The campaign has been continuing on a somewhat slower than intended pace due to various domestic issues. I think we’ve turned a bit of a corner now though as our house has sold and we’ve had an offer accepted on a new one which will hopefully mean that I end up with an 18 foot square games room all to myself sometime early next year. In the meantime, I’ve pulled my tables and Geo Hex out of storage again now the house doesn’t have to be a showhome and have set up a table to fight the latest battle that’s been thrown out of the campaign.
The battle is taking place at Benevente a few days after the battle of Leon. V Corps, after falling back to Mayorga have been reinforced by VI Corps and both French Corps have pushed into Benevente, where the Anglo Portuguese forces from Leon followed up the French.
The Anglo Portuguese will be deployed around the town of Benevente since they are the “defenders” (in the campaign, the turn sequence is randomised between the two sides and while movement for all units on one side is considered simultaneous it is not completely simultaneous across both sides). Some elements of VI Corps which initiated the fight will be deployed at the start of the game, while more troops will arrive during the day as reinforcements.
I’m just reviewing the forces to determine which ruleset to use, the choices being either Blucher or March Attack. I have just purchased Et Sans Resultat! but I doubt they will be here tomorrow morning besides which I sense they’re not a straight forward set of rules to learn solo.
The campaign threw up a battle between Anglo Portuguese forces and elements of the French V Corps. Rhys kindly offered to game out the action, so the report below is from his perspective. I provided a few background details and some basic standing orders and let him game it out as he saw fit within those parameters.
Actual ground layout was chosen randomly from a crossroads selection random layout.
This gave me two villages in the AO: San Andres and Onzonilla.
Wellingtons Reinforcements if they come would arrive from the North. Interestingly any French Reinforcements would arrive through Onzonilla.
Wellington’s Main Effort was to hold the crossroads, Mortiers was to delay the Anglo Armies advance for as long as possible. Neither side was willing to tolerate high casualties or risk their Cavalry to achieve this however. Both sides had a key intent of remaining in good order at close of battle, whatever the outcome.
Interestingly the AI decided to faint left through San Andres and the ridgeline to fix the French and have a main thrust straight down the road through the crossroads and try to roll the French up from the right. The French AI decided (unsurprisingly), to hold the ridgeline and concentrate fire power on the crossroads. Using a forward line to delay the advance along the E to W road.
There was some initial kuffufle with formations for the advance and the right wing of 4 Div set of down the road at pace.
The French sat patiently in the broken ground in front of their camp on the ridgeline watching the Allied advance.
At this point it started to awry for the allies the road became bogged down for any who went near it and 4 Div’s left wing had soon far outreached it. The Nominated Res failed to keep pace with the battle line in any way until late into the afternoon.
With the main allied thrust reaching its target in a broken line, they started to received heavy fire from the French. The 3rd cav Bde had secured their right flank (Onzanilla) however, and the left flank had started to regain its shape.
With the allied Main Effort faltering due to bad cohesion and heavy French fire on the right, the situation looked like it might be saved by the quick work of clearing San Andres by the left wing.
Just as the Main allied thrust seemed to be falling apart at the crossroads, Allied reinforcements start pouring onto the field and heading straight down the road. Just as the left wing also made its first attempt at the ridge.
In the very next hour, some of the French reinforcements start to arrive, quickly sending the allied cavalry fleeing from Ordenez, leaving the allied Centre right wide open as 4 Div started to fall back.
The allied original reserve finally arrives and manages to plug the gap at the crossroads, the reinforcements become bogged down on the road where 4 Div had originally and tied up in the retreating 4 Div Battalions. The left wing is managing to cause casualties amongst the French right, but cannot summit the ridge in force.
With the right wing looking shaky, and unknown numbers of French arriving Wellington hesitates, he keeps the left engaged for one last push, but shores up his centre of gravity on the crossroads. Mortier having now lasted most of the day, takes the opportunity to start pulling back all those not engaged,
With casualties starting to mount amongst the few heavily engaged units, the French speed up their withdrawal. Wellington has similar issues and feels content with holding the crossroads – and thus lets the French withdraw without a chase. Strategic victory for the allies; but a tactical draw, with both sides achieved their ME’s.
