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Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

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Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Mr. Digby on Sun Feb 15, 2015 3:58 pm



...or perhaps the "St Valentine's Day Massacre"

Some screenshots:

http://www.atomic-album.com/showPic.php/22426/CuirassierBrigade.jpg

http://www.atomic-album.com/showPic.php/22426/Cuirassiers_edit.jpg

http://www.atomic-album.com/showPic.php/22426/CuirassiersII_edit.jpg

http://www.atomic-album.com/showPic.php/22426/Catfood_edit.jpg

http://www.atomic-album.com/showPic.php/22426/Artillery.jpg

http://www.atomic-album.com/showPic.php/22426/Charge.jpg

http://www.atomic-album.com/showPic.php/22426/40thFoot.jpg

http://www.atomic-album.com/showPic.php/22426/Firefight.jpg

http://www.atomic-album.com/showPic.php/22426/GuardsMarching_edit.jpg

http://www.atomic-album.com/showPic.php/22426/Lines.jpg

http://www.atomic-album.com/showPic.php/22426/PlusBellesFilles_edit.jpg

http://www.atomic-album.com/showPic.php/22426/Smoke.jpg

I have a video of this as usual and checked the cavalry combat. From first charge to final retreat my brigade of 6 squadrons lasted exactly 4 mins 10 seconds. Thanks to Matt for a fantastic cavalry battle, it was the most exciting and tense 4 minutes I've had in ages, and the slow build-up as the French cavalry division advanced in perfect lines down off the opposite ridge was awe-inspiring. Big thanks also go to Kevin aka von Arentschildt for arriving in the proverbial nick of time on my left to save the day and win the desperate melee with his KGL hussars.

I think a lot of us learned a good deal from this game, both in tactical use of cavalry and in how and how not to best fight the British army.

Thanks as well to Pepe and his Terminators (aka Coldstream Guards) for commanding and for Ken for handling a shaky brigade of Dutch-Belgian militia in his very first MP game. Thanks to all the French team who gave us a "very near run thing".

Man of the Match award goes to the 40th Foot (2nd Somersets) of Marks command who single-handedly held our right at the end and drove off a whole French brigade with disciplined volley fire and finally two desperate bayonet charges.

http://www.atomic-album.com/showPic.php/22426/Surrender_edit.jpg

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"Any hussar who has not got himself killed by the age of 30 is a jackass." - Antoine Charles Louis Lasalle, commander of Napoleon's light cavalry, killed in battle at Wagram 6 July 1809, aged 34.

"I had forgotten there was an objective." - Generallieutenant Mikhail Borozdin I
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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Uncle Billy on Sun Feb 15, 2015 4:39 pm





Some of us had a very good discussion of yesterday's battle.  This was one of the most asymmetric OOBs that we have played.  Overall, I try to make the armies roughly the same in a ratio of overall size times overall quality.  But I have been playing around with making the individual arms of the armies, (infantry, cavalry, artillery), somewhat unequal.



The British had 11% more men on the field, but the French had a much higher quality army, 14% better.  Normally, I try to keep the army sizes and qualities to within 7-8% of each other.  Overall, I try to create armies where the size times quality is 0.95-1.05.  That, I have found tends to result in very tense battles, where both sides have good chances.  Usually I try to set the scenario so the weaker army has better ground to fight on.

For this battle, I was very worried the French would quickly overwhelm the Brits, so I initially placed the Allies on the best ground on the map.  Ground which Pepe, the CinC, immediately evacuated for a spot closer to the objective.  As usual, he made the right choice.

The Brits had only one arm that was superior to the French, the cavalry.  But given the wooded nature of the PCL1 map. I didn't think cavalry would play a major role in the this fight.  That turned out to be the case, but the cavalry of both armies met and had a glorious battle that the British marginally won.  Regardless of its unimportance, it was great theater.  In the end, this fight was decided entirely by the infantry.



The second graphic shows a scoring system I developed to try to get away from just counting the number of dead bodies.  It quite rightly shows that the battle was a draw.  Although the French failed to capture the objective, the fight itself was equal.  They suffered higher casualties, but they were the aggressor and that was to be expected.  The replay showed both armies to be still equal, but it was very unlikely the French could break the British line.

