Showing posts with label twilight of the sun-king. Show all posts
Showing posts with label twilight of the sun-king. Show all posts

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Battle of the Dunes

In the Twilight of the Sun-King Yahoo Group's files section are some scenarios. One which caught my eye (because it is small) is for the Battle of the Dunes in 1658. Whilst nominally fought between a French and Spanish army, the French had allies from the Commonwealth whilst the Spanish were a mixed bag and included Germans, Walloons, some English and Irish Royalists and a whole flank of French rebels..

I set up the game using my paper ECW armies, with a base-width being equal to 3cm. Because of my limited troop collection I scaled down both armies by about a third. I should have really scaled the battlefield accordingly; paintings and prints of the battle show it extending into the fields adjoining the beach, whereas my meagre armies fitted onto just the sand.

The scenario defines the whole area the Spanish army is deployed on as dunes, counting as defensible for infantry and bad going for cavalry. I couldn't reconcile this with the rules, in which cavalry must move in column in bad going, thus completely nullifying them on that half of the board. However the few accounts I skimmed suggested that the Spanish army deployed its infantry on a particularly big dune, and that those was the significant terrain feature. I opted to depict the dune only, making it big enough to hold two infantry. This was classified as bad going and defensible. The rest of the Spanish half of the beach required all cavalry to pass an action test in order to do anything.

Here's the deployment, from behind the French lines. Out to sea are ships, providing artillery support for the French army. Historically these forced the Spanish cavalry on that flank to deploy behind their own lines (I think), but I decided they would tough it out in this game. The coloured counters represented the positions of the wing commanders, since I didn't have enough leader figures printed off and based.

And another view. Before I started the game, however, I redeployed the cavalry on the French right such that the two units were one behind the other.

With the armies being smaller than the published scenario, I changed the victory conditions slightly. The French had to force the Spanish to take an army morale test within six turns, or the Spanish would win a morale victory. If either army failed an army morale test, then it would lose, but the French had to do this quickly in order to avoid the head-shaking of history.

The French opened the battle in conventional style, advancing their whole army, with the cavalry charging straight into action.

The infantry marched forward, and musketry was exchanged. But the French weren't looking for a firefight; they levelled their pikes and pushed up the dune, even if it took some exhorting from their commanders to achieve this.

The Spanish cavalry on their right fell back from the initial attack. The French held off following up, and let the Navy soften them up a little first.

Things went badly for the Spanish in the centre. Cromwell's veterans pushed straight up the dune and routed the infantry facing them after a brisk fight.

The French left flank cavalry charged again, whilst the Navy engaged their supports, routing them. Against the odds, though, the Spanish front line held firm.

The French and British infantry now advanced onto the dune in force, as another Spanish infantry unit was routed. Only the French rebels on their left were now holding their ground.

However the gaps in the Spanish line were becoming critical, as the French turned on the flanks of the Spanish. The Spanish cavalry beyond the dunes came under fire from the summit, but failed to retire, and were shot down.

The last remaining infantry unit in the Spanish army broke, and a cascade of morale tests broke the whole army.

The cavalry on the Spanish right held out to the end.

The French didn't lose a single unit. The Spanish army collapsed in five turns.

This is probably not a very balanced scenario, unless things go very badly during the initial French attack. The French had the edge in numbers, quality and leaders, which is not offset by the one terrain advantage the Spanish have. Having artillery, both on the field, and offshore, also gives the French an edge. The scenario does demonstrate how an army rapidly disintegrates once the flanks of its units become insecure, however; as the French and British infantry pushed forward onto the dune, they compromised the flanks of the Spanish cavalry on the strand and the French rebels on the left, and hastened their demise.

The paper armies looked nice under these rules, and I'm inspired to print some more to expand my forces. They may not be entirely historical (or even remotely historical) but they did the job.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Fraustadt Twilight Again

Having badgered the authors of 'Twilight of the Sun-King' with questions over the past week, Gary and I fed the answers and clarifications back into the rules, and replayed the Fraustadt scenario, At Gary's request we left off the Saxon fortifications, on the hope it would make the infantry centre and little more active and give us a chance to try out firefights and infantry charges.

