The Rhine War of 1855 – Opening Shots: The Battle of Schorndorf

Campaign background here: https://themedetianwars.org.uk/2020/06/the-rhine-war-of-1855.html

Reluctant to wait for their Prussian and Austrian allies to take the field, and fearing that delay would only lead to more time for Wurttemburg to prepare its defences, Bavaria launched its attack ahead of schedule. Crossing the Danube between Ulm and Donauworth, the Bavarian Korps paused briefly at Heidenheim before crossing the border at noon on 1st July 1855.

General position on 1st July 1855: Bavarians about to encounter a significant roadblock, French rushing through the Black Forest and Prussians concentrating at Frankfurt.

With I Korps’ full complement of 24 battalions, 8 squadrons and 12 batteries, plus a further 16 squadrons and 2 batteries in the accompanying cavalry division, the Bavarian army mustered over 24,000 men. Marching as a single body, by mid-afternoon they were approaching the Wurttemburg town of Schorndorf, almost half-way to the capital, Stuttgart.

With lamentable scouting by their cavalry, the Bavarians were somewhat surprised to find their way blocked just short of the town. A division of Wurttemburgers in field defences, though unpleasant, should in hindsight have been expected. However, a contingent of British troops, newly arrived and ready for a fight, was a complete shock!

Bird’s eye view from the Bavarian perspective. The river is shallow and known to be easily fordable. The main road leads NW to Schorndorf.

Although he managed to prepare some field defences at the bridge and likely crossing points, the Wurttemburg commander tried to cover all the options which resulted in him spreading his forces thinly along the river bank. Grateful for the timely arrival of a brigade each of British infantry and cavalry, he deployed them in the centre and as a general reserve. With veterans of the Iron Duke’s battles among the general’s staff, the British cannily took up positions on the reverse slope of the ridge to which they’d been assigned.

The main road, with its bridge, to the left, guarded by Wurttemburgers. British to the right, cavalry to the rear where they will hopefully avoid any impetuous urges.
More defences on the left flank
The view along the river line from the defenders’ right flank
View from behind the lines, as they wait for the enemy’s arrival. Scots Greys not exactly stealthy in the afternoon sun.

By mid-afternoon the Bavarian columns had begun to sort themselves out into assault formation, one division aiming straight up the road to the bridge and the other manoeuvring to threaten the defenders’ centre and right. Despite some reasonably heavy exchanges of artillery fire, this was to be an infantryman’s fight. The river proved to be a minor obstacle and cornflower blue-coated hordes were soon splashing across and into a hail of musketry and cannister. The initial attacks were repulsed but the defenders had suffered casualties too, and as the assaults were renewed, the invaders’ superior numbers began to tell.

Two Highland battalions, supported by the Rifles and artillery, stand firm against the Bavarian assault
The Reserve awaits orders. Unfortunately when they came, they were to result in muddled and ineffectual counter-marching. Oh dear.

Meanwhile the fight for the bridge was intensifying, as 6,000 Wurttembergers attempted to withstand an enemy that outnumbered them two to one. Twice, though, they threw them back over the river, before eventually the defences began to buckle. The invader’s lead brigade lost their commander in the third charge, but they pressed on regardless. Losses were heavy on both sides and the defenders held on tenaciously.

“Here they come again!”
The Bavarian brigadier about to be shot down while crossing the river alongside the bridge

In the final stages of the battle the British cavalry made some limited charges which had success in slowing the attackers down. The Wurttemberg left flank regiment also managed to wheel and put in a spoiling attack too. With the defences around the bridge on the verge of giving way, time was up for the allies.

The overall scene as the defenders, pulled out of position by multiple attacks all along the river line, begin to fall back
Relatively fresh British reserves form a rearguard as their battered compatriots and Wurttemberg allies retreat from the field.