Although the French army was 11% smaller than the British, they only suffered 5% more casualties.  Assuming both armies were equally led, it shows the French had the better army.  The objective was just unachievable with this particular set-up. My apologies for that, but I only built it that morning and had no time to play test it.

I'd like to keep experimenting with these asymmetric armies a little longer as I think they add a new and worrisome element to the player's battle plan.  You never quite know what you are up against.  If players feel it is too unfair, I can always go back to making scenarios with more equal armies.

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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Kizig on Sun Feb 15, 2015 5:48 pm

Thanks for a fun intro game guys. It's remarkable how much more tension there is doing multiplayer. Feels like there's much to learn.

I like the idea of unbalanced battles in the mix. Not that I want to ALWAYS wind up shepherding my broken remnants around the field, but the uncertainty is a definite plus.

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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Iberalc on Sun Feb 15, 2015 5:54 pm

Dear mother and Father my King,

Yesterday my corps was engaged in a fierce battle against French forces, Bonaparte’s troops attacked us from the four cardinal points, led by the finest body of commanders that Europe has known since the Roman Empire.

We had a fine position on high ground behind the Rio Arlazon, and the cannonade had started from both sides.

A French agent, disguised as one of our couriers, delivered orders to Maj. Gen. Detmer to take his brigade north to support Colonel von Arentschild’s Hussars and Dragoons which were holding a brigade of the Imperial Guard in squares.
It happened to be a trap for our infantry, as soon as they were fighting the French Guard, other troops in support crossed the Arlazon to attack Gen. Detmer’s men from the flank. This witty, if treacherous and dishonourable, action from the French was close to cost us the day.

I don’t want to annoy you with boring details about the job of an Army Corps commander, basically, I was there to tell people what is the best course of action for them where in great danger and explain them why it is that way. Orders were sent every minute to advance, pull back, deploy, form a defensive line, redeploy, outflank, watch the flank, support, fire, fire at will, outflank, attack, counterattack and charge!

In spite of my youth, I felt very often like a father looking after his sons in a constant endeavor searching the best for them and the whole family.

HRH Prince Frederick of Brunswick. Beloved by his men and feared by his enemies. It was our first combat side by side, this fine officer complained rightly that his division was holding a very long front. He displayed discipline and initiative handling his troops with great skill, facing all the attacks from east and south. He is the older brother every men would love and the older son every mother would be proud of.

Lt. General Earl of Uxbridge. This veteran and outspoken warhorse has a strong liking for “get things done my way”. Precise handling of his units, good decision making and a splendid tactical nose are his best qualities. He is that rebel and maverick second child that can be found in every family. He sat on his charger on top of a hill deployed his Carabiniers and reported, “in order to defeat the French cavalry I need my full division”, and he knew them too well. He got back his light brigade and did what he meant.

Colonel von Arentschild. He is such an officer and a men, everyone would love to get drunk with him, to have him on your side in the greatest peril and to get his boys to support your unit in battle. Not for the relaxed way he handles his men when not in contact with the enemy and the countless skirts affairs he has been involved, he would have been a general long ago. He would be the favorite son in every household. I am told he led the wild and definitive charge that expelled French cavalry from the field of battle.

Maj. Gen. Detmer. His first time in battle, he got the best of his brigade. He fought superior forces supported by artillery beyond the river, buying the rest of the Corps time to get concentrated for a successful last stand. After a setback, he rallied his men and came to the crossroads by the name of Quatre Bras to help his brothers in arms to turn the French tide. The youngest son, happiness of the family.

We are moving towards Brussels so I will see you soon.

Your loving son.

HRH William Prince of Orange.
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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  MJP on Mon Feb 16, 2015 5:12 am

Alas, this was a very different fight for Mnsr. Jacquinot in command of the French Cavalry Division.   I was ordered at the outset to go southwest and around the line of trees in an effort to take the English, who would no doubt be busily fortifying one of the lovely defensive mountains, in the flank.   So we set off and for the next hour at least saw neither friend nor foe alike.   The countryside is quite lovely, though the map i was working from was less than useful.   Woods, streams, and roads all incorrectly marked.   Eventually I found my way to the extreme left and caught sight of the English defensive position on their selected hill.   I was actually somewhat behind their lines but the hill they selected was rather inconveniently covered in woods to the rear of it, so what could have been an opportunity to push their flank instead was deflected by inpenetrable woods.   I could see a French Brigade (Morsey) closing in on my right.   Brave lads they were as they pushed up on the English, an assault that was reeling in red ruin such was the strength of the English position.  If only that Brigade had some further west towards my position, I believe we could have flanked their entire position and gotten them off that damnable hill with maneuver.  Alas, it was not to be.  

