Friedrich's Ambition - Part IV
It would later come to be known as the "First Battle of Dresden": a vicious back-and-forth series of skirmishes that would last for more than three weeks. Although Friedrich was forced to engage his enemy time and again across the Elbe river, he was able to avoid crossing points in the wooded portions of the province and engage the foe in open fields that would lessen the opposition's advantage. It seemed that the Bohemian king was not as competent a field commander as Friedrich had initially feared.
That isn't to say that Vladislav I was a push-over. He had a sizable army that had maintained a very high morale in spite of the losses it had suffered during the long months of the siege. Gradually, encounter after encounter, the willingness to fight began to lessen on both sides. Friedrich feared that his own army might lose courage before his enemy broke; but he placed his trust in God (and in the fates) and was finally able to spur his men on to victory.
In the aftermath of battle, Friedrich took stock of his situation. The cost in lives had been fearsome for both sides. More than two thousand of Saxony's brave soldiers would never fight again -- nearly one third of Friedrich's force -- while the Bohemian army was cut in half with more than three thousand men going to meet their maker. The morale of Friedrich's remaining men was poor, with several of his regiments having suffered horrendous losses; and he knew it would be pointless to order his army to pursue the foe as they retreated to Plsen.
Battle is engaged May 8th, 1455, and lasts until May 31st. During that time the morale of both sides slowly decreases and it is by virtue of a number of lucky die rolls that the Saxony army defeats Bohemia. In spite of Vladislav I's higher mil rating in his monarch stats, Friedrich has a slight (+1) die roll advantage in the shock phase of battle. It's likely that the bulk of Vladislav's advantage was in a high manoeuvre or siege rating (or both), neither of which came into play in direct field combat. The enemy army breaks and retreats to the Bohemian province of Plsen; but the morale of my army makes it pointless to pursue since I'm just as likely to lose a second engagement.
This first screen shows the battle details screen (lower left) on the first day of combat. I opened it after battle has started so the first day's casualties have already been deducted from both sides. You get handy floating red casualty numbers that appear after each day above the two forces, and the details screen offers comprehensive tooltips when you hover over the small "X" or "/" symbols that show the deployment of each regiment. Combat resolution is quite complex but is all handled automatically by the game (there isn't a tactical component to EU3).
Note that I have set my outliner (upper right corner of the screen) to display field combats when they occur; so the battle in Dresden is now listed there with a summary of total forces on both sides. As usual, there's a detailed tooltip available if I hover my mouse over the entry. If I click on it I am taken to the location of the battle and the combat details are opened automatically. Have I mentioned how much I love the outliner?
Here is a screen of the battle summary I received when the Bohemian army broke and began to retreat. My strategic decision to wait to engage was partially based on the fact that not all regiments are able to engage all other regiments. Each one has a "range" that is determined by its unit manoeuvre rating, which limits which enemy regiments it can engage. The means that a smaller force can prevail (to a degree) over a larger force, if the smaller force has full 1000-man regiments and the opponent has many half-strength regiments. For example, each of my regiments that was able to attack an enemy on the first day of combat would inflict damage based on the full 1000 man complement, whereas the attacks made by each Bohemian regiment only inflicted damage based on the number of men that had survived the siege attrition -- often only 750 or so men. This meant that I was able to bring slightly more force to bear directly, in spite of being outnumbered by two regiments and 10% total force.
By itself, my force would not usually have been enough to win the battle (although it would still have inflicted good casualty levels), but I was extraordinarily lucky by getting favourable a field (plains) in spite of the province being primarily forest; and I also had a few very good random die rolls (I had several 6's, 7's and 8's whereas Vladislav only had a couple and also rolled a few 0's and 1's). I fully expected to lose this battle but was hoping for a bit of luck since I didn't want to lose Dresden if at all possible. In this instance, things ended up going my way.
