Monday, May 1, 2017

Battle of the Boyne

The Danes cross the Boyne
(Continued from here) By noon, the tide has dropped enough to make the crossing at Yellow Island practical. The Danes swarm across the river, led by Fodgarden's battalion and Württemberg. The Clare Dragoons put up a fight though - enough to kill Württemberg! While the Danes have gained a toehold they haven't cleared the shore yet, and the embattled Irish dragoons hold on.

Meanwhile the fighting south of the Hill of Donore is fierce. Again, the Williamites push forward to attack, the Dutch having been reinfoced by Schomberg and some of his men. Once more, they are met by the counter-charging Jacobite cavalry.

A tough couple of hours for Williamite generals
In Lilliburlero doubles when rolling for attack or defense triggers a check for leader casualties. For some reason right around noon I had a spate of rolling doubles, particularly for the Williamite leaders. I attribute it to how hot the fighting was as the Williamite infantry tried to break through. Here's the roll that caused a casualty check on Schomberg, who fortunately escaped with just a flesh wound (doing so negates the leadership bonus for that impulse).

Further testimony to just how close the fighting was. The Attack Value (AV) for the Williamites in this impulse ended up at 22.5, while the Jacobites managed a Defense Value (DV) of 20. That was enough for the Williamites to "win" the combat, but they only inflicted two Casualty Points (CP) on the Jacobites. A single CP causes a "fresh" unit to flip to its reduced side, or can force a reduced unit to retreat. The Jacobites have their maximum of ten units in the area begin contested, meaning it would take a much larger number of CPs to force retreats. Also, the Jacobites have three generals involved, who between them have the capability to rally five reduced units each turn. Pushing them back will not be an easy task!

Jame's Foot Guards advance
While the fighting south of Oldbridge rages, James' Foot Guards, alarmed at the crossing of the Danes at Yellow Island advance and attack at the direction of Major General Dorrington.

The Danish infantry retreat back across the river
Dorrington's charge down the ridge crashes into the Danish infantry. In a tense 30 minutes of fighting the Danes are pushed back across the river, securing the flank of the main Jacobite force. (Jacobite AV 18.5 vs. Williamite DV 15.5, 3 CP to the Danish infantry).

At 2PM the tide has dropped all the way to Drogheda. Now is the best chance for William to get the balance of his army across the river and drive the Jacobites back.

Again the Williamite infantry attacks!
The hour starts with a fierce attack by the massed Williamite infantry, led by the Dutch Blue Guards. As always the Irish horse charge in to defend their position,  as they have done so many times already. They are backed by Irish and French infantry under Hamilton. But this time the Williamite attack, supported by batteries of 3 pounders, is simply overwhelming. (Williamte AV 30.5 versus Jacobite DV of 17.5)

Williamite cavalry across the river
Worse, Ginkle leads the Williamite cavalry headed by Schomberg's Heugonot regiment across the ford east of Drybridge and smashes the Dongan Dragoons, routing them. William's horse are across the river finally, and on the Jacobite flank!

By 3 o'clock, the battered but unbowed Jacobites have managed to successfully pull back to positions on the Hill of Donore. This is much tougher terrain for the Williamites to attack. Berwick's squadron of Horse Grenadiers fights a delaying action to cover the withdrawing Jacobite troops as they reorganize around the ruined church on the hilltop.

I honestly messed up here on the part of the Williamites. When Ginkle crossed the river, he actually had enough movement points to move into another area. Had I pressed the attack, the Williamite cavalry could have taken the slope to the east of the Hill of Donore, trapping the Foot Guards and the Clare Dragoons. Unable to retreat, any adverse results from an attack by either the Williamite cavalry or Tettau's Danish infantry would have finished them.

Instead, the Jacobites start playing for time. Rather than attacking they "pass" each Jacobite impluse. At the end of each Jacobite impulse a 1D6 is rolled, with a DRM of -2, to determine if the turn ends. If the adjusted result is lower than the impulse number, the turn ends. The Jacobite strategy is to run out the clock, and it starts to work. The 3 o'clock turn ends with nothing much more happening than the Horse Grenadiers being pushed back to take shelter with their comrades on the hill.

A little after 4 o'clock Tettau leads the Danish brigade uphill to attack the Foot Guards. Despite their earlier success the weight of numbers are against them. The Foot Guards are swept away, the survivors fleeing pell-mell toward Dublin. General Dorrington barely escapes to join the Clare Dragoons on the south slope of the hill.

The rest of the Williamite infantry has gained a foothold on the hilltop. Once more, the main Williamite and Jacobite forces are locked in seesaw combat. This is entirely the Jacobite plan: the longer they can delay, the closer the end of the day comes.

At six o'clock Ginkle has lead the half of his brigade that made it across the river around to the south of the Hill of Donore, seeking to cut off the Jacobite retreat. The Jacobite strategy of running out the clock has been working though. The Williamites have not had time to do much at all for the last two turns. The game has very nicely simulated tired troops that are at the end of several hours of fighting, not able to achieve much despite the prodding of their generals.