At this point the English cavalry had deployed to my front.  Large troops with puffed out chests with a very much "none shall pass" attitude.   I deployed my cuirassiers Brigade in double line and brought up the dragoons as well and then rode up to the English line to announce that we were coming.  A swirling cavalry engagement raged for several minutes with charge and counter charge until both sides had pretty much been destroyed.   With -2 men left under my command, I road back to the French position, who were now on the original hill that the English defended, and reported to mon general that the cavalry was destroyed and then I promptly quit the field.  

Some observations from the game are first and foremost, it wasn't a great map for cavalry.  Too much woods.   Next, i was initially a bit disappointed that the French cavalry didn't do a lot better than they did against what i would consider inferior British Cavalry.   But when i quit the game, i realized that the British had 550+ more cavalry than my French division, over 30% more men.   Against such odds, I guess the French cavalry did ok as the British arm had only 2 squadrons and a little over 200 troopers in the field at the end of that fight.   Other than my little fight and Morsey's bloodletting, i really never saw much of the battle so i really can't comment further.  

As for the scenario itself, I think the French were in tough position on this one.   Further, I'm not a big one for the whole "quantity" and "quality" argument.   Sure, if you're talking about 2's vs 6's then of course the quality matters.   But when you're talking 6's vs 7's it doesn't really matter a bit and I would always choose to take the side with more men.  Let's face it, 7's die just as easily as 2's when their shot, hit by artillery, or trodden over by cavalry.   In my mind, the number of troops needs to be weighted much higher than the quality in terms of figuring balance.   Additional troops is a guaranteed bonus, higher quality troops have to be played effectively i think to actually be a bonus.  So a 7 shooting uphill at a British 6 in the woods (or even a British 4) is going to lose every time.  But two 4's shooting uphill into the woods against a British 6 will probably win.  Numbers mean more than quality generally speaking.  I'm very much in favor of the idea of uneven fights or, probably better stated, uneven forces where perhaps one side has a lot of cavalry and other not as much but with more infantry, etc...  However, i'm never really in favor of a side that is outnumbered being put on the attack as the attacker in general nearly always takes more casualties given competent play.   So to me this game would have been a bit more interesting with 1000 less british in the field.   That being said, it certainly wasn't unwinnable by any stretch, but i'd say it was 35%/65% in terms of balance.  

In regards to how to fight the British as the French, it seems to me that you just have to let the French artillery do the work and use maneuver.  Getting into prolonged firefights with the english just isn't going to get good results and going to melee against those big battalions is a losing proposition as well.   Roll up the guns and blow them away I say.  When assaulting, combined arms are a must to force the English to square to reduce their firepower.  I think in our game yesterday we could have had better results had my cavalry division been part of the main attack, though possibly not too much better as the woods unfortunately gave the infantry of both sides too many places to hide.  

One last request is that cavalry brigades should have artillery with them.  Cavalry alone pretty much has no offensive capability at all without any guns to support them.  I like playing the cavalry, but i like it a lot more with a battery of horse artillery to support them.  It's for this reason that cavalry really shouldn't operate out on it's own in battles as other than destroying enemy cavalry, it isn't capable of doing anything on it's own.    Well handled infantry will always dominate cavalry on it's own....unless they have artillery with them and then they can make it miserable for the infantry.
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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Mr. Digby on Mon Feb 16, 2015 10:08 am

I'd like to see an artillery battery attached to our cavalry divisions as well.

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"Any hussar who has not got himself killed by the age of 30 is a jackass." - Antoine Charles Louis Lasalle, commander of Napoleon's light cavalry, killed in battle at Wagram 6 July 1809, aged 34.

