Monday, March 10, 2014

Volley and Bayonet: First Game

Related to my first game of Heavy Gear, the group of gamers I found through a fortuitous local ebay auction pickup plays Volley and Bayonet. As I'm quite interested in naps gaming these days I was quite happy to get out and play a game.

VnB has very modest miniatures requirements. The group plays half scale as they use 15mm, and it allows for a greater scope of maneuver. This means that a single base, representing a brigade, is only 1.5" by 1.5". You can load up the base with however many figs as you wish, but 4 to 8 seems to be the standard. If I manage to field my own figs for this, I suspect I'll just use a sabot with 1 or 2 stands of my bases (my own bases for fire and fury and Napoleons battles are 3/4" x 1").

The group has recently transitioned from 1st ed to 2nd ed, although apparently the differences are fairly modest. The group mostly uses a formula to buy their armies, rather than using the historical lists, I think this is a holdover from the 1st edition which didn't have army lists in the rule book. I'm a bit hazy on their army design rules, but there is point buying for strength points, size of artillery, infantry vs cavalry, elites vs no elites and so forth. They have instituted a cap (% of total points) on cavalry and artillery, although the player gets to choose whether cavalry or artillery gets the higher of the 2 caps.

The group has decided to play corner to corner. This results in a harder to predict setup zone as there are essentially 4 areas you could end up starting in, rather than 2 (long edges) of a board you play in the normal direction. VnB has a great closing speed I found (even ignoring the reportedly complex marching rules which require you to shake out/redeploy before combat or you are going to have problems).

The french (my team) is on the lower left, upper right is Austrians. We ran a little low on figs, so there are some weird things like russian pike's, and 28mm austrian grenadiers around, but mostly it works.
Each division is usually 4 bases, an artillery base or two, plus a leader and maybe a skirmisher or two (of the foot or cavalry variety). Command are recognized by the circular foot print.

Here we see the french ready to leap off the start line. The house(?) rule is you can deploy with the back of your base on the line. The string is a set length which easily allows you to figure out how deep to place it on the corner.

My own command is in the foreground. A division of cavalry, and 2 infantry divisions (1 of crappy reserves).
Our perfidious foes ready to advance.
One of the surprising things I found was how fast the closing speeds are. It's quite a while ago that I played this now, but infantry moving 8" and cavalry 12". The forests inflict some disorder on units, which require rectifying, so it was better to just avoid them.

The squares are towns and villages, and they were 2 sided colours (brown and grey) which represented whether they were stone or not. This is important for when you try and cannon infantry hiding in them.

Firing range is 1" for muskets and it's not super effective at that range. Cannons are really only effective at 2". Units have strength points that degrade until they disappear. Infantry have 4, cavalry 2, and skirmishers 1. There are a variety of saves that bases get to avoid hits on them.
End of Turn 1. Unfortunately the terrain was scattered in such a way that with this particular axis we were encourage to defend a line that funneled troops through a few narrow gaps.....both sides in fact.
Here I'm spreading out my command to cover the right flank, but also the narrow gap just to the right of the lake in the middle of the table. Happily I have will beat my opponents to some stone villages which will help anchor my defense.
End of French turn 2
The Austrians have broken along their command lines to the right and left as well. I'm facing some extra cavalry which may be a problem. I'm mostly hoping to draw in more forces than I warrant to allow my fellow french marshal to have a more free hand to achieve some damage.
End of turn 2 we can see the problem of terrain now. The contact zone just happens to be slightly past a narrowing. It's dangerous/reckless to race for it, and it makes more sense to defend the gap. This will turn into a relatively static battle.

Turn 3 French. Move forward on the left to seize the stone village. On the right I'm out numbered by the approaching cavalry, so I am already holding back and playing defensively, trying to set up my guns protected by skirmishers in the town.

Steven on the Left flank has done the expected and creates a defensive line in the narrowing. The reserves seen in the bottom of the picture to the right has taken a central position to reinforce either flank. At this point we are beleiving it will be more useful on my side.

End of Austrian turn 3.
There was a bit of a lack of appreciation  on how hard it is to evict troops from a stone village, so the Austrians boldly plunge into the gap. They haven't close on the far flank, leaving my troops relatively under utilized.

On the French left flank we see the predicted lining up of armies continuing.
French Turn 4. My far right decide to advance to put pressure on the Austrians, rather than let them channel all their strength down the narrows.

In hindsight this probably wasn't a great idea as I could have given him more time to smash his troops against the wall.

The reserve in the top left of the photo is skirting the lake to help defend the gap.

End of French turn 4. Each turn is about 30 minutes. So after 2 hours the armies are faced up and ready to start killing on another.
Austrian turn 4. They respond to my movements on the right and redeploy their cavalry. Once again I'm outnumbered (and out classed). Not a great move advancing.
The battle at the village gap is going better though. The austrians move up to blast my dragoons at short range to drive them back. The reserve is well positioned to cannonade the advancing austrians from the flank (2x 12 pound batteries are on the shores of the lake).
On the left flank, the Austrians move skirmishers through the woods. Steven (my fellow french marshal) is fully convinced that his opponent will attack him. He remains firmly back, though he has moved his cavalry up along the lake to threaten some of the Austrian forces.

Here I've totally lucked out. French turn 5 see an opening for my cavalry on the right to get a flank charge. I've further increased my cav inferiority, but I should be able to roll up a few bases of infantry and destroy a battery. I continue charging in order to do so and end up blowing my cavalry. I'm advised this is unwise, but we were running out of game time due to a late start and slow play (because it was my first game).
Overview of French 5.
The enormous 28mm grenadiers have struck the austrians in the flank, driving them back from the narrows. It's been a very effective turn in this area of the battle. With some good opportunity for the french to gain some counter attacking momentum.
A standoff continues on the left flank.
Austrian 5 sees the storm descend on the french right. Perhaps the narrows as an intentional gambit to see if I'd risk my right flank.

Cavalry charges go in against almost every unit I have. With skirmishers and a cannon on the right ready to pour in some extra fire to help.
With their more plentiful and slightly inferior troops, the austrians double down and continue to assault the narrows. They are well placed for another advance next turn.
At last the left flank erupts in battle. The Austrians refuse the far flank and pour in their troops into the lakeside gap.
End of Austrian 5. This gives a good indication of the trouble my command is facing. I should be able to slow the flanking force, but I've defintely lost it. This basically kaputs any chance at a counterattack on the narrows, but we should have time to contest it yet.
French 6. The heavy guns are limbered up, while the guard (28mm) set themselves up to fire fight the corner unit and firm up the line. The french are content to allow the Austrians give another attempt to evict them from the village.
French troops are moved towards the lakeside gap on the left. It's a bit early to tell what the effects will be, but there is a strong force on that side of the battle.

Towards the middle foreground we can see a cavalry division racing towards the right flank to try and stabilize the situation there.
Looking pretty grim on the far right flank at the end of the Austrian turn.

We ran out of time, with the battle only fully engaged for about an hour and a half (3 turns).
I can definitely see play going much faster now that I'm a bit more familiar with the game.

Our host had a late night and hadn't had a chance to assemble many of the troops yet, so there was a late start (1pm ish till 430). I imagine even with a such a large battle, you could play to an obvious conclusion within a reasonable time.

Looking forward to having another go on these in the future.

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