I was farther along with the miniatures and board, so when Justo missed the first deadline, my wife offered to game with me as we had not gamed together for some time. It was a mercy killing. Although technically she lost, she had beaten the snot out of me and her main attacking force was still intact.
Justo got his miniatures finished and we played a game at the tail end of the New Year's holiday and it was fun. I was attacking that time but ... well, I got smashed again. Really stupid move on my part right at the start and it put me on my back foot for the rest of the game. I got so distracted by that error – and Justo was on the hunt for blood – that our picture taking sort of petered out. That is why there was no battle report.
So, we decided to run the game again last night/this morning with Justo attacking this time. Hopefully this battle report will show more of the subtleties – and dare I say it (because the author of TSIA will read this), some of the peculiarities – of the rules. Also, you will get a double view of each turn! The first picture of each turn will be Justo's version of the game, while the second picture will be mine. Note that he was using American Civil War paper figures (and a cat), while I was using handmade, wooden Austro-Prussian War figures. Note that most of our pictures are end-of-turn shots.
Actually, neither Justo nor I are using the right period figures for the scenario, although Justo's is probably closer to the mark. The scenario has the infantry armed with rifled muskets, so that works for both sides of the ACW and for the Austrians in the Seven Weeks' War, but not for the Prussians, who are using early breechloaders. The artillery in the scenario have smoothbore muzzleloading guns. Again, this still works for the ACW, but due to them being rated as "medium", they are insufficient to be used as 12 pounder Napoleons. Ironically, the Prussians were still using smoothbore artillery, but the Austrians were already using rifled artillery. As for the cavalry, the scenario gives them only close combat weapons and no ranged weapons or revolvers, so they are really not suited for either ACW or the Seven Weeks' War cavalry. Probably the best representative would be armies from the 1850s, such as the Franco-Austrian War of 1859.
Justo was unlucky in that he was forced to move his troops first, so he decided to move up to the base of the hill and not expose himself to the full fire of my forces on turn one. Only one infantry brigade exposed themselves and they took a single hit as a consequence.
Now you may wonder why I would make that move. Would it not block the LOS of the artillery battery? Well, actually, no. For those used to LOS rules in US boardgames, this may seem a little peculiar. Unit A has LOS to unit B.Justo decided to move his cavalry reserve back out of the woods, then close up into close formation. Looks like he is preparing to charge!
In most US boardgames there are rules that say something like: "LOS on the 45º diagonal (or down the hex spine for hex-grid games) is blocked if there is blocking terrain or a unit on both sides of the line, but is not blocked if there is blocking terrain or a unit on only one side of the line." Not in TSIA. The rule specifically states that "if the line of sight passes through a square containing an obstruction", the LOS is blocked. The key is: "passes through a square". How do you know if a line passes through a square when you are on the 45º diagonal?
I thought about it this way. If I were moving from square A1 to B2 – along the 45º diagonal – would I first move into squares A2 or B1? No. So if I can move directly from A1 to B2 without passing through another square, why would LOS be any different? Turns out I was right. By the way, this only applies to the 45º, 135º, 225º and 315º diagonals. LOS is determined by going from the center of the starting square to the center of the ending square, so if the line is not at one of those four angles you will be passing through another square, which may in turn block the line of sight.
|Reinforcements! Peanut makes a flank attack!|
|This is a legal attack by A. The charge into B (square A3) is within the Axis of Attack after moving into square A2,|
My unit defending Hook's Farm continues to get whittled down, having lost five tin soldiers from the fire of Justo's gun line. Further, there was the sudden appearance of an infantry brigade on its flank. I must do something about that!
Supporting fire occurs if an enemy unit is adjacent to a charging unit. If so, it can fight in close combat by providing fire into the charging unit before the charge hits home! You do not want to make charges into supported units as you will simply be shot down. Note that supporting fire is taken by units with ranged weapons, but it is played out as close combat, not ranged combat. One big difference is that cavalry no longer gets a defensive modifier.The infantry get first strike as they have ranged weapons, but they score a measly one hit. With 11 figures remaining and 22 dice for close combat, the light cavalry cut the infantry brigade to ribbons.
|The '5' and '6' are hits. All nine infantry are cut down.|
In TSIA, cavalry are pretty much fire-and-forget, one-shot weapons, which to my mind is as it should be. A cavalry breakthrough occurs when attacking heavy cavalry simply wins a melee or attacking light cavalry wins the melee by completely wiping out the enemy unit. A cavalry breakthrough allows the cavalry to continue the charge and attack units adjacent to the losing unit.At first I hem and haw over whether to stand, advance and take the position, or take the cavalry breakthrough. The second option – to advance but not take the breakthrough – makes no sense. To stand means that my cavalry will be blocking my artillery's shot next turn, unless I get lucky enough to move my cavalry before my artillery is commanded to act. To breakthrough, however, means that I will take fire from both an artillery battery and an infantry brigade (albeit one with 50% losses). Justo points out that I will still take the fire if I stand there, laughs and calls me chicken, so I go ahead and take the breakthrough. (Real strategic thinking there, eh?)
