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Tannenberg 1410: A Boardgame Battle Report


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Personal logo sillypoint Supporting Member of TMP writes:

If it is my unit fighting, round up. If it is your unit fighting- sorry 😐 but you round down.
Universal rule of "remembering part of the rules that favours you"- Albert Einstein.


Revision Log
9 July 2007page first published

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This would be a solo game, using the historical scenario with mandated set-up positions for all units.

Ready to play

The game is set up (left), and all the markers are on the game tracks (right).

Game tracks

I initially placed the markers on the spaces corresponding to their maximum strength (as in the picture above); then realized I was supposed to put them just under their strengths - that way, you can see their strengths (but not their ID numbers, which are at the bottoms of the tracks!).

Starting map

On the map above, the Teutonic Order is on the right, anchored between two towns (brown hexes) - infantry in front, then two lines of lights, plus some reserves. They are opposed by the Poles (top of picture) and Lithuanians (middle), with some cavalry and infantry in reserve; the Tatar light cavalry is at the bottom of the map.

According to the historical article, the first three hours of combat were taken up with skirmishing and artillery fire. However, since the game provides no artillery (which is understandable, since they had no impact on the battle), I decided to move directly to the general attack (which in reality occurred at noon, which would be turn 10 in the game).

The Polish/Lithuanian line advanced to make contact with the Teutonic Order infantry. With combat odds of 10 (Polish heavy cavalry) vs 4 (Teutonic Order infantry), the fighting was resolved on the rightmost column of the Combat Results Table (CRT) - with most of the infantry losing 3 of their 4 strength points. (Can you say speed bump?)

On the right flank, the Tatars advanced to attack the European Crusaders... and discovered that 7-point Tatar light cavalry couldn't do much against 9-point Crusaders.

Now it was the Teutonic Order's chance to move. They responded by moving their knights into contact with the enemy knights, in some cases trampling their own infantry in the process (very historical!). The fighting between heavy cavalry units is evenly matched and attritional; the Order has slightly better luck against the light cavalry on their left. The Tatars, hurting badly, use the special light infantry retreat rule to pull back from combat.

During the Rally Phase, the Tatar units fail to rally - which means they'll keep running away next turn.

Two of the three Tatar units, in fact, never make their Rally rolls - and retreat off the map and out of the game!

The combat between the heavy cavalry continues to wear down both sides, until the Order decides to advance some of the second line of cavalry into the fight. Advancing a fresh unit into a fight makes quite a difference - when two 10-point units have worn down to 5-point units, suddenly a fresh 10-point unit has a significant advantage. The advantage seems to swing to the Teutonic Order.

On the Order's left flank, the Crusaders disdain to pursue the sole remaining Tatar, and instead advance to hit the right flank of the Lithuanian light cavalry. This advance triggers the "impetuous" rule, meaning they must continue moving east until they rally or find combat.

Back on the Order's right flank, the Polish cavalry has advanced through the village, and has been met with cavalry and infantry from the reserve.

The Lithuanians have deliberately opened a gap in their lines, hoping the Crusaders will advance into the woods (as they did historically). Unfortunately, the gap isn't wide enough, and the Crusaders are able either to advance into combat (stopping their movement) or to rally (ending their impetuosity).

The remaining Tatar unit seizes Tannenberg village - the terrain improves its combat strength, and penalizes attacking heavy cavalry.

The gap ploy doesn't work

The Poles and Lithuanians now throw their second line into the fight, and the advantage swings their way. On the Order's right flank, they've thrown their reserves to stop the Polish flanking maneuver, and advance other units to shore up the battle line.

On the Order's left flank, the impetuous Crusaders have run to the edge of the marsh, where they fight Lithuanian light cavalry. Meanwhile, some Lithuanian elite (heavy) cavalry had advanced near Tannenberg, only to be attacked by Order cavalry.

The main battle line is thinning out

Things now rapidly fall apart for the Teutonic Order. The Poles are rolling up the right end of the Order's line, are tying up too many Order units with their flank maneuver, and have even punched holes in the center.

Meanwhile on the Order's left flank, Lithuanian heavy cavalry charges the rear of the impetuous Crusaders and mauls them, opening the way for Lithuanian infantry (advancing through the marsh) to attack the weakened units. (Historically, the idea was to get the Crusaders to charge into the marshes... but that hasn't quite worked out today.)

The impetuous Crusaders have opened the way for Lithuanian light cavalry to sweep around, and begin to roll up the left end of the Order's line. Similarly, the Tatars circle behind the Order cavalry near Tannenberg. The relatively high movement rate of the light cavalry allows them to sweep around flanks easily.

The Teutonic Order is losing...

I continue the game to see if the Order can somehow pull out a victory, but not today. Once the heavy cavalry or infantry units are in combat, it is difficult to extract them - since they need to pay the movement points to turn around, and they don't have enough movement to escape without giving the enemy a chance to attack their flank.

Where is the Order?

The final game tracks tell the story:

Final game tracks

Some Final Thoughts

I was surprised at how well these simple rules reflected historical tactics. Light cavalry danced around, heavy cavalry got stuck into battle and stayed there, and committing the second line and reserves was meaningful.

If this game is accurate, then the Teutonic Order wasted their infantry by using them as a screen (they simply die to no purpose). Putting them into the villages and marshes would be much smarter - as it is, the "anchor" villages are more liabilities than aids.

In terms of game design, the first few turns had me confused about which unit was which (until I finally memorized the icons), and I'm sure that I occasionally confused "black cross" knight IV with "red cross" knight IV. Roman numerals are also a pain to read from the other side of the board. The game track works best for one player, since everything faces the same direction - for two players, it would be best to turn one side's tracks around.

One question that came up in play: when combat strengths are penalized, do you round the results? If so, up or down?