Spurlash Down

For a Demo game at Claymore 2010, I decided it was time to show the Classic collection off and to play a game through to a finish using my simple rules.
In fact, of all the years of putting games on at shows, this is the only time I've managed to play a game through to a conclusion, and still have time to engage the public and visitors to the table. I was aided in this regard by my fellows on the day.
The scenario was devised for the Classic Wargamer's Journal Pilot Issue, and the battle report featured in Volume I issue 1.

Here it is recreated in full.

Battles in the Blast Valley:
Number 2  -  The Action at Spurlash Down

Why “Number 2”?
Well, because Number1 is surely The Action at Blasthof Bridge, of course, our favourite Classic Wargame, as recounted by Brigadier Peter Young and Lt Col James Lawford in “Charge” all those years ago.
I’ve often wondered what other actions may have taken place in the disputed territory around the River Blast, and so, here is my take on one possible action.

Background Introduction

The Emperor and Elector were at odds…
Such is the start of many a confrontation on the classic wargames tabletop, and as the situation is nothing unusual, it requires very little explanation.
As so often before, the border region of the Blast Valley is the area of contention (the crossing points over the river Blast are always hotly contested).
On this occasion, Spurlash Bridge is the objective for both Electoral and Imperial vanguards, both commanders having orders to seize and hold the bridge and await their respective main armies. To that end, as well as seizing and holding the bridge itself, it is vital to prevent the enemy securing control of the high ground to the east (Spurlash Down) and the small hamlet of Norton Spurlash to the west.

The forces available are as follows:

The Imperial Army:
General von Schwarz + ADC
Erbprinz Infantry regiment, consisting of 3 companies
Rottenkorps Grenzers – a company of Light Infantry
Weiss Jagers– a company of Light Infantry
Esterhazy Hussars  – 3 squadrons
Imperial Field Battery – 2 guns

The Electoral Army:
General Soubise + ADC
Saxe- Coburg Infantry regiment, consisting of 3 companies
Pils-Holstein Grenadiers – one company of Grenadiers
Garde Jaeger – a company of Light Infantry
Marchmont Dragoons – 3 squadrons
Electoral Field Battery – 2 guns

General Schwarz and his Imperial force arrive from the north, on the east bank of the river, whilst Soubise arrives from the south, along the western bank. Both commanders receive reports of the approaching foe, and begin to form up for battle…

Notes on Terrain for The Action at Spurlash Down

The River Blast is fordable, to infantry and cavalry at half speed, with the exception of a stretch 9 inches either side of the bridge which is not fordable at all.
Spurlash Down – movement on the first contour level is at three-quarter speed, and on the second level at half speed.
Spurlash Spinney – is a small copse wherein movement is restricted to half speed.  Visibility in the woods is limited to 6 inches. With the exception of Light Infantry in skirmish formation, troops moving in the woods count as disordered. All troops in the woods count as in soft cover.
Norton Spurlash and Vale Farm – buildings may be occupied by up to 8 figures per building. Troops in buildings count as in hard cover.

For the refight I was joined by Alan Gruber, Phil Williams, and Tony Barratt, and the game was played at the Claymore Wargames show in Edinburgh.
Below is a sketch map of the action as it unfolded...

The players
The Electoral Command:
Phil Williams and Tony Barratt
Imperial Command: Alan Gruber
Umpire and assistant to the Imperial command/ ADC / dogsbody: me
Venue: The Claymore wargames show in Edinburgh
Rules: my own adaptation of Charge/ The Wargame, with additional rules for morale and the use of independent companies/ squadrons.

Plans and initial moves

Above: The Imperial force prepares to advance. Photo: Phil Williams.

On the Imperial right the Rottenkorps Grenzers were to cross the river and occupy the village of Norton Spurlash (a tasking they greeted with unconcealed joy as the presence of an inn made it somewhat appealing!). Number 3 company of The Erbprinz Regt were to wheel to the right and cross the river to support the Grenzers.

In the centre, the other two companies of Erbprinz were to advance to the bridge, with the Imperial Field Battery in support, while on the left, Schwarz had ordered the Weiss Jagers onto Spurlash Down with the objective of seizing and holding the high ground. The Esterhazy Hussars, left centre, were to advance and nullify the enemy cavalry threat and exploit any opportunity to take the initiative in the centre.

In the Electoral Camp, high level discussions also resulted in a clear plan. The Garde Jagers would advance through the woods, ensuring it was clear of any enemy, and then skirmish against Imperial forces in the village. They would be supported by the company of Pils Holstein Grenadiers who would skirt round the spinney and assault the village.

In the centre, the Saxe Coburg infantry were to advance and contest the crossing, with artillery support, and the Marchmont Dragoons would support their right by advancing to the river edge. Interestingly, Soubise decided to refuse the whole right side of the battlefield, preferring to concentrate forces elsewhere, and although a cavalry crossing was considered, it was decided to retain the dragoons as mobile support for the main advance in the centre, and await developments.
The Electoral Army manoeuvres into position. Photo: Phil Williams.


