Now where are those damned Frenchies? Gadzooks! they've all sprouted tails! Have they taken to recruiting Barbary apes? Why, they're all marching 6 feet above the ground, damn 'em all!
Surgeon, how much opium did you mix in the laudanum, damn you for a quack?!
Well , whether or not we're to fight flying monkeys, we have to hold the village on the Duke's orders!"
So saying, General Rosbif began his heroic battle Friday last.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, I had to make do with codeine and paracetamol to numb the pain of a cracked tooth that eventually became infected (next morning I had the damned thing extracted after another visit the the emergency room at the dental hospital, but that's another story!).
Tim, Geoff and I played a 3 hander with Tim and Geoff taking the French side between them, while I played the British. We settled on a scenario where the British had to defend a village at a road junction, while the French had to dislodge the British to win. Two thirds of my force occupied the village, while the rest were still approaching. The French were also yet to make an appearance on the board at the beginning, the order to be determined by rolling a 1 on a d10. Luckily, I managed to roll 1 first, so I got my cavalry and elites onto the board and into position by the time the French came on from the opposite corners of the table.
Having played Tim a lot previously, I knew that to stand on the defensive and wait for him was suicide. Suddenly he appears on your flank and starts rolling up your line before you realise what's happened, so I came out to meet him on that flank, with cavalry and skirmishers in the forefront. However, I telegraphed early on how I'd be playing, so while he turned to face my threat, he peeled off 4 battalions of infantry and a gun battery to approach the village from head on, where I only had Portuguese in the buildings and 1 lone British line battalion in reserve.
On the other flank, Geoff was spooked by the approaching cavalry, neither French brigade having cavalry, and his attack ground to a halt while he got into cavalry proof formations. My British line troops waited in line and column formations in front of the vineyard, with the ridge behind them.
I deployed my elites (92nd Highlanders and Walloon Guards) on the left flank, where I thought that they'd be needed most (facing Tim!), and spread one squadron each of cavalry to each wing and the horse guns to the right flank. I sent the cavalry forward and skirmished my light battalion in Tim's direction, while pushing the horse guns and other cavalry on the right. So far so good.
Tim aggressively took my cavalry on, putting the closest battalion in square, while the others advanced in closed column. These forces screened his other battalions heading towards the village. Once his intention was clear, I brought the Walloon Guards back to the village in a line stretching from the foot battery to the nearest built up area.
Now the fun began; Tim gradually forced his way forwards while my skirmishers didn't really do enough to slow him down. I had my cavalry too close to my infantry line in order to protect the open flank, but all that did was let his infantry get in on the cavalry's flank. I need to be aware of cavalry's threat potential, and not only use them as another, more mobile, infantry unit. Although he poured in a flank shot from his column, the cavalry merely retired a short distance and continued to threaten Tim's infantry.
By this time, his detached forces had come up to the village, and his guns had unlimbered and blasted the British column in the village at close range. They were going to be pummeled if I left them there! His accompanying infantry advanced closer to the village, with one battalion shaking out into line in front of my Spanish guard, who fired into them with effect as they did so.
On my next turn, I decided to eliminate the artillery threat to village by charging the British column at the French battery, but Tim had foreseen this possibility and counter-charged with a battalion he had positioned for just this eventuality. Unfortunately, we both bounced with losses, so the threat remained.
In moving the Walloon Guards to counter the French sweep to the front of the village, I had exposed the flank of my foot gun battery up on the hill, but as there was a walled enclosure between the guns and Tim's nearest units, I thought I was fairly safe. I concluded that his approach would involve too many negatives to be worthwhile, eg. flank fire from the Spanish and two sets of disorders form charging across walls. Robin was there for a chin-wag and to watch, and as a general rule, when he offers tactical advice one should Never Listen To Robin! He has the uncanny knack of giving advice that always turns out to be wrong. On this occasion, he advised me that my battery was safe, and, I must say, I'd come to that conclusion myself. However, hearing those words come from Robin's lips should have alerted me because you should Never Listen To Robin! Of course, that meant that Tim charged over the walls, copping the flank fire as he went and slammed into the flank of the battery. What Robin and I hadn't taken into account was the bonuses for charging the flank as well as unlimbered artillery eliminated the negatives for disorders and flank fire, and that the dice roll was enough to get him in! Bye-bye artillery battery!
The successful infantry battalion then careered out of control into the now exposed flank of the Gordon Highlanders who hardly budged, shook themselves off a bit and then made a mental note to give back that rudeness with interest. A big gap had now opened between the highlanders and the Spanish guard. Tim had succeeded in his charge, but not enough to crack me wide open, yet. Having said this, another of his columns followed up, got in the Walloon Guards flank and fired, but only managed to get them to change their facing after surviving the ensuing morale test. If they'd been anything other than elites I may have been in trouble!
