The Seven Years War, General d’Armee, 28mm
This week several of the regulars were off on holiday, so it was left to Bart, German Michael, MDF Michael and I to entertain ourselves. I put on a small Seven Years War game in order to put General d’Armee through its paces. Yes I know, this is a set of Napoleonic rules, but the plan is to adapt them to the Seven Years War, and we have to start somewhere. That “somewhere” is familiarising ourselves with these new rules. The “Wagon train” scenario is an old Charles S. Grant classic, published in Scenarios for Wargames back in 1980. I play it regularly, and it never fails to produce an interesting game. When I want a small but challenging scenario, I often use this one.We played the game out on an 8×6 foot table, with the French-held town of Siegen in one corner. As the French player, German Michael’s aim (let’s shorten that to just Michael) was to get his supply train through to the town. It had an escort of three infantry battalions and two regiments of cavalry, plus some chasseurs a pied. Out to stop him was Bart and MDF Michael with their largely Hessian force of five infantry battalions, three cavalry regiments, a gun battery and some jaegers. Over in Siegen Michael had control of a small garrison of two battalions of infantry, two more cavalry regiments and a gun battery.Yes, I know these wagons look a little Russian. They’re all that remains of my SYW Russian army that my idiotic pal Dougie lost in an Edinburgh nightclub. Don’t ask. Anyway, back to the game. While that outlines the basics, this was a Grant scenario, so things weren’t that simple. Michael had a choice of three roads to the town, which was good for him, but he’d no idea where the Hessians would appear from, apart from the first batch on the big bare high ground to the north – the Trupbacher Heide. They could appear anywhere, and at any time. Also, in the Siegen garrison, only the small cavalry brigade could sortie from the town. Even then, they could only move once the wagons actually appeared in sight. Bart and MDF Michael had their own problems. Apart from the first one, which came on at D or E, Bart’s brigades appeared when and where the dice decided. That meant he could rely on his first brigade of three infantry battalions, a gun battery and a detachment of jaegers, but the arrival of his other three columns were in the lap of the gods. In General d’Armee, you roll for the availability of ADCs – four a side in this game. However, for brigades in the Siegen garrison or off the table, the players needed to roll a 5-6 rather than a 3-6 to get an ADC to use. The two garrison brigades would change to a 3-6 once they spotted the wagons. Of Michael’s three available roads, the southern one ran close to the southern table edge, and skirted a small wood called the Giebelwald before turning north towards Siegen. The northern one passed close to the Trupbacher Heide, but it would be covered by the gun battery in Siegen. Finally the middle road crossed the hill known as Der Fishbucherberg, smack in the centre of the table. The choice was important, as Michael’s four wagons had to stick to the roads. In the end he opted for the middle route, over the big hill. This then, dictated the course of the running battle that followed. The French turned left at the junction, and then right at the next one, onto the road leading over Der Fishbucherberg. So far so good. Michael threw the two battalions of the Conde regiment forward, one along the hill road and the other on the southern road, supported by a detachment of his light troops – the Chasseurs de Fischer. The solitary battalion of the Grenadiers de France took up position just to the north of the middle road, to protect the wagons when they caught up. In the background the wagons plodded on at their stately rate of 9″ per turn. That meant it would take 12 turns to reach Siegen. Meanwhile, Bart’s guns moved to the edge of the Trupbacher Heide and unlimbered, while his three battalions and jaeger detachment deployed into line – two battalions up front and one in reserve, with the jaegers covering the Hessian von Bose grenadiers. Michael countered by moving up his cavalry brigade – the blue-coated Dauphin regiment and two squadrons of the Bercheny hussars. Both sides sort of stood off from each other on the western side of the table, but in the centre the two grenadier units closed to within musket range and started blazing away. That’s when things started getting messy. The Grenadiers de France did well, firing away on the “Superior Fire” table, as did their opponents, but soon the Hessian guns joined in, and French casualties began to mount. Still, the wagons had now reached the road leading to Der Fishbucherberg, and so the pounding the grenadiers were taking seemed worth it. Then, on Turn 3, the next batch of Hessian reinforcements arrived – MDF Michael’s two battalions and another jaeger detachment. They appeared at A, behind the Giebelwald, although thanks to a “Hesitant” command roll it was another couple of turns before they actually began deploying in the open ground to the east of the hill. Their appearance meant that Michael now had a real fight on his hands. This was a problem because he started rolling badly for his infantry activation, his infantry going Hesitant two turns in a row. This let MDF Michael pile on the pressure, advancing to the eastern slopes of the hill. Michael had already peeled off the 1st battalion of the La Conde regiment to screen the wagons as they climbed up the western side of the hill. That meant that all that lay between MDF Michael’s von Bischhausen regiment and the wagons was that small detachment of chasseurs. Some nimble volley fire sent the chasseurs reeling back, which left the wagons uncovered.Over to the west, the two Allied cavalry brigades appeared, on turns 5 and 6 respectively. Again, some hesitancy led to more delay. The leading light brigade – two squadrons each of the Death’s Head Hussars and British light dragoons – spent two turns getting onto the table, while the token Hanovarian unit – the Breidenbach Dragoons had to wait in column behind them until they too could get onto the tabletop. This effectively meant the Allied cavalry never entered the fray. A frustrated Michael ordered the Chevalier de Muy’s cavalry brigade into action. Bart opted for the rather Napoleonic tactic of forming square. At this point I have to say this was a playtest of a Napoleonic set for a different period, and apart from banning assault columns and brigade skirmishers we pretty much played it straight. That meant squares were perfectly legal. So, when the Dauphin regiment charged in, they were bounced by the Hessian von Hanau regiment, while over on the Hessian right the von Gilsa fusiliers formed square too, and so the Bercheny hussars wisely kept their distance. In the final – 8th turn, the battered Grenadier de France battalion finally dispersed, having been broken by the weight of Hessian infantry and artillery fire. That placed the Compte de Chabot’s infantry in “Faltering” status, but a good command roll by Michael brushed away that inconvenience. However, we’d also run out of time. While the wagons hadn’t reached the town, they’d been spotted by the garrison, and the Chevalier de Vogue’s cavalry brigade had set out to help clear the way for the wagons. There was still a lot to play for – both sides still had all their cavalry in play, and while the wagon train’s progress had been stalled, Michael was still in with a good chance of reaching the town. So, as the umpire I duly declared the game a draw. As I said at the start, this was a playtest and learning curve game. We’d all only played one brief Napoleonic game using General d’Armee, and so this was still all about learning how the rules worked. We were also playing the rules for a whole new period. Actually, this was the opening game in the process of evaluating General d’Armee’s mechanisms, in an attempt to forge them into something more suitable for this earlier period. Bart said he really liked the rules, and was keen to try them for Napoleonic games. Michael was pleased with the order and command mechanisms, but otherwise reserved judgement. For my part I really liked the way the game flowed, and think the base mechanics will adapt well to the Seven Years War. this game then, is only the first step in a long journey.