With casualties mounting the defenders decided they’d done enough and began to retire. Although in the end it was successful, the Bavarian’s last attack ran out of steam and there was no possibility of an aggressive pursuit. Satisfied with the day’s work, their commander ordered them to make camp on the field of victory. Grateful to be allowed to re-group under no real pressure, the Wurttemberg-British force was therefore able to remain between the invaders and the capital…

Game notes:

Rules are a lightly modified version of Realtime Wargame’s Wars of Empire series. Figures are Heroics & Ros 6mm.

I have a combined Wurttemburg-Baden division (loosely based on their 1870 contingents) which I’ll be re-using as each state’s own force, plus that of Hesse-Darmstadt. A brigade of cavalry has just been painted, but arrived too late to participate in the battle. They’ve been sent on scouting duty to Crailsheim to watch the NE border.

The British division is currently lacking half its infantry, which have yet to make it to the top of the painting priority list. Therefore they were ‘still assembling’ in a rear area for this game.

The Rhine War of 1855

Not a real conflict obviously, but a fictitious one I’m intending to fight using my mid-19th century 6mm armies. This is a follow-on to the approach I described here: https://themedetianwars.org.uk/2019/08/6mm-19th-century-battles.html

Most games will be played solo, but hopefully I’ll be able to have the occasional guest appearance by a visiting general. Most of the forces are painted and ready, and where they’re not they will be fed into the campaign as they become available. I’ll describe force compositions, and the lightweight campaign rules I’m using, as I go.

The situation at the point where diplomacy (what little there had been) failed:

The map is an extract from the superb Murat collection, used with kind permission from their creator Malcolm McCallum. This point-to-point mapping has towns one day’s march apart, and national borders in pink. I am representing each infantry or cavalry division, and each Corps reserve, with a map counter. Occasionally smaller detachments, generally representing a brigade, will be be marked with just a simpler national flag.

Background and the lead-up to war.

With war in the Crimea being narrowly averted the year before, the Great Powers are free to turn their attention to other matters and, somewhat inevitably, diplomatic strife soon rears its head elsewhere. Several of the Southern states of Germany, growing increasingly uncomfortable with the domineering approach of the German Confederation, decide to resign their membership. Unwilling to accept this disruption and the dangerous precedent it sets, the recently re-established Confederation decides to force the rebellious states back into line. Prussia, Austria and Bavaria assemble forces and prepare to invade Baden and Wurttemburg and Hesse-Darmstadt. These states invoke their secret mutual defence pact with France and mobilise to defend their borders. Despite prevarication and calls to seek a peaceful outcome, Britain reluctantly decides to support France when it becomes clear that the German aggression represents a significant threat to the continental order.

Therefore, as the campaign begins the opposing sides are composed as follows;

  • The French-led Alliance, comprising Baden, Wurttemburg, Hesse Darmstadt and Britain
  • The German Confederation comprising the forces of Prussia, Austria and Bavaria

The defending forces must hold on against more numerous attackers, while allies march to their assistance. The campaign opens with frontier clashes as the invading German armies attempt to co-ordinate their movements against a number of smaller forces defending their own lands.

Forces of the Confederation

Austria

As the most influential member of the Confederation, Austria sees any reduction in its membership as a sign of her own decreasing authority, and therefore as a direct challenge. In response, the Emperor has sent a powerful contingent of two full army Korps as well as 2 independent cavalry divisions; a total of 51,400 men. Marching piecemeal from all across the Empire, the Austrians are slowly assembling in Lindau close to the Wurttemburg border.

Prussia

Concerned about Russia’s intentions, Prussia is unwilling to dispatch the majority of its army to the west. However, Prussian forces still comprise two powerful formations, each totalling 25,700 men made up of an Army Korps and a cavalry division. These formations are gathering at the fortresses of Frankfurt and Wurzburg respectively, from where they will be ideally placed to invade the rebel states.

