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Subject: A Throne Disputed: the War of Spanish Succession rss

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David Buckland
Choa Chu Kang
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This was a long war, so this is a long post to match.

Kevin & I had trialled a game of ATV last year, and returned to it in recently determined to finish the complete Campaign Scenario from Summer 1701 to Winter 1714 (44 turns in all, not counting 13 Interphases).

Grand Alliance - Kevin Mulley
Bourbons - David Buckland

We started at 12.45 on the first day, finishing at 11.00 pm (not counting a 90 minute break for dinner), recommencing the next day at 10.15 am and finishing at 5.45 pm. Progress was somewhat slowed by several factors: my noting down the game’s progress and queries to raise subsequently with 3CG, various rules discussions (the Events in particular are unclear as to their implications in some cases), and our general unfamiliarity with things after six months away from the game.

In what follows, game-related material is in square brackets [thus], while the remainder, to the willing mind, is supposed to read like an alt-hist version of the War of Spanish Succession. The action die-rolls at the start of a turn are rendered with the Bourbons (B) followed by the Grand Alliance (GA), the die-roll followed by the number of actions in brackets, with 1/E meaning 1 activation and an event. The asterisk indicates the first player.

Autumn 1701

[B 5(4)* vs GA 2(3): the Bourbons are guaranteed being first player on the first turn with four activations].

The main activity is naval, with the various Bourbon fleets putting to sea (French, Spanish & Portuguese), while the Spanish also ensure their control over the most important Swiss Cantons.

[By moving a regiment into Switzerland, the Bourbons gain control of Switzerland, and will keep it for as long as they are willing to keep a unit stationed there, preventing the Grand Alliance from either entering Switzerland or tracing a Line of Communications (LoC) through it. While not vital – and there is a cost in terms of the regiment tied up maintaining the Bourbon grip – this is a useful aid to the Bourbon cause, helping with supply and retreat routes anywhere bordering Switzerland.]

Winter 1701

[B 2(2) vs GA 6(1/E)*, except that there are no Events in the first year.]

The Bourbons form a united fleet off the French naval base at Brest. With England not yet having joined the cause of the Grand Alliance, the Bourbon powers have naval superiority over the Dutch, and plan to use it to damage the Dutch fleet if this is rash enough to venture on to the high seas (which indeed it has), or for a potential colonial expedition [the fleet forms in the North Atlantic Ocean; the Dutch are outnumbered by four fleet blocks to two at this stage, and the French can build two more].

[Dominating the Colonies offers a Succession Point (SP), which determine victory (solely by gaining them – you are not penalised for losing them). When England does join, which is almost certain, the Bourbons will lose their naval superiority, so they should be trying to gain the Colonies before that happens. They will almost certainly lose the Colonies later to the English, but this will then have yielded 1 SP to both sides. If they do not do so, and the English take the Colonies, and then hold them until the end of the game (the most likely outcome, once they have been captured by England), the Grand Alliance will be 1 SP up.

England, like the other potential combatant powers, will most likely join the war based on a die-roll during the Interphase at the start of each year. However, certain actions, such as attacking the home territories of the Grand Alliance, triggers an automatic English entry in the next Interphase. The chance of a neutral power joining the war are 1-in-3 in the 1702 Interphase, and 2-in-3 (the highest in the game) in 1703 (1-in-2 in 1704).

On the other hand, the Bourbons know that they will very likely need to attack the Grand Alliance at some point or lose the game. While the Bourbons can gain 1 SP from the Colonies, and possibly keep it until game end of the English do not enter, it is very likely (the usual die-rolls for unaligned nations) that Habsburg-friendly Spain (three eastern provinces plus Mallorca) will revolt, which gives 2 SPs to the Grand Alliance. The Colonies are a stylised representation of the colonial interests of the various European powers, represented by a single island province west of Europe, with a forage vale of ‘1’ and a ‘1’-level fortress; control grants the owner an SP.]

In 1701, and probably 1702, it is probably worth waiting to see what happens in terms of neutral entry, and not attacking the Grand Alliance directly – hence the naval orientation of most of the early moves. In this instance, the original Bourbon plan was to attack Grand Alliance territory in 1702 anyway – there is very little chance that both England and Habsburg Spain will not join the war, and in these early stages, the Bourbons have the advantage in terms of numbers and quality. There were never enough activations to make the planned attack (on Breisgau and Zeeland) a worthwhile exercise – and a shortage of activations (resources) is of course the perennial problem for both players in this game – but the Bourbons did find themselves attacking Grand Alliance home territory in 1702; just not where they had expected.]

1702 Interphase

[SPs: Bourbons 0, Grand Alliance 0]

Saxony joins the Coalition.

Spring 1702

[B 6(1/E)* vs GA 4(4)]

[Article (Act) of Union [Event #62]: no event, as England is still neutral.

The Dutch having been rash enough to venture into the North Sea, the Bourbon combined fleet goes after them (leaving the Spanish at Brest as potential escorts for a colonial expedition). The result of the subsequent clash are a disappointment for the Bourbons [Attacker (Bourbons) 9 strength points/3 blocks vs Defender (Dutch) 6/2: results 2 strength points/0 blocks losses inflicted by Attacker, 3/0 by Defender], though the Dutch did retreat.

