Monday, February 4, 2013

Photos of the FPW Froschwiller Demo game action @ Cancon 2013

Very remiss of me as I should have published these days ago BUT I have been a) recovering from Cancon and b) working my a@# off around the house - the endless list of jobs that I was obliged to tackle as I had been let off for three days by the Minister for War and Finance (SheWhoMustBeObeyed) to 'play with my soldiers' at Cancon.  No rest for the wicked!  The photos are sequential starting from the set-up on Day 1.

Turn 1: the first Prussian division (V Corps Grenadier & Hessian Brigade) marches on opp Froschwiller & the entrenchments in front of Elsasshausen

French (Turkos) in the vineyard with Chasseur skirmishers occupying the woods below.

The Turkos occupied the Niederwald forest
In the first version of the Froschwiller scenario we included the village of Morsbrunn anchoring the far right of the French position on the other side of the Niederwald.  This proved to cause a bit too much congestion on a 12' table so we removed it and simplified the French position (and removed a division of Prussians!) to make things run a bit more smoothly when we played it on Day 2, which it did, not that it helped the French much!
The Zouaves defend Morsbrunn to the  right of the Niederwald
French Line reinforced by Zouaves in the entrenchments in front of Elsasshausen...
...and the French reception committee in front of Froschwiller!
Detail of the French outside Froschwiller: some determined looking Zouaves behind the deadly Mitrailleuse MGs
We have played the scenario well over half a dozen times now and the closest the French have come to winning is a draw (where they were not forced to withdraw) - once!  All the rest have been varying degrees of Prussian victory, including both games played at Cancon.  This was not, I would argue, because the French were so completely disadvantaged to begin with.  In fact, we tweaked with the scenario to give the French more of a chance, particularly with regard to Prussian numbers and artillery.  The problem (as it was for French CinC MacMahon) was that the French were outnumbered at Froschwiller and Prussian artillery - even our very watered down version for the game - inflicted fatal damage on the French positions at several points, allowing the Prussians to eventually break through.

I must add that the Mitrailleuse (the French machine guns) proved to be a particularly ineffective weapon, despite all the hype.  Historically MacMahon had 24 of them at Froschwiller and although they did provide a few nasty surprises for the Prussians, many were destroyed by Prussian artillery targeting the French guns they were positioned with.  In the rules they fire as normal MGs (3 x 2D6, re-rolling any misses in the first roll) but have an alarming tendency to jam (rolling a 1 on a D6).  They can only be cleared by rolling a 6 in the next turn. In the second game in particular the French generally had rotten luck with all of their Mitrailleuses jamming at some point, most after only firing once.

Turn 2 (Day 1): the 1st Prussian brigade of the 2nd division (XI Corps) comes on opp the French right.
The Prussians assault the French right (Day 1 game) - it took them four Turns before they finally broke into the village.  The French artillery with the birds-eye view of massed Prussians directly in front were remarkably ineffective.
French reinforcements march through Froschwiller as the fight for the vineyard intensifies
The Wurttemburg Brigade come on behind the assault on Morsbrunn  (Turn 4, Day 1)
to force the issue. Note to their left front the half brigade still held up outside of the town - the other half of the brigade is gradually forcing their way into the Niederwald forest.
Situation at end of Turn 6, Day 1 game.  Prussians trying to force their way in  across the French position, being particularly held up at the vineyard at one end and Morsbrunn village at the other.  They have started to drive the Turkos back in the Niederwald.
The fight for Morsbrunn reaches its final phase (Turn 7) with the Prussians finally starting to gain the upper hand in the village.  
The last Zouave unit still maintains a toehold in Morsbrunn while the Wurttemburgers have assaulted and destroyed the gun battery in front of them (at the cost of a Prussian battalion! - what are 'friends' for eh?) while the remainder of the Prussian brigade begins to clear out the Niederwald
Turn 8, Day 1: in front of Froschwiller the last two Turko units still hold the edge of the vineyard, still inflicting heavy losses on the Prussians.  Behind them the Prussians have just taken the entrenchments in front of Elsasshausen by storm ( a feat they managed in both games).
Interestingly, as was the case historically, the Prussians may have won but never actually took Froschwiller itself in all of our games. In fact in all but one of our games it took the Prussians the entire game to kick the French out of the vineyard in front of the town - and several times the French still held on to at least part of it again, pretty much the same result as in the original battle.  Mainly the Turkos held the vineyard and the Niederwald - two crucial parts of the French position anchored along a ridge that ran from Froschwiller to the hamlet of Elsasshausen and ending in the Niederwald.  In all of our games they took the predominant amount of casualties and were driven out of the Niederwald, being virtually wiped out in both games at Cancon.