Several dispatches have been received by the national capitals and commanders in chief this past couple of days. First, a couple of messages being talked about around Fontainebleau after receipt by Napoleon discussing the French victory at Vittoria earlier this month.
Evening, 8th March 1808
It is my great honour to report to Your Majesty that my I Corps has today fought a general engagement with the enemies of France at the town named Vittoria in the Spanish province of Aragon.
My forces deployed, 2nd & 3rd Divisions and part of the cavalry arriving from Tolosa and the 1st and part of the cavalry divisions from San Sebastian. Our friend Marechal Ney and part of his VI Corps had occupied Pancorbo in the enemy’s rear on the previous day and elements of his 1st division and cavalry marched to the battle, arriving from the south behind the enemy during the day.
All of my divisions advanced aggressively and struck the enemy positions from the NE just after midday and by the mid-afternoon his lines were crumbled and in the early evening gave way, his troops scattering into the hills to the west and south east of the town in great disarray.
His scattered remnants were pursued until dark by our light cavalry.
Our losses were a mere 800 men killed and wounded, each of the fallen a hero to France. I have captured 16 pieces of artillery and upwards of 20 standards. The enemy army is destroyed.
I am, and remain, Your Majesty’s loyal and obedient servant.
Victor, Duc de Belluno
Your Imperial Majesty,
I have the honour to send you word of the first great victory in the Iberian Peninsula. A Spanish army has, on this day, been scattered to the winds at Vittorio. Marechal Victors troops conducted a fine combined force assault upon the defenders and I have nothing but fine words for their conduct.
The Spanish army had foolishly advanced aggressively to relieve our sieges on the border fortresses. With alacrity my own corp penetrated deeply into enemy held territory to fall upon their lines of communication. With growing enemies forces at Burgos we held the line at PanCorbo, completing the encirclement of the enemy at some risk to being crushed in a pincer. Our own contribution to the battle at Vittorio was modest, but our Cuirassier and Dragoons charging into their rear areas finally broke their wavering spirit.
Vive la France!
Marechal Ney, Duc d’Elchingen
And then a message sent some time ago has reached King George
Sire, on landing I alerted our Spanish allies to my presence and willingness to assist, but have as yet received no response. I have had no contact with Welesley since landing.
The ongoing Peninsular campaign created another battle, some 15 days in. The forces of Marshal Victor’s I Corps clashing with the Army of Catalonia in Soria. Unfortunately we’ve been waiting for this battle to be resolved for over a week but due to real life pressures I just have not been able to get round to it. Because of this, I wasn’t able to get the players as involved as I’d intended.
I fought the game solo using Blucher rules, and a small scale, so each base represented between 1200 and 2000 infantry or 400-600 cavalry. Several of the smaller units had to be amalgamated together into Blucher units, something I’m not comfortable doing but it’s the only way it makes sense. Both sides had reinforcements arriving during the day and the action didn’t kick off till around midday when those forces had arrived.
I used a variable opposed roll to determine when the reinforcements would arrive and what hour the battle would begin. This left around 18 turns of the day, meaning that the chances of outright destruction were limited but so was the chance of a meaningful victory. Due to the size of the forces, both sides had only 2 MO dice and the number of units routed required was low so some careful thought was needed. I played both sides as evenly as I could.
The battle began with a Spanish advance to occupy a hilltop to their front, while the French light cavalry began a move towards the Spanish right flank. What would continue to plague the French for the rest of the battle became evident, at critical times they would roll sub-average MO dice and be unable to move large portions of their forces.
The Spanish cavalry division moved to counter the French lights, and in the ensuing turns succeeded in driving off the Horse Artillery and one of the Hussar Regiments while crippling the effectiveness of the other, but losing both a Heavy Cavalry regiment and a Light Regiment of their own in the process. The remaining Heavy regiment would continue to tie up and present a threat to the French infantry on the left flank for the rest of the day. (It seems the logical reason for such poor command dice rolling!)