"I had forgotten there was an objective." - Generallieutenant Mikhail Borozdin I
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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Uncle Billy on Mon Feb 16, 2015 3:34 pm

But when you're talking 6's vs 7's it doesn't really matter a bit and I would always choose to take the side with more men.  Let's face it, 7's die just as easily as 2's when their shot, hit by artillery, or trodden over by cavalry.   In my mind, the number of troops needs to be weighted much higher than the quality in terms of figuring balance.   Additional troops is a guaranteed bonus, higher quality troops have to be played effectively i think to actually be a bonus.  So a 7 shooting uphill at a British 6 in the woods (or even a British 4) is going to lose every time.  But two 4's shooting uphill into the woods against a British 6 will probably win.  Numbers mean more than quality generally speaking
That's not entirely true.  If we are talking about simple averages, (army with 2 battalions of 4 has an average rating of 4), that is correct.   The quality ratio would be 4:7.  That would indicate the smaller army is vastly superior.  But that's not what I do.  I used a normalized average, which takes into account how many men are rated 4 and how many are rated as 7 and compare the two numbers.  Let's use this example, where both armies have battalion sizes of 100 men.  The larger army has a manpower ratio advantage of 2:1.  It has a normalized quality ratio of 800:700, (2X(4X100):7X100), which is 1.14.  Combining the two ratios together we get 2X1.14 = 2.28.  The larger army will overwhelm the smaller one as would be expected.  As I said, I find that keeping that number between 0.95-1.05 gives the best battles.

It's certainly true that the ground being fought over makes a big difference.  That's why I try to give the weaker army better ground.  The battle Saturday was a draw from a casualty point of view.  It was just that the French were unable to take the objective.  Had I a chance to play test the scenario a few times as I usually do, I'd likely have discovered that and given the French a few hundred more infantry.

By comparison, Sunday's battle had the 2 armies at almost exactly the same size, a 32 man difference.  However the quality of the French army was better.  The normalized quality ratio was 1.06.  So combining the 2 ratios we get the the magic number having a value of 1.06.  Combined with the French defending the better ground, the Russians lost badly.  It was suppose to be the Russians up there defending, but that's how battles go sometimes. Sad

I'd like to see an artillery battery attached to our cavalry divisions as well.
For the planned, larger scenarios I do give the cavalry a battery as I assume that the cavalry will get 2 human players.  With these smaller ad hoc scenarios I leave them out as I don't want to overwhelm a single cavalry commander.  However, if the consensus is to always include a battery, I can certainly do that.

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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Mark87 on Mon Feb 16, 2015 3:47 pm

Sunday's battle was one of my all time favorite! MJP let me do what I wanted as a division commander, he let the horse off the harness! It was great, I just marched and marched and marched!
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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Ike on Mon Feb 16, 2015 3:56 pm

Numbers affect the battle according to the square of the difference, while troop quality is merely plus or minus. At some relatively small point, depending upon the era of war, numbers are decisive. In fewer words, "Quantity has a quality all its own."
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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  MJP on Mon Feb 16, 2015 4:22 pm

Ike just said it in a manner far more succinctly than I can articulate it. Very Happy

I'm merely basing the whole quantity vs. quality thing on having played a few thousand scourge of war games. In our GCM games the regiments are typically rated 1-6 with 1 and 6 being outliers. 3-5 is more the normal. Sure, a 400 man 5 is typically going to chew up a 500 man 2 in a one on firefight. And using your normalized method you would expect that. But in the end, numbers are far more telling than quality when you are talking 6's and 7's. Further, what goes in to defining those quality numbers? Is it an average of the various attributes in the scenario file? If it is and let's say that the French have an advantage in "edged"/melee value. Well, that qualitative advantage counts for nothing unless you actually go to melee. And if they do have an advantage in melee but their individual battalions are smaller, it is a difficult advantage to actually reap the benefits of. So in that case, the superior quality could be something of an illusion.

