Tuesday, 11 December 2012

A Bloody Day at La Tourbière, Pt.1


"The French are fighting boldly
Men are dying hot and coldly
Give every man his flask of powder
His firelock on his shoulder"
                                               -Irish folk tune

As promised, a battle report for the game we had on November 25th.  This is a long one, so it will be in two parts.  I hope you don't mind a bit of a workout with the mousing finger as you scroll through them.

The verse at the top is from the old Irish ditty "Whiskey, You're The Devil" , and sums up our game nicely!  A good old dust-up in the best of gaming traditions, that had both sides sweating canister shot as the challenges of the scenario- and of course Lady Luck- made themselves felt as the game progressed. 
"At 'em, my brave boys!!!"  The Big Blue Machine surges inexorably forward.
Another Allied vs. French bash, but this time around the French had the assistance of a Confederation of the Rhine contingent.  In fact,  it was all rather "Hofshroeresque" in that the game featured a lot of fighting between Germans on the one side, and Germans on the other.  And doing so with considerable ferocity, I may add. 

This game stood out for a number of reasons.  

First of all, the butcher's bill was enormous.  We had very few units break, yet many battalions and squadrons on both sides were to take hit after hit after hit,  often falling back but rarely breaking.  In a number of instances units found themselves having to be rallied by their commanding officers, but still they would keep returning back into the fray.  Stout-hearted fellows all for the most part, regardless of whatever the nationality of the shot-up banners that were flying over their heads.

Secondly, "New Unit Syndrome" was much in evidence, and it proved to be a fickle condition.  Three newly painted units made an appearance,  with two ending up being sent off in disgrace while the last was to put in a performance marked by an almost insane ferocity.  Luckily for this particular unit, The Goddess of Fortune favoured the brave- but more on that in due time.

Thirdly, I think it was obvious that we have reached the stage where we have pretty much internalized Black Powder's essential rule mechanisms.  Consequently, we find ourselves concentrating more on the tactical picture. I noticed that we are all developing a better understanding of what the capabilities of each arm are, how we need to coordinate them, and of the chances of success of various manoeuvres.  There were few tactical mistakes this game (although no lack of double-sixes and blunders!), and as a result the game proved challenging for both sides.

Last- but definitely not least- this time for once the French didn't end up with their reputation dragged through the mud, nor were the Allies to yet again enjoy the sport of kicking sand in Gallic faces!  In fact, the game ended up with the French slowly- but inexorably- gaining the upper hand in the final moves, with only the coming of darkness saving the Allies.  

And the French got trophies!  Trophies!  Now, when can I expect to receive my marshal's baton in the mailbox?

THE SCENARIO 

I can't for the life of me decide it this was a Peninsular War scenario with the addition of some Brunswickers, or a Hundred Days scenario with Confederation of the Rhine troops thrown in to make up the numbers.  Let's just say it is a battle set late in the Napoleonic Wars between the British and their allies on one hand,  and the French and their allies on the other.

For this game, Rod couldn't make it as he was down with a cold that had been doing the rounds here in Tokyo.  Rod has a good number of British and Portuguese troops, so this time the French had a slight advantage once Giovanni's "Confederation of the Rhine" troops threw their hats into the French ring.  These were actually Bavarian and Prussian infantry, with the latter masquerading this day as a contingent from the tiny (but oft-inebriated) Grand Duchy of Anheuser-Busch.  

The Confederation troops also provided the French with- for the first time- a unit of rifle-armed Schützen who were to prove their worth to the French cause- in spades.

I've often thought that one thing we could do better has always been scenario design.  On arrival at club gaming days we tend to first spend some time chewing the fat and catching up on news as we set out the table and start taking out our miniatures. You know the drill; comparing notes, sharing news on new releases from the Perry twins et alia, and generally "ooh-ing and ahh-ing" over any recently painted additions to the order of battle.  Any scenarios tend to be decided quickly upon looking at the layout.  Sometimes this works, other times it doesn't as we realize that victory conditions one way or another weren't really realistic, or else the mission really didn't suit the terrain and numbers available.  

