This is a battle report of my first test game of In Deo Veritas. I used the Battle of Fleurus scenario from the IDV rulebook.
Some of you might remember that I used this battle for testing Twilight of Divine Right almost exactly a year ago as well. This being a test game there was a lot of reading and looking up rules involved, which is why I played it solo.
Basing regulations? Shmashming shmegushmations!
First though, some words on basing. After my review of the game I got some people asking if it was a problem if their basing scheme was different to the one listed in the rule book. As you might remember from my review, In Deo Veritas suggests a 75mm frontage for brigades (cavalry or infantry), and a 40mm depth (or 75mm for early tercios and light cavalry).
Well, my own collection is based in a different manner of course. I started out with Pike&Shotte in mind and a massive love for the look of Warmaster, so my basing was influenced by that. Pikes on 40x20mm bases (1, 2 or 3 in a row to a unit, depending on timeframe and size of battle), musketeer sleeves on 30x20mm bases to either side of the pikemen for a total frontage of 10cm for infantry. Cavarly I put on 20x40mm bases (lengthways), 4 bases next to each other to a unit, for a total frontage of 80mm (light cavalry and dragoons I did a fifth base for to get them up to 100mm frontage).
Light artillery’s sitting on 40x20mm, medium and heavy on 40x40mm bases.
So compared to the measurements the rules suggest my cavalry’s a nudge wider and my infantry’s a third wider than what the rules suggest. Depth is mostly spot on (depending on how deep I deploy the infantry), but depth is of very, very little concern compared to width/frontage of course.
For commander bases the game suggest 40mm diameter round bases. Well, mine are based on pence-sized …pence. So 25mm.
In the end I decided that I don’t change a thing about the rules. Movement rates don’t have much to do with width anyway. Table size – the game makes very clear that 6’by4′ is the intended size, so everybody with a regular sized gaming table can have a game – I changed insofar as that my table’s always a nudge bigger than 6′ by 4′. Something like 6.5′ x 5′ or something like that. The one thing I did change for my games is I increased commanders’ command ranges from 6″ to 8″. This I did to make up for the wider units I use and for the fact that my commander bases of course are much smaller than intended by the rules author.
I think that the basing suggestions in the book are a good guide for new players, but if you already got a collection it’s really easy to work something out to fit the rules just as well.
Now on to…
Fleurus, August 29th 1622
Since the impending defeat of Friedrich V. of the Palatinate against the troops of the Emperor and the catholic league was forseeable Ernst von Mansfeld and his mercenary army were out of a job. No worries though, because they pretty much instantly got picked up by the Dutch who had money, but also a leviathan of an enemy named Spain in the 80 years war.
So Mansfeld and his trusty sidekick Christian von Braunschweig, along with a few thousand other dudes set off to the Netherlands. From Sedan 25,000 of them marched through Spanish Flanders to relief the siege of Bergen-op-Zoom. On their way they got attacked and harassed by peasants, especially so the infantry. On the day of the battle the army had shrunk from 25,00 to roughly 14,000. Morale was low, and while the men were trained according to the revolutionary writings of Maurice of Orange-Nassau, but they were inexperienced.
Spanish commander Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba was sent to stop the protestant army with a significantly smaller army of 8,000 to 8,500. Cordoba got in the way of Mansfeld, and he had to make ready for battle. So it came to the battle of Fleurus.
The protestant army under Mansfeld and Christian von Braunschweig has a numerical advantage, but is largely untested and has to fight uphill. The Spanish army (the soldiers themselves of course in large parts were Gemans, Burgundians, Italians, etc.) under Cordoba are in a better position and consist of experienced troops. As long as the Spanish don’t lose the game it’s a victory for them. Fewer than three Protestant brigades exiting the table via the Spanish table edge will be a major victory. 8 or more leaving would be a major defeat for the Spanish.
CinC: Gonsalvo de Cordoba
Left Cavalry Wing (De Sylva): 3 cavalry brigades
Infantry Centre (Caraciallo): 4 infantry brigades (early tercio), field artillery, musketeer detachment in the church garden in the far right
Right Cavalry Wing (De Gaucher [shouldn’t he be called De Droiter then? Hahahahahahahaha.]): 3 cavalry brigades
Protestant (in Dutch service)
CinC: Technically Ernst von Mansfeld, but he was busy commanding the infantry centre, so in game terms there is no CinC
Left Cavalry Wing (Christian von Braunschweig): 8 cavalry brigades*
Infantry Centre (Mansfeld): 6 infantry brigades, field artillery
Right Cavalry Wing (Streiff): 3 cavalry brigades*
*on the day large parts of the cavalry were unwilling to perform, so a random number of these brigades will be rated “Raw”
This is the situation in the beginning:
As per the scenario rules all commander activation cards drawn are discarded until the first Protestant commander card is drawn as the attacker goes first. The Protestant force advances. The centre more slowly, because they push their cannons ahead as well and keep infantry behind them.
Meanwhile, at the Protestant left, Christian von Braunschweig hatches a plan. He moves up his cavalry wing towards the enemy, but stays out of range. Then he splits his wing up and leads three of his brigades far left around the church and into the heavily overgrown terrain behind the church to flank the Spanish right.
