Second of a trio of napoleonic games WR played in recent months. This report covers our holiday December 2013 game with 11 players and missing Rob. French with their allies of Duchy of Warsaw, Kingdom of Holland and WR’s Italians vs. the Grand Alliance of Austria, Russia, England with their Portuguese supporters and a corps of Dutch-Belgians.
Cold December morning at Bob’s so WR assumes the weather was cool and clear. We never actually rolled the tabletop weather report for the scenario. Terrain was typical Bob layout… two hills and town in center, some farms scattered about with lots of open flat ground. Tim placed his new windmill on a hill and WR brought some vineyards to make the Italians feel right at home.
Note: For the interested reader our weather tabletop rules; Weather Effect Chart. For viewing the YouTube game summary video see the link at end of the blog post.
Forces: French, commanded by Bob and Dan, consisted of four veteran 1806 infantry divisions, two small attached light cavalry brigades and a divisional reserve of cuirassiers. Kingdom of Holland 1809, led by John, provided two infantry divisions and their small cavalry brigade. Duchy of Warsaw 1812 under Ty sent two infantry divisions of Poles and division of uhlans to support the cause. Those wine loving Italians 1812 under WR and Daniel marched in with three infantry divisions, their Italian guard division, and combined Franco-Italian cavalry division. Since Bob allowed each player to pick their preferred organization year, I stated the selected organization year alongside for each nationality.
The Grand Alliance formed up with: Austrians 1809, under Andy and Dave, had four infantry divisions and two light divisional commands plus a reserve of Austrian cuirassiers. Tim’s Russians 1812 fielded two infantry divisions and a division of dragoons. The English army 1812 under Frank and Paul commanded six brigade sized infantry commands and two cavalry divisions plus the famous light division positioned in the front. The missing and rumored Dutch-Belgians 1815 under Rob never showed but had two infantry divisions and some cavalry. We later decided that the Dutch-Belgians did their version of d’Erlon’s counter marching, on June 16, 1815, to account for their absence.
Note: Most infantry divisions consisted of 10-12 infantry battalions and two artillery batteries (70 miniatures). Cavalry divisions had 4-6 regiments plus a horse battery for average of 25 miniatures. The senior level headquarters command adds several more batteries , the HQ base itself and some train units.
Plans of engagement: WR can only divulge the French allied plan since the Grand Alliance team didn’t seem to hold a commanders meeting. Starting with some aggressive light cavalry forward movement, the French and their allies sought to quickly march across the tabletop terrain and reduce the available deployment area of the slower moving Grand Alliance corps. Then veteran Bob’s French would seek advantaged position at the central junction of the British and Russian corps. Meanwhile, WR with Daniel will hopefully crush or force retirement from the tabletop the smaller left flank British army. Tabletop terrain favored this action plan since Ty’s Polish and Dan’s veteran French were faced with the tower hill position defended by the Austrians while the British army deployment was on open ground and isolated farmstead terrain below the Italian hill position. John and his Dutch would contain Tim’s Russians in place and assist French Bob if possible.
Per French plan, the French and Dutch central light cavalry was very aggressive and successfully pinned the Russians and British/Portuguese cavalry back on their tabletop zone edge. This caused the British infantry brigades positioned further on their flank to deploy close to their tabletop edge and below the Italian hill. Seeing the French skirmishers crossing the tower hill position the combined Austrian corps of Andy and Dave deployed along the back slope of the tower hill.
Tim’s Russians quickly felt constrained so they rode forth with their Russian dragoon brigade to push back the French and Dutch light cavalry. Dan promptly rode forward his French hussars and chasseurs ‘a cheval to charge the advancing Russian dragoons. A sharp and victorious French sword fight played out between the two armies with the dragoons coming off second best. But the Russian dragoons did slow the French infantry advance by forcing them into defensive squares.
As the northern Italian infantry deployed across their hill position, British rifle battalions sought to skirmish with their Italian opponents. Behind the riflemen the red-coated British line infantry formed into their famous linear lines while the British cavalry hold the near ground flank.
A quick charge and the KGL light cavalry dragoons seizes the exposed Dutch positional 12lb battery. The Dutch cavalry were caught unprepared and allowed the KGL cavalry to slip behind them. The battery had no nearby infantry support and the final defensive canister blast only reduced the KGL cavalry regiment’s strength prior to the sword play on the Dutch artillerymen. Good move Frank who played the central British forces.
While French and British with Portuguese cavalry spar at sword’s length, the massed Italian columns start to march downhill towards the skirmishing British riflemen. Behind the British riflemen Paul is seeking to march and redeploy his line battalions towards his open left flank.
Apart from the dramatic KGL light dragoon charge earlier, the central tabletop position settles out between the Dutch and Russians. Dutch hold the hilltop town and the Russian look…. well like Russians parading before them.
On the other flank the French and Polish forces slowly edge towards the Austrians on the opposite side of the hill. Early on some French skirmishers controlled the hill tower and walls facing off against Austrian jagers and grenzers.