Friedrich decided that his best course of action would be to hold his army in position, giving them a chance to regain their spirit after seeing so many of their comrades fall in the bloody fields of Dresden. It would also provide time for some measure of reinforcements to arrive from Saxony's provinces to replenish the losses. Had his coffers been fuller, Friedrich would also have considered promoting one of the promising young junior officers to the rank of general. For the present, though, he would have to continue to lead them in person.
Saxony's manpower pool was able to reinforce the army at a rate of about 200 men each month. With the morale so low, it would also take at least a few months before they would be able to engage an enemy force that had any sort of morale level. The even odds and high casualty rate from this single battle was enough to push military land tradition from 0% to 14%! If only I had been able to afford the 22 ducats (roughly) to hire general. The cost to hire generals is based on national income and the number of existing generals in the field; and their leadership stats are heavily influenced by the army tradition level. I wouldn't have had a "great" general with only 14% tradition, but I would stand a decent change of getting one that was at least as good as Friedrich and I would then have been able to remove him from command so I wasn't risking his death in combat (something that can be very nasty!).
Not much more than a month later, as his army was still licking its wounds, Friedrich was surprised to see a messenger in Imperial livery ride into the camp. The diplomat dismounted, strode purposefully towards him, bowed, and then presented a scroll. Friedrich licked his lips as he broke the Imperial seal and read the few brief lines…
To Our dearest ally, Friedrich II, ruler of the lands of Saxony;"Oh shi...!"
It pleases Us to offer you the great privilege to honour your pact of alliance with Our realm once more; and to take up arms against the weakling nation called 'Bosnia'.
By the Grace of God, Holy Roman Emperor
Archduke of Austria
"The scoundrel's allies want no part of it," the messenger interrupted. "Albania, Morea, Montenegro, and Wallachia have all stated that they will not cross so powerful a foe as my master."
"Ah. How wonderful, I am sure. However, did the Emperor, perhaps, forget that we are already…"
"Loyal Bavaria will, of course, take up the Emperor's noble cause," the diplomat continued, arching his eyebrows in a manner that suggested that Saxony would be wise to follow suit.
Friedrich cast his eyes skywards, imploring God to rid him of his power-hungry liege, and then gave a deep sigh. "So be it. You may inform Ladislaus that Saxony will honour its word; but you might remind him that we are already fully engaged in war and will therefore be unable to send our army at this time. Perhaps if the Emperor were to…"
"I shall ride with all haste to convey your message at once!" gushed the not-so-interested noble. He turned, vaulted onto his horse, and was gone before Friedrich could even formulate a suitable curse.
So it was that Saxony entered a second undesired war at the behest of its Austrian ally, causing further distress to the public since, once again, Friedrich had no real quarrel with Bosnia to assuage his people's concerns.
Austria DOWs Bosnia. Bavaria and I honour the call to allies, resulting in a -1 stab hit for not having a casus belli. All of Bosnia's allies refuse its call. I glare angrily at my monitor.
Friedrich's mood did not improve until some ten days later when he received word that the Bohemian province of Lausitz had fallen to Brandenburg's forces. A portion of this army, he learned, was marching on the capital province of Bohemia; while the balance would remain there for a time -- at least until a handful of men could be recruited to man the garrison.
This pleased Friedrich because the Bohemian monarch had split his demoralised army shortly after its arrival in Plsen; leading half of it back to stand in defence of the capital. Friedrich has been wondering whether he dared attack this smaller force, but had feared to leave Dresden undefended once more until he had replenished his own provincial garrison. If Brandenburg was willing to press the attack, so much the better.
Two weeks later, Friedrich was positively beaming! The latest dispatches reported that Vladislav had engaged the Brandenburg army; but had been cut down on the field. With no suitable adult heir, a regency council would now rule in Bohemia until the new monarch was of age to be crowned. Although the battle still raged in the province, this tragedy would undoubtedly strike panic in the hearts of the his enemy's citizens and might even demoralize the enemy armies. Better yet, it would a long time before he would need fear to face a ruler at the head of a force.