[This was harbinger of things to come. The Bourbons were to roll below par for much of the first two-thirds of the game, only redeeming themselves in the final years.]

Summer 1702

[B 4(4)* vs GA 1(2)]

The French embarked two regiments on the Spanish fleet at Brest with plans to send an expedition to the Colonies. The Dutch fleet, newly-repaired, set to sea once more [the advantage of being forced to retreat into harbour].

Autumn 1702

[B 1(2) vs GA 6(1/E)*]

In a stunning development, the Portuguese signed the Methuen Treaty and switched sides [Event #31 Methuen Treaty]. The Portuguese fleet, in Cherbourg for repairs, managed to make a partial escape (though half of it was lost). [The status of Portuguese units in the same area as Bourbon units if this Event takes place is not detailed in the rules. We treated the fleet as if a harbour has been captured by the enemy; lose one strength point and exit the harbour. The army, in Estremadura (Lisbon) was unaffected.]

Portuguese perfidy caused dismay in Versailles, but there was compensation in the form of the success of the Franco-Spanish colonial expedition [+1 SP for the Bourbons].

Winter 1702

[1(2) vs 4(3)*]

The Spanish decided that Portugal could not be left unpunished, and a Spanish army crossed the frontier to besiege Aveiro in Beira. However, it was too late in the season [fortress garrisons are one strength point higher in the Winter], and Villadarias, the Spanish army commander, had to abandon the attempt.

Despite the fact that this foray would undoubtedly have diplomatic consequences [an attack upon the home territory of a Grand Alliance member in game terms brings in the Habsburgs], the Bourbons decided that with the loss of naval superiority very likely anyway, regardless of their actions, there was no time to be lost if the Portuguese were to be driven to sue for peace [a Truce, in game terms], before the Allies could arrive to help: there still being a window of opportunity before the Alliance’s naval superiority could be brought to bear.

Western Europe at the end of 1702: the Bourbon fleet controls the Channel, and Portugal has been invaded – but on the main fronts, there has not been much activity.

The invasion of Portugal was thus given priority, even over the reconquest of Spain’s eastern provinces: it would easier for the Allies to intervene in Portugal than in Catalonia – a much shorter supply line, for example.

[The Habsburgs automatically enter the war in the following Interphase. Oddly, England does not, despite having just signed an alliance with Portugal.]

1703 Interphase

[SPs: Bourbons 1, Grand Alliance 0]

Portugal’s example, and the successful defence of Aveiro, causing a rising in favour of Charles III in the eastern provinces of Spain, while England, the Holy Roman Empire [the Habsburgs, in game terminology] and Hanover also join the Grand Alliance. Bavaria, on the other hand, rashly throws in its lot with the Bourbons. [The Alliance gains 2 SPs from the entry of Habsburg Spain.]

Spring 1703

[B 4(4)* vs GA 4(3) England, 4(3) Others – this is the double activation allowed under the “Godolphin Opens the Purse” rule when England joins the war.]

After its earlier tentative stages, the pace of the war accelerated with a vengeance, with major Bourbon attacks on Breisgau, Wurtemberg and Liege, with a blocking force sent to Pfalz to prevent reinforcement of the first of these.

The Grand Alliance struck back by attacking the Bavarians, who had not managed to put a powerful force into the field [two regiment blocks] and were too far away for effective aid from the French, newly-arrived in Wurtemberg.

The Bavarians were easily crushed, and sued for peace shortly thereafter, but elsewhere the Bourbon cause prospered: Villars captured Huy, thus gaining control of Liege, while Tessé destroyed the Austrian regiment garrisoning Breisgau. In Wurtemberg, Vendôme took the minor fortress of Heilbronn, thus ensuring that his army would have a line of communications back to France if it moved further east [Ulm, and the province of Wurtemberg, remained under Alliance control]. However, the Bourbon successes came at a significant cost, as their concentrated armies lost many troops to attrition [10 steps].

Summer 1703

[B 5(4) vs GA 5(4)*]

The Grand Alliance mounted its counters to the Bourbon offensive in the summer, but were everywhere given a bloody nose.

The Dutch army tried to clear the Franco-Spanish out of Liege, but failed badly [Nassau 12/4 vs Villars 10/5 +10/5 reinforcements (R): 3/0 vs 6/1. Meanwhile, a rash Austrian attack on Vendôme’s larger army in Wurtemberg ended in disaster [Austria 5/2 vs Vendôme 7/3 + 4/1R: 0/0 vs 5/2!].

Meanwhile, Tallard successfully besieged Breisgau [-4 Austrian RPs].

Autumn 1703

[B 4(4) vs GA 6(1/E)]

After the frenetic activity in the earlier part of the year, both sides paused for breath. The French sent an (apparently) imposing army to Normandy to threaten an invasion of England, embarking at Cherbourg, and using the Bourbon fleet in the Channel. There was no serious plan to descend on England – the lack of a secure line of communications in the teeth of the Royal Navy was an insuperable impediment [no LoC, no replacements] – but the Bourbons hoped the Alliance would still have to worry about the possibility.

In Portugal, the Spanish attacked the Portuguese army in battle outside Lisbon – but were handily repulsed, despite their superior numbers [Spanish 6/2 vs Portuguese 4/1 = 2/0 vs 4/0].