The Italian tabletop flank warms up as the British cavalry threatens to charge the Italian infantry and cavalry. Wisely WR and Daniel form their defensive squares with one Italian division while the other two Italian divisions advance against the British line infantry. Italian artillery batteries deploy and bombard the English infantry. Where is the Italian cavalry?
Marching down the hill slope the massed Italian columns make a grand view. A British brigade is still trying to march to flank covered by another brigade in linear formation. Skirmishers on both sides pop away with indifferent results.
From the Austrian viewpoint the French and Polish commands threaten to advance. Austrian skirmishers engage upfront while a mixture of artillery batteries, linear infantry battalions, some battalion squares and occasional uhlan cavalry regiment posture themselves.
The last of the redeploying British brigade infantry leaves the area and the vacant gap allows Frank’s Portuguese cavalry a charge opportunity against the Italian infantry columns. They charged, chased some skirmishers away but the massed columns held their morale and formed squares, thus delaying their forward march. Having successfully slowed the Italians a bit, the Portuguese cavalry retired behind their friendly skirmishing screen.
The center tabletop zone is quiet except for the pop firing of skirmishers and sharp crack/boom of cannon. The Dutch are a bit spread out in-depth and a determined quick assault backed by strong reserves could be decisive for the Grand Alliance forces.
Having massed the French infantry, Dan tries a chasseur ‘a cheval regiment charge to startle the Austrian front line. Then follow-up with some French infantry columns and artillery bombardment.
Italian cavalry regiments ride forward to confront the British cavalry. A French dragoon brigade backs up the Italian battalions seeking to engage in musketry some isolated British foot. Still, the Italians have battalions in squares just in case the British cavalry veers to charge the Italian infantry. Italian batteries bombard the British foot to their front.
Between the Italians and the Dutch was Bob’s French having a quiet morning facing down the British household cavalry and some foot battalions. Occasionally the Portuguese cavalry would “pump fake” a charge to keep the French squares honest.
Note: Cavalry calling a charge must engage in actual combat or advance at least 4″ forward ( we call that shorten movement a “pump fake charge”) during the Shock Combat Phase. The Shock Combat Phase is the game interphase when all infantry march up/bayonet charge and cavalry charge / counter-charge movement combats are done. There are two Shock Combat Phases during each 20 minute game turn.
Dan’s French infantry columns followed up their chasseur ‘a cheval charge and forced back the Austrian infantry but Dave promptly aligned an Austrian hussar half regiment to sound their trumpets. Charging past the advanced French infantry, the brave Austrian hussars charge, suffering canister fire and heavy losses, but overran one French 8lb battery.
Note: Large cavalry and infantry battalions can be split into two “half sized” tabletop units. Common for the large Austrian and Russian light cavalry regiments. The penalty to split the larger unit into two sub-units is minus one CMR for the 2nd half sized unit and only during their shock combat calculation. The CMR for morale tests retains the unit’s original value. The smallest allowed post-split unit is 4 miniatures for cavalry and five for infantry.
CMR = Combat Morale Rating. Universal valuation for units from 1 to 11. The higher the valuation, the better the historical unit rating. Most common units are rated 5-7 range band. Militia rating is 1 to 4, Line grade is 5-7, and Elite is anything 8 or higher.
Italian cavalry form their ranks and sound the trumpets to charge home on British cavalry. The British light dragoon cavalry picket screen fled the area but took all the Italian cavalry’s efforts to forcibly retire the British heavy cavalry.
Note: During the sequence of play the Declaration of Cavalry Charge Phase for the non-phasing side is done prior to the Movement Phase of the phasing side. During this phase enemy units not in square formation take morale tests with morale adjustment for the distance from the cavalry declaring their charges. During the British cavalry morale testing two units failed their morale and became morale disordered. Should be noted that if an enemy cavalry unit rides before (in front of) a stationary close order enemy cavalry unit and/or maneuvers within 4″ to that unit’s frontage, that stationary cavalry unit can call for immediate counter charge, executed during the current or next shock combat phase. Note the Italian cavalry remained outside the 4″ countercharge zone of the British cavalry during their movement phase. Sequence of Play Standup
Muskets blazing away, both sides are taking musketry losses but there are more Italians coming into action.
Note: Firepower is an all or nothing result with successful hits shown by miniature removal. A YouTube video explaining the firing chart for small arms. Small Arms Firing procedure.
The tabletop center changes a bit with some massed Russian infantry forming columns against the Dutch infantry. The Russian dragoon brigade is reduced by 40% losses and basically is out of the battle.
Note: Each cavalry or infantry command has pre-calculated 20%, 40%, and 60% loss level based upon their miniature count. When a command reaches 20% loss the CMR for all units in that command (typically a division or brigade sized formation) is minus one. At 40% loss the command is minus two CMR adjustment. At 60% or greater the CMR adjustment is minus three. The typical unit CMR is 6 so a loss of 2 reduces the CMR to 4 on a 10D scaling. Units need to roll equal to or below their adjusted CMR rating to pass morale checks. A “0” on the 10D is zero, not a 10 value.
