Thursday, 30 December 2010

The Battle of El Río de Lágrimas


Some more pictures from December's game.  As I mentioned, a victory for the British and their Russian allies this time.  No doubt things would have been different had Gen. Bouillon-Cantinat been in overall command; but on this occasion the Tofusky Redoubt- manned by both Russian and British artillery- proved impregnable, as you can read here.

Rules used were Warlord Games' Black Powder, and as we are still building up our armies not all units are fully painted- especially the cavalry. Purists may want to avert their eyes from the photos, but in our defence we are making excellent progress so that in a few months we will have no more need of work-in-progress miniatures.  At this point, we just want to get on with gaming. 

The scenario called for the French to seize a strategically significant ford that allowed easy passage across the Lágrimas River.  To do this they would have to take possession of the Tofusky Redoubt, which had been constructed by the Allies to cover the approaches to the ford.

The Tofusky Redoubt was a strongly defended fieldwork, manned by a joint Anglo-Russian gun battery.  It was further supported by a brigade of British and Brunswick infantry, billeted nearby under the experienced command of the brave- if somewhat befuddled- General Graham Stuart MacDitherer, 6th Lord Ayrehead (Matt).
 click on map to enlarge.
The French were under overall command of a long-serving veteran of the Grande Armée, the pleasure-loving GdD Alphonse DeSpicable (Achilleas). 

French light cavalry piquets had determined that the far bank of the Lágrimas was defended only by a single battalion of Brunswick infantry, so a small detachment under GdB Bouillon-Cantinat (yours truly) crossed the river further downstream by night, and marched along the river so that by daybreak they would be in a position to overwhelm the Brunswickers.  This force consisted of a 6pdr gun, the veteran 28e Legere, and the 7e Chasseurs au Cheval.

After having dealt with the Black Brunswickers, they would then cross the ford and take the redoubt by storm.  Meanwhile the main French force would both hold the British at bay and draw the fire of the redoubt while Bouillon-Cantinat made his move.  When the far bank was cleared and Bouillon-Cantinat was crossing the ford, they would then join in the assault by attacking the redoubt from the opposite flank.
 
View of the battlefield.  The Casa del Cuspidoro in the foreground with the Lágrimas river flowing just behind it.  On the left on the other side of the river can be seen the Tofusky Redoubt, menacing any approach to the Lágrimas ford. 
 
Who put that pen there?  The French line from the left. Bouillon-Cantinat's detachment ready to move against the Brunswickers, with the rest of the French force on the other side ready to move in concert with the flanking advance. Or so was the plan...

The 7e Chasseurs au Cheval look painfully naked here, but since the game I've been beavering away steadily on this regiment, and the next time they see combat they will be fully clothed.
The Allied line from the right flank.  Brunswickers prepare to defend the ford at all costs. Very nicely painted Perry miniatures from Matt's collection. "Verdammt, unser General ist awfully far avay, is he not, Herr Colonel?" 

After scoffing a pre-battle breakfast of grilled pork slices and a few fortifying glasses of fine Bordeaux (or rum/ champagne/ vodka/ schnapps, according to taste, rank and inclination), the action started with the French being given the initiative. 

And what happened?  The flanking force advanced according to orders; but the main French army under DeSpicable decided to use a brigade order to advance en masse- and he promptly failed his command roll.  And I mean failed- double six, command blunder. Result- the whole force retreats off the table, and has to dice to come back.  

Cue look of horror amid cries of "Nous sommes trahis!" from French left flank, and Allied gunners drooling in unseemly expectation of a jolly good few turns of target practice ahead.

By the time the French recovered their composure and came back on the board, the Allies had managed to stop laughing themselves silly, and the artillerymen on  both sides had begun their devilish work.

One of the first French shots landed amid the Brunswickers, causing them to receive a disorder marker.  Then the Allied guns in the redoubt opened up on the French left.  The Russian Horse Artillery are quickly gaining a reputation for accuracy and effective fire, and managed to disorder both the French artillery and voltigeurs.  

The French artillery replied, and in contrast to the efficiency and skill shown by their Russian counterparts, managed to defy the laws of statistical averages for the remainder of the game by steadfastly rolling a succession of "ones".  But what else should one expect of a newly painted unit?
Under fire from the fearsome Russian Horse Artillery, the left flank French 6pdr battery acquires itself an unenviable collection of hit and disorder markers.

On the British side, the 60th Rifles were ordered forward to do some ineffectual skirmishing with the (depressingly tardily) advancing French columns of the main force, while the 78th were ordered to the centre in anticipation of the coming assault.  
This required all of Lord Ayrehead's attention, while the Brunswickers on the flank traded shots with French voltigeurs, both sides inflicting disorder and casualties.  
Meanwhile, the 7e Chasseurs au Cheval moved steadily ahead.  

They would have moved a lot faster had I remembered that French light cavalry get to use the Marauders rule, meaning that they don't need to modify their command rolls for being out of command radius.  This was not turning into a banner day for the 1er Empire.  