I certainly appreciate the job you do in putting the scenarios together Kevin and I don't want you to think that I don't. It's a relatively thankless job and our games are fun and for the most part competitive. But i think sometimes the KISS principle should be applied and that typically an attacker should outnumber a defender regardless of what the statistical models say. In the end, the quality of the individual players controlling the troops matters far more than the troops themselves so despite best efforts to keep a game balanced, the human factor typically negates this anyway. Given equality among players, I'll take the side with more men any day and sacrifice a bit on quality.
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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Uncle Billy on Mon Feb 16, 2015 4:35 pm

Numbers affect the battle according to the square of the difference, while troop quality is merely plus or minus. At some relatively small point, depending upon the era of war, numbers are decisive. In fewer words, "Quantity has a quality all its own."
For anyone who really believes this, I suggest you take command of the Spanish troops in the Peninsula campaign. You will quickly arrive at a different conclusion.

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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Mr. Digby on Mon Feb 16, 2015 4:37 pm

MJPs post touches on a point I am curious about. The experience rating of a unit is only one element of how it performs in battle. In addition all the other combat factors affect the units combat ability considerably. One of my techniques is to give the Peninsular campaign Spanish fairly low-to medium values in these factors (2 to 4). The French and British on the other hand receive medium to high values (something like 3 to 6). Elite troops like guards, grenadiers and so on, get 6s and 7s, sometimes 8s.

You can have two units, both rated 6 experience but if one has a set of other factors at 5 and the other a set at 3, its obvious who will win.

Close order proficiency, which I tend to bump up in the better British foot regiments determines how fast a unit changes formation. We all know that a line won't start shooting until the last sprite animation is complete, so a unit that can wheel to face a threat more quickly is going to have a significant advantage. I also lower the close order proficiency rating in the Spanish militia and volunteer units especially. I have seen numerous occasions where French lines were firing at the poor confused Spaniards who still had men trotting along to complete the formation change.

For all we know, these factors may even be more significant than either numbers of men or experience.

I think the relative combat calculations should take into account every value except fatigue, morale and surgeon.

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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  MJP on Mon Feb 16, 2015 5:01 pm

For anyone who really believes this, I suggest you take command of the Spanish troops in the Peninsula campaign. You will quickly arrive at a different conclusion.

Didn't we do this already i believe in the very first KS HITS game i played where the French, outnumbered around 2-1, were attacking the town held by the Spanish? While I don't have the numbers, i recall most of the Spanish were 2's and most of the French were probably 4-5's. The French may have even enjoyed a "normalized" advantage. The Spanish kicked their ass and quite handily so. The point is that the French can only shoot so many Spanish. They get tired killing them and in the end, the numbers tell.

Plus, there is a huge difference I think between level 2's and level 5's where in that case quality does count for something. Between level 6.85 and 7.42 or whatever, it doesn't really count that much particularly as various factors seems to go into what makes up that rating in any case.


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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Uncle Billy on Mon Feb 16, 2015 5:20 pm

MJPs post touches on a point I am curious about. The experience rating of a unit is only one element of how it performs in battle. In addition all the other combat factors affect the units combat ability considerably. One of my techniques is to give the Peninsular campaign Spanish fairly low-to medium values in these factors (2 to 4). The French and British on the other hand receive medium to high values (something like 3 to 6). Elite troops like guards, grenadiers and so on, get 6s and 7s, sometimes 8s.
This is how the OOBs are constructed as a rule. The more experienced, the better the other stats. So experience is a valid stand-in for the other characteristics.

Didn't we do this already i believe in the very first KS HITS game i played where the French, outnumbered around 2-1, were attacking the town held by the Spanish?
If it is the same game I am thinking of, it was more like 3:1. Unless the spanish army has a large contingent of 4s or the French have a large number of 3s, the rule of thumb is that the spanish need an advantage of 3-4:1 to have a good chance of winning.

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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Mr. Digby on Mon Feb 16, 2015 8:43 pm

the spanish need an advantage of 3-4:1 to have a good chance of winning.

I have never agreed with this assertion of yours and in the past we've had 'warm' discussions about this! Several battles in the campaign easily and quickly disprove it:

1) Adajo - French attacking/French win (French 7,604 inf in 14 btns av exp 3.4; 855 cav in 6 sqns av exp 4.5; 8 guns in 1 bty av exp 5)(Spanish 4,260 inf in 6 btns av exp 2.5; 845 cav in 6 sqns av exp 2.3; 4 guns in 1 bty av exp 3) In this battle the French took the objective but suffered heavier losses than the Spanish due to good Spanish tactics and French miscommunication. 4 French btns routed, 1 captured. 1 Spanish btn routed, 2 sqns routed, 1 sqn captured.