Winter 1703

[B 3(3) vs GA 4(3)*]

Both sides continue to lick their wounds.

1704 Interphase

[Bourbons 1 SP, Grand Alliance 2 SPs]

Denmark joins the Grand Alliance.

Spring 1704

[B 4(4) vs B 6(1/E)*]

Sweden was successful in the Great Northern War [Event #42], bringing to an end for the time being of the participation in the Grand Alliance of the Saxon and Danish contingents [two army blocks; they will return in Spring 1706].

The string of Bourbon successes continued, as the Spanish commander Villadarias, humiliated by his earlier defeat, brought up reinforcements and this time destroyed the Portuguese army outside Lisbon.

In Germany, the French attacked Eugene in Franconia, and got much the better of him [French 8/3 vs Austrians 6/2 = 4/1 vs 2/0], while in Italy Victor Amadeus of Savoy forced Modena to surrender.

This was offset to a degree by severe attrition in the overcrowded camps near Cherbourg [six steps lost – the Bourbons could have avoided this, but chose not to do so].

Summer 1704

[B 6(1/E)* vs GA 3(3)]

The Scots rebelled, and appealed to France for aid. A naval expedition was prepared, but it would be some time before it could sail [Event #53 The Auld Alliance; the French have to remove a naval block during 1705].

Villars opened the campaigning year by capturing the fortress of Forbach, and thus bringing Lorraine under French control. However, the Dutch commander Nassau was not idle, clearing Liege of covering forces [no siege if moving into an area with opposing enemy blocks, so they have to be ejected or destroyed first, before a siege can commence].

Autumn 1704

[B 3(3) vs GA 3(3)*]

At sea, the Alliance finally made an attempt to assert its naval superiority over the Bourbon fleet in the Channel, but this went badly, as the Allies had underestimated enemy strength [assuming one of the units was a land unit being convoyed, whereas it was in fact a fleet block]. Rooke’s Anglo-Dutch numerically and (allegedly) qualitatively superior fleet retired with its tail between its legs [15/6 vs 13/5 = 5/0 vs 12/3!].

[In addition, had they waited until 1705 the Alliance’s naval superiority would have been even more marked, as the French would have to despatch a fleet to help the Scots [courtesy of the Auld Alliance event].

Winter 1704

[B 6(1/E)* vs GA 3(3)]

A native rebellion [Event # 55] destroyed the French regiment garrisoning the colonies, though French rule was not seriously challenged [the rebellion did not manage to besiege the colonial fortress because of the covering field force].

Back in Europe, Huy fell to Nassau, and Liege was once again under Allied control.

Western Europe, the end of 1704. The main Bourbon effort is in southern Germany, so the Alliance has recaptured Liege. The fleets of both sides have returned to their bases to make good the damage from their bruising encounter in the Channel.

1705 Interphase

SPs: Bourbons 1, Grand Alliance 2]

Spring 1705

[B 2(3) vs GA 1(2)]

The French under Villars counterattacked Nassau in Liege, but the results of their attack were disappointing, considering the superior numbers in the Bourbon armies, though Nassau was forced to retreat [Villars 19/6 + 2/1R vs Nassau 11/3 = 5/0 vs 4/0].

In Portugal, Villadarias, reinforced over the winter by Tilly, captured Lisbon after a short siege. Portugal then capitulated, and left the war [eligible to rejoin in the 1710 Interphase].

Summer 1705

[B 3(3)* vs GA 2(3)]

The Bourbons kept up the pressure with Villars moving to besiege Trier (which fell in short order, giving the Bourbons control of Pfalz) and Vendôme to besiege Ulm. However, in the latter case, the Austrians sent Hesse-Darmstadt to force Vendôme to lift the siege, which he did successfully [Hesse-Darmstadt 6/2 vs Vendôme 6/2 = 1/0 vs 2/0] before withdrawing, while Eugene scattered a French cavalry regiment sent to screen Franconia.

In Spain, the Bourbons, having dealt with turncoat Portugal, now moved on their rebellious eastern subjects in Valencia, forcing the local defenders under Moragues to retreat, despite a stubborn defence [Villadarias 8/2 vs Moragues 4/1 = 3/0 vs 2/0].

Autumn 1705

[B 6(1/E) vs GA 6(1/E)*]

[Their event, Excellent Shipbuilder (#11) is of little use to the Grand Alliance, whose navies are almost fully built already.]

Part of the English army was convoyed to Holland to reinforce the Dutch, while Villadarias captured Valencia [+1 Bourbon SP].

Winter 1705

[B 1(1) vs 4(3)*]

The Spanish made a bold attempt to seize Saragossa, but the winter conditions were too much to overcome, and the city remained defiant.

1706 Interphase

[SPs: Bourbons 2, Grand Alliance 2]

Prussia enters the war [on a die-roll of 6.]

