The Nine Years War - A Variant for Volley & Bayonet
A Volley & Bayonet variant for the Nine Year's War, 1688-1697, also known as the War of the League of Augsburg or the War of the Grand Alliance. Developed by Ed Mueller.
The Nine Year's War (or War of the League of Augsburg, hereafter referred to as LOA for short) was the last of the general European "pike and shot" wars. Having said this, it is also important to point out that this was also a time of great transition. The LOA armies were on the cusp of two eras, still having some of the spirit and resembling in many ways the armies of the 17th century, but also increasingly mixed with the emerging technologies and military practices of the early modern era. References actually abound to the LOA era, but these references, oddly enough, rarely actually mention the war itself.
So here, to introduce the rules, is my brief (and incomplete) amateur's introduction to the era. Hopefully, it will put some things into context and be helpful. Interested parties are encouraged to look into the sources listed at the end of the rules for more detailed information.
The lead up to the war is complicated and happened at a very interesting time. In 1685, Louis XIV rescinded the Edict of Nantes, which had ensured toleration for French Protestants (Huguenots) since 1598. Thousands left France, and this provocative move alarmed the neighbors of France, particularly the German states and the United Provinces, and also antagonized the Holy Roman Emperor. They formed the "League of Augsburg" in 1686 as a protective measure: original participants were the Austrian Hapsburgs, Spain, Sweden, The United Provences, and the German Duchies and Principalities in Northern Europe. Shortly after, Bavaria and Savoy would join.
When Charles of Lorraine finally turned back the Ottoman threat at Buda in 1686 and Belgrade in 1688, the French had reason to be concerned. With the eastern frontier secured, the Austrian Hapsburg power could be concentrated against France. The French moved into the low countries and the Palatinate as a pre-emptive measure. This prompted the escalation of things into a war.
While this was going on, the Glorious Revolution in England led to the rise of the avowed Protestant, anti-French William III. Catholic, Pro-French, James II (now deposed), fled to France, bringing with him an army of 20,000 mainly Irish ex-patriates, the original "Wild Geese". On the other side of the expatriate coin, French Huguenots served in large numbers, both individually and as stand alone units, in the Armies of the Grand Alliance against France--most interestingly, perhaps, if not numerically, being the "Grand Musketeer" Squadron in the Elector of Brandenburg's Household cavalry: expatriate French "gentlemen" richly uniformed in red (sort of the "anti" Musketeers, in small, to those of the Maison du Roi).
France would declare war on Spain in 1689, causing the "Grand Alliance" to be formed in response shortly thereafter, which included the members of the League of Augsburg along with a few more, like Brandenburg-Prussia, Brunswick-Hanover, and England. At this point, most if not all of Western Europe was arrayed against France: England, the United Provinces (Dutch Netherlands), Spain, the Holy Roman Empire (including the northern German states), Sweden, Brandenburg-Prussia, Saxony, Bavaria, and Savoy. The war would go on for 9 Years, and was active on three major fronts: Northern Italy, Flanders, and Spain. Unlike the War of the Spanish Succession, however, the French would win every major battle after the first (which was Walcourt, 1689). Like the War of the Spanish Succession, battlefield victories would not translate into decisive results (nations fought on).
This era has a fascinating mix of units and forces, in the coalition armies in particular. This mix and the breadth of the conflict presents a rewarding, yet overlooked, concentration for gaming. The armies were fairly evenly matched, relatively small, and almost entirely professional. The subsidy system allowed smaller states to maintain sizeable forces, and they specialized in providing military service to client nations (the largest "consumer" nation being the United Netherlands). Consequently, many of the units of the "minor" powers were as proficient as those of the larger powers (as a matter of fact, they composed a significant portion of the armies). Aside from these subsidy troops, armies would have "national" contingents from multiple coaltion partners as well, leading to a varied and colorful force.
The units were "modern" but still evolving. The Imperial and Bavarian Cuirassiers were still in their lobster pot helms and back and breast armor. Other horse were in various stages of armor. In the swings between cuirass and no cuirass, this was more of a "no cuirass" era, but there were exceptions and interesting variatons, like the Wurtemburg Hochstadt horse with their leather cuirasses worn outside, and the Prussian horse--known as "cuirassiers"--with leather cuirasses worn under their coats.
