Last weekend WR travelled to Anaheim, California for the HMGS-PSW Horse and Musket themed convention and presented his Battle of Alexandria 1801 scenario game. The following is the After Action Report (AAR) from the miniature Alexandria battlefield.
Team France was Daniel and Paul P. with assistance from WR. French plan was to quickly seize the roman ruins using Lanusse’s infantry division then focus on wrestling control of the central hill using the rest of the French army. With the ability to skirmish throughout the French army and the mobile French cavalry for forcing British battalion squares, the French plan seemed decent pending execution.
Team British was Bob and Paul#2. Both veteran players so WR left them with the operations and conduct of the British army. British plan was simple…. hold the hill line and ruins during the predawn assault then use their reserve brigades to plug the gaps. With limited skirmishers (only one true light battalion plus the Corsican legion), limited artillery at start, some token cavalry squadrons, this battle will be decided by the British infantry battalions enduring the French assault.
Links to my normal Battle of Alexandria pre-game historical background write-up: Alexandria 1801, and the Alexandria 1801 Scenario notes with command starting positions, special rules, notes and order of battle.
The scenario starts in the pre-dawn darkness of March 21, 1801. A unit of French dromedaries & guides descended upon an isolated British redoubt to create a British left flank diversion before the main French assault on the British right flank (roman ruins). The first hour of game play (three turns) is pre-dawn so the visibility is limited to 12″ on the tabletop. Following the “dawn attack and French first turn movement bonus rules” found in the Alexandria scenario notes, the French Lanusse infantry division quickly marched in near silence and morning gloom to rush the British earthwork positioned before the roman ruins. Apart from the French light cavalry detachment (Bron) beyond the dry canal, the other French commands are located on tabletop and moved as wooden blocks till they move adjacent (map square wise) to British units.
The left flank starting position shows the British 2nd brigade (Cradock) defending against the skirmishing French light cavalry detachment (Bron) near the small “poor” redoubt and dry canal. The French dromedaries are off-board behind the French light cavalry leading their captive English sailors back towards Alexandria. The British front line infantry brigades (Reserve, Guards, 1st and 2nd) all started as “standing to” before the dawn light just in case of French attack. The second line infantry and the cavalry brigades start in reserve status and cannot move till dawn morning light. Note the small craft boats in Lake Aboukir inlet summoned by the actions of the predawn raid.
Start of scenario 0500 hours: Division Lanusse (4th DBL, 18th DB, 69th DB and 88th DB) rush the earthwork. Being alert, the sailors manning the heavy 24lb cannon fire into the gloom and cause loss and morale disruption in the central DB infantry assault column. Musketry from the 28th Foot adds to the French discomfort but they surge forward over the gabions.
British team is thinking early… play the British “heroic unit” event card before the French team (players cannot play their heroic event cards to offset each other). This special event card increases the 28th Foot CMR by +2 for the remainder of the scenario. A tough nut to take with French bayonets is now even tougher.
Note: WR tends to use with historical scenario special event cards to denote historical events that occurred during the scenario battle. In this scenario there are “Heroic unit” for each side, “Abercromby is hit” and “About face rear rank” event cards. See the scenario notes for details on these cards. Event cards generally have one play / use on the tabletop.
The assault goes in….French try to assault with the central column led by GD Lanusse himself. That column is morale disordered and soon routs from the attempt taking GD Lanusse with it. But they disordered the British 28th Foot at the same time. Next assault with another column has success since the morale disordered British 28th Foot cannot stop the second assault column in their weakened morale and combative strength. French battalion takes the earthwork and captures the 24lb cannon.
Note: During the Shock Combat Phase, each assaulting column is independent to the other assaulting columns. There is no coordinated assaults with several columns or cavalry charges, at the same time (one big attempt), in our games. Each column or cavalry regiment engages the enemy unit(s) before the next assault or cavalry charge movement is started. How a player determines what order to perform his unit assaults or cavalry charge does have direct influence on the results. Defending units take only one receiving morale roll during the Shock Combat phase but successive assaults does reduce the defending artillery / musketry firepower after the first attempt. If a unit routs during the Shock Combat phase, nearby friendly units may have a rout morale test taken immediately which again affects the Shock Combat phase outcomes.
While the battle for the earthwork was going on, the rest of the French army slowly was moving into position at the foot of the central hill. Bron’s light cavalry detachment crossed the dry canal to join with their advancing French infantry in the center battlefield. French dragoon cavalry (Roize) appears alongside Lanusse’s division following the coastal road towards the gap in the hills.