Spring 1706

[B 5(4)* vs GA 1(2)]

The Bourbon plan overall was to recapture the lost Spanish provinces before the Alliance could intervene, while marching on Vienna. The hope was to knock the Austrians out of the war before their allies could render any effective help [which would have resulted in a Bourbon Triumphant Victory]. In addition, concentrating on just one of the Allied powers would hopefully lead to a virtuous circle, as their replacement rate began to dip as the Bourbons advanced. Overall, the Allied rate of replacements is higher than that of their enemies [68 replacement points to 44 in 1704, for example], but individually they are weaker than France. So the hope was that the Austrian army would gradually disintegrate as the Bourbons advanced remorselessly on Vienna, and by the time the Allies realised what was happening, it would be too late.

However, there was an issue of whether to advance on Vienna from southern Germany and the Tyrol or Italy, even if Bavaria’s neutrality made marching on Vienna directly impossible – and marching north through Bohemia seemed too susceptible to intervention from the other members of the Alliance.

In accordance with this plan, the Bourbons launched a major attack on the Austrian army of Eugene in the Lower Palatinate, taking care to launch a supporting attack into Franconia to keep the Austrians from being reinforced, and one in the Tyrol to keep the Allies from attacking Wurtemberg.

[A major disadvantage of moving first is the need to block potential reinforcement of any targeted enemy force, which can be expensive in terms of additional activations and (to replace losses from the blocking forces) resources. The Bourbon attack at the beginning of 1706 was one such expensive attack, and contributed to a growing demand for replacements which could not be met. The Bourbons arguably attacked too frequently as first mover in this game – more cautious attacks, moving second, might have been a better idea, although some opportunities might have been lost.]

The offensive very nearly resulted in the capture of Eugene and the annihilation of his entire army, but the Austrian general managed to slip away with the remnants of his force [as a Mortal Block, Eugene if killed cannot be replaced: Bourbons 18/6 vs Eugene 8/2 = 7/1 vs 2/0; in Franconia the Bourbons did better than expected (4/2 vs 3/1 = 3/1 vs 1/0]. In the Tyrol, however, the French found they had bitten off more than they could easily chew, and were given a very bloody nose [French 6/2 vs Austrians 6/2 = 0/0 vs 6/2!].

With the main Bourbon forces committed to Germany, the Allies used their armies in the Low Countries to attack the Bourbon positions there, and although the latter had expected to suffer some reverses, with their main forces elsewhere, they did feel that they had left sufficient defending Flanders and Liege to prevent an Allied walkover – a sadly mistaken view, as it turned out, with the Dutch, now reinforced by the English, most notably Marlborough, utterly trouncing their opponents [in Flanders Marlborough 14/4 vs Bourbon 8/3 = 8/3 vs 0/0; in Liege Allied 6/2 vs Bourbon 6/2 = 6/2 vs 0/0].

Summer 1706

[B 1(2) vs GA 1(2)*]

The frenetic pace of the Spring could not be maintained, and for the most part, both parties spent the summer licking their considerable wounds [Spring losses in strength points: Bourbons 23, Allies 10]. However, Villars did lead an army into the Tyrol which reversed the defeat in the Spring [Villars 7/2 + 4/1R vs 5/2 = 5/2 vs 1/0].

Autumn 1706

[B 2(3)* vs GA 2(3)]

The Spanish returned to the siege of Saragossa, this time successfully, but to balance this, the English cleared Liege of Bourbon covering forces, and the Dutch did likewise in the Lower Palatinate.

The major development was at sea, where after extensive preparations (possibly a little more extensive than was strictly necessary – but the Allies had been burnt by their earlier defeat almost exactly two years before), an Anglo-Dutch combined fleet set out to wrest sea supremacy from the Bourbons. However, this time, there was no doubt that the Alliance had prevailed, the Bourbon fleet being largely destroyed [Allies 18/6 vs Bourbons 11/4 = 10/3 vs 1/0!].

The Bourbons never challenged Allied supremacy at sea again, although of course the Allies could never be sure of this, and needed to keep a major force off Brest for the duration. The French meanwhile could not afford to rebuild their fleet much beyond cadre strength until late in the war, but of course the Allies, though they might have suspected this, could not be certain.

Winter 1706

[B 2(2) vs GA 3(3)*]

The Habsburg Spanish made an unavailing attempt to retake Valencia, given that the main Spanish army was in Aragon after the fall of Saragossa – but it was a long shot, and did not come off.

Villars meanwhile managed to secure the Tyrol for Louis XIV, but this was more than offset by Marlborough intervening in Wurtemberg and taking the French-held fortress of Heilbronn [thus ending the Bourbon ability to trace a Line of Communications through the province], cutting off Vendôme’s army in Franconia.

Heavy Bourbon losses meant that they could not keep their forces up to strength – the fleet in particular remained mostly at cadre strength for many years.

Western Europe, the end of 1706 [the Allied perspective]. Vendôme’s army in Franconia [3 blocks] is cut off by Marlborough’s march to the Danube (aka Wurtemberg), though to the south, Villars has taken the Tyrol. In Spain, the Habsburg rebels are still in the field, but their days are numbered.

1707 Interphase

SPs: Bourbons 2, Grand Alliance 2]

Spring 1707

[B 1(2)* vs GA 1(2)]

Vendôme led a major Bourbon effort to trap Marlborough’s army in Wurtemberg, but despite a substantial numerical superiority, the British general was too good for the French and drove off the attackers in confusion [Vendôme 12/3 vs Marlborough 8/2 = 6/0 vs 8/0]. Thereafter, the Dutch belatedly reinforced Marlborough, having first cleared the Lower Palatinate again (two French regiments lost).