Plug bayonets, pikes, matchlocks, and flintlocks were all in use throughout the period in various degrees. Some Armies, like the Danes, had abandoned the pike and switched entirely to the matchlock/flintlock, while many others still had standard pike and shot infantry formations with a few units of "fusiliers" serving separately.
Experiements and revolutions in military theory and practice that began in the 1670s had matured into common practice during the 1690s, but still had a unique "early" flavor to them. Grenadier companies were standard, but still carried their grenades and retained their specialised roll in sieges and fighting in works. Dragoons increasingly fought in the saddle alongside the horse, but also were commonly dismounted and massed for siege and assault operations, and to hold outlying positions.
Cannon were still commonly referred in terms familiar to the late renaissance and Thirty Year's War : "sakers," "falcons," "culverins," "demi-cannons," etc. Standardization was being introduced, with the familiar shot-weight measure being adopted during this period (4 pounder, etc). A professional artillery corps was in its infancy in all armies of note. Civilian gunners were a thing of the past, but transport was still handled by civilian drivers.
Guns, nevertheless, were idiosyncratic, and many of them were still in service from earlier decades (not at all unusual for a cannon to be in use for a long time like this), so that assumptions regarding the similiarity of two pieces, which might both be categorized as "4 pounder" (for instance), cannot be drawn (one might be "light" and the other "field" in effect). An interesting note on the guns of the period is that each had to be a functional fortification piece as well, necessitating that they have extended barrels that could clear the works. This gives the "late reniassance" look to the artillery of this era, and also added to their weight. The term "light" does not necessarily equate to "mobile".
National uniforms were either being adopted or already had been, many of them in recognizable form: The French and Austrians were in the grays that would morph into the whites of the 18th Century; the Brandenburg Prussians had adopted their dark blue, the Bavarians their cornflower blue, and the English their red (very recently). Some armies, however, like the Saxons, would switch colors after 1700 (so you have to be on your toes if you use WSS references for uniforms). The round hat was in use (another 17th century "flavored" aspect), but was morphing into the tricorn.
The campaigns were very dynamic in Italy (Catinat vs Savoy) and Spain, with small field armies engaging in the full range of operations, including open battles. Major Armies clashed in four major battles in Flanders (Walcourt, Fleurus, Steenkerke, and Landen), and there were many potential "what if?" clashes between major forces that can be explored as well, especially given the multiple oppposing field armies maneuvering for postion within close proximity. There were several occasions, for instance, when armies lined up without engaging. Additionally, there were many siege operations, usually involving a beseiging force and a covering army (army of observation); hypothetical clashes between these armies are not hard to conceive of.
The warrior-king (and prince) was still very much the ethos of the day: the Duke of Bavaria, the Elector of Brandenburg, the Duke of Savoy, and the Duke of Wurttemburg commanded armies in the field. Louis XIV still took the field in the early part of the War, and William III personally led the armies of the Grand Alliance in Flanders. Famous 17th century leaders were still kicking around for the early stages of the war, like Charles of Lorraine. This period had living links to the captain-generals of the late Thirty years war and the wars of the mid century, like Turrenne and the Great Conde. Villars would recall the thrill of witnessing the bootless (due to gout) Great Conde leading cavalry charges at the Battle of Seneffe in 1674. Up and coming were familiar figures among the Grand Alliance, like General Churchill, and Prince Eugene of Savoy. Vauban himself led the Sun King's sieges, and he faced off against the other great military engineer of the period, Coehoorn, at the siege of Namur
This time saw the birth of the English Army. Its oldest regiments' lineage are rooted in the Glorius Revolution, and the first battle honors of the English Army come from the LOA (Steenkerke). The Scot's Grays are held to have acquired their distinctive mounts from a Dutch horse regiment that was redeploying to the continent after the campaign in England. With the rise of William of Orange to the English Throne as William III, the LOA also marked the start of the major engagement of the English Army on the continent, an involvement that would run for the next 125 years (through the end of the Napoleonic wars). During William's campaign in England and Ireland, English infantry had an indifferent reputation (references cite that were it not for William's Dutch and other foreign troops, he would not have carried the fighting), but the signature stubborn fighting qualities the English Army (the foot in particualr) were established in the continental fighting of the LOA (premiering in the bitter fighting in the battle of Steenkerke).