Anyhow we decided on a rearguard action.  The Emperor, in his great genius, has manoeuvred his army between those of the Allies, and has sent les plus braves des braves, Marshal Michel Ney himself, to catch and destroy a smaller force that has found itself separated from its main body.  An Anglo-Allied division has been tasked with holding off the French probing force before nightfall, so that the rest of the corps can rejoin the bulk of the army.  

Sada just recently painted this gorgeous vignette of Michel Ney,  who was to command the French this day.  His job was to re-roll the failed command rolls of his numerous subordinates.
Accordingly, the Forces of Privilege, Rapine and Reaction would be defending a ridge line against the Imperial Legions of Love & Liberation, and the object of the game for the plucky French would be for them to get three of their units off the Allied baseline to represent the beginning of an effective pursuit of their crestfallen foes.  
Click on map to enlarge

The French would have superior numbers, but not significantly so given that they were expected to be an attacking force.  And even the toughest and most battle-hardened of the Parlez-vous' were dreading the effects of that British first-fire rule!

The available table space was smaller that we would have liked, as Rod usually brings a third GW battle mat (I have two).  Without the third mat the space was more limited this time round, so we decided to settle for 2/3 ranges and movement, which worked well.

Even though we used a lot fewer terrain pieces than what we usually do, it wasn't long into the game before it was obvious to everyone that the French and Confederation troops really didn't have the forces necessary to get three units off the table in the time allowed, given the nature of the terrain and the allied deployment.  

But they were to give the Allies one heckuva run for their money!


INITIAL DISPOSITIONS
On the Allied right, Matt's two regiments of British light dragoons supported by his newly-painted battery of Brunswick Horse Artillery.
To the left of the cavalry was a brigade of Brunswick Light Infantry (two battalions), supported by a small detachment of Portuguese Caçadores.  The Portuguese were destined to take the brunt of the fighting on this flank, and to perform with great gallantry.
Sada took this picture of the whole table looking down from the Allied right.  In the centre were the British 74th, 88th, 45th, and 5th line infantry regiments, supported by the Royal Artillery and the ubiquitous 60th Rifles.
(Click on photo to enlarge)
On the Allied right, the 92nd Foot (Gordon Highlanders).  Sada surprised us all with this very well-painted unit of Perry highlanders!
For the first time, the French are to hear the skirl of the pipes on the battlefield. "Qu'est-ce que c est? Un chat échaudé?"
The Thin Red Line!
These were supported- naturally enough- by his unit of Scots Greys.

The French centre.  GdB Bouillon-Cantinat with four battalions of infantry, and to his left the German Brigade of two battalions plus a small unit of rifle-armed Bavarian Schützen.  


Bavarians chomping at the bit.
Giovanni's Bavarian Schützen lead the way.  These guys were foaming at the mouth for action, and were to give a very good account of themseves.
Matt relishes a target-rich environment!
The French left, with a large unit of hussars on the flank.
Marshal Ney exhorts the troops.
Wagon full of ammunition, powder, and some choice bottles of Merlot.
Looking down the French line from the left flank to the centre.
The French right flank was held by the 1/28e Légère, a battery of artillery, and the Red Lancers of the Guard.

Coming soon, the ball gets under way with the thunder of hooves.

8 comments:

Engel said...

Wow, nice pictures and some good read.

Rod said...

Aaargh! Really wish I could of made it that day. Some nice looking units there. I see Matt's revealed his new secret weapon - the Brunswick Horse Artillery.
Also, Sada's highlanders must have been a surprise to everyone !
Looking forward to reading part 2 of the report and checking out some more nice photos.
p.s. I like the figure caption "Qu'est-ce que c est? Un chat échaudé?" - Very Nice !

Achilles said...

always a pleasure to read your battle reports Robert! Looking forward to partII !

Der Feldmarschall said...

Great write up Robert of what looks like a very enjoyable game. Bring on Part Deux!

Jason

Scott said...

Wonderful stuff Robert. Looking forward to part2!

Iannick said...

Excellent report and pictures!

Can we have some more please?

Peter said...

Very good Monsieur Robert. Roll on part the second.

Salute
von Peter himself

John de Terre Neuve said...

Fantastic looking battle, really like the Ney stand, looks great.

john