Summer 1707

[B 5(4)* vs GA 2(3)]

The French were nothing daunted by their earlier failure to trap Marlborough, and tried once again, this time using Villars, who left Villeroi to protect the French position in the Tyrol.

Marlborough was killed in the resulting Battle of Ulm, massively outnumbered [+1 Bourbon SP for eliminating an enemy Mortal Block], but Eugene revenged the Allies by overwhelming Villeroi. Meanwhile, the Bourbons suffered further losses in pinning attacks [1 army, two regiments].

The Bourbons put in a great deal of effort to trap and destroy Marlborough, but they had to abandon their drive on Vienna via the Tyrol to do so. Was the exchange worth it? Yet again, there were substantial losses from the pinning attacks.

Autumn 1707

[B 4(4) vs GA 5(4)*]

Eugene and Baden try to retake the Tyrol, but the Bourbons manage to frustrate one of the two planned sieges by advancing a Spanish regiment into the province, and Eugene is tasked to see it off, while Baden takes Innsbruck, leaving Trient [Trent?] still under French control. [We played this game allowing multiple sieges in one territory, if the besiegers were separately activated, as per the designers’ ruling at one point. However, their final decision is that only one siege per activation is allowed.]

The Dutch finally cleared Franconia of its remaining French presence, with Marshal Tessé becoming a prisoner of war, while in Spain, the Habsburg Spanish army under Moragues was forced to retreat from Valencia.

Winter 1707

[B 4(3)* vs GA 3(3)]

Bourbon losses had been heavy, and the sacrifice of numerous units in pinning operations became apparent as the weakened Bourbon armies had to fall back, leaving Wurtemberg to the Austrians, who also retook Trient, while the Dutch successfully besieged Breisgau, in Bourbon hands for over four years [and restoring the Austrian replacement rate].

1708 Interphase

[SPs: Bourbons 3, Grand Alliance 2]

Spring 1708

[B 2(3)* vs GA 1(2)]

Yet again the Bourbons began the campaigning season by going on the offensive. The main attacks were on Wurtemberg by Villars and by Boufflers on Croatia, with diversionary attacks on Breisgau and the Tyrol. Both the main attacks prevailed, but the subsidiary attacks suffered significant losses, and the overall casualties were roughly even [Bourbons lost 13/2, Allies 12/2], and the rate of loss was one that the Grand Alliance could more easily sustain [another attack as First Player – as mentioned above, the need for supporting attacks to prevent reinforcement of the main battle tends to make this kind of attacking very expensive – something the Bourbons are increasingly unable to afford].

At sea, an English expeditionary force boarded boarded an Anglo-Dutch fleet in the Channel.

Summer 1708

[B 1(2) vs 2(3)*]

The Bourbons made a major effort in the Tyrol, invading from Italy with the help of Victor Amadeus of Savoy, forcing Eugene to retreat.

The Anglo-Dutch expedition was not in time to rescue the Habsburg Spanish – the Spanish finally destroyed Moragues’ army outside Barcelona – so landed at Gibraltar instead.

Autumn 1708

[B 5(4)* vs GA 3(3)]

The autumn was dominated by sieges, and yet again the cause of Philip V in Spain was buffeted by fate in both directions: Campbell took Gibraltar, but on the other hand Villadarias captured Barcelona, thus subduing the Hapsburg Spanish except on Mallorca [+1 Bourbon SP].

In Germany, van Baer, even with the help of Coehoorn, failed to take Trier – the start of an extraordinary series of Allied failures in front of this middle-ranking fortress.

By contrast, in the Tyrol, Innsbruck and Trient were captured by the Bourbons, and the province passed into their control [see the note on multiple sieges from Autumn 1707].

Winter 1708

[B 2(2)* vs GA 1(2)]

The English arranged to keep their forces in Gibraltar in supply, while van Baer failed at Trier for the second time.

The Bourbons moved a large force into Switzerland. The aim was to reinforce the Tyrol in 1709, since it would have taken too long to reinforce via Italy (which was in any event largely denuded of troops to invade the Tyrol in the first place) – though the attrition losses were going to be horrendous, as they will in the Tyrol itself. However, the Bourbons were hoping that they could rebuild their strength before the 1709 campaigning season starts [using their replacements during the Interphase]. The objective was to march on Vienna via a southern route through the Tyrol, avoiding a Germany now dominated by Anglo-Dutch forces.

Western Europe, the end of 1708. Bourbon preparations for their advance through the Tyrol are apparent.

Iberia, the end of 1708. The Allies have invaded Gibraltar, as it was too late to help the Habsburg Spanish.

1709 Interphase

[SPs: Bourbons 4, Grand Alliance 2]

Spring 1709

[B 6(1/E)* vs GA 5(4): a disaster for the Bourbons. They were counting on at least two activations (ie. they just needed to avoid rolling a ‘6’!).]

