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The Battle of Kirriesdorf, 1759


The Seven Years War, The War Game, 28mm

Two or three times a year I venture south on the ferry for a weekend of wargaming in Kirriemuir, near Dundee. Apart from being the birthplace of JM Barrie (Peter Pan) and Bon Scott (AC/DC), it also plays host to the League of Gentleman Wargamers. Goodness knows how they let me join them.. Anyway, this weekend we were playing a large Seven Years War game, using  Charles Grant’s The War Game , modified by his son Charles S. Grant, who ran the game with great aplomb – and infinite patience. My contingent of French and Western Allies braved the ferry trip from Orkney to Aberdeen to take part, and on Saturday morning I took command of my Allies – mainly Hanovarians – and squared up against my French opponents – played for the most part by Peter Nicholson and Kevin Calder. I was at one end of a huge table, with a second large table in the adjacent room. In all, some 3,500 figures took the field that weekend, and it all looked splendid!Okay, the scenery was fairly basic,  but the sheer quality and quantity of lead was impressive in the extreme. We began the Saturday by being divided up and playing one of four small games, to give us a better understanding of the rules. Charles doesn’t like the term “old school”, but they certainly had that flavour – lots of die rolls and some old-fashioned mechanics, mixed in with a few innovative ideas. By the end of the morning we ‘d got the basics. That first game saw fellow Western Ally Colin Jack and I attacking across a river helped by the French (Peter and Kevin). We had trouble clearing the French skirmishers from a defended farmhouse on the far bank, but in the end we cleared them, and advanced onto the high ground onto the far bank of the river. We learned though, that  charges can be both bloody and complicated, as can fighting in built-up areas. Then it was off to fight the main battle. As I said before, Peter and I were on the far end of what was essentially a 40 x 8 foot table, split into two actions. On ours, the Western Allies fought the French, while on the other one the Prussians took on the Austrians and Reichsarmee. There were about a dozen players in all, split between the two tables. However, for most of the weekend Peter and I were locked into our own personal battle in our little 8 by 8 foot slice of High Germany. Peter is a great player to game with, but both of us were struggling a bit with the rules. We found we were both playing things differently, despite the morning’s “training wheels” game, and we were playing things different ways. It took a fair bit of tuition from Charles to get us on track. After that we managed fairly well, except we kept on calling over the poor fellow to mediate in some of our continued rule problems. Still, we got there in the end.Mind you, it was only on the second day, on Sunday forenoon, when we found that unlike other troops, light infantry fire as individual figures. We were wondering why they were so ineffective! That though, didn’t make a lot of difference, as we both had skirmishers, and we were both doing it wrong! Some didn’t get it at all – here’s Charles, patiently explaining to Dale Smith that he can’t turbo-charge his cavalry and do whatever he likes with them! In our game, on both tables, the Prussians and their Western Allies had to capture a line of hills on the far table edge. To say this was impossible was probably a slight exaggeration, but given the sides were evenly matched in terms of numbers, and the French/Austrians/Reichsarmee side were simply holding the high ground already, it was highly unlikely we’d manage to win. So, Peter and I concentrated on annihilating each other instead! We came fairly close to it! By Sunday lunchtime we’d both fought each other to a standstill, or almost had. When the game ended on Sunday lunchtime I was poised to launch my cavalry reserve into his left flank, but he still held the high ground, where his pesky gun battery held the hill against all comers. What made it worse was that Peter was actually using my own French figures! Still, we had a marvellous time battering each other into the dust. Over on our flank Chris Henry’s British and Colin Jack’s Hessians and other allies weren’t making much headway against Dale Smith and Kevin Calder’s French. Sorry for the bad photo btw – the light was playing havoc that morning. So, in the western table it was a firm French defensive victory, although both sides had lost fairly heavily. The worst casualties though, were to Peter and I; roughly half our force being wiped out thanks to our combined antics!On the eastern table, on the far side of the Girl Guide hall where we were playing, it was a broadly similar story. The Prussians had got off to a slow start on the left, as Kieron Potts’ Saxons had been held up, allowing Peter Mearns the chance to form an unbreachable defensive line. Further up, Pete McCarrol and Steve Rimmer duelled away, with Steve being forced to cede the hill ton the Sunday forenoon – a rare victory for the Prussian attackers. Further up, Donald Adamson and his Austro-Reichsarmee force managed to hold Bill Gilchrist’s assaulting Bavarians, despite the lack of any high ground there, to aid the defenders. From what I saw the fighting there involved swirling cavalry fights, but all attempts by Bill to outflank the enemy were thwarted. Apart from the centre where Steve’s troops were pushed back, the Prussians never managed to reach the high ground. let alone to secure them.So, 2pm on the Sunday – Charles Grant called a halt, and declared the game to be a well-deserved Franco-Austrian victory. All in all it was a very enjoyable weekend of gaming, with a lively session in the pub in between. I also made the ferry home on time. As for the rules, I enjoyed them, and got to grips with their nuances. Charles had also modified them to use 24 man infantry battalions and 12 figure cavalry regiments, which suited me perfectly. They also worked well for this mega-game. On the whole though, for the sake of simplicity I think we’ll stick to the Honours of War up here, which we’re all used to.

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2 Responses “The Battle of Kirriesdorf, 1759”

  1. Peter Nicholson
    19th January 2024 at 2:01 pm

    Great report Angus of our challenging conflict. I think we eventually got a hang of the rules and shared an honourable draw in the end.
    All credit to you that you kept your calm and OCD in check when I regularly placed my flag stands in the wrong places. As you correctly guessed, I’m not too bothered about that sort of thing. Kev regularly challenges me on my flag placement!
    Looking forward to crossing swords again in March. I will be sure to read the rules beforehand this time!

    • 19th January 2024 at 3:15 pm

      It was fun, Peter, testing your patience and equanimity. The game was fun too!

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