Having taken the earthwork, the French infantry storm forward in column against the 58th Foot defending the roman ruins. General Lanusse leads his brave Frenchmen into the British musketry volleys while the French 4th DB legere, in their light green cotton coats, skirmish with against the Corsican legion (played by West Indian battalion today).
French 3rd turn movement brings them into sighting range so they are deployed on the tabletop before the extended British front line. French light cavalry (Bron), then Reynier’s division, Adj. Soriet’s division complete the balance of the French army. Facing them (r to l) is the Guard’s brigade (Ludlow), then 1st brigade (Coote) and finally 2nd brigade (Cradock) near the dry canal. The sole British battery present at start is between Guards and 1st brigade.
Note: WR’s used a 1790’s era Prussian 10 cannon battery for the British 12lb battery of 10 cannon. That accounts for the blue cannon model with sailors manning the cannon model.
Following the British turn of movement, the French column led by GD Lanusse successfully took the front edge of the roman ruins, causing retirement of the 58th Foot. French dragoons (Roize) arrive and start to prepare their charges against the Reserve brigade (Moore) outside the roman ruins.
WR looked up and Daniel has called a charge against British infantry in square. What going on? Rash move Daniel…. the French 7th hussars charge forward.
Daniel’s gaming luck strikes again…. the charging French 7th hussars morale disordered the British square then retired. Following close behind the hussars was the charging French 22nd Chasseurs who promptly sabre the disordered British square to bits, wounding the British 2nd brigade commander (Cradock) in the process. Nearby British squares passed their morale but it was close. Advancing French infantry cheer their rash cavalry commander Bron.
French dragoons (Roize) ride into position to support GD Lanusse’s infantry. British infantry under General Moore (reserve brigade) retire march to defend the rear angle of the roman ruins and the gap between the hills. Dawn morning light is next French turn but for now visibility is 12″.
Turn 0600 hours: The eastern sky is growing lighter as dawn soon breaks…. and the first thing the British infantry see, in the morning airs, is charging French dragoons (Roize). French dragoons charge as their supportive French skirmishers swarm forward. French artillery 8lb (mixed cannon) open fire and bombards the British formations. Fire fight in the roman ruins continues as two battalions engage among the old roman stones.
Note: The French artillery commonly had a mixture of cannon weight in their batteries during the Republican wars (4lb, 8lb and 12lb weight artillery). To reflect the mix, we use the basic 8lb cannon firing chart line for all “mixed batteries”.
French dragoons led by GD Roize thunder into the disordered British linear formation as other rear battalions form square. Sabers drip blood-red as half the British battalion is ridden down in a blink of an eye.
After chopping up one British battalion, the French dragoons find the nearby squared British infantry another story. GD Roize is lightly wounded leading his dragoons into the British bayonet wall. With those encounters and losses, Moore’s reserve brigade has reached 20% loss level one hour into the scenario.
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. CMR = Combat Morale Rating. It is the unit’s rating for morale and combative qualities on the tabletop using a scale 1-10 with 10 being best.
Skirmisher firing break out on the central hill as the British 12lb battery comes into action with limited ammunition (see scenario notes). The French infantry of GD Reynier and Adj. Soriet form linear and columnar formations in preparation for their assaults up the hill.
Leading the first assault, Daniel plays his “heroic unit” event card with his elite converged grenadiers. Forming a deep column, they led the assault into the British 1st brigade position. The small sailor manned “positions” atop the central hill represent small positions with light cannon (regimental type for the scenario). They give supportive firing only to British battalion adjacent to them.
With their lightly wounded GD Roize carried back, the French dragoons reform for another charge as French skirmishing infantry pepper the British ranks. French artillery batteries bombard the stationary British formations. British Guard brigade (Ludlow) now has a wide open right flank to worry about.
British 1st and 2nd brigades are under French pressure as the first columnar assault is led by the French converged grenadiers. The reformed French light cavalry is back with red tipped sabers thinking about another cavalry charge against British squares. It worked once before….as the French dromedaries make their battle appearance.
General overview of the convention room and out scenario tabletop. See my previous posted convention report for more coverage: HMGS-PSW Horse and Musket convention.
British musketry and those light sailor manned “position” cannon rake the French column. Adj. Soriet is wounded leading the 2nd battalion in the column. French infantry engage in distant skirmishing with the British linear formations or their opposite while French mixed foot batteries bombard the British infantry.