The Bourbon plan to invade deeper into Austria via the Tyrol began to collapse as the commanders of the forces involved could not agree on the next step, and indecision and bickering prevented any further advance. Villars, worried about the adverse reaction of the Swiss if the large Bourbon army stayed any longer, moved south to Milan. [The plan had been to advance the Swiss force into the Tyrol, and the Tyrol force into Styria. Both were necessary, and lacking the activations to move them, the Bourbons concentrated on getting some of their Swiss force out before it was destroyed by attrition.] The Tyrol, already having its forage capacity significantly exceeded by the Bourbon forces present, had to fend for itself.

Meanwhile, Campbell moved to Grenada, besieging the city, while van Baer yet again found Trier too tough a nut to crack.

Summer 1709

[B 4(4) vs GA 4(4)]

Prince Eugene, having used the Spring to gather his forces, launched a major attack on the Bourbon armies holding the Tyrol. The result was a catastrophic Bourbon defeat. [Eugene 9/3 + 4/1R vs Boufflers 7/3 + 2/1R = 7/3 vs 2/0! – the Bourbons had expected to be defeated, but hoped that they would be able to save something from the wreckage. Instead, they were overwhelmed on the first round. Moreover, the loss of the Victor Amadeus block means that there is a possibility of Savoy changing sides in the next Interphase.]

Elsewhere, the cause of Philip V did better. Vendôme drove van Baer back to relieve the pressure on Pfalz, while the Spanish handed Campbell a bloody nose in Granada, largely destroying the invaders [Spanish 8/2 vs British 5/2 = 4/1 vs 0/0.]

Autumn 1709

[B 1(2) vs GA 5(4)*]

Vendôme’s triumph in Pfalz was very short-lived. The Grand Alliance attacked along the Rhine in strength, pressing their advantage as the Bourbon forces wilted, with Württemberg driving an outnumbered Vendôme out of Pfalz [10/3 vs 5/2 +7/3R = 5/0 v 1/0].

Winter 1709

[B 6(1/E)* vs 1(2)]

There is a Bad Harvest [Event #12: halves Replacement Points] in England [had this been France instead, the historicity would have been impressive – but the Bourbons could very ill have afforded it].

However, the Allies continued to press forward, and only the stubborn resistance of Bourbon garrisons in both Trier (again!) and Strasbourg frustrated them. But it is still telling that for the first time an enemy army is fighting on French soil (Alsace) as the French army in particular has been weakened by years of heavy losses.

[1709 was something of a nadir for the Bourbons. Partly this was because of an imbalance in terms of available actions: the Bourbons had 8, the Grand Alliance 14. However, it was also because losses had been unsustainably high – the Bourbons began to run out of regiments to help screen their army blocks, for example.]

1710 Interphase

[SPs: Bourbons 4, Grand Alliance 2]

Savoy is not sufficiently swayed by the blandishments of the Allies, and remains in the Bourbon camp [Bourbon die-roll 5, Grand Alliance 1+1 = 2].

Spring 1710

[B 3(3) vs GA 4(4)*]

Ideally, the Bourbons would have liked a quiet period to restore their weakened forces, but with the enemy at the gates of France itself, a counterattack was necessary, especially in Alsace [with its SP].

Boufflers led an army to rescue Pfalz, and the enemy were driven off in short order [Boufflers 14/5 vs Württemberg 6/2 = 5/1 vs 4/0], while Vendôme cleared Lorraine [Vendôme 8/3 vs Lüneburg 4/1 = 4/1 vs 1/0].

On the other hand, despite the Bourbons best efforts, Nassau managed to take Strasbourg, and with it Lorraine [+1 SP to the Grand Alliance], while van Baer had advanced as far as the Franche Comte. In Spain, Villadarias put paid to English hopes of turning Gibraltar into a major stronghold, driving off the English covering forces. The English still held the fortress at Gibraltar, but it was regarded as only a matter of time before this fell also.

Summer 1710

[B 2(3)* vs GA 2(3)]

The fighting along the eastern borders of France continued, with van Baer easily dispatching the French regiment sent to contain him. However, the most important battle was in Lorraine, where Vendôme yet again trounced the Allies, this time even more emphatically [Vendôme11/4 vs Nassau 6/2 + 4/1R = 9/2 vs 3/0 – Nassau escaped with just the single strength point; finally, the better French commanders were beginning to learn how to inflict casualties (in Vendôme’s case, 4 out of 6 rolls (on a 1-in-3 chance each time) in this battle], with Nassau forced to retreat, and the balance looking to have shifted in France’s favour.

Still, the Allies were not quiescent, even if on the back foot in France, with Eugene clearing the Tyrol of its remaining enemy garrisons, and a colonial expedition being mounted by the English.

Western Europe at the end of 1710. Heavy Bourbon losses have forced them to fall back, abandoning southern Germany and the Tyrol.

Autumn 1710

[B 1(2) vs GA 4(4)*]

Nassau’s defeat in the summer was the turning point, so that although Alsace remained in enemy hands for the time being, Vendôme was able to advance into the province, easily chasing the Austrians out.

Winter 1710

[B 3(3) vs GA 5(1/E). The event is #65 The Dismissal of Marlborough, but as he is dead, this becomes No Event.]

The English under Massue attempted to capture the Colonies, but failed.

