Monday, July 28, 2014

Württem-burglars Failed to Steal this One!

Officer: "What do you mean you've left the bag marked 'Swag' behind?!"
After a dalliance with the Dark Ages, it's back to my true love; Napoleonics!

In a rare appearance of late caused by family commitments, Andrew S. was at the club last Friday night with his lovely Front Rank Württembergers. He partnered Garry with his French, while Pete and I faced them with our British.

Everyone was expecting someone else to bring scenery with the result that our table-top terrain was sadly lacking! Luckily Andrew had a few pieces with him, so that we weren't fighting on a barren plain. I'm usually running late on a Friday night and am the last to arrive, so I decided that I wouldn't waste any more time digging out my terrain which probably wouldn't be needed!

Andrew had enough terrain and buildings to make an interesting night's play, though. I was expecting a tough game as he was fielding a lot more artillery and cavalry than I was and anyway, I was facing Andrew, one of the best tacticians around. A game against him usually consists of quite a few rounds of fencing and probing until he gets you right where he wants you and then in a series of lightning moves, he pounces, and before you know it you're command is streaming to the rear as a broken rabble! In the early rounds I could see the familiar signs of him getting me exactly where he wanted me: If I made a strong point in the centre, my flanks looked weak and if I weakened the centre to strengthen the flanks, I was equally threatened. I was determined not to botch it early, but was not confident of anything but a loss. How heavy a loss was still to be determined.

With his 3 cavalry units and 4 batteries of horse guns to my 1 cavalry unit and 2 artillery batteries, it looked like I was going to be given a master class in combined arms operations: If I put my infantry into anti-cavalry formations, I'd get pounded by artillery and if I formed them in line to limit artillery damage, I'd be vulnerable to cavalry attack! My best hope was to make a strong point in the centre and use the woods on the left as a bastion to prevent that flank being turned. On my right, I just hoped that I could somehow stop him turning that flank, but couldn't really see how.

After losing the initiative, I thought my best bet would be to make a defensive line from the woods to the farm building and try to defend the flanks so I didn't get turned. Andrew put paid to that idea by moving not 1, not 2, but 3 artillery batteries to cover the gap, with cavalry and infantry to back them up. My lone cavalry regiment moved to cover the gap instead and got royally pounded by artillery, though they managed to survive the resulting morale test. I made a defensive line instead anchored on the farmhouse, extending to the right, ending with a regiment in square. After taking a pounding in the centre, I sent my cavalry and horse gun to bolster the right flank, which I thought was most likely to be in danger, but then exposed the centre. I just hoped my foot battery was enough to deter any venture in that direction. It was sited in the lee of the farmhouse, so Andrew's cavalry didn't have a direct charge line against it, but would be able to hammer any advance from that direction.

On the left, my light infantry occupied the woods while the other two regiments guarded against cavalry. I was resigned to that flank crumbling, because I didn't think I had enough to resist a concerted infantry and cavalry push, especially when I moved my horse gun battery to the right.

In the end, luck was with me when it mattered; Andrew's cavalry failed to take the opportunity charge roll on a couple of occasions, or failed in their pre-melee morale check, flubbing their charge. He also had appalling luck on morale checks caused by casualties, resulting on several units breaking or retreating at crucial moments. If he'd had fair-to-middling success with these dice rolls, I probably would have found myself quickly being outflanked, with breaking units infecting the morale of my remaining battalions.

As it was, we both took and gave losses almost equally with neither side gaining the ascendancy over the other by the end of the night. I was quite happy to get away with a draw, though if the game had been part of a campaign I would have been in trouble, as Garry had demolished Pete on my right flank.

The gallant British face the foe!

The Corsican Ogre's German lackeys! Boo-hiss!

As I lost the initiative, the Württembergers make their first move.

Disorders gained as they cross the hedges and fields

Andrew's cavalry swarmed the field like flies on dog-poo!

The scene from my centre: lots of cavalry masking infantry and guns. An infantryman's nightmare!

My first move: cavalry to meet the threat in the centre, infantry into the woods on the left and the beginnings of a defensive line on the centre right.

On the extreme left, the 50th foot go into square to try and anchor the flank. Problem was they were too far to the rear to support the other regiments in front.

The 39th Foot on debut forming line behind the farmhouse and walled field.

Hold fast, boys!

The 12th LD face off against the enemy, while the 92nd forms line behind.

On the right, the 3rd Foot advances in column

On the outer right flank, the 28th advances in closed column, wary of the cavalry in the distance

With skirmishers in the woods and the 71st on the edge of the wood, I was hoping to tempt his infantry into the disorder-producing terrain.