Bavaria

Although the junior partner, Bavaria is eager to make a good showing and has deployed a considerable proportion of her strength. A full Korps, accompanied by a cavalry division, together comprise a total of 24,200 men. Bavaria’s army is assembling at Augsburg, close to the Wurttemberg border but behind the Danube, from which it will have the option of several invasion routes while its flank is protected by the fortress city of Ulm.

Forces of the Alliance

France

With war about to erupt on her doorstep, France has strengthened her border forces and assembled a substantial army. It comprises two full Corps plus two cavalry divisions and one division each of infantry and cavalry from the recently re-established Imperial Guard, for a total of 66,000 men.

Baden, Wurttemberg, Hesse-Darmstadt

In defence of their homelands, these small German states have raised what forces they can, resulting in each being able to put into the field a division of 12,000 men. Baden’s troops are assembling in Karlsruhe, Wurttemberg’s in Stuttgart and Hesse-Darmstadt’s in Mainz.

British

With her traditional priority being command of the sea, Britain has committed only a modest force to this continental campaign. A single division of 12,000 men has been shipped to France and set off on its march to the Rhine. Uncharacteristically, it has been well-planned and executed, resulting in the British force reaching Stuttgart ahead of its anticipated arrival.

So, that’s the situation as hostilities commence.

Next post – Bavaria Attacks! Unwilling to wait for his allies, Maximillian II attempts to grab the glory by a precipitous invasion of Wurttemburg…

6mm 19th Century Battles

Having recently placed all my 6mm 1859 and 1870 units on sabot bases to make them easier to handle, last weekend was the first opportunity to give the armies a run out.

Jase and I chose Prussians and French respectively, with a few allies for added flavour. Although I am still happy to play specific 1859 Italy and Franco-Prussian War scenarios, I am also interested in playing games in a general mid-19th century European setting without being concerned with the differences between Chassepots, Needle guns, Krupps and the need to replicate campaign-specific orders of battle. More of a general horse, foot and guns experience really.

That’s what I call an occupied hill!

We played a couple of Corps-sized games over the weekend, both encounter battles. They were very enjoyable, and very tactically challenging, with lots of manoeuvre, cavalry charges, artillery duels and storming of villages.

French and Prussians go toe to toe

We considered some possible additions to the command and control rules but in the end felt that the core set (Wars of Empire by Realtime Wargames) provided plenty of scope for friction and blunders!

The main clash in one of the games, before exhausted units started to melt away
Chasseurs lead the assault
New Austrians getting their first game, and actually not doing too badly
Before the storm

I have plenty more figures to paint, and will continue to chip away at them. It might be nice to try a bigger battle next time.

Recent Games 4 – Multi-player Swashbuckling

Another recent game that provided a lot of fun was a 4 player game set in the Three Musketeers era. A fictional island saw each player’s force come ashore to plunder a stricken ship and steal the King’s pay chest.

Everyone took potshots at each other, and various locals waded in too on occasion. Each player was allowed to hide a few figures beforehand as an advanced party, which could make a sudden appearance to add to the mayhem.

Ali Bitchin (named after a real Barbary Corsair of legend) is besieged in the chapel, after discovering that the chests he’d fought so hard to possess were empty:

Meanwhile, the sneaky Medetians, with Essex Boy in command, conduct a fighting withdrawal having gotten their hands on the real loot that had been hidden in the tavern:

It was nice to give this collection another run out, and as always the GW Lord of the Rings/Legends of the High Seas rules gave a quick and exciting game.

Recent Games 3 – DBN

A couple of weeks ago I played in a very enjoyable 4 player game of DBN. The figures were 10mm, mostly using Goat Major’s lovely 1809 collection, but with a Corps of Prussians from Andy and a very small contribution from me (Austrians and Bavarians).

It would have been a bigger contribution but I have to admit that I struggled with painting these figures, especially at first. These Pendraken figures are too detailed to get away with a rough ‘6mm style’ of painting, but small enough that everything is fairly tricky. After a few elements’ worth I started to get the hang of them, but I didn’t get as many done as I’d intended.

