First thoughts on D&G Bavarian (Later German) army

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RonanTheLibrarian
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First thoughts on D&G Bavarian (Later German) army

Post by RonanTheLibrarian » Fri Oct 31, 2014 5:02 pm

Entered the BHGS Doubles at Abingdon last weekend. This was my first ever competitive tournament - under any rules - and I chose a Later German army as I've always liked Bavarians (good Catholic boys, nobody else seems to have them, lots of armoured horse (unlike other lists), plus the current Crown Prince is the Jacobite heir to the British throne). My partners (neither could make both days) and I had three very enjoyable - and educational - games; the fourth - actually the second chronologically - was a complete mis-match due to the opponents, who included the rules' author, having had a freak draw (much like our win, it must be said) in their first round game. A win, two defeats (the second much closer than the 20-3 score might suggest), and a draw - snatched from the jaws of victory by failing a death roll of 1 from the very last shot of the game - were a much better than expected return from a team with our lack of experience.

Here's the army list, which was 900 points exactly:-

Command - 1 x FC, 3 x TC (thanks to Alasdair for suggesting we take a fourth general - really helped)
Artillery - 2 x Average Med Artillery [2 bases each]
Horse - 5 x Average Dt Horse, Armoured, Pistol/Pistol [4 bases each]
Hussars - 1 x Average Lt Horse, Unaroured, Carbine/ - /Pistol [2 bases]
Foot - 1 x Superior MF, Musket/Bayonet/Bayonet [6 bases]
- 1 x Average MF, Musket/Bayonet/Bayonet [6 bases]
- 3 x Average MF with Reg Gun, Musket/Bayonet/Bayonet [6 bases each]
Dragoons - 1 x Average Dragoon, Musket [4 bases]

Our opponents were:-
[1] Scots Jacobites, Nigel & Brian;
[2] Later Spanish with Anglo-Dutch Allies, Simon & Richard;
[3] Later Danish, Lynette & Wayne; and
[4] Buccaneers, Ray & Keith.

Game 1 was nip-and-tuck, although the "wall-to-wall" Jock battle line was, to be honest, very intimidating at first sight. Having prior notice of the opposition, we worked on a tactical formation of foot interspersed with horse, the two gun BGs focussing on destabilising any superior/pikey units, and the dragoons and hussars being a nuisance on one/both (or, as it turned out, neither) flanks. Nigel's blog has a good write-up on the battle, so I'll just summarise: our Foot were surprisingly inept at shooting, much more robust in melee than expected, and the superior unit anchored the line; our horse were the stars, overpowering the opposition with ++ in second and subsequent rounds of melee, and getting behind flanks rather well; the artillery spent the first two turns as conscientious objectors, until switching to my partner's dice converted them into raving psychopaths; finally, the dragoons disappeared from the board in Turn 3 (as they did in all of the first three games!), whilst the hussars buzzed around and could have seized the enemy's camp two units of kilted routers not got in their way. In retrospect, the make up of the opposition probably gave us a false sense of adequacy, whilst the margin of the win (17-8 - a little unfair to our opponents who broke 6 of our 14 units) gave us an unfortunate second round mis-match.

Game 2 saw the clash of The Double Barrels and The Double Ones - a "perfect storm" of superior opposing army, ludicrously superior opponents, and perfect (for them) terrain, which completely negated our 5 (armoured) versus 2 (unarmoured) advantage in horse. Faced with four heavy guns, I panicked and tried to shift my flank, but not only still got pounded anyway, but also gave their essentially defensive left wing the room to attack. An infantry unit leaving the table in Turn 2 without losing a single base (just crap cohesion/rally rolls) started the rot; the dragoons followed next turn, and some horse in Turn 4. My partner did surprisingly well attacking larger numbers of their foot (5/1+RGs, half of them superior) - he lasted longer than expected, but lost out through poor dice, averaging only two or three hits - few of which became actual losses - per turn out of anything up to 15 dice. The opposition's dice were only marginally better, but enough to see us off eventually.

Game 3 started much more promisingly. A 4-1 left-right split in our horse left me facing the Danes' four medium guns, but we'd cunningly left enough room for the two "divisions" each of 2 BGs to wheel left and right and move quickly out of arc, leaving me with opportunities to "flank" the guns and their meagre support with one division, and the mass of advancing infantry with the other. Unfortunately, at two key moments the dice let us down - as one horse BG charged the guns, it failed a death roll of 1 and two consecutive cohesion/rally rolls of 1, 3 and 1, 1 saw it routing off the table; the other BG routed the (unarmoured) enemy horse, but then pursued too far (teh only 6 I threw in the first four turns) and was left trapped on the rear table edge by four consecutive failed CMT throws. The second key moment was the left-hand horse "division" charging a superior foot BG (6 shot + RG) temporarily isolated in the centre of the enemy line. The initial impact was won well, but we then had two turns of melee (both at ++) when - hitting on threes, no less - we threw just four hits in fourteen dice whilst the enemy got four hits from four (5s and 6s) to draw both times, and hold on long enough to close the eventual gap with other units. With just plain vanilla rolls, we'd have had four broken enemy units fleeing off table, and three horse BGs roaming around in their rear (one just two normal moves from their camp). Instead they finished with just one unit broken and another five or six bases lost across the rest of their army. C'est la guerre.