As before the Swedes attacked with their cavalry on both flanks first.

However their infantry also advanced.

Cavalry melees developed on both flanks, with the Swedes at a distinct advantage. All the Saxons could really do was hope to reduce the morale of some of the Swedish units, and delay the attacks for as long as possible on the hope that their artillery and infantry could do something nasty to the Swedish centre.

On the Saxon left, one of their units chased off some Swedish cavalry, routing it into the woods.

The infantry met in the centre - the determined thin, blue Swedish line against the double line of the Saxons.

The Swedes charged, and one Saxon unit in the centre collapsed and fled immediately. However the Saxon artillery took the attacker under close-range fire, and slowly whittled it down. The other Saxons held firm, and a long infantry melee ensued. However Swedish cavalry was firmly in the Saxon rear, having eliminated the Saxon right.

On the Saxon left the last of their cavalry units routed.

The infantry battle in the centre reached its height. The Swedish units were close to breaking, but the Saxons cracked first and started to break.

However with a second line they could keep up the fire, and the Russian allies on the Saxon left also moved into action. The resulting musketry broke the whole Swedish infantry line.

The Swedish cavalry in the Saxon rear attacked the artillery, with inevitable result, but both armies were now wavering on morale.

It boiled down to which army would fail its command morale tests first. It was the Saxons. But it was a very close game.

It was also a very smooth game. We hit one or two minor issues, but they were easily resolved on the spot. The clarifications we'd elicited covered all of the major problems we'd had in the last game, and we were free to concentrate on outwitting each other or staving off disaster for our armies.

It appears that an official errata/clarification sheet will be forthcoming. We're looking forward to trying this set for a bigger battle now.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Fraustadt with Twilight of the Sun-King

My copy of the newest edition of the Twilight of the Sun-King rules came a few weeks ago, but it too us until yesterday evening to get ourselves organised for a game. The rules cover the period from roughly 1680 to 1720, with two game scales  of either 1000/500 or 2000/1000 infantry and cavalry respectively per unit. They allow big battle to be fought fairly quickly with a simple mechanism in which all firing and close combat are absorbed into a single morale test per unit per turn.

Caesar and I had played one game of an earlier edition a couple of years ago, and I had played some other games at home, so we weren't totally unfamiliar with the system. Gary joined us, but hadn't played before at all. The new edition expands on the previous version in part by including various special traits which can be added to units, including variations in size, unit quality and enthusiasm, and adding differences in weaponry such as matchlocks and pikes.

There is a scenario booklet available, covering some of the campaigns of Louis XIV, but the introductory scenario in the book could have been written for me - the 1706 battle of Fraustadt, from the Great Northern War. This features a Swedish army outnumbered two-to-one attacking an entrenched Saxon army with Russian allies. This rash action was prompted by the presence of a Polish force in the area, forcing the Swedes to deal with one army before the two joined up and outnumbered it any further. On the day the Swedes swept to victory. How would it play out on the table?

This is the setup, with the Swedes on the left and the Saxons on the right. We played at the brigade scale, so units represent 1000 cavalry or 2000 infantry if normal-sized. Support, especially rear-support is essential in the game, so even with the small number of units, both armies were deployed in double lines where possible. The Saxon/Russian line was anchored on two villages, and their right flank was covered, in part, by a frozen marsh.

Since Caesar and Gary were less experiences they split the Swedes between them, whilst I played the more static Saxons, which allowed me to look up rules and explain the game as we played.

The Saxon/Russian line. In fact the figures were all Russians from my Risk-figure GNW collection. In fact one of the cavalry units was Swedish as well.

The Swedes. They are heavily outnumbered in this battle, but the enthusiasm of their troops is outstanding, giving them quite an edge in the meat-grinder morale test combat that is a feature of the game.

The Swedes had a small amount of artillery which could arrive as reinforcements, but the Saxons had a couple of units deployed as part of their line. In Twilight, artillery can fire through friendly units; an abstraction which assumes that the units are, in fact, numerous regiments with gaps and firing lanes between them, and that the artillery could be sited on low rises not shown on the table.