Interphase 1711

[SPs: Bourbons 4, Grand Alliance 3]

Spring 1711

[B 5(4)* vs GA 2(3)]

The Bourbons decided to follow up their successes against the Grand Alliance along the Rhine by attacking the latter in the Low Countries, but came unstuck: in the case of both major attacks, they had hoped to overwhelm the enemy before substantial reinforcements could arrive, and in both they were disappointed. In Flanders, Vendôme attacked Nassau, getting much the worse of the exchange [Vendôme 10/3 vs Nassau 4/1 + 12/3R = 2/0 vs 6/0], while in Liege, though Grancey forced the Dutch to retreat, it was a fairly even contest [Bourbons 7/3 vs Dutch 2/0 + 5/2R = 4/0 vs 3/0].

Summer 1711

[B 5(4) vs GA 5(4)*]

A French force under Berwick had been occupying Pfalz for some time, hoping that the enemy would not realise just how weak they actually were [3 blocks at 1 strength point apiece], but unfortunately eventually the Allies sent Eugene to tackle this apparently imposing Bourbon army, with predictable results [though Berwick being made a POW was a bonus for the Allies].

On the other hand, the Bourbons had not given up hope on the idea of advancing into Austria via Italy, and Villars began the process with an attack into the Tyrol which left only a shattered remnant under Mercy to fight again another day [Villars 8/3 vs Mercy 5/2 = 5/1 vs 1/0].

Autumn 1711

[B 3(3) vs GA 6(1/E)*: the event was Auld Alliance (#53), but as the Bourbons lacked the strength to rebuild their fleet beyond cadre strength, the loss of a fleet block (off supporting the Scots) in 1712 would not have much impact.]

Eugene marched south post-haste to counter the Bourbon advance into the Tyrol, but was badly defeated by Villars [Eugene 8/2 vs Villars 7/2 + 2/1R = 4/0 vs 7/1, while in his absence, Vendôme and Tallard were able to besiege Strasbourg successfully, bringing Alsace under Bourbon control once more [+1 SP for the Bourbons].

Winter 1711

[B 6(1/E)* vs GA 2(2)]

The Allies under Württemberg tried to capture Trier, but failed once again.

1712 Interphase

[SPs: Bourbons 5, Grand Alliance 3]

Spring 1712

[B 5(4)* vs GA 2(3)]

Eugene advanced into the Tyrol once again, in order to prevent the Bourbons from prosecuting any sieges in the province [once all the fortresses are captured, province control changes]. Villars had the larger force, but ineptitude on the part of the Bourbons [all first round die-rolls missed] meant that Eugene was able to force the enemy to retreat [Eugene 7/2 vs Villars 10/3 = 5/0 vs 3/0!].

Summer 1712

[B 6(1/E) vs GA 6(1/E)*: neither event was germane.]

There was an exhausted lull in military activity in Europe, but in the Colonies, the Royal Navy intervened decisively to help overcome the resistance of the French fortress, and the Colonies passed under British control [+1 SP for the Grand Alliance; naval units have a limited ability to help in the sieges of coastal fortresses].

[We realised at this point that we had overlooked the rule giving an additional 4 RPs per year to the controller of the Colony Box, which would have given the Bourbons a very handy 44 more RPs, from the Interphase of 1703 onwards. To balance this loss, we decided that the British would not receive any additional RPs for Colony Box control either.]

Autumn 1712

[B 4(4)* vs GA 4(4)]

The Dutch under Nassau launched a serious attempt to subdue the Bourbon fortresses defending Flanders, but failed in their first siege at Ghent.

Meanwhile, the first major incursion by the Royal Navy into the Mediterranean was with a view to capturing Cagliari (and therefore Sardinia [with its SP]), but the Sardinians defied the British.

Winter 1712

[B 4(3) vs GA 4(3)*]

The Bourbon powers had a choice at this point in the war. They lacked the power to both check the Dutch in Flanders and mount their long-planned attack from Italy towards Vienna. In the end, they decided to back the second course – partly because it offered the possibility of a Triumphant Victory if the Bourbon armies manage to take control of lower Austria (Vienna), and so moved significant reinforcements into Italy, including both Villars and Vendôme [the two French ‘A’-rated armies].

Interphase 1713

[SPs: Bourbons 5, Grand Alliance 4]

Spring 1713

[B 3(3) vs GA 6(1/E)*]

There are Echoes from Poltava [Event #26]: the Danish army fighting in Germany for the Allies was withdrawn to take part in the dismemberment of Sweden, following Peter the Great’s victory at Poltava. The Royal Navy, on the other hand, had no problem crushing the Barbary Pirates when they attempted to disrupt British attempts to take Cagliari.

Meanwhile, the Bourbon plan went into action against the relatively quiescent Allies, with Villars striking into Styria, defended by Eugene, and Villars had his revenge for his surprising defeat in the Tyrol a year earlier, though Eugene defended stubbornly [Villars 14/4 vs Eugene 8/2 = 5/0 vs 5/0; the Austrians retreated].

Summer 1713

[B 2(3)* vs GA 1(2)]

The summer was dominated by sieges, with Nassau taking Brussels, and Villars Laibach [in the latter case, this crucially enabled units to be supplied via Styria]. The Bourbons also moved into the Tyrol.