On the second day at Cancon we changed things up a bit as described and adding more cavalry units on both sides to make things a bit more interesting.  The cavalry actions on Day 2 provided some real highlights.  As part of our adaptation of Black Powder special rules for the scenario, instead of not allowing unshaken infantry to be charged frontally by cavalry (as historically they tended to be shot down doing so) I devised the 'Death Ride' option.  The cavalry could charge steady infantry frontally by rolling 5 or 6 on a D6.  However, if they rolled 3 or 4 they halted short of the target unit, if they rolled 1 or 2 they were deemed to have been seen by the target unit and shot down - remove the cavalry unit from the table. If they were successful (5 or 6 on a D6) they were deemed to have surprised the targeted infantry unit, who do not  get closing fire, and both units go straight to hand-to-hand.

Prussian Kuirassier supported by infantry charge over the French entrenchments and destroy the last remaining French artillery. Vorwarts Meine Kinder! (Von Bredow is the one with the natty greatcoat slung over one shoulder).
The Prussian Dragoons about to die for the Fatherland!  Their infantry mates behind them weren't much use either and  also died next turn - but the Prussians did take out that pesky French battery.
The courageous French lancers make a desperate and successful  last minute charge over the earthworks to hold up the Prussian assault threatening to break through the French centre.  Although successful, it was a case of too little, too late - and ultimately did not stop the Prussians from breaking through and cutting the French defences in half.
The brave French lancers eliminated two units in front of them before counter-charging the Prussian Uhlans sent in to  destroy them.  The game ended with both still locked in a hand-to-hand - and the French with the advantage. Salute mon Braves!
I'm pleased to say this special rule worked well with both Prussian and French commanders trying it on no less than four occasions on the last day.  The results were mixed for both.  On one side of Elsasshausen the Prussian dragoons charging guns were wiped out while French cuirassiers charging were deemed to have been destroyed.  On the other side the French Lancers did a suicidal charge over the earthworks at two units of Prussian infantry who they surprised and destroyed. They were eventually charged in turn by a larger Prussian Uhlan (lancer) regiment but managed to hold them off, inflicting greater casualties!  On the other side of them the Prussian Kuirassier attempted to replicate Von Bredow's 'Totenritt' at Gravolette and like their historical predecessors, took and destroyed the last remaining French artillery battery (the French lost all 12 guns & Mitrailleuses in the Day 2 game) and a defending regiment of Zouaves.  With support from Prussian infantry they had eliminated the last French reserves, punched a hole through the French centre and effectively ended the game!

The Zouaves charge down the slope in front of Froschwiller, effectively stopping the Prussian progress  on the town, but at a cost.  Other than the Lancers, it was the last French success of the game on Day 2.
I must say I had a great time although, having forgotten to take my meds the day before I was definitely running on very low batteries by the time the fun concluded.  I was particularly impressed by the behaviour and enthusiasm of a number of young players who participated - young Mischa on Day 1 and Guido's son on Day 2 (sorry I've forgotten his name).  Both did an excellent job commanding the Prussian assault on Froschwiller - arguably the most difficult bit for the Prussian side.  The WA boys Cookie, Dean and Steve also providing congenial and enthusiastic company with Stevo even coming back on Day 2 to try his hand at a French command.  I must also give a 'hat's off' to my mate Paul who despite never gaming Black Powder or FPW before, took over command of the Prussians on Day 2 and his inspired generalship resulted in one of the most comprehensive Prussian victories seen with this scenario.

Turn 6 on Day 2: the height of the Prussian assault on Froschwiller.
Finally I must say a big 'thank you' to my partner in crime Doug, fellow owner, collector and painter of half of the 2,000 or so FPW figures on the table.  Doug also devised and adapted the scenario and was the rules guru for the two days, patiently explaining how it all worked over and again to each new wargamer who came to try their hand at 'Froschwiller'.  I would have liked to have seen Doug (as the French commander) finally clinch a win for a change, but alas I don't think that will ever happen with this scenario!

This will be the last foray into FPW for a while as other projects await, with hundreds of figures to paint.  But for the Prussians at least - Cancon 2013 was a blast!