Like the English Army, Frederick the Great's army also had its genesis in the LOA. The recenlty deceased (1688) Great Elector (Frederick William) of Brandenburg had reformed and greatly increased Brandenburg's army into a resepcted force during his reign. Although the Great Elector's successor, Frederick, was not himself a military-minded ruler in the same way as his predecessor, Brandenburg's forces were by then considerable, sought after, and were very respectable contributors to Grand Alliance during the LOA. As a result, Brandenburg would have the leverage to be recognized as a kingdom in 1701, the Elector Frederick then becoming Frederick I, King of Prussia. In 1713, another military-minded Prussian ruler would take over, Frederick William I, who would further advance the Prussian Army into the military machine that his son, Frederick II (the Great) would make history with.
The forces of the "Blue King" campaigned hard in the LOA and were actively involved in coalition armies in Flanders, not just in the south. The charge of the Bavarian cuirassiers, during the battle of Landen checked the French advance (in an overall failing cause).
The French LOA army represents end of the era of the French Army as the dominant fighting force on the continent, a prime that was ushered in by Conde at Rocroi 50 years earlier and cemented in the 1670's when men like Col Martinent (of the Regt Du Roi) instituted reforms and standing procedures that would create the first "modern" standing army. In general, the French LOA-era army was more akin to the force wielded by the Great Conde and Turrenne in the War of Devolution (1667-68) and the Dutch War (1672-78) than the one that was crushed at Blenheim in 1704 by Marlborough. Additionally, French battlefield leadership at this time was on the cutting edge, at least competent and often excellent (Luxembourg never lost a battle). According to some sources, the French Army was a victim of its successes during the LOA, leading it to fail to reform, thus causing the fundamental "mismatch" at all levels that would disadvantage it during the next major war (the War of the Spanish Succession).
To be more specific about the differences between the two eras, and to add a bit more illumination on the armies of the LOA, here are some comparisons to a more familiar era (WSS):
·With a few notable exceptions, the LOA infantry units of the major combatants had a significant pike component (defined as enough to matter on the battlefield, although it was mainly to protect against cavalry); there was no significant pike component anywhere during in the WSS that I know of.
·Bayonets were still being introduced during the LOA, and were of the plug variety; bayonets were just about universal in the WSS, and they were of the socket variety (a huge difference given the impact on the role of the musketeer).
·Although it was being replaced, the matchlock was still present in large numbers throughout the LOA, so you still had, in many cases, the matchlock and pike combinaton of earlier eras; the flintlock was pretty much universal in the WSS.
·Firing drills were still in evolution during the LOA, and there was no distinction, practially speaking, between the opponents, both sides employing fire by ranks, files, or divisions, with musketeers arrayed in five ranks; the different firing systems separating the major combatants of the WSS are well documented.
·Most notably (and perhaps most misrepresented when applying rules from later eras to this one), the French cavalry arm was decisive, and was at least the equal of any other cavalry arm (if not superior). For instance, the main reason William III conducted the difficult march and attack through the broken ground separating the allies and the French at Steenkerke was because it allowed him to avoid the French cavalry. French thinking, from Turrenne onwards, was that the costly infantry fighting was best used to set up the conditions for a battle winning cavalry charge, which is a very different model from the trotting and retreating French "firearm cavalry" model of many WSS rule sets.
League of Augsburg Rules Variant
There are Infantry, Cavalry, and Artillery units. Dragoons are a special case, but fall into either the Infantry or the Cavalry category, depending on whether they are mounted or not. There are no skirmishers of any kind.
Figure Scale: I happen to use 6mm figures, but my variant is not a "reduced scale" variant in terms of stands size and movement. As per the original VnB concept, the number, scale, and type of figures on each stand are a matter of preference and don't influence game play.
As per original rules.