2) San Milan - Spanish attacking/Spanish win (French 5,002 inf in 10 btns av exp 5.6; 16 guns in 2 btys av exp 5)(Spanish 9,701 inf in 20 btns av exp 1.2; 301 cav in 2 sqns av exp 2; 8 guns in 2 btys av exp 3) In this battle the Spanish lost the infantry combats heavily but due to faulty French command the Spanish were able to secure a force across the French LoC forcing them to abandon their position. 1 French btn captured, 1 gun captured, 2 guns routed. 10 Spanish btns routed, 1 sqn routed, 1 gun routed.

3) Calahorra - French attacking/Spanish win (French 8,177 inf in 17 btns av exp 4.9; 1,692 cav in 13 sqns av exp 4.1; 19 guns in 3 btys av exp 4.7)(Spanish 13,899 inf in 34 btns av exp 2.5; 1,118 cav in 9 sqns av exp 3; 22 guns in 5 btys av exp 3.5) In this battle the French attacked hard on one flank but their other flank was handled poorly and easily driven off, at which time the French called the battle and withdrew. 4 French btns routed, 3 sqns routed, 2 captured, 12 guns captured, 1 routed. 2 Spanish btns routed, 1 captured, 2 sqns routed, 7 guns routed.

Aranjuez and Murcia were two more pretty comprehensive Spanish victories over admittedly smaller French armies but better quality ones (of similar order of quality difference as above). Only in the case of Aranjuez did the Spanish enjoy more than a 2:1 superiority (2.4:1) and that game, as Mark will testify, was a slaughter; the French were almost completely destroyed.

Out of 13 battles they've fought against the French in the campaign, the Spanish have won 5 and only 1 of these - Ordal Cross - had Sp vs Fr odds of 3 or 4 to 1. So your assertion just doesn't hold up under the facts.

A Spanish army outnumbering a French army by 2.5:1 can annihilate it (and that's attacking up a steep hill!). 3:1 or 4:1 would be unstoppable overkill. The Spanish simply don't need those kinds of odds to win.

What wins battles in my opinion is good generalship - or more accurately a disparity in strong over weak generalship. Each of the battles I showed above had that element - as did Astudillo - and I think that's exactly as it should be, its how historical battles were decided most of the time. Remember good generalship isn't limited to the battlefield but the wider strategy as well. Getting there "fustest with the mostest" is the basic rule so good generals often win their battles before a shot has been fired by bringing more forces to the battlefield in the first place or out-manoeuvring an enemy strategically and making him give up ground without a battle at all.

We've just seen an example of this in the campaign at Burgos. That battle wasn't won by better soldiers or more soldiers, it was won by the French concentrating a strong force in one place while far more Spanish were all nearby but dispersed. That was a very typical French 'victory' - there was just no actual battle involved.

But I like skewed battles. They test your skills more and make you think harder. That scenario you wrote Kevin with the Austrian supply wagons was a great example of forcing players to think quickly and understand a changed situation. We should perhaps try some even more asymmetric battles that are very skewed in terms of strengths, quality, ground position or objectives - but still with balancing factors; its what real battles were like, most of the time.

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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Father General on Mon Feb 16, 2015 9:25 pm

"But I like skewed battles. They test your skills more and make you think harder."

YES! I love dynamic scenarios and evolving situations. That's why I'm only a minor fan of the GCM Mod, (although in fairness I have not looked at it in a year now).

We have to get away from the whole obsession with "balance."

The race is not always to the swiftest and the battle not always to the strongest.

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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Uncle Billy on Mon Feb 16, 2015 9:45 pm

Damn - Digby here - I am very sorry but I meant to reply to Kevin's post and ended up editing it instead! rats!

Can one of the admins restore it please?


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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Martin on Thu Feb 26, 2015 7:02 pm

I’m a bit late into this conversation, but have been away.

I can see the appeal to the competitive gamer of an equal sides game.  And the occasional one is fine by me, particularly if the players don’t know it is beforehand.