The opening moves went as planned, and soon the battle lines were closing. Shots, from the respective field batteries rang out, but were largely ineffective, with only a couple of casualties inflicted on the Imperial gunners by counter-battery fire. The infantry firefight in the centre developed quickly, and the Erbprinz sent a crashing volley into the Saxe Coburg regiment who were still advancing. The latter survived, just, and halted ready to engage, and in the next turn got their volley away first, and did similar deadly work. Soon both the Saxe Coburg and Erbprinz regiments had one company forced to retire, under half strength. It was, however, evident that this war of attrition in the centre would simply leave the field littered with dead and dying, on both sides, and that the battle would be won elsewhere.

Photos below show developments in the centre... and the infantry operating as independent companies for this scenario. Photos: Phil Williams.

Crucial moments.

Displaying a remarkable impatience (though not unusual for their ilk), the Esterhazy Hussars suddenly swept forward. Rumour has it that Major Fripp of Tradgardland, seeking to gain a reputation and impress the Imperial command, issued the order sending the impetuous Hussars on their death or glory charge across the river. The Marchmont Dragoons simply waited for the foe to cross, rather than countercharging, and although receiving the charge at the halt, were able to repulse the disordered Hussars as the latter struggled up the river bank. The Hussars were routed and splish-sploshed back across the river, finally rallying to the rear. Having lost the guts for further action they never rejoined the fight for the rest of the day!

Cavalry melee - a fateful combat for the Imperial Hussars. Photo: Phil Williams

Meanwhile on the Imperial right, the Rottenkorps Grenzers were beginning to occupy the village and the Electoral Guard Jagers, had reached the northern edge of the spinney. The latter, rather than opening up with popping fire on the village, and waiting for their Grenadier comrades to arrive for the assault, decided to launch themselves at the village attempting to seize it before their enemy could get fully established therein. Presumably they could not bear to see enemy light troops enjoying the warm comforts afforded within the buildings! In the ensuing melee, the Grenzers held and the Garde Jager retired to the spinney to lick their wounds, and think again.

They did not have to wait long, for the Pils Holstein Grenadiers soon appeared around the western edge of the spinney, fixed bayonets, and prepared to launch their assault, to which we shall return shortly.

Back on the Imperial left, there had been considerable developments since the Esterhazy Hussars had retired to the rear. The Marchmont Dragoons had decided that, with the enemy cavalry beaten, it was time to cross the river.

They did so, regained their order on the northern bank, and launched a bold attack uphill at the Weiss Jagers on Spurlash Down. The Weiss Jagers, fired a parting shot and turned to evade the attack. Taking only a few casualties as they rode in, the Dragoons proved too quick for the white coats, and the infantry were soon desperately fleeing from sword thrusts. Leaving many dead light infantry, the dragoons settled atop the hill, able to claim the high ground as theirs.

Back at the village on the opposite flank, the Erbprinz company sent to support the Grenzers occupying the village were deployed between the village and the river, and were now coming under fire from both Saxe Coburg infantry from the centre, and Garde Jagers in the spinney. They were thus pinned down somewhat. It was now that the Electoral Pils Holstein Grenadier company strode purposefully forward, breaking into a charge over the final paces, before assaulting the buildings, looming dark in the fading daylight, with the objective of throwing out the occupying Rottenkorps Grenzers. The Grenadiers’ training and extensive experience of storming defended positions was soon evident, and the Grenzers, despite a valiant effort, were obliterated by the fury of the dark blues’ onslaught.

With the village on one flank and the high ground on the other now both in Electoral hands, it was time for Schwarz to withdraw the remaining Imperial forces. As he did, a final salvo rang out from the Electoral Field battery, and a round crashed into the Imperial command group. Schwarz was hit, and his black coat, glittering with medals and lace, was soaked in blood. Was he dead? Well, the withdrawal was certainly speeded up, and Imperial sources have remained silent ever since. Indeed rumours are rife that in fact it was not the real Schwarz, and instead a look-alike had been in command, under the guidance of the shady Major Fripp character from Tradgardland (who has scarcely been seen in public since the whole debacle).  Perhaps the truth will never be known.
On the Electoral side, the command council looked upon the day as a success.


The scenario certainly provided a tactical challenge to both sides, and the game produced some exciting moments. Thanks to those who stopped by at the show to say hello and watch the action unfold. And thanks to the players who entered into the spirit of the game.
So, over to you. Can you do any better than the luckless Schwarz?



Anonymous said...

once again excellent. The more I look at charge, the more I think it is the best option for my 40mm Napoleonics.

look forward to more updates



Phil said...

Hi Paul.
Charge would certainly work for your Napoleonics. Give it a go... and let us know how you get on.

Isembourg said...

I'm surprised to see a successful General Soubise.
It takes me back almost 50 years,
I think I enjoyed Wargaming then, even though it was solo using Airfix Guardsmen and WWI German infantry with ACW cavalry.
Solo games have an advantage.