Showing posts with label napoleonics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label napoleonics. Show all posts

Monday, 19 June 2017

Blucher At Waterloo - Again

Last year we did a big all-day refight of Waterloo using Blucher. This year we did it again. We had our usual room at the University as well, so got the plus of familiar surroundings, whilst losing the sea-view.

After the game last year there was a lot of discussion about how it could be improved, and these changes were applied to the game we played. Firstly we made the table narrower so troops got into action more quickly and so that the Allied strongpoints weren't so far from their main line that their defence was futile. Secondly we removed the separate Plancenoit table we'd used last year. To adjust for this we also ditched one French and one Prussian corps, and had their activities off-table and outside the scope of the game.

Here's the table set up ready for the battle. In the foreground is Hougoumont, beyond it La Haye Sainte and in the far distance the settlements of Papalotte and Frischermont. All of these were held by the Allies, but worth victory points to the French; 2VP each for the first two and 1VP each for the latter two. There were also 2VP up for grabs for hlding the crossroads on the Allied ridge. As you can see, there were 8VP on the table, and the Allies held them all at the start. Victory would go to the side that held a majority at nightfall. An army could also win by breaking the enemy army.

The French.

The Allies.

The Prussians.

The players. We all seemed to have decided that blue was the colour of the day.

Take a moment to marvel at Caesar's Blucher movement measuring device, converted from some scrap sprue. I won't give the training course that we had.

Here's the initial setup around Hougoumont, before the units were revealed. At this stage the game looks like the opening credits of Dad's Army.

A view along the ridge. Daniel was commanding Rielle's troops, tasked with taking Hougoumont.

D'Erlon's Corps advanced to take Papelotte and Frichermont.

The advance on Hougoumont.

The Allies revealed.

Caesar alternated between commanding D'Erlon's Corp, and keeping us on the straight and narrow with his knowledge of the rules.

An early combat - Allied light cavalry attacked some advancing French infantry.

Another view along the ridge, with more figures on the table.

The attack against Papelotte and Frichermont developed slowly. Time was of the essence, though, because the Prussians would be turning up soon.

On the other flank Rielle was engaging the Allies along the line, whilst trying to take Hougoumont.

To the right of them, the Guard were advancing on La Haye Sainte. We reasoned we could secure a win by taking and holding all of the objectives in front of the ridge, leaving the Allies with the crossroads.

The fighting intensified around Papelotte. The cards on the table are the French cavalry, which had been assigned from the reserve to this flank in order to counter any sneaky Prussian moves.

Meanwhile, in the centre, the Guard advanced on La Haye Sainte.

The Prussians arrived!

They were quickly revealed. The French cavalry charged in, to stop them attacking the two settlements, one of which was now in French hands.

On the other flank the French were taking heavy casualties, but managed to take Hougoumont. All they now had to do was hold it until nightfall. Despite massive casualties, they did so.

The latter part of the battle, with all of the figures on the table, and fierce fighting around all of the key objectives. By this stage the French controlled everything but the crossroads, but were going to have to fight to hold their win.

The Allied cavalry appeared to try and win the day for Wellington in the centre.

With only a couple of turns left, the Prussians took Papelotte.

The Prussians were putting D'Erlon's troops under a great deal of pressure, whilst the French cavalry did what it could to help. Which wasn't much. Incidentally, I was running the French cavalry.

Fighting was fierce around La Haye Sainte, but the French held the objective.

The Prussians captured Frichermont as well. The game was now tied. Caesar tried to retake Papelotte, but failed. There was one French turn left.

Enter Napoleon ...

Napoleon is fairly inactive in this scenario, and could only use his leadership ability every three turns. But we'd saved him up, and used him at the end to order a series of attacks on the two Prussian-held objectives. Any attack ordered by Napoleon in this way gets a bonus, and it was used to great effect. The Prussians were thrown out of both objectives by the French, giving us a 6-2 victory as night fell.

Vive L'Empereur!

The scenario worked really well, and we played it to a conclusion well within the day at a fairly relaxed pace, which just goes to show the strength of Blucher for gaming battles of this size. We tried a method of speeding up the allocation of MO, where each side only got a single D6 worth of points (rolled secretly by the other side), but with each command (player) being able to make their moves using the whole score. It seemed like we wouldn't have enough to do anything, but in fact with careful planning of moves all players generally got to do a decent move each turn, and keep the battle moving.

Thanks to Ralph for organising the scenario, and various others - Gary, Ralph and Caesar - for providing figures and terrain.