The artillery started to bombard the Swedish infantry. This puts the pressure on the Swedes to attack. Their infantry, whilst good, cannot easily take the Saxon position, but neither can they afford to stand and take fire. In order to turn the battle in their favour they need to deploy their other arm ...

... the cavalry.

In this battle the Swedish cavalry have the edge in both numbers and quality. They attacked on both flanks, looking to cutting in on the Saxon flank and rear as quickly as possible, either breaking their army from that, or allowing the infantry to make a final, battle--winning, push.

This is Gary's force, attacking the Saxon right.

This is Caesar's force, attacking the Saxon left.

There was no point in holding back. In order to force morale tests on the Swedes, I counter-attacked with my horse. On my left this cost the Swedes a unit straight away.

It also held Gary's attack in check as well.

A view of the battle.

On the Saxon right, things went badly for Gary. His cavalry were pushed back and then botched a couple of activation rolls; in Twilight, any movement by a unit that is not just a simple move straight-ahead, is subject to a test to see if it takes place. Gary failed two rolls in succession, leaving his two units of cavalry disorganised and unsupported as the Saxons pressed their attack.

On the other flank the melee settled into a series of charges and countercharges, but the quality of the Swedish cavalry enabled them to overcome their initial reverse, and the Saxons were methodically eliminated.

In the centre the Saxon artillery forced some of the Swedish infantry to rout, after a sustained bombardment lasting several turns.

Russian allied infantry were redeployed to try and delay the victorious Swedish cavalry on the left.

Both armies were actually on a morale knife-edge. The Saxons had taken a few casualties and were close to breaking, but the handful of Swedish casualties were enough to put them in jeopardy as well. Looking to achieve a decisive finish I went on the attack, with my infantry surging forward from their defences, five units to the Swedish two.

Another view of the whole battle. On the right Gary's cavalry have been pushed well back and were trying to regroup. On the left Caesar's cavalry was also reorganising. In the centre the infantry prepared to engage.

Swedish infantry are at a disadvantage in a firefight, so Gary counter-attacked. Or tried to; one unit refused to advance, but the other hit the Saxon infantry opposite it hard. The Swedes are better in close combat, and all the needed to do was break one Saxon unit to force an army morale check and break them all.

As it was, the lost of a final Saxon cavalry unit on the left was the clincher. This forced that flank to test morale, and it failed, routing the whole wing. This , in turn, forced an army check, which they also failed. The Swedes had won.

The game was closer than it looked; because their army is so small in terms of number of units, Swedish cavalry losses had put both of their wings close to their breakpoint as well. Had the Saxons survived into their own turn, it could well have been the Swedes taking the army morale test. A close result is always good for any scenario.

So how was the game? Well, there's no denying that the basic mechanisms of Twilight of the Sun-king are excellent. They give a quick game which seems to encourage historical tactics and deployments with, theoretically, the minimum of mental effort. We had an enjoyable evening, really we did.

But ...

The rules themselves are a problem. Gary put it best when he said that he felt that the rules book we were working from was only part of the game, and that the rest of it was still in the authors' heads. We certainly have a list of questions (which I will try and put together and send to the helpful Yahoo Group this weekend), but they weren't on obscure or unlikely situations; they were issues with what you would call basic game-play and which should have been covered at the playtesting or editing stage. A lot of gamers talk about how the spirit of a game means that two sensible players should be able to fill in the gaps in a ladylike or gentlemanly way but, really, if you've paid for a game you shouldn't be having to do this for issues like 'What happens if I'm forced to retreat and there's an enemy unit in the area behind me?' or 'Can I wheel as part of a charge?'. We found having to look up such basics frustrating.

And, on a pedantic note, if misuse of apostrophes grates on you like fingernails on a blackboard, this isn't a set of rules you'll want to be reading.

In terms of what it sets out to do, Twilight scores 5/5 from me. In terms of how it's implemented, especially since it's essentially the third iteration of this set, I can't give it more than a 3/5.