My Bavarian General:

The beauty of DBN is that although we clustered round a very small (3 foot by 2 foot) board, we played a proper Napoleonic battle with the equivalent of 2 Corps per side. The rules work very well and the figures and scenery looked good. Goat Major and I just about held on in a fairly bloody affair.

Some of Andy’s splendid Prussians:

I have continued (slowly) painting some more figures for this and will aim to finish my intended Austrian and Bavarian Corps for future games. Despite over 30 years in the hobby these are the first proper Napoleonics I’ve collected, which probably puts me in a tiny minority of gamers. I do, however, already understand the collecting megalomania that can follow, along with the desire to play in bigger and bigger games!

 

 

Recent Games 2 – Rangers of Shadow Deep

This continues to be an entertaining and challenging game. A recent 2-player session, with a ranger and small posse each, saw us rattle through 5 of the scenarios from the main rulebook. Casualties were relatively light, but brushes with death commonplace!

Next time round we’ll start on the Convent Mission.

The bridge guard game, Orcs substituted for Gnolls:

 

The stairway down, fly holes and difficult ground to negotiate:

 

 

Recent Games 1 – Chain of Command

There has been some excellent gaming recently, but I’ve fallen behind in posting about them. Rather than lengthy explanations and blow-by-blow accounts, I thought it would be best to just post some piccies with the odd description so that I’ve at least done some justice to the games.

First up, a superb 4 player Chain of Command game put on by Jeremy in Bury, with a full company of Brits attacking a German force that’s trying to blow a bridge to cover their retreat. It was close in the end, but we Brits took too long, and too many casualties trying to reach the bridge and the Germans were able to blow it an scarper. Great fun, and well run!

 

 

Frostgrave in 15mm – A 3 Player Brawl

What better thing to do the night before Partizan than stay up late playing Frostgrave! Andy and Jase were staying over and we had a blast with a very entertaining and slightly chaotic 3 player game.

I think we had a Summoner, an Enchanter and a Chronomancer, but I could be wrong. Andy brought some of his recently painted (and very nice) figures, and we set to in a generic grab-the-treasure and generally-screw-the-opposition scenario.

The table:

We played with a few preferred house rules borrowed from the wider Frostgrave player community (such as random encounters occurring on a 14+ when a treasure is first picked up). Somehow this resulted in a very enjoyable series of monsters appearing behind Andy’s warband! It was certainly a baptism of fire in his first game – a Giant Worm, a Bear and several Rats all decided they needed to pick on Andy. Me sending a summoned Greater demon towards him (his Barbarian was getting too close for comfort and, well, it seemed like a fun thing to do), and generally flinging Imps around the table was my contribution to the chaos. Jase concentrated on nicking most of the treasure and dishing out whatever punishment he could whenever he got the chance.

Some in-game pics:

Lots of spells were cast, and nearly as many were mis-cast, causing a lot of injuries to wizards and apprentices. In the end everyone survived with modest casualties and got hold of some loot.

Hopefully we’ll get a chance to have a re-match with these warbands at some point in the future. It was great fun –  we wouldn’t have got to bed so late if we hadn’t spent so much time laughing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Defence of Arnor – A Dragon Rampant mini-campaign

I’ve finally started my Middle Earth campaign, which will be an on-going series of linked games set in the mid-Third Age. The background is the fight for survival of the declining kingdom of Arnor, or rather its one remaining splinter state, Arthedain, against the Witch King of Angmar and his allies.

The idea is to play games of Dragon Rampant (with a few minor scene-setting tweeks), both solo and 2-player. There’s no campaign map or ordering troops around, just battles and minor book-keeping to record who the faction leaders are and how they’re progressing (or not).

The objectives are to have fun and get a bit of immersion in Tolkein’s world. Arnor in the T.A. 1650s offers lots of scope for different forces, alliances and troop types, so I can free-form things in whichever direction I choose to go.