Due to the pretty swift movement rates of units in IDV Mansfeld’s infantry soon get their artillery within range to the Spanish guns and an artillery face-off emerges.
Here you can see Christian von Braunschweig direct his troops. Five brigades move up to the front of the Spanish right wing and church. Three more brigades flank them and move up to the difficult terrain.
“Why?” I hear some of you ask. Well, first, I’m disappointed in your lack of faith in my tactical genius. So far I’m on a solid 70% win rate in solo games. Second, I read this interesting rule in IDV which says that units in march column aren’t affected by difficult terrain. Linear obstacles such as streams, bridges, etc. will still affect them, but difficult terrain is ignored. So if I’d manage to get these three brigades in the enemy’s back and then attack them from the front – that’d be rather nice, wouldn’t it.
Only problem is managing command ranges. Essentially Christian would only be able to either activate the front or the flanking force of that pincer attack. Anyway, the three flanking cavalry brigades form up into march columns.
This is the situation at the Spanish right flank:
The flanking brigades made it around the church. Still in difficult terrain, still in march column, but in the enemy’s back. Unfortunately, they’re also out of Christian’s command range. Time to have the other four brigades attack from the front (with one hanging back to keep the enemy tercio from getting into the attackers’ flank).
The Spanish wing commander de Gaucher reacts by having his reserve cavalry brigade turn about to keep an eye on these pesky flankers. De Gaucher doesn’t want to wait any longer and orders his own cavalry to counter-charge the enemy.
The one Spanish horse brigade who turned to their back earlier take the opportunity to charge one of the Protestant cavalry brigades in the flank as they pass. Still being in column the cavalrymen are barely able to put up a fight and are quickly dispersed .
Here’s an overview:
At the top we got all the stuff on the Spanish right flank going on (in the top right you can see the Spanish cavalry charge yet another cavalry column to the army’s back). The artillery batteries keep on duelling (to little avail overall) at the centre.
Below on the Spanish left flank you can see action commencing as well. Protestant cavalry charging in…
…drives back the defenders, and slip into the gap.
Seeing as how everybody gets to fight the infantry moves in as well and fighting erupts along all of the Spanish line.
At the Protestant right Col.Streiff’s cavalry wing is making good progress in pushing against the Spanish lines. During the general chaos of battle a Hessian infantry brigade somehow gets among Streiff’s cavalry to help out with some musketry. Shooting uphill isn’t easy though, and the Spanish cavalry manage to hold their own, even though their flank is at risk.
At the other side of the battle, the Protestant left at the church under Christian von Braunschweig fight on against the veteran Spanish cuirassiers. They get the better of the inexperienced (and due to delayed pay disgruntled) Protestant cavalry.
Meanwhile the last remaining brigade of the flanking force behind the church are struggling to get rid of those Spanish Harquebusiers who smashed two of the Protestant brigades already.
At this point I had to stop the game due to time. I also realized I had forgotten to make use of the Wing Cohesion rules, which take effect much sooner than I had thought and which would probably have had an effect on the game.
In the end the situation looked interesting. At the Protestant right, Streiff’s wing almost managed a surprise breakthrough at 50/50 odds. This could have led somewhere. At the centre the Protestant brigades took a beating courtesy of the veteran Spanish tercios and slowly were losing ground. At the left Christian’s daring plan of a flanking maneuvre had failed due to the flanking force being cut off and outside command range. I had midjudged a few things while doing that. I suppose a simple frontal attack on the Spanish right flank would have been more successful. This is how thinking outside the box and tactical finesse are rewarded. 😀 Just kidding. I was just too impressed with the idea of units in march column not being affected by difficult terrain (Because difficult terrain can be really bad for cavalry), so I wanted to try that. Turns out it was only half of a good plan.
So things didn’t look too rosey in the end for Mansfeld’s army.
I’d love to play that scenario again some time, knowing what I know now. It lends itself well to solo play due to one side very much being on the defense and not really having much space to redeploy or something like that.
The historical outcome of course was that Streiff broke through and attacked the Spanish infantry. Christian von Braunschweig, knowing that outflanking the Spanish right flank was impossible (ehem), set off to another massed charge against the enemy positions, breaking through and attacking the Spanish tercios in the flank and back.
After that things get fuzzy. They either had to pull back with heavy losses, mostly because the central infantry didn’t manage to support them properly OR they went off to loot the Spanish baggage train. And then either the Spanish line crumbled and the Protestant army managed to move on to relief Bergen-op-Zoom. Or the Protestants had to retreat, the Spanish were too exhausted to pursue them, and Mansfeld had to take another route to Bergen-op-Zoom to force the lift of the siege.
Ultimately both armies (mostly Mansfeld’s) suffered heavy losses, but the Spanish were not able to stop the army and ultimately Spinola had to abort the siege of Bergen-op-Zoom.
In the end I was a bit unhappy with myself for this ahistorical and a bit silly flank move, but it also illustrated pretty well that command ranges certainly matter and that splitting up one’s wing possibly isn’t the best idea. Either way, the rules seem to work. At first I didn’t pick up on some of the details, but by now I’m rather comfortable with the rules, and, as said in my review, I think that this set of rules does a really good job at giving fast-paced and not too complicated battles with more nuance than meets the eye at first.