But now the issue is: which unit to charge? If I charge the artillery, here is the sequence of events for resolving close combat.
- Both sides take a morale test. The artillery cannot fail the test because it is superior, unlimbered, and has an attached commander.
- The infantry conducts supporting fire with three dice.
- The artillery conducts defensive fire with nine dice.
- I conduct my close combat attack with the remaining figures, getting two dice per tin soldier.
- If I win, there will be no more units within my axis of attack, so the cavalry breakthrough ends.
- Both sides take a morale test. The infantry will fail 33% of the time. If they fail they will be disordered, halving their dice in combat and making them more susceptible to losses if they lose the combat.
- The artillery conducts supporting fire with nine dice.
- The infantry conducts defensive fire with three dice, unless they failed morale in which case it will be two dice.
- I conduct my close combat attack with the remaining figures, getting two dice per tin soldier.
- If I wipe out the infantry, there are additional units within my axis of attack, so the cavalry breakthrough can continue.
By the way, I have my Commander-in-Chief with me, so if I lose him, the game is over for me unless I can kill his Commander-in-Chief too!
Justo rolls and whiffs, something like one or two hits. I cut the infantry brigade down and continue on to his second crippled infantry brigade cowering behind the artillery.
Now ponder that for a moment. My cavalry will be charging into a third, half-strength infantry brigade with two artillery batteries firing canister in support. The artillery batteries alone will be firing 18 dice and the infantry six dice (assuming it holds morale, otherwise it would be three), so that it 21-24 dice, needing ...
All of the sudden it dawns on me. I say: "Justo, have you been counting only the '6's as hits or both the '5's and '6's as hits?" He bursts out laughing and then groans. He has been whiffing because he was only counting '6's! I tell him that I don't know how to back out of this and do it over. He tells me not to worry about it, let's keep going. I allow the first artillery battery and the infantry to hit on '4'+ (but the second battery is still '5'+) to somewhat make up as compensation. But his dice went cold and he still whiffs, but at least this time it was legitimate.
That said, the losses are just too much and I lose the combat. I retreat in disorder to the woods, take a single loss to desertion, and lick my wounds.
As it turns out, Justo was right. To not advance and take the breakthrough would have been a waste of the unit. I was going to take all that fire anyway when his cards came up. You pretty much have to view cavalry as one-shot and do as much damage as possible once you decide to commit them. If, in the end, you are allowed to retreat, count your blessings.Oh, and my Commander-in-Chief survived.
My infantry brigade defending Hook's Farm is down to four tin soldiers. It is looking grim. My cavalry is down to three figures. (I have a yellow marker in my photo instead of an orange, so it is mismarked. Justo has a missing stand in his photo, but I suspect that is the work of Peanut, who has been batting Justo's paper figures around as he takes a paw in the game.)
Turn FiveThis is the critical last turn of the game. (We are not playing the optional rule, Variable Ending, which gives the attacker an advantage by letting the game play out as long as seven turns.) It is after midnight for Justo and approaching midnight for me. We are both getting punchy.
Luck continues to be with me. I rotate out the infantry from Hook's Farm and move in my artillery unit. What I have noticed is that the artillery simply do not fail morale rolls. All of my units fire first, so I pour fire into his artillery in an attempt to whittle them down. Each artillerist lost can cut his dice down by as much as three dice per tin soldier.
I fail all of my rolls. I throw the crippled unit in the house (G4) into the fray (at F5) in hopes of blocking a charge by Justo's infantry on the left flank (in G6). It does not work. Justo's cavalry charges and wipes me out, clearing the way.
Justo ends up with the last three cards of the game. Everyone he has that can pours fire into Hook's Farm. I go from four artillerists to two. Justo's last unit moves and charges into Hook's Farm. I have two artillery batteries and one half-strength infantry brigade defending or providing supporting fire. They cut him down from 11 tin soldiers to four. Justo rolls his last attack and scores no hits.
The game is over and I have won.
How close was this game? If the artillery unit in Hook's Farm had lost one more figure, it would have been reduced to one remaining artillerist. In TSIA that means that the unit is removed as the remaining figure runs off. That would have left my Commander-in-Chief holding the Farm.
When a unit commits to charging into a square for close combat and the preceding fire or morale tests causes the defending unit to be destroyed, the charging unit automatically wins the close combat and may advance into the square. The infantry brigade would have avoided all of the supporting fire.
When the infantry brigade reached the square, it would have found a lone Commander-in-Chief. I would have had to roll a die and on a '6', I would have been captured and would have lost automatically. On a '1' through '5' I would have been forced to retreat, leaving him the victory square, and thus also have lost.
Now, I do not like to point out an error of my opponent any more than I like mine being pointed out and published in a blog. But – sorry Justo, this is an important point – if his infantry brigade behind the artillery had moved as indicated with the dashed arrow to square D6 and fired, he could have obtained that last hit. What were the odds? Well, there were four tin soldiers left, firing at one die per two figures, shooting at unlimbered artillery (half dice), so he would have had a single die roll, needing a '6'. Not good odds, but...