Meanwhile, on the other flank, Geoff's advance had slowed to a snail's pace as my other cavalry squadron held up his infantry. He'd deployed one battalion in skirmish order, but kept them close for fear of what cavalry can do to unsupported skirmishers. I'd deployed my cavalry in column in order to take advantage of any chink in his armour. I'd toyed with a Balaclava style dash along the road, between the lines, to catch Tim's artillery battery, but concluded that the chances of success were slim, and that they were doing a stirling job in holding up Geoff's whole brigade. Still, that wasn't enough; Geoff had deployed one of his central battalions in line on the edge of the plateau, while his nearest unit was in closed column, slightly in advance of the line. I maneuvered the cavalry onto the ridge aiming at the flank of the line, behind the closed column. Twice I elected to opportunity charge the infantry in response to changes in formation and twice I failed. Due to lack of zeal the cavalry commander was cashiered and sent home after a court of inquiry was convened after the battle!
On the other flank I pushed the skirmishers further out to the left flank and then formed them in line on the flank of one of Tim's furthest battalions. He countered by moving another of his units onto the line's flank. In my next turn I destroyed the first battalion with flank fire, which promptly failed it's morale test and fled. I then suffered flank fire myself, but again shrugged it off. I tried to reinforce the line on the left with the reserve battalion but only added to failure by putting it on the open flank. It promptly got fired on in the flank, and, as it wasn't an elite and had already suffered casualties, broke and fled. Meanwhile, I'd got carried away and inserted my cavalry into the midst of the French infantry, hoping to run down a couple of battalions. All this did, of course, was to expose the cavalry's flank to Tim's infantry who'd formed line. Blam! and goodnight cavalry!
A similar thing occurred on the other flank, where I became too greedy again, and sought to maneuver my cavalry past Geoff's square to get at his line. I didn't keep far enough away and copped another flank shot, which after the damage from artillery, was enough to break them. This was what Geoff had been waiting for and the floodgates opened with a general advance for his brigade.
Tim tried one last throw of the dice and launched a charge with the remains of his 3 most complete battalions at the built up area closest to him, after dealing with the Spaniards, who failed their morale test after losing one too many figures. They retreated, though, rather than broke. So, Tim's charge went in, but greeted by a hail of gunfire from the Portuguese in the buildings, the attack failed.
On the other flank, Geoff pushed his skirmishers to harass my horse guns, which had been battered by counter-battery fire. His skirmishers managed to knock off another gun and disorder the battery, as well. They even managed to severely wound the general attached to the battery. His lines approached, but only two out of the 3 charged. After firing at them on their way in, the melee resulted in a draw, but after Geoff reformed his skirmishers into line on the flank of the horse gun battery, things started to look grim. He fired into the flank and destroyed the battery, so I had to hastily bend my line back to avoid being outflanked again.
I'd brought the Portuguese battalion out of the buildings on this side of the field, in the expectation that they'd be needed to shore up the line, but in hindsight, should have left them there, as the objective was to hold the village. As it was I got away with it as the night ended before the French could capitalise on their gains. Tim was all but a spent force (dangerous still, though!) but Geoff was on a roll. If there'd been an hour left, Geoff may well have been able to force me out, but as there wasn't, the night ended with the British and their allies still in possession of the town.
"Damme, we've managed to hold on!
Surgeon! Compliments to you, sir! Your concoction worked marvels! Next time we meet flying apes, sir, I hope you have some more of that potion on hand!
Ooow! Smithers, you blackguard! What have you done with the Scotch?!"
The cavalry falls back to form line with the infantry. In hindsight I should have fallen further back, rather than act like an infantry line.
Skirmishers withdraw to allow infantry and artillery to do their damage. Cavalry waiting their fate.
Shrinking French line in front of Spanish guards, while 2 infantry batallions form up behind the wall.
The centre and left flank. Note the gap to the right of the guns. She'll be right! (Never Listen to Robin!)
The light bobs form up on the French flank and fire, sending them fleeing. Another column advances on their flank.
On the left flank, the cavalry poised to crush the French line, but watch out for the closed column!
Still with a sting in the tail, the French advance on the flank of the line where the weak line regiment is foolishly placed.
The Walloons retreat after suffering one casualty too many, breaking the line and exposing the village.
Hemmed in by skirmishers, the guns have seen off one battalion in the background, but are attacked again.