The morning mist was still clinging to the river banks when the Austrians arrived.
My army this time was comprised of 6 infantry, 2 light infantry, 2 cavalry and 2 guns, plus of course my command stand.
A roll of the die dictated a 50/50 split so 2 battalions of Keith's Regiment, 2 light infantry companies, a squadron and a gun were assigned to one side, the Turkish infantry and remaining gun and cavalry to the other. (btw surveying my forces I was slightly chuffed to realize that 51 of the 93 figures were my own originals)
As can be see (rather murkily) in the first picture, Ron arrived on the opposite bank and just slightly farther forward than I had. His army was composed of 6 infantry battalions, a light infantry unit, 2 cavalry squadrons, and a somewhat alarming 3 batteries of artillery. I had visions of myself being forced to launch bayonet assaults against the guns to avoid being blown off the bridge. As it turned out, he had some of the same issues that I had had, trying to advance his guns and deploy them under fire while I had so many targets that it was hard to avoid hitting something. A lengthy artillery duel followed which he eventually won but taking out my 2 guns cost him 2 of his own plus an infantry unit. Two of our batteries manged a simultaneous mutual destruction, reminiscent of Blasthof Bridge and in the end it was pure chance that his last battery took out my last battery before the reverse happened. (more on artillery at the end)
Farther inland, there was some interesting action involving light troops on the hill. We had a bit of a discussion about lines of sight in the hill, where the crests ran at various angles, and whether or not troops in a hex could claim to be a to the forward edge, shelter behind a crest but still able to fire or if they were located at the center of the hex and thus it units had to be adjacent to see each other unless one was clearly on the forward slope looking at an enemy in the open. This is one of the double edged sides of the nice rolling Hexon terrain. It made one think of real hills that one knows but of course 25mm miniatures who don't quite match the scale of either the game or the terrain distort what is being represented. In the end, we decided that troops on the hill would count as "not clear" targets since some of them might be in dead ground, in little dips on the hill etc while others might have a line of sight to each other. This seemed to work well.
My light infantry was a threat if Ron tried to bypass me, especially if I moved 2nd and used a double move to strike a weak spot or to move into position hoping for 1st shot on the next turn and with the benefit of the hill would be a dangerous nut to crack in an assault. Mostly we hung back out of range and jockied for position but there was some fighting as I was pushed back across the hill. Unfortunately, the details aren't clear in my memory and the game was too engaging for either of us to have taken pictures (blame Bob). His cavalry was particularly effective at driving back my light infantry as it could threaten a charge from beyond my reach. Eventually, I was forced to either withdraw or reinforce so I sent in my Anatolians (these lads need a name) and in a fierce fight they eliminated an enemy battalion but were themselves destroyed by the melee. I take no unit to task if it stands to its work though I do prefer them to survive. In the end I think we had each lost 2 units but I was still clinging to one corner of the hill.
In the center, with my guns silenced, Ron rolled forward. The Albanians stood proudly in their way and were shot down where they stood. The Austrians pressed forward into the gap. Would my Turks with their French allies stand firm for the coming musketry duel? Oh CR*P 1/2 of my remaining guys don't have muskets and I'm only 1 unit away from my second loss of the day, while Ron was 2 units away. Deja Vue all over again. Time for a counter attack! Lancers, spearmen, the Pasha himself, all forward! Time for the French to step into the gap, En avant!
Once again the details are foggy and pictures too few. A combined assault of lancers, spearmen and the general, took out 1 unit on the hill, probably the light infantry while on the plain, if memory is clear, Alexander's had stepped forward boldly to block the road and then fate delivered an initiative flip giving me a double move but with minimal pips. It was enough for Keith's to unleash a deadly fire into the Austrian Horse Grenadiers. A classic victory pulled from the jaws of defeat. Final tally, Turks 6 units lost out of 13, (2 guns, 2 infantry, 2 light infantry) and still blocking the Austrians line of march, Austrians 7 lost out of 13 and forced to retire (2 guns, 3 infantry, 1 lt infantry, 1 cavalry).
A close and exciting game.
There were to aspects of the rules that I have pondered without deciding that on any changes to propose.
The first has to do with terrain. At present there is nothing to stop cavalry from charging effectively through the woods or over a rocky hill or indeed, marching at full speed through a jungle. For that matter, one can drag heavy guns through woods as easily as over the plain. The one terrain restriction that was in place, an injunction against crossing more than 1 contour per turn, appears to have been withdrawn, just as I was about to propose that light infantry be exempted from it to reflect their mountaineer back ground, and natives as well. This would give these troops a distinct advantage in their home terrain but I'm not sure its worth the effort in the face of the alternatives.
On the whole, I tend to favour defining terrain when a battle field is laid out rather than trying to enshrine every possible situation into the rules. One could declare, as an example, that this patch of woods here is thick with undergrowth or swampy and impassible to guns and horses while that patch over there is relatively open and has a broad path and is thus not a movement obstacle although still blocking line of sight and providing cover or that the 2nd countour of this hill is steep and impassible to cavalry and guns. The simplest and possibly most effective way to handle terrain.
The other question is artillery. During the duel, I couldn't help but notice (despite it being to my advantage at that moment) that the odds of missing or hitting an alternate target were greater than the odds of hitting what the gunners were aiming at. I'm not sure that this isn't over stating the case somewhat. I do like that the hex rules only have over shoots, undershoots and hits as opposed to including left and right misses. It encourages linear tactics, punishes dense masses and seems to reflect the actual problems of observed gunnery better, estimating the range being harder than pointing in generally the right direction. I'm not sure that this is a problem since the guns are effective at pinning when they do hit and any attempt to reduce the number of over/under shoots would cause complications when the target is aligned so that there are 2 of each. I suspect that this is a case for thinking about and living with rather than tinkering.
Next up, possibly a step back to ancients or a trial of a Grid-Less Portable Wargame, or maybe I'll just use the weekend to work on terrain and troops.