But I play more for the experience and the history, so I enjoy unbalanced games also.  Meaning unbalanced not only in terms of numbers, but and also other stuff such as troop quality, ground, objectives etc.  Indeed I would like to see a lot more of these type of games, as I often find the asymmetries more interesting.  I also think they’re more historical.  As Digby said in an earlier post, it was a rare battle where the sides were exactly matched.  

Of course unbalanced games are not going to be fair, but war isn’t either, and I’m not looking for fairness.  So I am happy to play on a side outnumbered by say 3 to 1, as long as the situation is interesting.

I think that opens up lots of fun situations, which we just don’t play at the moment.  For example a convoy scenario, where an inferior (or superior) force has to shepherd a large convoy across the map.  Or a rear-guard corps, trying to hold off 2 or 3 or 4 pursuing ones for a couple of hours, so that a defeated army can escape before nightfall.

I can appreciate that such a game would not appeal at all to some.  Each to his own, I suppose.....

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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Ike on Thu Feb 26, 2015 9:18 pm

Isn't producing unbalanced games - battles - the whole point of having a campaign affair?  That is what I have thought the purpose was, and have tried with some success to achieve unbalanced battles.  I confess to being a poor to mediocre battlefield commander - the three "Miranda" battles are offered here into evidence Wink - but that is the whole point of the campaign format:  to give a bit wider scope to our abilities as generals and to maneuver etc our enemies into false positions or into battles where our numbers overcome their 'quality' or whatever real or assumed differences exist.  Am I mistaken??  confused

P.S. - And I must add, Mr. Digby's campaign - maps, rules, administration and all of it - is one of the best campaigns I've played in and have been in rather a few campaigns in the 50 years I have been playing war games. Can't say that I've learned much, but I have been in a few. clown
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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Martin on Thu Feb 26, 2015 9:28 pm

No, you're quite right Ike.  That is (or should be) one of the key things the map commanders are seeking to achieve in a campaign game.

But there is a real tension between doing that, and producing battles which everyone will enjoy playing.  Some will not want to play any scenario they feel is unfair in terms of balance.  The same issue arises in the regular weekend games, most of which are ad-hoc scenarios.

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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Mr. Digby on Thu Feb 26, 2015 9:42 pm

Some will not want to play any scenario they feel is unfair in terms of balance.

Any thoughts on overcoming this hurdle?

As Ike says, almost the entire rationale of a campaign backdrop is to specifically produce unbalanced battles. If people are not happy playing unbalanced battles I suppose campaigns are just not for them.

As an umpire I am not going to skip the unbalanced battles because when one occurs it usually means one side has worked hard to achieve that position and they deserve to reap the rewards and the entertainment of the resulting MP game victory. Yes this means the players on the other side have to endure almost certain defeat but there is fun to be had in extricating yourself from a defeat so as to lessen it (like we British claim Dunkirk to somehow be a victory!) and also I have tried to balance up the campaign setting more than it was historically so that the Spanish at least have a fair chance and so both sides can have their opportunities.

If I only offer up to the MP players the few balanced combats there is really very little point to doing the campaign at all.

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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Ike on Thu Feb 26, 2015 10:24 pm

That is the point:  unbalanced battles in a campaign context are not "unfair".  They come about the same way that battle results arise.  The players take the map situation as it is, make some assessments of enemy forces, locations, capabilities and intentions and issue orders according to their view of what will accomplish victory in the campaign for their side.  The same rules are applied in the same way to the same situations.  Entirely fair.  Unpleasant to play?  Oh, yes.  I confess to being quite disheartened and even a bit angry with myself for misreading the operational situation and for underestimating the Spanish forces' numbers on at least two occasions in this campaign.  That said, being able to extricate one's forces from a bad situation with the minimum losses is one of the skills of a general.  Like it or not.  That's why Dunkirk was celebrated as a victory (aside from the propaganda aspects):  the men with their irreplaceable skills and experience were returned to England, while the equipment and material were left behind as that could easily be replaced (and was).

Getting into a bad situation with one's army or corps is one of the facts of a general's life.  One of the facts that ought to be represented in our campaign, as it is the bitter without which there is no sweet.  "Well, we got knocked about here and there but we pulled out a win."  This is not an American elementary or high school where no one's feelings are allowed to be hurt.  Sometimes, some of us, get our forces into a battle we cannot win and we ought to take pride in getting them out with minimal losses or with some other goal achieved (for instance, cutting a line of supply causing your enemy to retreat, even though your lads were mauled in the process).  And as we are not able to do so on each and every occasion, our opponents will be awarded the victory they have earned both in map maneuvering and on the battlefield.  Eminently fair, in my opinion.

