Monday, March 28, 2011

The Initial Clash

In all fairness, this part of the border between Saxe-Schweinrot and Grosser-Bierfest had never been adequately surveyed. The locals felt (rightly) that that much official attention would be followed by taxes. So surveyers were shot, bludgeoned, and otherwise dispsosed of. When that did not deter officials (surveying parties grew larger) they resorted to bribery. That was a mistake. The gold they used whetted the appetites in both capitols. Politicians are, after all, addicted to money.

The Erbprinz of Saxe-Schweinrot got wind of this, recalled a law dating back to the 13th Century that all government officials were members of the army who served at the Grand Duke's pleasure, and announced that what pleased the Grand Duke was for these officials to serve in the front line as the officer commanding battalions. There were those who questioned that law, but the Erbprinz produced a copy on parchment (after first using a forced draft from a local smithy to dry the ink). Now please recall that in those days the officer commanding the battalion had to stand in front of the battalion to give it "proper direction". Sadly the Erbprinz recalled that old aphorism: "You peculate the big bucks only at your peril."

The Duke of Grosser-Bierfest was a little more practical. As long as he got paid off, he didn't care how much you stole. However since he wanted 155%, it didn't take these officials long to decide they didn't want to be in debt to the Duke.

Both sides set up convoys that went into the area, mined the gold, and left. But soon rumors began to filter across the nominal border that there was a lot of gold to be had just over the hill. Both sides decided they wanted to control all of the gold, and were not willing to share. Both decided the best way to do this was to send a few troops out to secure the gold mine. And then they'd redefine the border to prove they were rightly just protecting their territory.

The Schweinrot forces mustered at the small river town of Wasserdam. They numbered six regiments of foot (12 battalions) and 20 squadrons of cavalry, just over 10,000 men. The Bierfest troops numbered 10 battalions and 20 squadrons (the battalions were stronger, so the total came to just over 10,000 men as well), plus a couple of guns. They mustered at the town of Muhlhaus, downstream of Wasserdam (both are on the Wasser River). Lt. General Plumper was put in charge of the Schweirot troops. He would face General Klepterov in the coming battle.

Note - the forces were determined by a die throw.

General Klepterov was not the most imaginative of generals. He flung a couple of squadrons out in front a couple of hundred yards as a "scouting screen", and on a fine autumn afternoon, marched out. Owing to the lateness of the day they made a mile before having to camp for the day. The second day they moved a little faster, reaching three miles. Clearly General Klepterov did not believe in exhausting his troops by marching. This "blistering" pace continued, but after three days they stopped to bake bread. Two days later they stopped to celebrate General Klepterov's wife's sister's birthday. Here they camped because nobody would campaign on a Sunday.

His opposite number sat in cantonments "analyzing" the situation. Only a direct order from the Erbprinz (and a sharp note from the General's wife that he had promised to be gone only a week) goaded him into action. Plumper made up for lost time by decreeing forced marches and "extraordinary" efforts. His troops responded with marches of 10 miles on two successive days. After such prodigious feats they had to rest for a day (the General was having second thoughts about hurrying home).

Halfway between the two gold mines lay the town of Giltbrick, a community that was there to serve the needs of the miners. It had a decent tavern, an imposing cemetary, and a church that people traveled for miles to see. Both generals set their sights on the town as a place to rest for the night.

Plumper was the first to decide something strange was going on when his cavalry scouts were seen having a drink with strange cavalrymen wearing the uniform of Bierfest cavalry. Reacting with celerity, Plumper deployed his men. They then had to endure an eight mile march while in line of battle. This necessitated frequent stops to correct the alignment, so it wasn't until two hours before sunset that they came in sight of the Bierfest troops.

On his part the near-sighted Klepterov remained oblivious to any approaching forces. He was just short of Giltbrick when he realized that there were enemy troops present. This happened when he stopped to utilize his flask, and a Schweinrot trooper had to help him get the cork out. This (and the particularly fine brandy) forced him to react. He called for a deployment of the whole army!

Deployments were processional, and so it took two hours to get the 10,000 Bierfest troops into line. As nobody wanted to be the second one to strike a blow, the colonels deployed their men in one line of battle with the cavalry on the wings. The Schweinrot troops had been disorganized by the last march, and two regiments had fallen behind owing to an inhospitable series of beehives. This meant that the Schweinrot forces were (accidentally) in two lines.

Note - I found some guys who were willing to try a "quick" scenario at a local hobby store. I set up the troops, and then sat back to take notes. One force promptly deployed into one line, while the other remained in two, but only because he couldn't get everyone in the front line.

Both sides decided the only proper thing was to advance to point-blank range and open fire. And so they did! Battle was immediately joined all along the line. The Bierfest troops enjoyed immediate success in the center, while the Schweinrot forces drove off the enemy cavalry, but only at considerable cost. After an hour of intense fighting (we were using 15 minute turns) the Bierfest flanks were both on the defensive (i.e. stationary) because of threatening cavalry, but the enter was advancing victoriously, the Schweintrot troops fleeing in panic in front of them.

Remember those two regiments that couldn't make it into the front line? The Bierfest troops learned about them while disorganized. Their advancing center was thrown back, and some of the Bierfest troops broke and ran. The lines stabilized and both generals frantically rode around patching things up (rallying troops from rout) while the troops blazed away at each other until it was too dark to see.

Night fell, and both generals stumbled into each other in Giltbrick as they sought a drink after an afternoon of carnage. Over dinner of poached roast pheasant they glumly assessed their losses. In immediate terms both sides could muster about 2,000 men. But with troops returning from rout both sides eventually worked out that they had about 7,500 men each. A truce to bury the dead was worked out, and the two sides sat there eyeing each other for the next week. Both governments ordered their troops back, except for cavalry to picket the area.


The importance of a second line was brought home to both sides, though I think only one side learned that lesson (Bierfest). The devastating dice throwing by a couple of the regiments in the Bierfest army was truly something to see. The only thing that saved the Schweinrot forces was the success of their Horse. They tied down 40% of the Bierfest army. So there was a glimmer of hope for both sides. Both generals were retained in command, though not the supreme command.


Both sides "absorbed" the "lessons" of this fight, even as delarations of war for this "unprovoked" attack were issued. More on that anon.

1 comment:

Bluebear Jeff said...

I love it. A very nice post . . . and getting novice players involved is great.

I look forward to more.

-- Jeff