 

Lord Finaroth gallops out to turn back a border incursion by Rhudaurim raiders. Despite his heroic efforts he was slain by an arrow in the second game, giving his enemy some useful victory points.

No orcs or other nasties on the table yet, just men in a classic good vs evil confrontation.

 

Helgmar, a Rhuadar Chieftain, leads his savage hearthguard on a raid. His unit has routed in both the first 2 games, costing him victory points and loss of face, but unlike his initial opponent, at least he’s still alive.

Figures are from various 15mm Dark Ages and Late Roman era armies. I have plenty of fantasy figures to introduce over time, and am working on some Arnor royal troops for when these initial minor border clashes turn into something more serious.

The Chronicle so far:

# Scenario & Location Arnor Angmar
1 ‘Take them head-on’

March Lord aims to stop a Rhudaur incursion on the border

Ruins of Caer Molir watchtower

Lord Finorath (Might 10, Aggressive)

Attacker. +6 Might

Helgmar (Might 10, Energetic)

Defender. +0, Might, routed

2 ‘No Quarter’

Rhudaur chieftain seeks to restore his reputation by killing his adversary

The Weather Hills north of Amon Sul

Lord Finorath (Might 16, Aggressive)

Defender. Slain by an arrow. +1 Hero

Helgmar (Might 10, Energetic)

Attacker. +3 Might, routed. +1 Standard bearer

3

next

‘Ride Now’

With Finorath’s force destroyed, a nearby border patrol is outflanked and attempts to retreat

The Weather Hills north of Amon Sul

Ealdorman Branost (Might 10, Proud) Helgmar (Might 13, Energetic)

 

Bold – won scenario, otherwise drawn

Mollwitz in 6mm – part 2

The game played out much like the actual battle. The Austrians held tight except for the inevitable big charge by their left wing cavalry. The Prussians drove forward with their infantry but then paused to see how their right flank fared. Although the Prussian cavalry, and eventually the interspersed grenadiers too, were swept away, they held for just long enough for the right-hand infantry brigades to re-deploy and shore up the exposed flank.

The Prussian infantry then went forward to engage the Austrian battalions. Their superior musketry and discipline was soon showing, and the Austrian infantry began to suffer.

Although still a force to be reckoned with the Austrian left wing cavalry was going to be tied up dealing with the reforming Prussians, and sorting themselves out again in time to intervene in the centre was looking unlikely. This was made tougher by having poor old General Romer lying dead on the field, along with one of his brigade commanders.

The Prussian left wing cavalry flirted with their opponents across the rough ground around the stream, and did at least draw off a few Austrians who were sent to block the flank. Fighting was minimal though and neither side tried to escalate things into a major engagement.

Within 3 turns the Austrian centre was overcome by the Prussian’s devastating firepower. Their commander, General Neipperg, was shot from his horse and most of the battalions had retreated in confusion into Mollwitz. It was clear that it wasn’t going to be possible to reform them, and with the Prussians taking precautions against any final desperate attack by the victorious Austrian cavalry, the battle was effectively over.

The Austrian cavalry and the remains of its left wing infantry would be sufficient to cover a general withdrawal. The Prussians were in reasonable condition, but a long march through the snow followed by some fierce fighting, meant that there would be no vigorous pursuit. Frederick, who hadn’t actually fled the field this time, was satisfied enough with the first test of his new army, and was happy to let the beaten enemy go.

The game took about an hour and a half to play, same as it took to set it up. The fairly historical result was good to see, but I think I’d have enjoyed it regardless. The armies have taken a lot of effort to get to this stage (and there are still plenty more to do) so half the pleasure is just to get them on the table. Hopefully I’ll play some more games with them soon. I suppose I could work my way through Frederick’s battles in order – at least they start relatively small. Maybe it’ll be Chotusitz next!