Sunday, February 26, 2017

HtL:Chotusitz with Bob

It took a cautious seven turns for my Austrians to close with the Prussian right in preparation to attack Chotusitz

Bob Ellis and I got in another round of Hold the Line: Frederick's War today; this time the second battle of the First Silesian War, Chotusitz. This game seesawed back and forth and was very tense right until the end. Bob and I played this time with all of the advanced rules except attacker morale checks and facing, which added a nice bit of chrome to the game. Despite the simplicity of the rules, this game continues to impress us both with just how well it seems to portray the period.

Once forces were in contact, it didn't long to get things moving. While my Austrians continued to advance on Chotusitz, Bob launched his Prussian cavalry into a charge on the Austrian left. As his heavies bore in, both of my Austrian regular cavalry made their morale checks and were able to withdraw from the charge. Unfortunately, they then both failed the post-withdraw check and each took a hit. My heavy cavalry then moved in for a charge, punishing one of Bob's units and forcing it to retreat.

The remaining Prussian heavy cavalry charged my heavy cav in turn, but my men stood their ground and counter charged. Both units lost a point of morale, and in a scant two turns, nearly all of the cavalry on the map was blown.

Meanwhile, Bob also sent his elite Prussian infantry to attack the two Austrian regular infantry making up my center. Despite shaking one of his elites, the feared "moving walls" of the Prussian infantry blew away both of my formations when they had a chance to fire, putting the Prussians up by 2 VP.

The Austrians did manage some revenge though - cannon fire supporting my attack toward Chotusitz on the Austrian right not only did some damage to the Prussian infantry there, but killed Prince Leopold of Anhalt, depriving Bob of a leader and giving me my first VP of the game.

An extremely eventful two turns!

Bob pulls back his cavalry and turns the attention of his elite infantry toward the Austrian attack on Chotusitz. His troops there are in trouble as the Austrians see off one of his infantry brigades.

I decide to consolidate my line to better defend against Bob's advance. Austrian artillery and musketry wreaks havoc on the Prussian troops in front of the village, dispersing another infantry unit and an artillery unit. The Austrians are ahead four VPs to two. Both sides need to reach 6 VPs to win, with the Prussians needing to do it in 24 turns or less.

I have to admit I thought Bob had made a mistake placing two artillery batteries up on the hills rather than using them in combination with his infantry assaults. In reality, as we'll see in a moment, they won the battle for him. In this turn, the Austrian cavalry begins to move from the left toward the rear of the Prussian elite infantry. Bob's artillery kills one of my artillery units. Three VPs for the Prussians, four for the Austrians.

Bob's elite Prussian infantry move to attack, but the Austrians are ready for them. In a combined arms attack, the Austrians first hit one of the elite brigades with artillery fire, weakening it, and then launch a cavalry charge against it. The reeling Prussian troops are finished off with a blast of musketry. The northernmost Prussian infantry unit fares little better, having its morale reduced from two to one by an attack from the wavering Austrian regulars.

This turn nicely illustrated how the HtL:FW system, particularly with the optional rules rewards combined arms and keeping your formation together in line. The Austrians received significant combat bonuses which allowed them to tear the heart out of Bob's attack. The Austrians are now just one point away from a victory.

Both sides, however, are pretty battered at this point. The Prussians in Chotusitz can't seem to hit anything, but the damned artillery up on the hills keeps lobbing long-ranged shots into my poor Austrians. Both sides pull back to reorganize and rally.

I'd really like to get the two separated halves of my army back together so I can finish smashing the Prussian right. Unfortunately, Bob has other plans. His infantry tucked down in the woods, isolated from the rest of the Prussians, cuts loose with long range fire...and finishes off one of my cavalry brigades. Now both sides are at 5VP!

Then I do something stupid. I really feel like I need to put an end to the damned artillery causing me so much havoc. Those batteries continue to stall my advance on Chotusitz, forcing Charles of Lorraine to continually rally my infantry. They knocked out my supporting artillery. They need to go. I move some cavalry supported by a fresh infantry brigade into place.

Stupidly, I charge with the cavalry, rather than assaulting with the infantry. Yes, the charge does cause a hit on the artillery battery and force it to retreat...

But the return fire from the adjacent battery scores a single hit - which is just enough to kill the cavalry. It would not have done the same to the fresh infantry brigade. Victory for the Prussians!

Ignoring for the moment my stupidity in charging with the cavalry when I should have launched an infantry assault, we saw some really great stuff in this game:
  • Having worked out how the Action Point system really works this time, we found that we had to be a lot more careful of how to use them. Saving points and carrying them over to the next turn was mostly not an option. There were never enough points to active all the units on either side in a single turn.
  • The scarcity of Action Points made the cavalry action play out very realistically. After the initial charge, both sides' cavalry was so reduced in capacity that it was mostly of no use for the remainder of the game. Neither of us could spare the APs to rally it.
  • Combined arms and coherent formations are a must, and are very powerful.
  • A grand battery of artillery can dominate a sector of the field.
All of this happened in a game taking us a bit more than an hour and a half to play, with Bob and I engaged in our usual nattering and historical asides. We also had a good laugh when his infantry in Chotusitz attempted a fire attack against an Austrian unit in the woods (-1 DRM) and rolled 1-1-1. My Austrians fired back in their turn against the town (-1 DRM) and rolled 2-2-1. We decided the nearby stream was making the powder damp!

We're very favorably impressed with this game. Sure, it's missing the chrome and detail of some other games of the period - but it has narrative like you wouldn't believe, presents believable results, and can play out a major battle in under two hours. That's pretty tough to beat.

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