Sunday, June 22, 2014

Battle of Souffel (pt2)

Part 1 located here

Top of the turn (French 5) found the Northern/Left flank in a lull with the river crossing town well held by the French. Both sides artillery had been depleted and fallen back.

The Flank securing command of VanDamme (on the hill) was forming up to march South to assist at the other crossing.

A truly massive formation of prussians had arrived the previous turn and was moving towards the bridge. The French infantry and cavalry command were largely in position and didn't need to move much. Artillery was placed at the edge of the river to bombard the approaching coalition armies.

Prussian 5/French 6. A fresh column of troops shows up marching toward the town crossing. These British troops (standing in for wurtembergers I believe) are crack troops and will strongly contest the town.

Despite the threat, Vandamme's command continues to move South. His artillery has finished moving up to the river to held guard approaches to the town.

At the other crossing the Prussian artillery all move up and start a cannon-cannon battle. French forces retire further from the river as they have inferiority in artillery. The infantry also pull back to husband their strength.

Prussian 6. The column of British continues it's approach of the village. The prussian cannon move forward to continue to blast the defenders. While cannon can't attack units engaged (base to base contact), the French are currently open game.

Facing traffic control issues, the prussians are forced to lead with their artillery moving forward. The massive columns are all converging on the crossing.

French forces has largely finished withdrawing beyond cannon range (except for their own artillery). 

French horse artillery stays forward to keep in range and all artillery fires relatively ineffectively against each other.

Prussian 7. The brits crash in to the village. Against their fresh column you can see (if you look closely) that the French defenders only have 2 infantry units with a single damage point remaining (small black dice).

It looks a bit iffy for the french at this point, although time wise the delaying action is going well. Victory points are based on town control (4 of them) and relative losses.

French 8. The British have evicted the french.
Things have definitely become unhinged on this flank.

On the Southern crossing the prussians are starting to cross.

French infantry moves forward to punish the trapped Prussian artillery.

VanDamme's reinforcements are arriving in theatre from the left hand side of the photo. I'm contemplating how to effect the entire withdrawal of my forces at this point. VanDamme's reserves may be the first troops to march off the table.

Prussian 8. The french infantry sent to take out the cannons end up bouncing off them (artillery get a combat bonus to the front from canister). The cannon proceeds to blast away at them at range, but poor rolls save them from further damage and humiliation.

The heavily depleted command of D'Erlon position themselves to contest the bridgehead. The artillery moves towards the hill to be out of engagement range, but able to cannon emerging troops.

The last infantry formation (Brigade size I believe) stays close to the town. As troops deploy from towns they count as disordered with a combat penalty (they need to reform).

You can see an element of van Dammes command garrisoning the town in the bottom of the photo.

Prussian 8/French 9. The Prussians are across the river. The french dragons position themselves for a charge, while the horse artillery adjust themselves to allow them to continue shooting the bridge traffic.

VanDamme's reserves don't have a lot to do now, as the french are also facing traffic issues. One of the interesting things that arises out of the game is the difficulty of funneling your troops into combat when and where you need them. Bases can interpenetrate with no problem, but they can't overlap after the move is finished. The distance moved is around twice the depth of a base so it can rapidly be challenging to shuffle the troops.

Prussian 9. The first unit deploys on the far side of the river. A horde is backing them up, but they can only move slowly through the town. We are 2/3rd's of the way through the game and the coalition has only taken one of 3 towns. It will be a struggle to get troops to the other town in the North and take it before night falls.

A full map shot to give a better sense of just how depleted the French left flank is. Also notable is the masses of coalition troops ready to move across the river.

Prussian 10? I'm starting to miss turns here.
The french have bounced one infantry unit that was hit in the flank while deploying. They are
now counterattacked by emerging troops.

 The french are strongly defending a killing ground around the bridgehead. The prussians can't move quite far enough to move and turn formations to avoid getting flanked by SOMETHING as soon as they are across.

