more organized as both sides shepherd their fighting strength.  There aren't as many foolhardy charges anymore.  The lights in the center need to get into the fight.

The Austrian Hussars move over to Obersanding and act as a guard against the Voltiguers emerging from the woods.

Speaking of the woods, heavy fighting between Grenzers as they tie down 3 French light units!

The Austrian line on their left forms.

The game is 4-3 right now in favor of the Austrians, who hold both geographical objectives.

Turn 10 sees more French efforts to take Obersanding but nothing materializes.  Have the French shot their bolt?  The Austrians successfully rally hit after hit off and their forces in Obersanding are looking good.

With something of a stalemate on the French left, they switch focus to the right and possibly taking Oberlaichling.  The Austrians see what's up and pull back closer to the town.  The French will have to fight through a division's worth of troops to get there!

Turn 10 sees a consolidation of the Austrian line and the French line pushes forward on both flanks!

Lots more shooting on the final turns as both sides settle in and there is much less maneuver.  The yellow dice are "disorganized" units after suffering 3 hits from the same volley.

The French lights - finally getting their act together?

The French right finally getting its act together?

The French give it one more big push against Obersanding and a fresh Brigade goes disorganized, getting hit with a volley from an "ordered" unit.  This is one of the dangers of going first in "Eagles" - assaulting a unit with an order on it can see the unit "react" by shooting prior to melee.  The defending Austrians disorder the assaulting French.

The French lights harass the Austrians with high hits in an effort to kill more units, but it's obvious the French will not be able to capture either town.  I call the game!

Yellow die unit shoots and melees with 1 less die in every combat due to significant casualties and losses.
The Austrians put their Hussars to good use and assault the advancing French on the right in the flank!  The powerful charge and ensuring melee wipes out BOTH units - I told you this was a brutal and violent battle!

Hussars battle with French Grenadiers and wipe each other out.

The Austrians are the undisputed masters of Obersanding - which is now a burning hulk of a town!

WOW What a game!  This was great fun, loaded with reversals of fortune as the initiative constantly changed hands during the battle.  The French and Austrians both took advantage of battlefield opportunities and the violent and quick thrusts in the beginning of the battle were tempered with more static shooting during the second half as both sides licked their wounds and rallied.

That may have been due to me not playing the rules in a long time but either way it was great fun.

I really love the orders system which is in place so you can't do everything you want on every turn.  This forces you to identify your main effort for the turn.

  You can set up your forces for attacks, bombard the enemy to soften him up for a ground assault, and use cavalry for a killing blow to a unit on the ropes.

For this battle, I feel as the French I could have used my lights more effectively to cut off Obersanding and harass the defenders with ranged fire.  For the Austrians, the "demonstration" in front of Oberlaichling could have been more aggressive and harder on the French but all of my focus was really fixated on the left in Obersanding.  Couple that with a few turns of relatively little orders (3 turns in a row of only 5 or 6 orders for BOTH the French and the Austrians!)

I like the fact that when you're 1 base width from the enemy, it costs 2 orders to order a unit.

I like the ranged fire even through some decry it in a "grand tactical" game I still enjoy shooting and these brigades had many resources in the form of skirmishers, artillery, and maneuvering line battalions.  The ranged fire represents the more "close fight" going on at the battalion and company level.

 EAGLES is really one of my favorite games because of the story it creates.  I plan on playing another "Eagles Cheaper than Brain Cells" game and will apply the "Simple Wargame" questions to it.

This is probably all of the gaming I needed to convince myself to singly base these units.

Some things that need to be looked at:

Retreating/Withdrawin units and "traffic jam" rules
Officer casualties
Breakpoint and Endgame for "open" battles not taken from the OHW scenarios.