Thursday, 29 March 2018

"Your Majesty, the Oder belongs to the Russians!"

This scenario is a river assault game set in the Seven Years War. The year is 1758. 

The game gives me the chance to use my new 'wide' river sections, pontoon train and pontoon bridge sections. I have to say, games involving engineering tasks are usually a lot of fun. The pontoon train and bridge cost less to buy than a unit of troops and probably took about the same amount of time to put together for the table; as a cost to fun ratio it definitely works for me.

We will use our amended version of Piquet to play the game. Piquet's unique turn sequence and unbalanced initiative system works well for this kind of scenario - it also has inbuilt rules for engineering ('Sapper') tasks.

General scenario outline:

The Russians have once again invaded Prussian territory whilst the bulk of the Prussian army is away in the south facing the Austrians. They have taken up positions on the east bank of a big meander in the Oder river, guarding the bridges, in order to defend their territorial gains until further instructions arrive from the Empress. 

The Russian game objective is to hold the two towns and their bridges. They might also wish to consider disgracing the Prussians by taking either of the small hamlets (on the Prussian baseline) and holding them for a complete turn in the presence of the Prussian army. Although the Russians will suffer a defeat if they lose either town, they can automatically claim a scenario victory for taking and holding a Prussian hamlet because of the political and morale damage this will have done to Prussian prestige (not to mention the local Prussian commander's career prospects).

Note: Offering the Russians the chance of victory by attacking (the hamlets) was done for two reasons: It gives the Russians more options than to simply hunker down and, more importantly, it should prevent the Prussians simply massing in one place to bring overwhelming force to bear at a single point.

On hearing the news that 'the Oder belongs to the Russians!' King Frederick has sent peremptory orders to counter-attack with the forces immediately available and force the Russians back on their bases in Poland. The local Prussian commander is under no illusions: The Russian advance is an affront to Prussian prestige and further Russian incursions will not be tolerated.

The Prussian objective is to take one of the towns. This will dislodge the Russians and force them back into Poland. Attempts must be made to prevent any further incursion into Prussian territory (the hamlets on your baseline are Russian objectives and should be be defended - see Russian objectives) as any such incursion will incur the wrath of the King and your personal disgrace.

Note: I added two Sapper Task cards to the Prussian sequence deck for activating checks on our version of the Sapper Task table, which I have posted below. 

SAPPER TASK TABLE: adjusted sapper die Vs D8
Down 2
Down 1
No Change
Up 1
Up 2
Repair / Prepare charge
Clear / Improve
Maintain / Detonate charge
Object of activity
Stone structure
Wood or earth structure
Trees / Door / Prefab’
Ditch or trench
Task size

Large / Strong / Deep
Small / Weak / Shallow

Acquire Materials
Difficult to obtain locally

Easy to obtain locally or from baggage train
Materials already acquired and on site

UI and time committed
Not sappers
3 / Each task check
Unit quality by morale

In contact
Under effective fire

Over 36”

I counted the abutments at each end of the bridge as constructed before dawn. The bridge takes a minimum of four tests to complete: first, two pontoons are placed, then they are decked, then two more pontoons are placed, then they are decked and the bridge is completed. On each card the sappers roll for a task completion. Failure indicates the task is not completed but they will get the 'Each task check' modifier on the next card. The base die for Prussian sapper task tests is a D8.

(Note: For those that don't know how the Piquet dicing system works, dice get one bigger for each 'Up' and one smaller for each 'Down'. So in this case, for a basic test, the Prussians will be D8 adjusted Dn2, Up1, NC, Up1, Up2, Dn1 (net Up1) giving a D10 Vs D8 test. If the D10 is higher the sappers succeed).

Because bridging requires tests, neither player can be quite sure how quickly the bridge will be built, which adds quite a bit of tension to the game. The construction site can also be fired at which might cause damage to the structure delaying the work further, though I will not bog you down with that; but, needless to say, sappers repairing such damage can't be used to build at the same time and are penalised because they are under fire (on the next card).

Russian OOB and initial deployment:

The Russians are situated, in the main, at three points. They hold the two towns where significant bridges are located and a small, linking hamlet between them. Patrolling is being carried out by bands of roving Cossacks whilst the line troops are content in the comfortable billets being unhappily provided gratis by the local inhabitants.

In the northern town the Russians have two commands. 

1. A unit of grenadiers, two units of line infantry and a battery of field guns. The guns have been sighted in a redoubt with superior fields of fire to cover the bridge. The town section nearest the bridge has been prepared for defence. 

