woensdag 12 december 2012

Battle of Höchstädt, game assessment and design notes.

Designing any scenario for the game table you need essential ingredients; a reason for the event, the participants involved the location, time and the repercussions of victory or defeat.

The reason:
Maréchal Villars took the initiative to engage Count Styrum as the Prince von Baden-Baden had marched south of the Danube to capture Augsburg. Splitting your forces before the enemy is not wise and a more than capable Villars accepted the invitation.

The participants:
Sources do vary on the strengths given, but they all seem in agreement to the ratio of forces involved, 3:2 with the advantage to France. What are not clear are the strengths of the respective allies, Prussia and Bavaria.

The location:
The location is well documented and with a modest knowledge of geography you can visualise undulating terrain between the foothills and the Danube River. There are good maps to be found on the internet.

The time:
September 20th, the start of the autumn season when nights arrive earlier. It also the harvest season, so fields not harvested might hamper visibility. An excellent reason for having thrown a low pip score.

The repercussions:
A French-Bavarian victory would keep Count Styrum and his force quiet for the rest of the campaign year. The Margrave, returning from Augsburg would be forced to seek a crossing of the Danube elsewhere, thereby postponing further plans for the campaign season. Further, a French-Bavarian victory would rekindle Maréchal Villars’ original plan to march on Vienna.  

An Austrian-Prussian victory would be a severe blow to French prestige. Maréchal Villars regarded as one of the best that France had to offer a vacillating Elector might contemplate rapprochement with Austria.

Design notes:
Using the DBA-HX variant of 2.2, the battlefield was scaled to fit in a 1.20 by 1.20 meter area. This may seem large for the number of commands per side (3 French vs. 2 Allies), but the armies had to march over two battlefields.   

At what time did Count Styrum discover D’ Ussan’s approach from the rear, we do not know. There is little information stating at what hour key events took place, so we can only make a best guess based on the conventions of warfare during the early 18th century.

Shortly after daybreak, the Allies deployed expecting Maréchal Villars and the Elector from the east. The discovery of French presence in the rear suggested Villars had made a night march to approach the Allied position from Höchstädt, a most unconventional idea, but the event precipitated an immediate about face of the Allies. During the pursuit, Count Styrum received news that Maréchal Villars had arrived.

Determining the French-Bavarian arrival.
Maréchal Villars had given instructions to D’Usson on the 19th to attack the Imperial position the following day while it was engaged with the main French force, however, as events unfolded, D’Usson launched his attack too soon. My thinking, D’Usson launched his attack as per instruction, but Maréchal Villars had been delayed by unforeseen events. That difference of an hour or two was enough have D’Usson play no further part in the second battle.  

First phase:
The battle, between D’Usson and Count Styrum would deploy as per standard DBA setup with a distance of 1,200 paces between deployments. This would avoid much unnecessary handling of troops. On average, a game normally takes 6 – 8 bounds to reach resolution or 1 ½ to 2 hours of “historical” time.

Setting the start of battle at 11.00 hrs. by 12.30 – 13.00 hrs. the battle would need to gradually transition to phase two.

This would place the deployment of Villars command, east of the Allied camp, between 12.00 and 13.00 hrs. For simplicity, we select 12.30 hrs. Then, by 14.00 hrs., the French-Bavarian army will have reached the camp as Villars has deployed 1,200 paces away. This leaves the Allies four bounds with which to move from their last position and deploy for a second battle.

Second phase:
Not knowing if the camp were occupied or not, the French-Bavarian army would also approach the Imperial position in battle formation of two parallel lines, as beyond the camp Villars would expect any of the Danube tributaries to be defended. For this game the French-Bavarian player would need to sketch his deployment before placement on the game table.

The Allies have the greater inconvenience of re-deploying to meet Villars. Care should also be taken to retain command integrity during the re-shuffling of troops as during battle this would become hazardous. Having lost both camps the Allies would be hard pressed to bring about a victory.

Assessment first game:
Both battles had enough tension to keep them exciting. D’Usson defending the river line was to demonstrate, that even with smaller numbers you can hold off an enemy for a long time. Keeping the Allies busy would enable Maréchal Villars to reach an undefended Nebel River.

The Allied re-deployment was accomplished by using pip scores to move individual elements into new formations or speed the mounted units on their way to the river Nebel. The Prussians reached the river line first and gradually made room for the Austrians as they marched up.

The crossing of the River Nebel was difficult, but eventually stretching thin the Allied defence enabled the French to gain after two hours a successful foothold. By then, the end game was near and would follow closely the historical result.

At this point, the French had taken a lot of punishment and came close to a break point, but then the Allies were also close having lost their camps.

From start to finish, three hours were needed to complete 27 bounds. That includes the 4 bounds needed for the Austrians and Prussians to demonstrate their skill at reversing course.

The scenario and amount of figures were designed originally for two players, but could easily accommodate two per side. To have additional players, I would suggest increasing the size of the table to 1.80 x 1.20 m (6’ x 4’) and increase the number of elements by the ratio of 2:3. 


2 opmerkingen:

Fabrizio Davi' zei

I really appreciated your design notes. It is something that is generally missing in wargame, and which gives the depth and breath of research aspect of our hobby. Well done!



Timurilank zei

Thank you for your comments Fabrizio.

The enjoyed doing this as the process will serve well for future Musket period battles. The players appreciate the greater picture of events unfolding around a particular battle.

My second blog, "Storm Within the Empire" documents my immersion into the 15th century. Originally, this was to start as a simple campaign centered on the Duchy of Bavaria. In the process of collecting information I expanded the number of participants and armies, such that the campaign, which has yet to start, stretches from the Low Lands to the Balkans.

Past articles you can find by clicking on the "Index, Storm Within the Empire" located to the right of the screen.