Is as per original rules except for modified effects for being out of command. Use the following rule in place of the original (note that it is more permissive than the original):
In this variant, the time scale is approximately halved (roughly 30 minutes per turn as opposed to 60), and there are fewer "free" movments, rendering a more incremented and deliberate movement scheme: it's not a "fluid" battle. All armies are professional, but fall under the "poorly drilled" rule. Similarly, the artillery falls under the restrictions suggested for early (pre Seven Year's War) guns. In short, there are no free facing changes at the beginning of the turn. Infantry and cavalry may freely move 45 degrees obliquely, as per the original rules, but any second oblique (changing direction) costs 1/2 move. Limbered artillery, however, and prolonging guns do not pay to change facing. All guns are Pre-professional artillery. This means that once unlimbered, they cannot be limbered again. The only movement allowed for unlimbered guns is for light and very light guns to prolong 1". Heavy guns should, except for unusual circumstances, begin the game unlimbered (in other words, other than facing changes, heavy guns should be static).
All other movement rules are in effect as per the original game. Note that since there are no free facing changes, that stationary units lose their status by facing in place (a major departure from the original rules).
Road and Cross Country Column: Modified a bit, including suggestions for adding the non road column. Units can assume column formation to enhance movement at the expense of security. Columns are formed by placing an infantry or cavalry stand long-wise in the direction of movement and adding stands to extend the length of the unit.
Cavalry and infantry can assume column for either road or field movement. Artillery can only form road column (limbered artillery only), and then only for road movement. Field columns may enter woods, but may not be formed in woods. Units may not move through woods in field column if such terrain would be prohibited to them or would disorganize them. Field columns have double movement allowance, and pay for terrain encountered (like hill contours and to cross obstacles: see terrain effects for cases). Units that begin the turn on roads have triple movement allowance for the duration of their road movement. Units on roads pay no terrain penalties and suffer no disorganizing effects of the terrain the road traverses. Unless otherwise marked, all towns are assumed to have a road entering and exiting from their cardinal points. Columns can change direction freely without penalty. Units that spend any part of a turn in column cannot engage in offensive combat (fire or melee) that turn. Limbered artillery and artillery in road column that is contacted by enemy is eliminated automatically. Columns have no fire dice, and all incoming fire and contact is treated as if it were flanking for morale purposes. Columns in contact with enemy fight with 1 combat dice per stand in contact.
X= Unit stand turned on edge (longwise) in the direction of movement
Most of the morale rules from the original remain in force. The monarch rule is extended to include all Army Commanders (whether or not monarchs). And the other major differences are in the modifiers. Use the following modifiers for this variant:
All comat mechanics are as per the original rules, except as noted below:
*Fusilier includes dismounted dragoons **no dice vs flank or rear melee
(highest modified morale + modifiers below + 1d6: high roll wins)
*two or more strength points greater than opposing side (NA for combat in buildings & works).
As per original except for the addtion of a new terrain class (hamlet) and the incorporation of clarifications on towns and villages:
Infantry unit occupying a hamlet
General Notes on Armies and Forces for Nine Year's War:
Remember that most regiments in this era were single battalion units, so rating half brigade stands composed of 3 battalions should take into account the whole as opposed to just a single unit (although an argument can be made for saying that the highest morale unit would influence the peformance of the whole). The same holds true for cavalry, where there are even more squadrons in a stand. Finally, there was a substantial Swedish force in Dutch service; for those who wish to model Swedish differently than others to reflect their Ga Pa tactics--the aggressive advance with only a single volley before closing--I would suggest that they be rated morale 5, have 1 fire dice (both staionary and normal), and roll 1 extra melee dice when attacking.
Basically, all horse units of the period are heavy. Cavalry brigades represent massed brigades of roughly 10 squadrons, which comes up to a ballpark figure close enough to 1,500 to warrant the size (add a few squadrons if the number comes up a bit shy). The number of actual regiments being represented varies wildy; most regiments were composed of 2 or 3 squadrons, so a horse brigade stand might represent up to 5 different regiments--the actual operational unit, however, was the squadron, so other than for aesthetic purposes (you have to paint them to look like something and call them by some name), the actual regimental organization is irrelelvant. The squadrons are the thing. Thus, the character of a brigade will often be a judgement call based on the composition of its components. My stands have two regiments represented and are named for those.