French 11. The end result of a combined assault/flank empty space where troops used to be.

You can just see at the back of the prussian column there is a leader, artillery, and infantry. As the prussians have lost some earlier combats they bounce back at least a base depth....with no where to go they keep moving back until they can land somewhere. They bridge crossing column is actually fairly heavily depleted despite appearing in great numbers. The french artillery ravages the front units just prior to the infantry and dragoons heading in to finish the job. Classic combined action by artillery-cavalry-infantry. It doesn't happen often but when it does it's great.

 Prussian 11. Doug declares a cease fire. He feels he's too far behind on casualties and doesn't have the time needed to evict the French from the remaining towns.

On the Northern flank we have 3 points of damage remaining in D'erlon's command. They breath a sigh of relief.

The french are in relatively good shape otherwise, although their artillery has taken a drubbing.

I would imagine they would collect their wounded and stragglers and make a clever quick march away in the dark.

Yet another fun game with Doug. I'd be remiss not to link to his site, which has much nicer close up photos of his painted figs. Having been playing some other naps a bit this year, I think having a good scenario design is critical for me to have a good time. Lining up troops to kill each other doesn't really turn my crank.

With a bit of knowledge about battle context it becomes a much richer experience. Holding important landmarks, needing to get troops across rivers (or prevent it), delaying actions to evacuate troops, all these dramatically change your behaviour. I think this is one of the reasons I really liked flames of war over GW's rulesets (where I started with gaming): there were critical objectives to hold, but a variety of battle types were created which adjusted objective placement, winning conditions, and sometimes how objectives disappeared (see fighting withdrawal).

I really dig having some uncertainty about where the enemy might show up as well based on 'reports' of the enemy outside of the table. Thanks again to Doug for hosting the game with his own figs.

Meanwhile, away from Waterloo.... (Battle of Souffel) pt 1

Despite a drought of posts and gaming, Doug once again was available for some gaming with his (& Seth's) still under development rule set. I've spoken at length about the rules in other posts, but roughly speaking each stand of troops is numerous brigades, if you fail to destroy your opponent during combat (which is all base to base contact) each side will suffer attrition (though won't disappear from it), and everyone moves the same distance. Cavalry has a higher inherent combat strength, but less damage points, combat modifiers are minimized, and the dice rolled are weird (0,0,0,1,2,3 valued). Moving troops requires command pips and the costs are doubled outside of a command range.

In honour of the Battle at Waterloo, we decided to play a less known battle on the Eastern French border, where the French general Rapp was fighting a delaying action against other armies of the coalition, while the Emperor went to kick some ass up near Brussels. The objectives for both sides is to hold the villages on the west side of the river (left side), and to minimize your own casualties while maximizing the opponents. As the French player I wasn't briefed on the actual battle and wouldn't have known much about it anyway. I knew the coalition armies were attacking, and there was every possibility that reinforcements could appear on my left flank on this side of the river. I set up my forces to account for this, but needed to ensure that access to my lines of communication (on the right flank) were intact at the end of battle. An interesting set up over a wide field. There were 2 obvious fords (one incredibly wide bridge, the other a town), but I was suspicious other fords might appear during the game.

Most of my command to the left. The sun streaming through the windows made some photos not turn out, so we miss seeing the cavalry command, a unit of dragon, hussar, and horse artillery (which has shortened range).

As typical, Doug had hidden my opposition in some other boxes, but I surmised I'd be facing a lot of enemies due to the nature of the river crossing and the historical context (holding action while Napoleon had taken most of the troops).

With my blind setup I deploy one infantry group, and the cavalry on the southern crossing, carefully trying to setup a killing zone that cannon can rake and my troops can charge any bridge head.

The northern part (french left flank) gets one full infantry command defending the town. The towns, as expected, get a wicked defensive bonus, so it just doesn't make sense not to garrison them strongly. The conga line will move in (hopefully) as the garrison is depleted.