On the French right, the infantry of 3rd Division, attempts to throw the Spanish off the hill, supported by the Dragoons of VII Corps. The Spanish however stand firm, preparing their infantry against the cavalry which deploys to threaten their flanks. In return, a regiment is routed when the Light Cavalry regiment attached to the Spanish 1st Division attacks in the flank of the attack.
The attack is overwhelming, and the Spanish unit disintegrates. Spanish musketry is beginning to have an effect on other supporting units but it’s looking tense on this flank. In the next few turns, Dragoon regiments charge multiple times but fail to break through the resolute Spanish squares. Casualties on both sides are mounting and the Spanish have lost 3 of their 5 break points, the French 3 of their 6. The French are unable to mount a concerted and coordinated assault due to terrible command rolls.
On the French left, finally 1st and 2nd Division infantry begin moving through the town to assault the Spanish right. With no artillery to prepare the way, they advance straight into the teeth of the Spanish regiments, one of which buckles as the troops contact each other, while the French attack falters around it. A musketry duel follows, superior French skirmish skill whittles the defenders down while their attached artillery and volley fire also causes casualties to mount. As darkness falls, a last ditch effort to break the Spanish is thrown back.
Darkness falls with an inconclusive result, both sides only one unit away from breaking, both sides licking their wounds and awaiting their commanders decisions whether to stay or whether to retire.
The campaign is now 8 turns / days old and the first messages sent from players to national leaders are arriving. I shall be posting those which do not give the entire plan (!) to those who read the blog.
Overall the campaign seems to be functioning well, it’s generated around 1100 messages from players to units, units to players and players to other players and has generated 2 battles, one of which was played on tabletop and reported on this blog, the second was fought using Scourge of War Waterloo, a pc game which allowed the orbat to be imported in and a representative scenario set up and played out by a bunch of players including a couple of the campaign commanders. It looks like we’re heading for another battle in the next couple of days.
Over the past couple of days I’ve had the opportunity to play a Napoleonic game using the March Attack rules. I’ve seen few reviews of them despite them being out for some time. These are my thoughts…
The rules are cheap, at 9 quid or so for a PDF. I’ve had them for a while but never actually looked at them, having bought them at the same time as Rank and File from the same publisher. In terms of production values, the rules appear well laid out, with lots of illustrations of how the various mechanics work and they read well. I was enthused by them and wanted to put them into action ASAP.
They are a battalion, regiment, battery level set of rules, good for up to a corps a player and probably more if you’ve got the table space and troops. Infantry and Cavalry are only two bases, with which you can form Line, Square, Column and Batteries are usually one base although larger 12 gun batteries are 2 bases wide.
Units are rated by Combat Value (CV), which are strength points worked out from the actual numbers of men in the units being represented, cross referenced against their quality (Militia, conscript, regular, elites etc). This works brilliantly for my campaign where each unit is tracked at a manpower level. Artillery receive CV based on their quality and number of guns.
The turn sequence has Strategic actions first, so changing orders, attaching commanders/generals, Major Formation (MF) morale, skirmishing, and resolving initiative, then moves onto a Tactical set of phases which covers movement for the active side, firing for both sides, any resulting melee, and a bit of cleanup. The tactical phases are then repeated for the non active side. Turns are 20 minutes of real time.
The musketry firing mechanics work well although I can see that having a firing factor over 6 giving an automatic hit could grate with some people and have seen some reviews to that effect. Personally I don’t mind it too much. One thing I would say is that if you’re fighting an action in the rain then the permanent halving soon means that troops are unable to have any effect whatsoever if they’re also carrying other modifiers.
The movement system with the strategic/tactical movement is very good, quick to play and does need you to make a plan and think ahead. I was caught out early on with columns behind lines being unable to push through on strategic movement and thus stuck to slow movement, especially as strategic movement cannot change formation. Clever.
