Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Turenne's 1645 Campaign - March 1645

I didn't get to it last week, but this week I am playing Won by the Sword, a game simulating operations during the Thirty Years War.

I originally bought this game a couple of years ago but it had a troubled launch, and so I delayed playing it. GMT issued a fix kit last year at this time, but by that time, I had quite a queue of other things to play. My recent interest in Turenne and the Early Modern French army rekindled my interest in the title and I've decided to give it a try.

Each turn in this game is made up of five rounds, with each round representing five or six days of time.Each turn then is a month. This turn sequence makes for interesting possibilities with the game's narrative, and as such, I'm going to structure this DAR to follow the timing of the rounds.

March 1st to 6th, 1645

Turenne, having wintered with his army at Speyer at the end of the 1644 campaign, concentrated his troops at Philippsburg on the Rhine. As usual, Louvois had stinted on the reinforcements for Turenne, and so he took the field with only a small force. The Marshal's intention was to seize the Imperial garrisons along the lower Neckar, securing his Line of Communication back to Philippsburg and denying the enemy easy crossings into Hesse Darmstadt.

To effect this, Turenne marched his column through friendly-controlled Mannheim and on to Imperial-held Heidelberg, where his troops foraged and prepared to open the trenches for a siege the next week.

Unknown to Turenne, the Bavarian general von Mercy had slipped away from the Swedes and appeared at Passau on the Danube. Pushing his troops hard, he force marched them to Regensberg, foraging as he went.

In Won by the Sword columns of troops move and take other actions by expending command points (CP) and also usually baggage points (BP). Each round, each player selects a card for each of his columns from his hand of ten cards, dealt at the beginning of the turn. The card displays a number of CPs available to the column that round, how many BPs the player will need to expend from his stockpile at the end of the round, and also contains a description of an event or action that the player can choose to take that round. Columns in this scenario begin with no BPs. To gain the BPs they need, the columns must forage at the various locations the can move through, producing a variable number of BPs.

March 7th to 12th, 1645

Turenne opened the trenches for the siege of Heidelberg on March 7th. Despite being offered generous terms, the Imperial governor refused to surrender. While his infantry and enthusiastic locals began digging trenches, he foraged the area more heavily to gain supplies for the siege. Soon the French guns were ready, and began pounding the Imperial fortifications, reducing their effectiveness. French cavalry regiments patroled toward Wimpfen and Sinsheim to scout the enemy and slow any force moving to relieve the town.

Warfare during this period was heavily siege oriented. Won by the Sword presents an engaging siege mechanic that nicely reflects the steps in this almost scientific process without becoming cumbersome. Important stages in a siege, such as opening the trenches, offering initial surrender to the garrison, bombardment of the defenses, building siege works, sallies, escalades, final surrender offers and assaults are all modeled, but in an easy-to-play and understand manner.

Field Marshal Franz von Mercy was determined to stop the French army from laying waste the Imperial provinces of central Germany. He marched his large army across the Franconian Jura as far as Feucht, nearly to Nuremburg by the 12th. Behind his army were left towns and villages that had contributed to his supplies - regardless if they wanted to or not. Fortunately von Mercy was no Tilly, to leave nothing but smoking ruins and wrecked cities in his wake.

March 13th to 18th, 1645
Heidelberg fell to a sudden escalade assault on the 15th, before the French completed their approach trenches. After garrisoning the town, the French were faced with the choice of advancing on Wimpfen or Heilbronn, both guarding crossings of the Neckar, holding at Heidelberg, or retreating back toward Philippsburg.

Turenne chose to strike for the richer target at Heilbronn, hoping to be able to take the town before the Bavarians could relieve it. Mercy's army was still reported to be on the other side of Franconia. The Fench hope was to quickly seize the town and the river crossing, leaving only Wimfen as a route for Mercy across the Neckar.

Unfortunately for the French, Mercy chose to move with speed uncharacteristic for armies of the time.

March 19th to 24th

The French having advanced through Sinsheim and Eppingen, collecting supplies along the way, opened the trenches for the siege of Heilbronn on the 19th. Turenne's gunners commenced a bombardment of the town almost immediately after the garrison refused to surrender. Unfortunately the garrions at Wimpfen and Heilbronn made it impossible for the French cavalry patrol the far side of the Neckar.

March 24th to 29th

Meanwhile von Mercy was wasting no time. His army, now well supplied quickly marched through Nuremburg to Ansbach, and then to Rothenburg, Mergentheim, and Aldsheim in less than two weeks. The Bavarians crossed the river at Wimpfen as Turenne was opening his siege and advanced on Heidelberg. Rather than trying to retake the town, Mercy instead moved on Sinsheim placing his army squarely between Turenne and his base at Philipsburg. The badly outnumbered French had no choice but to raise the siege and plan for a retreat to the south into Franconia.

Up next: the Battle of Tübingen! And Origins!