The other command takes to the hill to guard my left flank from any tricksters that can find off map crossings.

The artillery is taken from both commands to cover the approaches to the town.

One thing I forgot about Doug's scenarios is he a strong advocate of reducing time consumed in manuevering. Armies start in near contact for immediate action. It's a solid formula for getting to completion of a game within a convention block of time.

*POOF* My enemies are at the gates already. Eek. For this performance the Prussians and British stand in for Austrians and Wurtembergers.

None of my troops move on the left flank, and the cannons engage in some ineffectual counter battery fire.

Crickets abound on the right flank. The cavalry is pushed forward with the plan to harrass the enemy and try and drag off some of the overwhelming force on my other flank. It appears that I'm facing a refused flank.

Prussian turn 1. Between cannon fire and tied combat we see the village ford empty out with dead lining the streets and stragglers streaming towards the rear. Luckily for me, the French have the next move and can re-seize the town.

The small black dice on the bases track the damage left on each base. The artillery can attrition down on a 1 in 6 after each successful attack. The artillery rules are the major thing that still is under development. At the beginning of the game, they can cannonade anything with their range (as a cannon base represents up to 6 batteries.) The idea is that the base represents a locus of activity for the cannon. Later in the game we decided to limit the number of shots taken to the remaining damage of the stand. This better represents a weakening of the ability to fire as the artillery is degraded by damage and attrition.

French 2. My cavalry continues to advance. They are now in base to base contact, and can be moved together for a single command pip. Horse artillery is allowed to do this with cavalry. Foot artillery can't join any formation.

Not shown is the french reoccupying the town crossing. Artillery fire continues between the french and prussian batteries with both of us damaging each others batteries (between real damage and some attrition).

Prussian 2. Arrival of prussian hussars presages some massive reinforcements.

 The prussian batteries withdraw, although not quite far enough to prevent more counter battery fire between sides. The column loses the fight against the french garrison and recoil a base depth. This represents the difficulty to continue to pursue the attack, you must consistently spend command pips to force the attack.

 French 3. I've started to pull the unit defending the Northern/left most village back to the parent command defending the town.

I continue to leave the command on the hill, with the expectation I may face a flanking force. They shuffle towards the town to they can take it quickly if necessary.

 First forward, now my cavalry are racing back to the start line. My artillery moves up to harass anyone coming close to the bridge.

Prussian 3. The new cavalry moves toward the bridge. The town is assaulted again. There are insufficient pips to withdraw the artillery, so the duel continues. Both sides artillery on the Northern (far) end is a bit ragged at this point.

 French 4. Approximately 2 hours into battle. The french artillery pull back to preserve themselves (they are at 1 and 2 damage remaining, from 4). The infantry scuttles around the town a bit to get out of range of the enemy cannon. At this point I have some hope of sending more part of the garrison command back towards my lines of communication (LOC) to preserve them. The town combats are going so well. They are forming up near the river.

 In the distance the cavalry get back to the starting line to await a river crossing by the coalition.

Prussian 4. More bad news for the french. A massive force of prussians arrive to force the bridge. The attack on the Northern town crossing has hit a lull, with many exhausted (1 damage remaining) units, but the Southern bridge crossing, lacking a town defense bonus is looking a bit vulnerable now.

Luckily poor command results in only the artillery moving forward this turn. That is a lot of bases coming my way.

French 5. More relative inactivity on the northern/left flank. It helps that many of my command rolls were awful, but also being the defensive meant not a lot of action was required.

As Doug says, his game is intended to by played by a corp commander who needs to feed in reserves at the correct time. The tactical is de-emphasized. I'm a bit worried about the bridge at this point, but a bit more worried about reinforcements on my left flank. The command holding the left wing, which by all appearances is also my reserve, continues to sit.

Meanwhile the southern/right flank awaits the coming storm.

What will happen next!?! Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of the Battle of Souffel!
Part 2 here