The skirmishing rules are quite innovative (at least I’ve not seen something similar before) and although there are holes in the idea you can walk an army through, with a bit of judgement and fair application I think they’re a good and simple way to resolve skirmishing between large formations. (The holes I speak of are – what happens when multiple MF are in the same area? how realistic is it to accept the skirmish rating of an MF where only one unit is actually within range of the enemy MF? etc)
The turn sequence works well with movement then firing allowing troops charging to be forced to take a Valeur et Discipline test, to see if they charge home. This is about the only time individual units take any sort of morale test, the other being if they want to do something “fancy” in an enemy units zone of control – change formation, change facing etc.
The melee rules. Essentially a d6 + your CV + some mods, the list of mods appears to me to be a bit ambiguous and it’s quite “swingy” due to the dice roll. The big issue is that the penalties for losing are severe, at best you’re losing 2 CV from the unit and going back 6″ with a disorder 2 marker, at worst your unit is just broken outright. What’s strange however is that the winner takes no loss whatsoever. It’s odd as one of the few things I dislike about Blucher is the automatic loss of Elan when involved in combat whether you win or lose, here it feels like it should be that way or the losing side losses severely reduced.
Disorder. Apart from a halving of effect when firing, or a negative modifier on the Valeur et Discipline test, I can’t see the point of it and it’s bloody fiddly. You end up putting markers down, only to flip them almost immediately after. It appears to have zero impact on melee if you are the charging unit unless the defending unit is disordered in which case you get +3 which is a huge bonus, it doesn’t affect movement at all and just seems partially implemented.
Firing twice a turn seems generous. Plus there is no modifier for movement other than potentially accruing disorder markers due to terrain.
The rules layout leaves a whole lot to be desired. On initial read through they seem fine but when you try to start using them it’s a constant battle to find the passage you need. The movement rules have bits of the morale rules in, the explanations of units and gradings need you to have read the morale rules to complete the exercise, the weather rules have modifiers to shooting which do not appear anywhere else (or on the play sheet). The inclusion of very comprehensive examples does a lot to help understand most of the confusion, but it could have been much much better and easier to comprehend and some of the examples do not cover every eventuality. I suspect I’ll resort to rewriting the rules in an order that make more sense to me and redoing the QRS.
The command and control rules. At first glance these seemed perfectly sensible, but having played through, they’re a nonsense. They’re of a type where it’s all down to player interpretation and possibly umpire enforcement. However there’s no real explanation of what limits are imposed. Say I order my 1st Division to attack that hill, it’s a valid order. But what if I don’t move my troops? What if I do move some but leave others behind? It’s just a mess. There’s no command radius, or influence range to speak of, there’s nothing stopping you having troops spread out all over the table. There’s also the “issue” that you can move everything every turn and issue as many orders as you like per turn. Personally I don’t think this is reflective of the period or makes for a good game, but then I adore Blucher and the MO system which prevents you from always doing what you want. I think this is the area I’m most disappointed with and will be casting around to look at replacements. The good news is that it should be relatively easy to drop in without much impact elsewhere.
Some bits of the rules just make no sense and have clearly been changed in development iterations. For example, Strategic Phase 2 is morale tests. Strategic Phase 5 is initiative. However the rules for morale clearly state “The side that lost the initiative roll takes all of their MF and Army Morale tests before their opponent.” But that hasn’t happened yet…? Not insurmountable by any means but odd.
In the end…
I think I’ll persevere with these rules a bit more and see if I can shake them into something I can live with happily. I think there’s a core of decent ideas in here and they certainly play fast with some period flavour. The real key for me is whether I can edit the rulebook to flow better, and implement some of the changes above without trying to reinvent the wheel. It’s certainly not inconceivable that I’ve misunderstood some aspects of the rules during my couple of read throughs and one game.
The rain continues to be a problem, with both sides musketry utterly pitiful and the French cannon equally useless in the main.
On the Spanish Left, steady advance up the wooded slopes continues slowly, the terrain rendering movement at half speed and inflicting disorder at every move. In the centre, the Spanish 1st Division pressed hard against the Brigade holding the French line, repeated bayonet and close musketry attacks on both sides causing attrition that could only end in one way, the French Brigade losing a unit and being forced back, all remaining units left in a precarious state of 1 CV each. It hadn’t been easy for the Spanish though, and most of the 1st Division were now in perilously low CV as well.