Autumn 1713

[B 5(4)* vs GA 4(4)]

Boufflers was ordered to intervene in Flanders to prevent the Dutch from prosecuting a siege of Namur, and although this objective was secured, it was at an unaffordably high price [Boufflers 8/3 vs Nassau 10/3 + 3/1R = 0/0 vs 8/3]. With van Baer crushing a French delaying force in Alsace, the position in the north seemed to be deteriorating swiftly for the Bourbons.

Winter 1713

[B 6(1/E)* vs 5(1/E)]

Le Grand Hiver [Event #54] strikes, slowing the French war effort [while having only a limited effect occurring so late in the year].

The Royal Navy off Sardinia crushed the Barbary Pirates (again), but the crucial development was in Flanders, where Nassau (aided by the siege engineer Coehoorn [+1 die to the attackers siege rolls] successfully stormed Namur, ending Bourbon resistance in the province [+1 Grand Alliance SP]

Western Europe, the end of 1713 [from the Allied perspective]. The Dutch are making gains in the Low Countries, but the French are concentrating on the Austrians.

1714 Interphase

[SPs: Bourbons 5, Grand Alliance 5]

Spring 1714

[B 3(3)* vs GA 2(3)]

The French resumed their drive towards Vienna, with Villars bringing Mercy to battle [Villars 8/2 vs Mercy 5/2 + 4/1R (Eugene) = 5/2 vs 0/0; Mercy missed, while Villars for the first time scored more than two hits (which he had done only once previously, having either inflicted one hit or missed in all his previous battles; a full-strength Villars should hit twice, on average) in a combat round, with a timely four hits, which ended the battle after the first round]. The French won a crushing victory, and their advance forces even penetrated as far as Lower Austria [a blocking regiment].

However, as usual during the war, good news on one front was cancelled by bad news elsewhere. Van Baer was besieging Strasbourg (though without success), and a revived Spanish navy was easily beaten and sent scuttling back to port by Shovell’s Royal Navy squadron [this sortie did not expect to survive, if the Allies wanted to destroy it, but it required an activation to chase it down].

Summer 1714

[B 5(4)* vs GA 3(3)]

Starhemberg launched a desperate attempt to prevent the Bourbons from besieging Pressburg [which would likely succeed otherwise, giving the Bourbons control of Hungary and its SP], and although successful in achieving its strategic goal, was otherwise crushed by Villars [Starhemberg 8/2 vs Villars 8/2 = 0/0 vs 7/1], only a remnant surviving.

The English were still aiming to capture Cagliari (and therefore Sardinia with its SP), and landed Campbell’s army on the island to ensure a successful siege, but at the first attempt, the British failed [Campbell failing to score a single hit].

In Alsace, Boufflers put paid to van Baer’s attempts to take Strasbourg [Boufflers 10/3 vs van Baer 4/1 = 4/1 vs 1/0].

Autumn 1714

[B 6(1/E) vs GA 6(1/E)*: bad news for the Grand Alliance, for if they had had two moves, they might have taken Sardinia and prevented Villars from conquering Hungary.]

Campbell and the Royal Navy made sure of Cagliari and Sardinia, and the city fell easily, the defenders being exhausted after their earlier exertions [+1 Grand Alliance SP; Sardinia is vulnerable to the Allies, being an island, but there is little the Bourbons can do to defend it should the Allies make a serious attempt at conquest – though a Spanish regiment to defend it (ie. delay the commencement of siege of Cagliari) might have been worth considering].

In Hungary, the Bourbons make swift work of Pressburg, taking control of Hungary [+1 Bourbon SP].

Winter 1714

[SPs: Bourbons 6, Grand Alliance 6]

The two sides having fought one another to the point of exhaustion, at this point the diplomats, meeting at Utrecht, hammered out a peace acceptable (albeit not perhaps welcome) to all parties, and the long War of the Spanish Succession came to an end.

[As neither side had any realistic prospects of gaining another SP in the final winter turn, we called it at this stage – a very hard-fought draw.

Post Mortem

The results of the game and the results of the historical conflict were perhaps not all that far apart – almost a decade and a half of war failed to change very much. Historically, for all the talents and achievements of Marlborough and Eugene, Philip V remained on the Spanish throne, and his descendants are still there to this day.

Something similar would presumably have been the result of this game’s version of history, since neither side managed to gain a significant advantage over the other.

As the Bourbon player, I felt – as the narrative indicates – that I was too aggressive, and that the Bourbons could not afford losses on the scale they incurred. A more conservative strategy might have put Villars in Vienna before 1714. On the other hand, perhaps the Allies would merely have supplied more help to a beleaguered Austria.

Meanwhile, I think both of us enjoyed the game – certainly, despite the amount of time playing the entire Campaign Game took, there were no longeurs. Indeed, the pace was fairly intense, and this is evidenced by the fact that neither side felt it could spare the four activations required to improve the Austrian Replacement total (the Wiener Stadtbank rule) or the quality of the Spanish Army (the Reformation of the Spanish Army rule).]

Western Europe at the declaration of the peace of Utrecht in late 1714. Sardinia and Flanders are controlled by the Grand Alliance, but the Bourbons are in Hungary.
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Göran Björkman
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Thanks for charing this session. It seems that you had more intense fighting than we ever had during play testing.

/Göran Björkman
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Stefan Ekström
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Great report, David.
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