No such luck, though. He just advanced to the edge of the woods to block me from flanking his artillery or cavalry

His cavalry back off to a safe distance to threaten any forward movement I make, as well as to allow his infatnry space to manouvre.

2 of the 3 gun batteries which focussed their attentions on my cavalry.

After all 3 batteries scored hits, my cavalry had to take a morale test. They survived, but couldn't take much more of that kind of attention.

On the right, another combined arms attack was developing.

Time to form the anchored line!

The riflemen occupied the farmhouse and the 3rd foot formed square, whiloe the 39th filled the space between. The 95th had only 3 figures, so they were a stop-gap measure until I could get a larger unit into the building.

The battered cavalry and horse battery shifted to the right to bolster the defense and prevent the flank being turned.

No sooner had I moved, than my worst fear was realised: his guns unlimbered and started targeting my square!

The skirmishers in front of the hedge peppered the infantry on the other side, while the 71st waited developments

The development being cavalry in the flank!

Andrew started to mass his infantry, ready to exploit my prdicament

The cavalry's view 

The 71st managed to shuffle into the woods without Andrew being able to trigger an opportunity charge (phew!), but my skirmishers weren't so lucky, getting ridden down to a man! However, the 50th Foot are presented with a juicy cavalry flank target.

Back on the right flank, the artillery are duelling, each losing a gun. My cavalry have arrived to shore up my flank, though Garry's French are a little too close for comfort. Also, the 95th vacates the farmstead and are replaced by the larger 1st Provisional Regiment

In the next firing, my artillery take another gun off Andrew's battery...

...which then promptly fails its morale test and breaks! Huzzah!

Andrew still has reserves, something I am rapidly running out of!

After the loss of his battery, Andrew pulls the brigade back and moves another battery in to replace it

Back on the left flank, Andrew threatens my flank again, this time with infantry as well as cavalry. The 50th Foot still block the cavalry in closed column, but are vulnerable if the cavalry moves into their flank.

Impervious to the threat to their flank, the 71st engage in a firefight in the woods

Garry's French infantry were too tempting a target to neglect, and anyway, they were a threat to my flank. My cavalry charged in, crossing my fingers that Andrew wouldn't take the opportunity charge. He tried, but failed again! The French were crushed underfoot by my  hardy horsemen! Huzzah!

Meanwhile, the 50th Foot advanced on the flank of the infantry column threatening the flank of my light infantry, who were busily engaged in the firefight in the woods.

Andrew's cavalry tried to take the opportunity charge, but flubbed again, leaving his infantry at my column's mercy.

A brief volley into their flank and they failed the resulting morale test, hightailing it to the rear!

The kilties of the 92nd move up in closed column to prevent the cavalry getting into the 50th's flank.

But they couldn't do anything about the Jaegers. After failing their morale, the 50th broke to the rear!

After that minor disaster, the firefight in the woods became a little more desperate. With disorders mounting and the routing 50th to contend with, the 71st finally cracked...

...breaking and leaving the enemy in control of the woods!

Having seen off Garry's French battalion, my cavalry went battle-mad deep into the enemy rear. If only the granary wasn't in the way I could have had a field day! As it was I pinned the infantry there in closed column for a turn or two while I indecisively tried to work out how to make the best of this situation.

In the centre, a careless enemy infantry battalion maneuvered too close to the farm building copping a casualty from infantry fire, then deployed in line inviting further fire from the building as well as blast of artillery fire. The resulting casualties forced a morale check which they failed, sending another unit reeling backwards!

After losing the woods, I was in a bit of a pickle with only the 92nd on the scene facing cavalry and infantry! The highlanders moved smartly around on the cavalry's flank and gave them a dose of what-for! They trotted briskly to the rear, but were rapidly replaced by another of Andrew's multiple horse batteries!

My last remaining reserve unit, much reduced by artillery fire, still in closed column, hot-foots it to support the isolated 92nd.

The Jocks decide they don't need Sassenach support and charge the guns! Despite taking a casualty, their numbers and morale ensure a glorious victory! Huzzah!

After their victorious charge, they remain in control and elect to move 45°. Next turn they fired and missed, and the Jaegers survived the morale test. Dammit!

The last few moves involved Andrew moving infantry to threaten my cavalry. I moved them around on the flank to threaten any forward move he might make, but his infantry just followed. Rather than let the enemy dictate the score, I moved the cavalry, took the flank fire and suffered the consequences...

...which was just to retire 12" facing the enemy. Perfect positioning! Couldn't have hoped for a better outcome!

This is where we left the game: with our respective central forces glaring at each other from across the board and our respective flanks thrashing six bells out of each other. With neither side in a position to decisively beat the other and time rapidly running out, we agreed to leave it there and shook hands on a thoroughly entertaining game which I was lucky to have survived!
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