It was at this point that Blake issued an order to attack to the 4th Division who’d been behind “supporting” the 1st Division. They were to punch through the French left. The Legere on the slopes were not worried by this though and continued to tie up several Spanish units in futile musket duels that the Spanish were inevitably losing although not without cost for the French. Slowly, the casualties mounted on both sides, several Spanish attempts to charge up the slope met with close order volleyfire and heavy loss.
Finally a battalion of the Legere were dispersed but the damage had been done and the rest of the Spanish were not in a position to follow up and take advantage, or possession of the slopes.
On the French left the battalions of the line regiment pushed up into the gap before them and attempted to slow the assault of the Spanish 4th Division. This they succeeded in doing, dealing some hefty casualties to several Spanish militia battalions and counterattacking to drive off several battered Spanish units from the 1st Division.
At 1pm, the Spanish 1st Division finally broke, it’s remaining units streaming to the rear. Neither the 3rd or 4th Divisions gave any sign of weakening, but the French left brigade also broke, several of its battalions melting away into the rain. Gen. Blake looked across his forces, took stock of his position and the lack of any sign that his reinforcements were coming and elected to fall back while he still had troops in good order to fend off the two French Light Cavalry Regiments that had so far been uncommitted in the battle. These cavalry pursued his forces for several hours, inflicting more casualties and disorder amongst his units but not without losing a few of their own number. This was not a rout however, but a covered withdrawal.
For now, the siege of San Sebastian continues, it’s residents dismayed that the sounds of battle grow more distant than closer…
Richard’s orders were very clear, attack as soon as possible with everything. Sadly Martin didn’t respond to my post so I’ve had to make some sensible orders for the French troops.
The Army of Castille’s orders from Gen. Blake (Richard) were very clear, attack as soon as possible with everything. Sadly Marshal Victor (Martin) didn’t respond to my post so I’ve had to make some sensible orders for the French troops. The initial orders for the Spanish were to attack straight down the valley with the lead division supported by the rear division, while the left division would move onto the slopes of the hill to attempt to force the flank.
French orders were to secure the slopes on the left and to hold the centre, but as soon as the Spanish thrust on the right was observed, Ruffin (the senior general present) ordered the reserve brigade from V Corps to move into the wooded slopes to protect his right flank. On the left, the 3 battalions of the Legere regiment moved to secure the heights before moving down slope to begin engaging the enemy forces in the valley.
Long range cannon fire did very little to soften up the Spanish due to the rain, although the better skirmish capability of the French meant that a few casualties were counted.
In the centre the leading Spanish units were taking casualties but pressed on, attempting to charge home but the initial attack was repulsed with heavy losses, one battalion sent hurtling rearward with 80% loss of Combat Value.
One bright light was the Spanish battalion charging the deployed Artillery from V Corps and driving that battery backwards before them, rendering them almost effective for the rest of the battle.
The sixth day of the online campaign sees the first battle to be fought between forces from the Spanish Army of Old Castille under General Blake (Richard) and elements of both I Corps and V Corps under Marshal Victor and Mortier respectively (although neither are on the battlefield).
This engagement has been precipitated by the Spanish offensive move from Vittoria to San Sebastian where a siege was begun several days before.
The battle will be fought using my 6mm figures and the March Attack rules from Crusader Publishing. This is a first game for me using these rules but I’ve read through them a few times and they seem like they’ll do the job well. Sadly I don’t have enough Spanish troops now I’ve started basing all new figures on 60mm x 60mm for Blucher so I’m having to press some British and Portuguese into service as proxies but I’m sure they’ll do just fine.
As this is technically a meeting engagement, and both sides may have reinforcements hurrying to the battlefield, both commanders have been given the option of when to attack, the earlier choice of the two indicating the initiative for the first turn and the number of turns that can be played in the 12 hour March day.