Update: One useful thing I did do was give each unit a label. This obviously had things like whether it was pike-armed, Ga Pa or galloping horse on it, but it also included two number - the Morale Test modifier and the number of Morale fails required to break the unit. Traits such as Elite, Determined, Small, Wavering and Raw all affect these numbers, so having them factored together and attached to the unit saved a certain amount of factor checking and looking up information.

Friday, 20 March 2015

A Great Northern Twilight

Following on from a game of 'Maurice last week, Caesar and I tried 'Twilight of the Sun-King' last night. Although I'd played a version of the original 2001 rules, neither Caesar or I had tried the 2010 v1.1 edition, so we assumed we'd be in for a slow, but interesting, learning experience.

I set up a scenario based on the Surprise Attack in 'One-Hour Wargames', itself based on Quatre Bras, but rejigged it to more closely represent the Great Northern War battle of Lesnaya. However we made the table too large so that, combined with some altered forces, we got a completely different battle of our own, inadvertent, devising.

The Swedes started with a third of their force - four units - defending the gap between two woods. The Russians got to bring on a third of their force - also four units - on the first turn, with the other two-thirds probably arriving over the next couple of turns; all reinforcements entered based on a die roll. Some of the Swedish reinforcements would come on fairly early, whilst the others would be delayed until well over halfway through the battle. The Russian objective was to capture the village in 15 turns, with breaking the Swedish army being a minor victory. The Swedes had to hold out - breaking the Russian army would be a bonus.

Caesar took the Swedes, and the first Russian troops entered the table. It was at this point we realised that the table - 4' x 4' - was probably a bit large for the game. But we decided to persevere and just see how it played out.

The initial Swedish deployment - two infantry, some cavalry and an artillery battery.

The Russian forces began to build up, moving into position in nicely organised columns.

Ever aggressive the Swedes made a preemptive strike, attacking with their horse. All of the Russian horse were classed as dragoons which meant that they could dismount. But they suffered a penalty in combat, so would be outclassed by the Swedish horse in melee.

The Russian dragoons fell back, ending up in support of a second brigade. The Swedes turned on some Russian artillery.

The Russian dragoon charged, but the Swedes held them off through some excellent morale rolls. With their general attached they could also reroll morale tests, something that proved very useful.

Meanwhile Peter I had been busy organising his infantry into supported lines, and started to put the outnumbered Swedes under pressure. The first of the Swedish reinforcements can be seen at the top of the picture.

More horse was sucked into the battle on the Russian left, but the Swedes ended up in a confused mess with units facing in all directions and failing to support each other. This offset the edge they had over the Russian dragoons who were operating in a tighter, supported, formation.

The Russian infantry plodded forward, and the Swedish infantry line dissolved. The second line started to move into position.

It was now halfway through the battle, and the village was still a long way off. However Caesar's cunning ploy of attaching his general to some horse had proved less good than he thought - the horse routed, taking his general and a useful bonus action reroll ability, with it.

The Russian horse was now pressuring the Swedish right, whilst their infantry was driving all before it.

More Swedish reinforcements! Would they be too late?

The answer was 'Yes'. As they moved into position to support the survivors of the main line as it fell back, a unit of Swedish horse broke under musketry and it's rout spread to the whole army, which quit the field.

The game took us a good chunk of the evening to play, but we found we were having to house-rule a lot of positional stuff, so future games will be faster now we know how to deal with the many situations not covered in the slim rule-book.

We did play with some changes. I used D10 throughout the game. A 6+ was a morale pass (50% chance), but with no change to the modifiers. This actually makes units slightly more resilient than in the original rules, which use 2DAV for morale, although it's true that they start out with slightly more than a 50% chance of  pass. But the D10 allows for some granularity in applying factors. Actions passed n a 4+, but the modifier for failing a morale test was increased to -2, so a unit still had a 50% chance of failure in that situation. We modified the morale test factor for artillery over 200p to cover firing by dragoons as well, reasoning that the volume of their fire was less than that of the regular infantry. However none of the Russian dragoons ever dismounted, so that change was academic.

We both enjoyed the game, and will be in a better position to run the next one more quickly and with our armies in a more organised manner.

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