All of which, I suppose, is to say that I don't see a problem with unbalanced battles.  Now, if it is something like one of the villages along the French or Spanish or British supply line garrisoned by (for example) a battalion of foot being attacked by a division of foot with horse and gun support ... well, Mr. Digby can roll the dice to see if anything superhuman and miraculous occurs and we can go on without fighting that one.  Otherwise, call for the usual volunteers and fight it out.  Those who truly don't like unbalanced battles can opt out of that one and wait for one they like better.  Those to enjoy a challenge and truly enjoy trying to retreat their one division of foot and no artillery or horse across a river while the opponent has all that and out-numbers you 3 to 1 into the bargain will sign up and we fight the battle!  (Those who truly enjoy such a thing are masochistic, it's true, but no accounting for tastes, you know.  Laughing )  

My solution:  carry on as we have been and let the players sort it out for themselves, participating in battles as they want and are available. And remember: this is only a game. Your hobby, pleasant interlude from real life, etc. Smile
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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Mr. Digby on Fri Feb 27, 2015 12:41 am

I'd never bother with a campaign encounter that had less than a division on each side. Forces smaller than divisions approached by at least an enemy division will fall back unless they are garrisoning a fortified place.

There are however players who don't like facing probable-defeat after probable-defeat. Its understandable that such an experience will sap people's will to carry on. In real war you have to suck it up and keep fighting - the only option is surrender and overall defeat. A wargamer comfortable in his warm home though can just choose to no longer play and I have had many campaigns die after the very first one or two battles when one side lost badly and found itself in a poor strategic position.

This is an issue that should be addressed somehow, I am just uncertain how to do it. In 40 years of wargaming I haven't found the answer. Fortunately with internet wargames we do have a far larger pool of players than my old dice and paper rules and metal miniatures group. With only 6 or 8 players in our group, one guy getting bugged by a campaign result and quitting could scupper the whole deal. We are more flexible now, but having people stop playing is never a good thing.

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"Any hussar who has not got himself killed by the age of 30 is a jackass." - Antoine Charles Louis Lasalle, commander of Napoleon's light cavalry, killed in battle at Wagram 6 July 1809, aged 34.

"I had forgotten there was an objective." - Generallieutenant Mikhail Borozdin I
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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Mark87 on Fri Feb 27, 2015 12:58 am

It is not my fault that I have led the French on such a one-sides campaign. Burgos lifted, two Spanish armies wrecked and all for the loss of 1,500 men?
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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Father General on Fri Feb 27, 2015 1:15 am

In the Lost Division campaign there were some instances where I had to invoke deus ex machina in order to create a compromise between the strategic fortune of the opposing commanders and to offer battles that were at least theoretically winnable by both sides.

Even if one side cannot achieve a victory by combat, perhaps they can win an asymmetrical objective by denying the enemy a point on a map or by delaying him for a period of time. That/'s where my storytelling skills came handy.

As a former Great and Powerful Oz myself, the trick is to create the illusion for both sides that victory is possible even after one side has earned its own defeat. Another solution is to run a campaign for a limited time only with everything culminating in a final battle after so many weeks.

As umpires, I think we have to regard ourselves as storytellers more than referees. It is not enough to call things out-of-bounds and keep score. Instead, we must tilt the playing field, awarding double points here and there all the while remaining behind the curtain and not telling anybody.

For the players, the story and the games must be compelling and interesting to remain engaged. It does not matter what decisions the players make. (This is VERY painful to type) As the Oz, every decision will lead to the outcome you have orchestrated so that in the end everyone has enjoyed a good story and a good time. This is how I approach it.

It is not very "Kriegsspiel" I suppose, but the older I get the more I realize that everything around me is an artificial construct. Even the news I watch is staged by the powers that be and is intended to get me to do one thing or to believe another. Why should it be different in gaming?

Let's tell a good story and let everyone have a good time. That way, everybody leaves satisfied and comes back for more the next day.
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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

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