And speaking of generals, where is William? Unlike his historical role leading the Danes and his horse across the river, I'd kept him back, trying to move the troops left on the north bank to the fords. This seemed important because as the day wears on, the tide starts to come back in! As you can see in the picture above, by 4PM the tide is back at Yellow Island. Probably about half of the Williamite troops are still north of the river. Unfortunately, the quick turn endings have made it impossible for William to move any of those troops across the fords.

Seven o'clock and the exhausted Williamites have made one last attempt to storm the church. As you can see from the flipped counters the Jacobites are battered too. Not so battered, however, that they can't once again stop the Williamite attack with well-timed cavalry charges. William at this point is still stuck north of the Boyne, unable to lend his leadership to the Williamite attacks, which are instead being led by Schomberg.

In addition to the turn end die rolls, once the four o'clock turn is reached the Jacobite player begins rolling for the end of the game. In this case, he again rolls a 1D6, with a -1 DRM for this scenario, and if the result is equal to or less than the number on the turn track, the game ends. The number for the seven o'clock turn is "2," and the Jacobite strategy pays off.

Final positions
The Jacobite position at the end of the game was not great, but nor was it terrible. They had managed to maintain a line of retreat to the Dublin exits, though that was certainly being threatened by Ginkle. The Williamite infnatry on the Hill of Donore was largely spent and needed to rally. It would have taken a few turns to rotate them out and replace them with reinforcements from Tettau's Danish brigade. In the next hour the tide would be back at Oldbridge, cutting off William and the rest of his army, certainly not a bad thing for the Jacobites!

The losses on both side were roughly historical. Wurrtenburg was killed on the Williamite side rather than Schomberg, and honestly, given Württemberg's personality that might have been a net gain for the Williamites. The Jacobites had a pair of dragoon squadrons and four infantry battalions rout, not a bad result considering what opposed them.

The final tally puts the Williamites up 47 VPs, a marginal Williamite victory. Despite the reputation and celebration of the Battle of the Boyne over the past 300 years, this is reflective of the real outcome. It was a Jacobite defeat, but not decisive in any way. In our battle the Jacobites probably did slightly better than they did historically - though the abrupt end of the battle seems more like a game artifact than history.

Still, with the tide coming in and King William on the far side of the river, it isn't beyond the realm of possibility that the aged, genteel, and definitely lethargic Marshal Schomberg might have taken a look at the setting sun, noted that James and the bulk of the Jacobite army had escaped, and called a truce with Tryconnell, allowing the remaining Jacobite forces to leave the battlefield in good order and with honor. Things like that happened during this era.

This game illustrated a couple of points that reference my earlier comments concerning the Pike and Shot Campaigns scenario of this battle. First, it's damned tough to move all of those Williamite troops and get them into the battle. It should be; moving troops in the late 17th Century under battle conditions wasn't easy or quick. Doing it across the fords of a tidal estuary under fire would be nearly impossible. It's a real debate between using your limited number of leaders to either lead attacks or to get troops across the fords. In most cases, you can't activate very many battalions in an area if no leader is present. On the other hand, areas that attempt to activate for an attack without a leader are equally unlikely to activate enough battalions or squadrons to make the attack worthwhile. Leaders are absolutely critical in this era, in the sense of getting out in front of the troops and leading them. Of course, that explains why so many of them ended up dead, too. One of the failings I've lamented about Pike and Shot Campaigns is the lack of leaders. I think that's particularly evident in this scenario. I also think it is too easy to move troops in Pike and Shot Campaigns, especially under these conditions.

In this scenario, the Jacobites, outnumbered about three-to-one, field nearly as many leaders as the Williamites (4 Jacobite and 5 Williamite generals). It makes the difference. The Williamite generals have to either lead attacks or get troops across the river, while the Jacobite generals can focus on supporting the defense and rallying. Combined with the decent defense and powerful offensive ratings for their five squadrons of elite cavalry, this makes the Jacobites a tough nut to crack. This is particularly true in the good terrain of areas like the Hill of Donore, which adds +3 to their DV, or in trying to force the river crossings.

This battle isn't a Jacobite attack, nor is it a hold-at-all-costs defense. It's a holding action, and the better the Jacobites can use the terrain to their advantage and delay attack the Williamite forces from concentrating, the better they're going to do. That's what they player didn't do in the play through of the Boyne scenario on Youtube. Instead he actually attacks across the river, which flies in the face of what the Jacobites need to accomplish here to win.

Next, I think this game showed the worth of the Jacobite cavalry. The Irish infantry during the War of Two Kings was no great shakes, but their horse was probably the best in Europe at the time. These men were by and large Irish gentry, many dispossed of their lands by Protestants, and so had no recourse but to back James. They were born to the saddle and highly motivated, riding excellent horses and well-led by men like the Duke of Berwick and Patrick Sarsfield. Using them defensively, with a base of infantry for support, allowed the Jacobites to repeatedly hold off Williamite attacks and complicated the Williamite advance no end.