Sensing possible French and Polish forward infantry movement, the Austrians adjust their massed infantry columns closer towards the front lines and await the first aggressive movement.
The French, Polish and Austrian artillery bombard each other seeking to reduce the defensive stance. Front line units are replaced with fresh battalions as the attrition battle goes on.
Tim’s Russian battalions form columns prepping to assault John’s Dutch within the hilltop town. British battalions line the foremost vineyard position while Bob’s French artillery bombards the British screened formations.
Note: One thing which is common to our games is both side players are active during game play. Firepower is mutually rolled for during the Mutual Artillery and Small Arms firing phases. During the Movement phase the movement path of enemy formation may trigger opportunity counter charges, open order screen evasions, or passby firepower. Shock Phase has situations of charge then counter charging cavalry movements across the tabletop plus the actual shock combat result determinations. Each of these actions may have interphase morale tests to perform (roll dice and determine result). So there is little “downtime” for the inactive or non-phasing team side. A good player, if not conducting the above actions, should be thinking out his next unit movements as some larger games use clock timed phases.
Back on the Italian or British front the first columnar assault impacts the steady British foot. Firing their deadly volleys, the Italian first attempt, led by their divisional officer, was broken and soon routed away as Portuguese cavalry sounded their flanking charge.
Note: Commanders in our games have a rating from 0 to 3 CMR adjustment for shock combat if directly attached to the leading unit. Most officers are plus one at the divisional level, some Corp level commanders are plus 2. A “3” rated commander is very rare. The reason for a “0” rating means the officer failed their leadership roll for the battle and was reduced one level. If the officer started with a “1” rating then he is reduced to a zero rating…. ie.. no positive CMR modifier during shock combat. The reduction represents that the officer wasn’t on his best for the day…. any reason will do… and until replaced by wounds or death, will give reduced morale and combative adjustments during the battle.
The Portuguese cavalry caused the Italian infantry assault to disperse but paid a heavy price for their charge action. The Italian guard division can be seen marching up behind the massed unlimbered artillery.
The Russians surge forward and summon the Austrian reserve kuirassiers to support their central tabletop advance. The Austrian kuirassiers are deployed and proceed to ride towards the windmill on their next movement phase.
Seeing the Austrian kuirassiers preparing to advance into the center tabletop void, both John with his Dutch, and Dan with his Frenchmen locate their cavalry to repeal the Austrian kuirassiers. Dutch and French infantry start to form squares while Tim seeks to pressure the Dutch with his Russian battalions.
Game is reaching a climax so the Polish uhlan cavalry, under Ty’s command, form their own columns to prepare charges against the Austrians on the hill. The Polish reserves march forward and are position marked by the textured wooden block.
French central reserve is called…. send cavalry. While the Dutch confront the marching Russian infantry, the French reserve cuirassiers are reported to be just behind the hilltop town along with maybe another 1806 French infantry division. Has Tim noted those wooden blocks?
On the Italian British sector a brigade of French dragoons charge the weak British formations and artillery batteries (see the command loss marker). The purpose is to clear the area so the Italian infantry battalions can advance into the cleared zone. Shattered British battalions struggle to hold their ground or retire under intense Italian artillery bombardment.
The Russians assault the hilltop outbuildings as the massed Grand Alliance cavalry passes the windmill position. The Grand Alliance side is wakening up to the fact that the British army is slowly crumbling under the northern Italian and French onslaught. Their left flank will soon retire from the field so can they be victorious elsewhere on the tabletop battlefield?
Polish uhlan cavalry sounds their “poke them” charges to cause morale tests in the Austrian foremost formations. This flank on the tabletop has been somewhat quiet and will remain so till the British army retired from the battlefield thus ending the scenario.
The scenario or game is called by the Grand Alliance side after determining the British retirement will cause the remaining allied corps to retire. The Polish, Dutch and French firmly hold their frontage on the tabletop with reserves positioned to support and defeat any allied counterstroke plans. The normal “who won and why” discussion is debated for several minutes then the players all pitch in to sort, return to miniatures to their boxes, and pick up the gaming table terrain and tables themselves. Another monthly game completed with handshakes all round.
YouTube game summary video: YouTube Video link
WR rated the scenario as a French and allies win. With the withdraw of the British army the Austrians and Russians would have a hard time holding their position with the French reserves advancing across the central position. The missing Dutch-Belgian corps could have supported the British army but deployment in the center would have been problematic. Most likely their arrival would have extended the frontage of the Grand Alliance position. Grand Alliance players are always welcome to leave comments.
Miniatures from the collections of Bob (French 1806), Dan (French 1806), Dave (Austrians), Tim (Russians), Frank and Bob (British and Portuguese), WR (Italians) and Ty (Holland and the Duchy of Warsaw).
So, a good handshake to all the players for a great scenario and some tense moments. Interested reader can always use the WR blog rules links found under the Napoleonic rules main page tab to investigate the game rules, tabletop mechanics, and the library of YouTube videos showing examples of play and rule details.
Till the next monthly napoleonic scenario….
Cheers from the Bob’s gaming warren.