2. Two units of hussars and two units of Cossacks, the latter patrolling west of the river. 

In the southern town the Russians have two commands.

1. Two units of grenadiers, three units of line infantry and a battery of field guns. The guns have been sighted in a redoubt with superior fields of fire to cover the bridge. The town section nearest the bridge has been prepared for defence. 

2. A unit of cuirassier, a unit of horse grenadiers and two units of Cossacks. One unit of Cossacks is patrolling west of the Oder, the other is patrolling just north of the town.

Note: That's a new church with a slightly 'Bohemian' look to it. It's been hanging around the place waiting to be painted for quite some time. I think the green copper roof, though a little ostentatious for a small town / village church, adds something to it. Mostly MDF and balsa wood with War Bases doors and windows).

Between the two towns a small hamlet is being used to billet a small command of two unis of line infantry stationed to support a battery of howitzers sighted to cover the river from commanding high ground.

Prussian OOB and initial deployment:

During the night, and without opposition, the Prussians have advanced to the west bank of the Oder.  Here they taken up positions facing the Russians. 

The night has not been wasted. Using pontoons the Prussians have managed to ferry a unit of grenadiers and a unit of line infantry to the far bank to protect a bridgehead for a pontoon bridge which is now under construction by a unit of pioneers. These form the 'bridgehead' command. 

(Note: The fusiliers I used to represent the sappers is IR 49 which Frederick converted from the 'Pioneer Regiment' into fusiliers at the end of 1758. They are a very pretty regiment, in their bright orange waistcoats and breaches, and provide a good 'double use' unit for this kind of thing).

Stationed to face the northern town the Prussians have deployed two commands. 

1. A unit of cuirassier, a unit of dragoons and a unit of hussars.

2. Two units of line infantry.

Stationed to face the southern town and behind the proposed pontoon bridge the Prussians have placed three commands (not including the 'bridgehead' command).

1. Two units of line infantry, one battery of field guns (directly opposite the town).

2.  A unit of cuirassier, a unit of dragoons and a unit of hussars.

3. Two units of grenadiers, a unit of line infantry, a unit of fusiliers and a battery of heavy guns (stretching behind the wood and behind the pontoon bridge).

The Battle on the Oder

Dawn has broken and the Russians quickly become aware of the work being carried out in the great meander of the river. Rushing troops from north and south to reinforce the command at the hamlet, they concentrate to oppose it.

The Prussians make slow progress building their bridge. Work at the construction site is hampered by constant fire from the Russian howitzer battery.

Russian howitzers lob shells at the pontoon bridge at every opportunity (especially when they have the chance to fire on 'Heroic Moment' cards). This handicaps the Prussian bridge building and buys time to collect together a force that might be strong enough to break into the Prussian bridgehead.

The battle at the bridgehead erupts into full fury. Outnumbered two to one the Prussian position looks precarious but, quality tells. As the bridge nears completion the Russian attack begins to disintegrate.

Note: Pontoons and bridge are scratch made from balsa wood. The wagons are all MDF by War Bases, though the pontoon wagons are simple farm cart conversions.

Towards the end of turn four the bridge is complete and the Russians are falling back towards the hamlet under pressure from the 'bridgehead' command.

At the end of the first game session, the Prussians have begun to cross their newly constructed pontoon bridge. [First shot is of the Prussians crossing on the night, the second is one I staged this morning].


Phil said...

Once again, splendid pictures...Thanks for sharing!

Willie Anderson said...

Great stuff James !
How is the hand mending you painting again??


Norm said...

Lovely - great storyboard and eye candy.

Gonsalvo said...

Looks great, and of course I love the Pontoon bridge!

L'Empereur said...

Fantastic table!
Nice pictures!
We especially move the pontoon making !

Sgt Steiner said...

Eye bleedingly great pics

Anthony Miles said...

Great looking game as usual, nice to see your pontoons finally in action.


Thanks, guys.

WA, Yep, the wrist is much better and I'm back with the brush this week.

Scheck said...

Very exciting battle full of imponderabilia on each side.. Brave Prussians to build a pontoon while being under such fire of the Russian howitzer... great scenario, thank you for showing us this story!!

Allan Tidmarsh said...

Super, nice to see your pontoon bridge in action

Dartfrog said...

Unique scenario. The pontoon bridge looks like an interesting piece.

RACE said...

Lovely board, as usual. I've always wondered how many people have drawn blood on your base nails?