Seizing the initiative; Friedrich immediately divided his own army. He would personally take a portion of it to face the leaderless enemy host in Plsen, while the balance would be sent to assist his ally's forces in the Bohemian capital or to mop up whatever enemy remained if Brandenburg was repelled.
Glee, as I watch the battle in Bohemia, see that Vladislav I has fallen, and receive notification that a regency will now rule in Bohemia. They will lose -1 stab for having their leader die in battle, and if I recall correctly they will also lose some prestige which will hurt their armies' morale.
We reorganise the army into two portions. This is easy to do since the tooltips give all of the necessary details and it's simply a matter of assigning regiments as desired.
Now I've ordered each army to march. By selecting both (a simple matter of dragging a box around them with my mouse) I can see the movement arrows for both, as well as a summary of their total strength. If I want more information, I can either select them individually, hover my mouse over them, or use the outliner tooltips.
The news from Bohemia in early August was somewhat sketchy. Friedrich wasn't sure which of the opposing armies had been victorious since both were reportedly on the move towards Lausitz. Presumably whichever side had won was pursuing the other; but the second Brandenburg army that had previously been protecting the province had moved in support of the siege of Breslau so Lausitz was devoid of troops and only lightly garrisoned. The matter would not become clear until later, though Friedrich would come to rue his decision to press his own attack, rather than to halt in his tracks to better assess the situation.
Even as Friedrich's vanguard made first contact with the enemy in Plsen, a messenger arrived to report that the other half of his army had arrived in Bohemia to find the province devoid of troops and had initiated a siege of the capital. It would take many months for the small force to bring the city to its knees, but Friedrich hoped that they might later receive support from at least a portion of the Brandenburg army once it had concluded its affairs in Breslau.
Perhaps it was this distraction that led to Friedrich's downfall in Plsen. Even though his enemy had no general of any note; the army was courageous, persistent, and devilishly good at obtaining the advantage on the field. Try as he might, nothing he did would dislodge them; and his exhortations failed to inspire his troops as it had in the First Battle of Dresden. Tired and downhearted, his troops were unable to carry the day. Whether he wished it or not, by September 9th Friedrich found himself leading his army back towards Dresden in utter disarray, the enemy force following hard on his heels.
Worse news would reach him a week later, before he had even returned to his lands. Apparently it had been the Bohemian army that had won the earlier battle in the capital and then chased the Brandenburg army back to Lausitz. There, a brief battle had ensued, resulting in yet another victory for the enemy force; and the remnants of Brandenburg's regiments were in full retreat back to their land. It had then taken the victorious army only a few brief days to retake the woefully undergarrisoned province, and now the enemy was on the march towards Dresden!
Suddenly Friedrich realised that his small, demoralised army would soon be caught between hammer and anvil…
A screenshot following the battle of Plsen, with Friedrich in full retreat after his army has broken. This was another very close battle; but his time -- even though the Bohemian army had no leader -- I was not lucky enough to get favourable terrain and I had a number of very bad die rolls in a row.
Just below the battle report message you can see my other army beginning the siege of Bohemia. I have the outliner set to show my sieges, so this has been added to the list along with an indication (in %) of the progress. As usual, a tooltip will give me precise information if I hover the mouse over that line in the outliner and I can click on it to take me directly to the siege on the map and open up the siege view interface. I can also just click on my siege army.
You'll also notice a small message notice near the bottom left of the screen, telling me that there's a diplomatic message ( a request for military access) awaiting my response. Whenever a message notice appears on the screen, there's also an audible cue to let me know it's there in case I didn't see it. If I fail to respond in 30 days I will automatically decline the request, and the message will blink for the last few days just to let me know time has almost expired. This is a great new feature in EU3 that reduces the "pop-up message spam" that I occasionally found annoying in EU2, allowing me to wait a little while before I react to a proposal or message. Only historic and random events are "forced" as pop-ups; and these aren't frequent enough to be a problem (even in frantic MP wars).