Game 4 was another close one against the Buccaneers. Again, we interspersed horse and foot, the former lurking in BG-sized gaps between the front-line foot. Again, this worked well, until a series of failed cohesion/rally tests saw a well-placed horse unit and our one superior foot BG taking an early bath, despite having not lost a single base to enemy fire between them. For once, our dragoons and hussars held back greater numbers of enemy light troops on one flank, whilst the massed foot of the Buccaneers pressed our centre, but our right-wing horse destroyed several units (the enemy had three "double-drop" post-melee rolls that kept us in the game). At 13-13, we entered what would clearly be the last turn, with our horse positioned nicely to charge two eight-base foot BGs (already in melee to their front) in the rear - with fair dice, we had the game in the bag. Unfortunately, at this point my partner unwittingly over-egged the pudding by pushing our dragoons forward to fire on a fragmented and depleted enemy skirmisher unit; the skirmishers lost a base, and auto-broke. We said, "Great!". The Dice Gods said, "So long, suckers!". The removal of that unit exposed the dragoons to one of the pirates' two medium guns. With just one shot, they recorded a hit; we rolled a 1 and that was us broken. Just to rub it in, we then won the two melees comfortably, taking our opponents well over their break point for a mutually destructive draw (not a grossly unfair result on the overall balance of the game, but obviously very frustrating for us in terms of how it happened).

We finished 12th out of 12, albeit by just one point; however, a slightly better (even if still losing) score in Game 3 and a win in Game 4 would have seen us 7th or 8th, so close were things at that end of the table. On balance, more or less what we'd expected whilst driving up to Abingdon on Saturday morning, but slightly disappointed based on how we were feeling on Saturday evening.

So, where does this leave us as regards future outings for Mediocre Max and his boys in blue? First off, it was probably a mistake to drop a foot BG rather than a horse in order to accommodate the extra general; forgetting that an allied commander (Imperial Austrian which would allow us to simply replace like-for-like to make up his contingent) would cost ten points less was also not helpful. These can be easily rectified. The overall horse/foot balance of the army is, however, another matter - it would be much quicker to list all the people who DIDN'T tell us "You've got far too many horse and they're all average; you need more foot." That said, the gee-gee BGs gave us our best moments, albeit mainly against the only two opponents for whom enemy horse were probably the biggest threat. However, one game aside, we managed to do well enough in the terrain selection to give ourselves space to deploy and, more importantly, manoeuvre. I shall certainly consider dropping one of the BGs (probably Maurice - his teeth have always annoyed me, to be honest) and maybe replace it with a second (Austrian) superior foot, which will still leave four horse. Enough for an apocalypse.

What else? The artillery were only really effective in Game 1; otherwise, I can't think of any real damage they did, even throwing four dice at a time (we also split them in Game 4 which resulted in even fewer cohesion tests and death rolls than we might have otherwise inflicted). Could that 80 points be better spent on more foot? Or should we go for two heavy guns (Austrian)? The hussars also did nothing much after Game 1, and apart from sneaking into an opponents' camp, their size (just two bases) and (lack of) firepower only make them useful in attacking the flank or rear of enemy units that are already committed and/or disrupted/fragmented. The +1 on their death roll is welcome, but doesn't make them more potent. Could get two more bases of dragoons instead, and have two 3-base units instead of one 4-base; that said, given the rapidity with which they left the table, I don't think any of the three of us (or our dice) have really yet got the hang of using dragoons, so that might be a waste. Hmmmm......

Probable line-up for 2015 (899 points):-

Command - 3xTC, 1xTC(Ally)

Bavarian Horse - 2xBGs Average Armoured Dt Horse, Average, Pistol/Pistol [4 bases each]
Bavarian Foot [1] - 1xBG Superior Unarmoured MF, Musket/Bayonet/Bayonet + Reg Gun [6/0 +1 bases]
Bavarian Foot [2] - 2xBGs Average Unarmoured MF, Musket/Bayonet/Bayonet + Reg Gun [6/0 +1 bases each]
Bavarian Foot [3] - 1xBG Poor Unarmoured MF, Musket/Bayonet/Bayonet [6/0 bases]
Bavarian Dragoons - 2xBG Average Unarmoured Dragoon, Musket [4 bases each]
Bavarian Artillery - 1xBG Average Medium Guns [2 bases]

Austrian Horse - 2xBGs as above
Austrian Foot [1] - 1xBG Superior Unarmoured MF, Musket only + Reg Gun [6/0 +1 bases]
Austrian Foot [2] - 1xBG Average Unarmoured MF, Musket only + Reg Gun [6/0 +1 bases]
Austrian Artillery - 1xBG Average Heavy Guns [2 bases]