Here are some examples of representative armies: Luxembourg's Army in Flanders in 1691 was 49 battalions and 160 squadrons. William III, in that same year, commanded 63 battalions and 180 squadrons (56,000 men). Louis XIV commanded an Army in the 1692 campaign composed of 40 battalions and 90 squadrons while Luxembourg's assembled army for the same campaign consisted of 66 battalions and 205 squadrons (!). In game terms, keep in mind that the cavalry stands represent massed brigades, so on the surface, there might not seem to be as many stands of cavalry as these proportions would indicate, but there are three times (or more) the number of actual units (10 or more squadrons) represented in those massed cavalry brigades than there are in the infantry half brigade stands (3 battalions).
My advice is to count squadrons and battalions rather then "heads" when putting your units together--the law of averages will take care of the oversized or undersized units that might get rolled up in the totals. This method also sidesteps the difficulty in finding hard unit information on this era; it's one thing to count battalions, it's another to get a reliable reference on unit strengths (especially given the polygot nature of a force). As noted for the various types above, you can always make an infantry half brigade a 3SP unit if you know it is "oversized" in some way. In short, the "default" infantry half brigade represents 3 battalions and should be 2SPs, morale 4, and the "default" cavalry brigade represents 10 squadrons and should be 3SPs, morale 5, H-weight.
This was, more than any other era I can think of, the heydey of the guards. The proportion of guard to line units in this period is unlike any other I can think of. The unique combination of the old (the 17th century and prior royal and aristocratic perogative) and the new (the modern standing army and the standardized formations and organizations), led to this, I think. The sovereign, be he a king, a duke, a prince, or an elector, would, as a matter of prestige, raise the best, often biggest, regiment--or regiments--in the army, and he would employ the state's resources to ensure that these units were kept at full strength. Instead of raising a bodyguard of horse or of foot which may fight, as in previous wars of the century, now they were raising battalions and cavalry regiments that held position in the lines of battle. Combine this with the relatively small size of the armies of the era, and you have a time period where the guard corps were very much in the thick of things. It's not that there were fewer guards during the WSS and later periods, for instance, but that the ratio of line units to guard units in the larger armies of later periods would make the proportions quite different.
Here's a good example: at the battle of Fleurus, Luxembourg had 34 infantry battalions, among them was the brigade Seguiran, which had 4 battalions of French Guards and 2 battalions of Swiss Guards--if you just count formations, 20 percent of the infantry battalions, roughly, were guard. The French weren't unique in this. Add to the number of formations the fact that guard formations were often larger than their counterpart line formations and that they were usually kept at full strength besides, and you have an idea of the central role these formations could play in the battles of the era. They weren't so much the last reserve of the army as much as they were the heart of it.
The horse of the era in general seemed to have a unique prestige, and many of the units, whether actually "guard" or not, seemed to have been considered elite or "above average" based on the trappings and trimmings of their uniforms (gold hat lace and whantnot, usually a sign of special status). In short, the most obvious case of mounted guards comes from the French, who had a large body of elite horse to draw on. The Maison du Roi represents a body of nearly 2,600 elite cavalrymen by itself; they were brigaded with the Gendarmie, who could easily increase the total to 4,000 elite horse who were committed en masse. This could represent as much as 25 percent of the total cavalry force for an army of 50,000. After 1692, the French converged all their carabinier troops from the line cavalry regiments into massed carabinier brigades, creating yet another class of elite horse. The Williamite army had its elite horse brigade with its Lifeguards (including the Dutch Guard de Paard), and even so called "minor" powers had viable household or elite cavalry contingents.
It doesn't get any better for gaming, I think, when you can, with a straight face, field colorful formations like the Wurttemburg Leib Guard Cavalry in their yellow jackets and silver cuirasses, regardless of whether or not you rate their overall brigade elite or not. That is another beauty of the scale and the period.
I prefer to rely on unit ratings (morale as a measure of effectiveness) to forecast individual unit performance over absolutes built into the rules, but am also averse to the extreme form of this kind of design which produces "uber" units that have game breaking performance built into them, regardless of how they are handled. Even the best units have strengths and weaknesses, and I think that context, how the unit is employed, should influence performance. So there are a few exceptional units, but more importantly, it is the average unit, in concert with other untis, that wins battles. Non guard units, should be able to be formidable, too, provided they are employed effectively (probably the dominant thought for everything in the rules).