As the French assault the British 1st brigade (Coote), the British 2nd brigade (Cradock) battalions are engaged in close range musketry as a French column seeks to crumple their open flank. French dromedaries advance to threaten their charge.
General overview of the British view of the battle on the hill. The French assault with the elite grenadiers was successful but with heavy losses. With the dawn light, the British rear brigades can be released to march forward, thus the British players elect to advance all their reserves (3rd, 4th, 5th Foreign, and cavalry brigades). The cavalry brigade (Finch) is seen at lower right corner and the 5th Foreign brigade (Stuart) just seen top right advancing to support the reserve brigade (Moore) by the ruins. The untouched Guard brigade (Ludlow) stands in linear formation atop the central hill with the “blue carriage” 12lb battery.
Cat and mouse warfare in the roman ruins leads to the 42nd Highlanders being cornered by a French column assault in their rear. Playing the special British event card “about-face rear rank”, the 42nd Highlanders about-face the formation and chase off their surprised opponents.
The British 4th brigade (Doyle) joins with 5th Foreign (Stuart) reinforcing the reserve brigade (Moore) standing behind the roman ruins. French dragoons advance to threaten charges while the skirmishers performs their actions along the front lines.
Winning their first assault on the British 2nd brigade (Cradock), the French Reynier infantry division and the support light cavalry of Bron are faced with the arrival of British 3rd brigade (Cavan) behind the remains of 1st and 2nd brigades. Another British general is wounded (Coote) from random firing on the battlefield.
Note: Anytime a natural “01 or 00″ is rolled for % firing, there is a random chance of an enemy officer or commander being hit based upon distance from the firing unit. Roll a 6D; 1-3 rolled means a local 12″ radius officer is unhorsed for one command phase. 4-5 the officer is hit if within 12” of the firing unit and a wound roll performed. A “6” rolled increases the hit radius out to two feet from the firing unit. The firing unit doesn’t need the ability to shoot that distance, these rolls represent the flying bullets, roundshot etc all across the battlefield.
As the battle along the central hill rages, the French dragoons are faced by squared British infantry in the gap (4th brigade). Looking up on the hill they see the Guard brigade standing in linear formations.
Reynier’s division advances into the close range volleys of the British infantry brigades. A local British counterattack by column* against the flank of an exposed French battalion. Several commands now are reaching their 20% loss levels (loss markers placed near the commanding officer miniature). Will the French dromedaries charge or stink up the battlefield?
* Note: Did Paul remember the Firing line rule? British infantry follow the firing line formation restrictions for assaults in open terrain. Firing line rule restricts the shock combat to only the front two ranks for British infantry columns (in open terrain) unlike the French who can use up to six ranks.
Dromedaries charge! They try to force morale checks on the nearby non-square British battalions attacking the French infantry. Some fail and retire or rout, but others hold firm while the British infantry in square (who are not required to pass morale) promptly bounce the dromedaries back. “Nothing worse than a dead camel on your bayonet said some unknown British soldier.”
Turn 0700 hours: As noted previous, the eyes of the French dragoons see the exposed linear Guards brigade atop the hill. Changing rapidly their positions, they ride up the hill and call the trumpeters to charge. The Guards will have a bad morale check to pass since they are not in square formation before the dragoon charge was declared.
Stuart’s 5th Foreign brigade remain in square formation but think about advancing on the roman ruins once the French dragoons leave the local area. The remaining battalions of Moore’s reserve brigade are now at 40% loss level.
Central hill battles break out along the hill. Battalions vs. battalions engage in musketry or skirmisher fire. The French mixed weight foot artillery batteries rake exposed British battalions as the fresh British 3rd brigade (Cavan) climbs the hill to support the battered 1st and 2nd brigades.
Saw this coming….Two quick morale checks later and both reduced British Guard battalions rout from the French dragoon charge declaration. Easy pickings as the British 12lb battery will be soon overridden.
While French cavalry crush and saber the exposed British 12lb battery crew, the British 12th light dragoons positioned to countercharge then charged up the hill into the charging French dragoons while their dismounted brethren (green coated unit alongside) assaults the French mixed foot battery in front. Both cavalry leaders are involved in this cavalryman’s melee.
Note: Battle of Alexandria had most of the British cavalry dismounted due to lack of horses.