Update: Ralph's report includes more photos, more information on what was happening in the centre and around Hougoumont, and information on the actual setup of the game and the commands.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Have Battle, Will Travel

Last night we tried an experiment. Gary set up a game of the new Travel Battle, but just using the rules to refight an historical battle using 'proper' figures. He chose Ligny, giving each side six brigades of 3-6 units each.

Here's the board. In the centre is Ligny, and the Prussians (Caesar and John) would be defending it from behind a stream. The French (Daniel and myself) would be attacking from the left.

The armies deployed. Instead of just Kill All Of The Enemy, there were actual victory conditions. If an enemy brigade was reduced below half strength, then a side scored 1VP. If  it was subsequently wiped out, then that was another VP. A side won if they reached 7VP. Both sides also had a Sudden Death condition; the Prussians won if they demoralised the French Old Guard, and then destroyed one more unit in their brigade, whilst the French won if they were the only side with at least one unit in Ligny at the end of a Prussian turn.

The French plan; attack with cavalry on their right, to turn the Prussian left. The bulk of the French army was poised to make a frontal assault across the stream in front of the Prussian left.

Prussians poised to move in and defend Ligny. The artillery of both sides covered the area around the town, making it a killing zone.

The opening cavalry action saw losses on both sides; these rules are brutal.

The French left was held by one brigade on a hill, tasked with delaying the Prussians opposite them for as long as possible. Here we see Caesar pondering the best way to attack them.

The cavalry action continued on the French right.

Realising how brutal the rules were we decided that our plan was too subtle, so just chucked in our army straight in against the Prussian left. We were luckier than we deserved, with the heavy cavalry brigade sweeping all before it.

Meanwhile, on our left, the Prussians were attacking hard, but Daniel was putting up a good fight, and holding them up.

In the centre the Guard assembled, ready to assault Ligny once the flanking force was in place. However Caesar's artillery rolls were outstanding, and he caused serious casualties amongst them.

The Prussians regroup for another attack on the French left.

And in they go!

The battle for Ligny begins, with the French attack strangely spearheaded by the Guard cavalry. At this stage the Prussian reinforcements had arrived; initially they only got to deploy five of their six brigades, with the sixth appearing via a die-roll

The fighting for Ligny intensified.

And the French got a foothold! But it wasn't exclusive occupation, so wasn't going to be a battle-winner.

Meanwhile the French flanking force had stalled. Caught in a bottleneck between the stream and the Prussian baseline, they were unable to shift a couple of stubborn Prussian units, delaying their ability to support the attack on the town.

With the French left contained (but unbroken), the Prussian heavy cavalry now attacked the French centre, hoping to break the now-battered Guard. They were opposed by the Guard artillery, and the survivors of the French light cavalry brigade. The Guard remained unbroken.

The end! The French had a hard slog fighting attacking the Prussians, but had managed to break a few of their brigades, picking up odd VPs as they did so. Concerted efforts those brigades, scoring more points. Eventually the battle boiled down to the French needing one unit kill to break or destroy vulnerable brigades, and a number of possible targets on the board. It was only a matter of time before they got it, actually with a long-range artillery shot at some reserve units massing behind Ligny.

That's not to say the battle wasn't close. Only a couple of French brigades actually broke, giving the Prussians a couple of points, but most French brigades were only one hit away from demoralisation, so each turn the battle went on would have seen the Prussians pick up more points. In addition the Prussians were very much in a position to achieve their instant win by breaking the Guard.

This was a very entertaining game; the Travel Battle rules seemed to adapt well to scenario play, and didn't seem to break with a few scenario special rules added - crossing streams and Landwehr Infantry. What is disappointing about them is how a set of rules so simple, and written for a game on a square-grid, where movement and unit positions are strictly defined, still has grey areas. Specifically we're still not sure how the arc of fire for artillery works, and units rallying at the board edge nearest their brigadier produces some situations we had to rule on the fly (for example, what if it's the enemy base-edge, and where on the base edge do you do it). One thing we weren't sure about was how, or more specifically, combat effects are adjudicated in order to determine whether units received extra dice. We stated which units were fighting each other, then the player whose turn it was resolved the combats in an order of their choice. If units fell back or were destroyed, and no longer  provided support to friendly units, then the loss of that support was applied. We found it added some thought to how combats were planned. But it could be that the number of dice a unit gets to roll is supposed to be determined for each unit before any combats are resolved. It's not clear, but it makes a big difference.

Be that as it may, with a few house rules to clear up the grey areas, we'd fight an action like this again.

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