At the army and wing (corps) level, I prefer the idea of presenting a series of benefits and drawbacks (hopefully that reflect the period) that a player is free to either ignore or take advantage of in order to manage the battle as opposed to an elaborate set of constraints that dictate deployments and arrangement of units. In this way, a player can still choose a novel approach, but will have to find ways to overcome period limitations (or accept and account for them) as part of such a plan.
In short, I'm of the belief that the mechanics should reinforce the era, making for a transparent period effect built into the system. Unfortunately, this can frustrate some players who might approach the game as if it were an extension of another era: this variant will play something like the WSS or SYW, maybe a bit like ECW or TYW, but not completely like them. The player who is new to VnB might actually be better off than the one who has "bad habits" to break when approaching this variant. My advice is to look over the charts and variant carefully and accept the fact that this is a much more deliberate, or gradual, kind of battle. Additionally, I will admit that there are some changes in this variant that go beyond the effects of the era. That seems to me to just be the nature of the beast: old wargamers are always tinkering with rules, and these are no different. Take what you like and leave the rest.
I've seen other VnB variants suggested for pike and shot that propose having multiple stands (of separate pike and shot) to represent pike and shot units. This seems to me to be a move away from the "one stand, one unit" approach that is at the heart of VnB. I think that one of the great strenghts of the VnB scale lies in its ability to represent complex units (like mixed pike and shot) precisely because of it's one unit = one stand approach. My variant, rather than adding stands, adjusts the unit effects to reflect the different era (the number of fire and melee dice, morale modifiers, tie breakers, etc).
I think, as a matter of fact, that VnB has fantastic potential as a set of rules for the entire pike and shot era. You would not have to worry, for instance, about how to represent a tercio, or a Swedish brigade, or any other mixed unit aside from the shape and size of the stand and the unit effects it would have.
For those interested in the Renaissance, Thirty Year's War, English Civil War, the Cossack Rebellion, the Ottoman-Hapsburg Wars, I hope to work on variants for those when I get some time (alternately, I am open to suggestions from interested parties with expertise on how to modify this variant to reflect earlier eras).
Finally, I wish to add the standard disclaimer, albeit a heartfelt one. There are many other variants and approaches to these issues out there, many of them that are excellent and which provided inspiration for the things I have done here. This variant simply reflects my preferences on these issues, and is not intended to suggest that other approaches are "wrong" or of less validity than mine.
Ed's Partial Bibliography for gaming in the War of the League of Augsburg:
You will notice many references which do not appear to be "on topic." This is symptomatic of the era, but there is a great deal of information available "at the edges" of references that explicitly deal with other eras, most notably the War of the Spanish Succession--usually in the "background"
2) Daniel Schorr's Northern Wars site (much information on Danish Army and lots of other useful material that can be gleaned for LOA): http://www.megalink.net/~dschorr/
3) Keith McNelly's Volley and Bayonet Page (go here for many official and non official revisions and updates to the VnB rules, many that I have incorporated into my variant). http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/mcnelly/vnb.htm
4) Warflag (the source for flags--many WSS can be applied to LOA): http://www.warflag.com/
5) The Spanish Tercios 1525-1704 (much information beyond the Tercio, to include a wealth of information on other armies, tactics, organizations, and battles, including the LOA era): http://www.geocities.com/ao1617/TercioUK.html
6) Many, Many, Military History Links here: http://www.newarkirregulars.org.uk/links/mhresearch.html
7) Scans of French Army Uniforms of 18th Century: especially good for flags (which tended to not change very much--double check if you can): http://www.flyingpigment.com/gallery4.htm
8) Eric Veitl's Tricorne page: http://pagesperso.aol.fr/ericmveitl/index.html
9) Roly Herman's 18th Century French Army Page: http://dare.paradise.net.nz/france/index.htm
10) Land Forces of Britian (individual regimental histories--much good information to be gleaned here):
11) Army of the Duke of Savoy at Marsaglia (good site with lots of good uniform information for both the Savoy units and foreign contingents): http://members.xoom.virgilio.it/dragonirossi/albion.htm
An indispensible source of not only consultation and advice but also many, many useful files and downloads to be