Still, they managed to work their way up the far side of the Casa del Cuspidoro to outflank the Brunswickers.  The Germans, being engaged with the voltigeurs to their front and suffering from disorder, were unable to reply. C'était un moment très délicieux.
Meanwhile back to the centre and right of the French battle line, where GdD DeSpicable had ordered forward the French en masse in mixed formation, battalion columns screened by skirmishers.  Sound the Pas de Charge!  

Here the 9e Legere, closely supported by the 18e de Ligne, ploughs into the 78th Foot.
The 78th yet again failed to write its name in glory across the history books,  and it didn't do nearly as much damage as it could have at this range, and given its first-fire bonus.  In fact, the next turn at the first break test they all decided to high-tail it back to the rear again, as they did last game.  Matt wasn't pleased!
But while all this was taking place, the 88th Foot, blatantly disregarding any threat posed by the  French cuirassiers,  boldly wheeled towards the French attack and poured a nasty fire into the exposed flank of the 18e de Ligne.  

And as luck would have it, this was one really devastating volley- it sent French soldiers down like nine-pins, more than decimating the hapless regiment, which soon broke under the pressure.
Lord Ayrehead knew he could afford to take the risk of exposing the flank of the 88th by wheeling.   The French cuirassiers, despite their ferocious appearance, posed less of a threat than they looked.  They were in a poor position to deploy effectively, a situation made even worse by poor command rolls.
Note Achilleas' great casualty markers. 
Time was running out for the French, and the Allies still had the 45th Foot in reserve.  But most importantly, it was becoming clear that the French would soon not have the strength to take the redoubt, for their centre had begun to crumble away.

While the attack of the 9e and 18e was being beaten off,  the 45e de Ligne, as the photo below shows, had been slowly advancing directly into the teeth of the crack gunners in the Tofusky Redoubt.  During its painstakingly slow advance, with many stops to reform its tattered ranks, it had taken hit after hit from both Russian and British guns.
After too long having had to endure considerable punishment and mounting casualties,  the unfortunate soldats of the 45e de Ligne finally vote with their feet;  the regiment duly fails one break test too many, and routs. 
Clearly its largely unpainted state had resulted in a detrimental effect on unit morale.  

This now opens up wide vistas of fire for the elated Allied gunners, who are not slow to take advantage of the situation.  They soon direct a hot fire onto the vulnerable flanks of Frenchmen both to the right and left of them. Merde!  
On the Allied right flank, all is not well as the Brunswickers get charged in flank by the 7e Chasseurs au Cheval, who have now deployed into line.  "Sonnez la charge! Vive l'empereur!"
 
They survive- barely- but take many hits, are disordered and cannot form square.  While the French cavalry reform for another charge, the voltigeurs open up on them again.  Not a good day to be wearing the black, but they behave gallantly.
Again, Matt did a great job on these Perry Brunswickers.
At this point Bouillon-Cantinat, standing on the rise at the base of the castle sees that the Brunswickers are neutralized and about to be charged again by the indefatigable 7e Chasseurs.  Seeing the French attack in the centre in dire trouble, he decides to risk all ,and to order the veteran 28e Legere- the last French unit at full strength and not suffering from disorder- to advance across the ford and directly assault the redoubt. 
Meanwhile the French gunners on the left light up their pipes and rue their generals while continuing to see how many "ones" they can keep rolling up.

But alas for France, time had now run out; GdD DeSpicable remembered that he must take his leave shortly if he was to meet his mistress as arranged for an evening of gastronomic fulfilment and agreeable feminine companionship.  What is more, the British 45th Foot was about to see off the remnants of the French attack in the centre, and the Tofusky Redoubt still commanded the crossing with its well-served guns.  

So the French call it a day. But who will tell the Emperor of this failure....? 

Another fun game, and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.  We are still having to get ourselves fully acquainted with the rules, but a few more games under our belts, and things should start moving a lot faster.  As it was, we got six or seven turns in over four hours of gaming, which we consider pretty darned good.  

The only truly annoying thing was the discovery that Achilleas had these in his box, but didn't use them in the game!  
Sure they were Guard, but as this was the Peninsula, they would have come in handy as converged grenadiers.  Certainly they were just too pretty not to have out on the table.  Miniatures as good as these should not remain hidden in their carrying cases, for shame!

Another Black Powder game in January, and this time we need to see some Allied cavalry on the table.  Some Russian dragoons to go with those horse artillery would be nice.

6 comments:

Ray said...

Fantastic post, some great photos too!!!

Brian Schen said...

Great post! I loved the casualty markers :-)

Rafael Pardo said...

A great AAR. The redoubt is amazing!
Regards
Rafa

John de Terre Neuve said...

Great stuff, I am amazed at how many figures you have been able to field in such a short time. I particularly like the Brunswickers, great gaming.

John

Vive l'Empereur said...

Looks like a fun game!

paulalba said...

Great report Robert,
Must be a good napoleonic buzz going around your club at the moment. Brilliant seeing all your troops coming together and look forward to future updates.
Cheers
Paul