Almanza – A Twilight of the Sun King Battle Report

Chris Harrod and I played my Almanza scenario using my 5mm figures on a newly painted 3’x2′ gaming board.

Optional Rules

I should mention we didn’t play the version 1.0 rules as published but added a few Optional Rules:

  • 2d6
  • Limitations on Support
  • No double line
  • Generals
  • Morale Grade: Elite, Ordinary, Raw, i.e. different hits rather than a morale bonus
  • Joint action check
  • Line versus square *
  • Cavalry breakoff *
  • Interpenetration *
  • Multiple actions *

* the marked Optional Rules didn’t come into play during the game.

Deployment

Firstly an apology about the “hills”. We set up in a rush and I didn’t have time to find something that looked the part. So I just used whatever terrain I had my DBA box including a couple of actual hills and several area templates. So the hills, some of them rather low, suggest a ridge. In fact the hill extended in an unbroken slope up to the table edge.

Anglo-Portuguese-Advance

The entire Table
It shows the Franco-Spanish deployment (right)
and the the Anglo-Portuguese (left) after first move

I, as the Anglo-Portuguese, deployed first. The British were on the right and the Portuguese on the left, so reversing the historical deployment. I intended to fight between the ravine and the far table edge. Or put another way, to use to ravine to somewhat shield my weak left flank. My plan was to attack with the British and hope.

Anglo-Portuguese after first move
British in foreground

Chris deployed with the French facing my British and the Spanish facing the Portuguese. With his superiority in numbers he extended from table edge to table edge. His plan was to hold the slope and get the resulting morale advantage.

Franco-Spanish deployment
French in the foreground
(Eeek, those hills do look a little flat)

The Battle

The most significant event of the battle happened early. I wheeled my Portuguese horse to protect my left flank. Chris thought he saw an opportunity and pushed his two Spanish horse brigades down onto the plain. The Spanish Dragoons stayed up on the hill.

Portuguese horse in foreground watch the Spanish horse advance

On the next turn I made my action checks and wheeled my Portuguese horse to face the exposed flank of the Spanish horse. They failed their action check and I successfully charged. This was all touch and go given all four brigades involved were raw horse and so would rout on the first hit. The lead Spanish brigade dissolved on contact. However the other Spaniard survived and managed to turn to face.

Portuguese horse melee with Spanish horse
The lead Spanish brigade has already routed

In contrast the horse on the far flank essentially just stared at each other. I was content to have my two horse brigades facing two French horse brigades and a foot brigade. Chris in turn, given his experience with the Spanish was now determined to stay on the hill.

My right flank horse stare at the French on the hill

Back on my left flank the Portuguese despatched the second Spanish horse brigade.

Victorious Portuguese horse see off the second Spanish brigade

With things looking up on my left I committed my best troops, the Anglo-Dutch foot, to the attack. The Earl of Galway was with the Dutch brigade. Facing them, up the hill, was the Duke of Berwick with four French foot brigades.

Anglo-Dutch foot attack

Not content with their first victories the rampaging Portuguese horse now headed for the Spanish dragoons. The Dragoons broke at first contact.

Rampaging Portuguese horse rout Spanish dragoons

On my right the Dutch broke the French brigade facing them.

Dutch firepower breaks French foot brigade

With four foot brigades in that part of the sector the French had ample troops to plug the gap.

Berwick brings up 2nd line brigade to plug the gap

Unfortunately the fire fight wasn’t all one sided and the lead British foot brigade routed. Their four hits made them last longer than the French but they took hits just as easily.

British foot brigade routs

Out on the far right Chris had put his foot brigade into square. As my artillery on that flank could no longer contribute to the fire fight by the Anglo-Dutch they had shifted to face this enemy brigade. Unfortunately this had exposed them to French counter-battery fire and the guns were destroyed.

British guns destroyed by counter-battery fire

It was about now that we started to rue the decision to put our Generals in the front rank. The Spanish general was the first to go.

Snake-eyes and one dead general – the Spaniard

The Duke of Berwick was next.

Berwick dies

Chris’s counter-battery fire was still taking its toll. This time it was Spanish gun eliminating the Portuguese artillery.

Portuguese artillery destroyed by counter-battery fire

Back on the left the Portuguese horse had taken an age – several turns – to make their action check and line up on the train element of the Spanish artillery. With only one hit per unit they didn’t fancy charging the Spanish square protecting the guns.