One possible rule change I would like to see for the 1660-1700 period is the availability of 6-base horse units for Imperial Austrian and Late German armies (as they already are for the Poles and Russians), possibly limited to a maximum of three or four - although at 90 points each, I can't see anyone (even a cavalry nut like me) going for four! Typically, western European armies had horse regiments with just two squadrons, weighing in at around 2-300 men tops; but the Austrians, Saxons and Bavarians had "monster" cuirassier regiments of up to 1,000 all ranks (800 for the Saxons). However, in both cases cavalry were typically 30-50% of a European army, yet only one of the other European armies at Abingdon - the winner, oddly enough - had more than three horse BGs out of 14-16 BGs total (and some even less). Reflecting the size of eastern European cavalry formations, even if it were only a "local" rule limited to a specific tournament, would make competition armies more horse-friendly and more historically accurate. This in turn would widen the number of tactical options - and army lists - available to players and make them look beyond a-historical options such as "wall-to-wall" infantry, artillery concentrated to one side rather than in the centre, or overly mobile dragoons "hovering" out on the flank in the hope of "picking off" horse BGs. Just a thought.
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nikgaukroger
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Re: First thoughts on D&G Bavarian (Later German) army

Post by nikgaukroger » Fri Oct 31, 2014 6:02 pm

RonanTheLibrarian wrote: One possible rule change I would like to see for the 1660-1700 period is the availability of 6-base horse units for Imperial Austrian and Late German armies (as they already are for the Poles and Russians), possibly limited to a maximum of three or four - although at 90 points each, I can't see anyone (even a cavalry nut like me) going for four! Typically, western European armies had horse regiments with just two squadrons, weighing in at around 2-300 men tops; but the Austrians, Saxons and Bavarians had "monster" cuirassier regiments of up to 1,000 all ranks (800 for the Saxons).

However, even the 1,000 trooper Austrian kurassiere regiments appear to have been broken up into squadrons for fighting just like all other western horse of the period (and in fact the C17th really). Its like large infantry regiments deploying in multiple battalions of c.5/600 men (from about half way through the TYW) rather than all being lumped in together. So what you have is that the "fighting unit" is pretty consistent in size across these western armies.
Nik Gaukroger

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RonanTheLibrarian
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Re: First thoughts on D&G Bavarian (Later German) army

Post by RonanTheLibrarian » Mon Nov 03, 2014 7:13 am

Actually, my research has suggested that they operated in pairs of squadrons (later described as "divisions" although I'm not sure how common that term was in the 1660-1700 period); however, the point was more that the manpower involved - regardless of operational level - was significantly greater, typically 1/3 to 1/2 as many again at squadron level, than for Western European armies. As I mentioned, Russian and Polish forces in this period retain the option of up to 6 bases per Horse BG; I'm not as familiar with their tactics/organisation, but since the Austrians, Saxons etc developed their forces in opposition to the former two - and the Ottomans, of course - it strikes me it should be an option, at least.

I'd be interested in your thoughts on the ahistorical nature of Late European competition armies - almost everyone I spoke to at Abingdon remarked on it at some point (usually whilst expressing sympathy for me for having 5 Horse BGs).
"No plan survives the first contact with the dice."

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youngr
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Re: First thoughts on D&G Bavarian (Later German) army

Post by youngr » Mon Nov 03, 2014 8:55 am

Great game reports and comments. Considering this was your first competition and you didn't always get the run of the dice in your favour you did pretty well. Hope to see you across the table in 2015.

Cheers

Richard

nikgaukroger
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Re: First thoughts on D&G Bavarian (Later German) army

Post by nikgaukroger » Mon Nov 03, 2014 10:55 am

RonanTheLibrarian wrote:Actually, my research has suggested that they operated in pairs of squadrons (later described as "divisions" although I'm not sure how common that term was in the 1660-1700 period);
For this period I can only recall the combination of 2 companies into a squadron as the basic battlefield unit.

I'd be interested in your thoughts on the ahistorical nature of Late European competition armies - almost everyone I spoke to at Abingdon remarked on it at some point (usually whilst expressing sympathy for me for having 5 Horse BGs).
This was one of the things that came up in a couple of fairly long topics about a year ago - viewtopic.php?f=70&t=46423 and viewtopic.php?f=70&t=46575 :shock:

As I see it the main issue is that Average horse are not seen as very effective or value for money, certainly compared with either Superior types or infantry, and so players minimise the amount they take - the very unrestrictive nature of the army lists makes this easy. This relative effectiveness/value for money issue would have to be solved for Average horse to become attractive. I would point out that IMO (and at least partly based on FoG:AM experience) allowing 6 base BGs would not achieve this, any solution lies in other directions - points and list restrictions (probably on Superior horse) being a couple of obvious ones.
Nik Gaukroger

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If he does not, why humiliate him?" - Canon Sydney Smith

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RonanTheLibrarian
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Re: First thoughts on D&G Bavarian (Later German) army

Post by RonanTheLibrarian » Wed Nov 19, 2014 11:50 am

Thanks for your thoughts - I'm happy to concede the 6-base thing, having nothing like the experience of the rules that you have.

Thanks also for those two links - took a while to work through them, but some very thought-provoking comments that have helped crystalise my own views.
"No plan survives the first contact with the dice."

"There is something wrong with our bloody dice today!"

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