The French dragoons win the engagement and soon afterwards see a great open hole ripped in the British line. Where is the French infantry to take advantage of this situation? Exposed British battalion in square raked by the French horse artillery as the British Guard battalions continue to rout away.
British 5th Foreign (Stuart) brigade form columns and assault the roman ruins defended by the infantry of GD Lanusse. Reserve brigade (Moore) battalions try to assist by taking the beach route besides the ruins. The gunboats offshore have been causing minor French losses since dawn morning light, firing upon the French infantry near the roman ruins.
Note: British are allowed to assault in column (under the Firing line rule) against buildings, terrain positions or narrow passageways. Only out in the open terrain is the rank depth restriction applied. Naval gunfire is reduced by one-third fire effect. The gunboats fired as a six-pounder battery.
First British column is broken by French musketry thus ending their assault attempt. The second columnar assault is morale disordered by French musketry but still forces the depleted French battalion to retire. Unfortunately the leading British battalion’s morale broke and they rout away from the shock combat, disordering the supportive De Roll battalion (white hats) behind them. Since the British movement phase is next after mutual firing phase, they can capitalize on the French retreat by advancing into the ruins.
Losing that fight at the roman ruins causes the French commanders (Daniel, Paul and WR) to review the overall battle. The French army will soon reach their MFP threshold causing the entire army to go down -1 CMR every hour turn. The British army is not far behind the French situation either. Summing up the situation the French team elect to break off the battle along the hill and start to retire their battalions, covered by skirmishers and French cavalry. The British army is too battered with their upfront battalions to chase and their cavalry is “walking”.
Turn 0800: Final view of the scenario as the French army is marching back towards Alexandria with limited British pursuit…if any.
Game summary notes: Scenario played quick to the British minor victory result. 6 hours playing for 10 completed turns. So the battle was over at 0800 hours instead of the historical record of approximately 1000 hours. Another hour (3 turns) could have been easily represented on the tabletop with the French withdrawing artillery bombardment of the depleted British front lines. So not bad for a scenario write-up in WR’s opinion. Outcome almost matched the historical result except for the French engagement by both infantry divisions all along the center hill. Thanks you to Bob, Paul, Paul#2 and Daniel for putting up with another whimsical WR scenario.
Tactics: The British player team played a solid game with the occasion lapse forming squares when the French dragoons were free to roam and pick their charging point. Defensive in nature is the British infantry strength till they can form a solid battle line and march forward with musketry and supportive artillery. Use of the “Firing line rule” with its CMR morale adjustment was an omission of play it seems, especially if fighting a linear defensive battle in position.
French team played aggressive with the use of French infantry columns and charging their cavalry even against squares. Normally square charging is an exercise in “cavalry bounce back” unless lucky in the combination of several cavalry regiments charging the same battalion square. Daniel was lucky crushing that British square with the hussars/chasseurs combo. Routing the British Guard brigade by a massed dragoon charge was excellent but by then the French army had no reserve to follow-up the open hole in the British line.
French skirmishers were certainly present but this entire French army had ability to skirmish or use open order. Along the central hill position maybe reduce any possible British artillery fire to firing at open order targets would have saved a French close order formation miniature or two. With no real British cavalry presence on the tabletop the French could have saved some MFP points by using Engage orders (one division only) to “mass skirmish” away the weaker British skirmisher front while the other infantry division remained in reserve for hour or two. Then with the French artillery blasting holes in the British battalions, form for the final columnar assaults with both “fresh” infantry divisions. The French light cavalry also could be used to strip away the British skirmishers by faking distant charges (the pump fake) since no player will leave skirmishers out in the open subject to charging cavalry impact. Battle management of your chosen order mix / MFP usage is critical in WR scenarios. Alexandria is a tough battle scenario for the French beyond a “drawn result”. Still the French team almost pulled a victory or draw result since the British upfront brigades were all depleted and suffered 20% or greater losses (two had almost 50% losses).
Many of the group napoleonic game rules are covered in dozens of YouTube videos found on the Wargamerabbit blog under Napoleonic rules. National characteristics can be found under the same rules tab plus rule primers, charts and tables as downloads (.doc/.xls/.pdf formats)
Note: To contact our Los Angeles gaming group, use the contact links found on the blog under “About the Wargamerabbit”. We have northern and southern Los Angeles chapters in our gaming group with players driving in from Ventura, Lancaster and southern Orange country to play in the monthly games.
Cheers from the warren (in Anaheim today).