Portuguese horse charge train

Chris started redeploying Spanish foot to face the Portuguese horse rolling up his right flank. He had also repositioned his central artillery to face the Dutch rather than the Portuguese. The Portuguese foot were never going to get a better chance so I decided it was all or nothing and in they went.

Portuguese foot attack the Spanish

The first casualty of this new thrust was the Spanish foot brigade that had previously been softened up by the Portuguese artillery.

Spanish brigade routs in face of Portuguese

With Berwick out of the picture, and not rerolling morale, the Dutch routed another French brigade.

Dutch destroy their second enemy brigade

Unfortunately more French foot marched up and their first volley knocked the Early of Galway off his horse.

The third general dies – this time Galway

Back on my left the Portuguese horse overran the Spanish guns.

Portuguese horse take out their fourth unit – the Spanish guns

In the centre the Portuguese foot shot down the gunners of the opposing French artillery. That, including the Generals, was 10 of their 20 units broken and the Franco-Spanish fled the field.

Muskets versus guns – score one for the muskets

Conclusions

I had 14 units to Chris’s 20. Even with three “Elite” brigades I thought I was doomed. That all changed when Chris advanced his Spanish horse off the hill and my Portuguese horse routed them. I confess there was a fair bit of luck involved; it really went to the guy who made more action checks and morale checks. But their lucky streak didn’t end there. The Portuguese horse eventually notched up four kills which is pretty impressive for raw troops.

My main thrust was with the Anglo-Dutch brigade. This inflicted quite serious casualties on their opponents – three brigades and a general – for the loss of one brigade and, sigh, a general. But it wouldn’t have been enough to win the game without the contribution of the Portuguese – both the lucky horse and the foot was dealt the death blow.

In terms of the Optional Rules we played:

  • Limitations on Support: Good idea.
  • No double line: Good idea. Forced the armies into historical deployments.
  • Generals. Worked well.
  • Joint action check: I think it worked.
  • 2d6: made morale quite variable. Not terrible but does affect the game.
  • Morale Grade. Using different hits rather than a morale bonus also affects how troops perform. I think it was good for the raw troops – it made them very brittle. Not sure it was right for elite troops – they didn’t feel resilient.

When we try this again I would be tempted to treat the Anglo-Dutch foot differently. Given it was their fire power that made them different this might be better simulated by giving their opponent a -1 on morale rather than making the Anglo-Dutch elite.

3 comments to Almanza – A Twilight of the Sun King Battle Report

  • I was thinking about the best way to approach unit quality today. The idea of increasing/decreasing hits is one I’ve tried with my square-grid rules and I didn’t find it entirely satisfactory – poor units were too brittle, whilst elite units didn’t really have much in the way of extra resilience.

    +1 if Elite and -1 if Poor on the morale tests may not be a bad way to go, but a variant I was thinking about is that Poor units subtract the number of hits they have already taken from their morale roll, whereas Elite units add the number of hits. So as a Poor unit fails more tests it becomes more likely they’ll fail the next, whereas Elite units become more likely to pass tests the more they fail.

    I haven’t tried this idea out yet though. One thing I did try out was the idea of Brittle units – I used it for Cossacks in a GNW game. I had the Cossacks take the same number of hits as other horse, allowed them an evade and applied an additional -1 to morale for being shot at by artillery or in melee with horse. However I also added that they took two hits from a failed test (which will break them, of course) if their final morale score was less than 1 (I use a D10 for morale). This means that they can sometimes fight as well as other horse, but with a bad morale roll they’ll run at the first opportunity. I’d use this for other light cavalry, and maybe light infantry, as well.

    • Steven Thomas

      Changing hits and +1/-1 on morale tests are the obvious variants.

      Your variant with -hits / +hits if quite interesting if counter-intuitive for Elites, at least in the mechanism of adding Hits to morale. It will make Poor troops really Poor and Elite nearly invulnerable.

      Your brittle Cossacks rule is quite cute. Throw good and do okay. Throw bad and evaporate.

  • “It will make Poor troops really Poor and Elite nearly invulnerable.”

    As I said, I’m looking at them for use with a D10, so the odds are different to those for 2D6 or 2DAV. +2 for the Elites is a fairly hefty bonus, of course, but to get it you need to be infantry on your last hit, so failure is not an option 🙂 As for Poor troops you just need to make sure that they don’t fail morale early on. But I haven’t tried them out yet – maybe in my next game … 🙂

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