|Skirmish line, ADVANCE!|
At Bill's suggestion, I came up with a scenario for the last Saturday meeting at the club. Loosely based on the weeks leading up to the battle of Salamanca, where the French under Marmont were trying to evade Wellington's army for the weeks preceding the battle. Bill was looking for some practice of the skirmish rules for our game, so I designed a scenario where both sides had sent out a large skirmish screen ahead of their respective advanced guards. The French were looking for a crossing point for the rest of the army to get their artillery and baggage across a steep-sided river. The Allies, obviously, wanted to deny them of the opportunity. I decided that each player had four battalions as their scouting party, without cavalry, so that the infantry wouldn't have to worry about getting overrun early in the game! the main body of each side would be diced for on a ever-increasing probability after turn 3.
The Allies won the initiative, so Bill's Anglo-Portuguese and John R.'s Brunswickers moved up to the river's edge first. Darren's and my Frenchies followed suit next turn and what followed was a frustrating, but fairly realistic, back and forth bickering between our skirmishers. In our rules you have two options; just stand a blaze away, or engage in skirmish combat. The second option is especially useful if your forces greatly outnumber the enemy, or are of significantly better training than your opponents. Basically, it's like a morale test where one side can force another to retreat if the dice roll and other factors come together in a fortuitous way. The first option is just a straight up duel using firepower targeting skirmishers, which as you would expect wastes a lot of powder to little effect!
Bill and I faced each other over the river and popped away. His Green Jackets were of better quality to my French Legere, but I had the numbers on him, so we more or less cancelled each other out using the special skirmish combat rules. When he opted to just plug away at my troops he had much better results! Firing as Grenadier to my Veteran, he was always more likely to have better luck! He eventually forced one of the battalions to retire after knocking off the magic 30%, forcing a morale test on me. They failed, but not drastically. Still, I needed to keep him on his side of the river, so I brought up the support battalion still in column to stop the rot. That spooked him into forming up his Portuguese Cacadores into line, which was fine by me, as he was threatening to overwhelm my skirmishers with his.
By this stage it was time to start rolling for the main body to come on. On the first roll (9-10) neither side managed it, but next turn (7-10) both sides rolled for their main bodies to arrive. By then, Bill had got his British Light Dragoon cavalry across the river to threaten my right flank as the main force approached the river. My weakened skirmishers on the right decided discretion was the better part of valour and decamped for the woods on the hilltop. On the left, though, they were made of sterner stuff and held the river line against Bill's approaching line troops as well as linking up with Darren's forces, which had seized the ford and were forcing their way across in the face of John's troops.
My hussars covered the advance of my infantry who were immediately targeted by Bill's artillery. I hatched a plan on the approach to march up into close artillery range, cop the pain, but cover my artillery batteries which would then unlimber under cover. My infantry would then clear the field of fire and advance, allowing my overwhelming artillery fire power to silence his artillery and force his infantry to stay back. That was the plan, but it wasn't quite that neat. I'd given both my brigadess an artillery battery each, so I had to deploy one and then wait for the other to catch up before I could hatch my genius (on-the-fly) plan. However, it started off well, with my first artillery battery knocking off a couple of guns from his smaller (6-gun battery), which forced a morale test that he failed. His battery then retreated leaving most of his guns behind. Huzzah!
The first brigade crossed the river into the gap between John's and Bill's infantry. Thankfully, Bill had his riflemen still deployed in front of his remaining artillery, but it was John's hussars who commanded all my attention. I advanced in closed column (another reason I was glad his artillery was masked!), hoping that John's cavalry would back off, or if he did charge, that he'd bounce off my anti-cavalry formation. As it was, I started moving my closed column closest to his cavalry, which triggered the opportunity charge option. he took it and crashed into the infantry. Despite being in closed column, I was pushed back to my starting point at the river. John's victorious cavalry were left high and dry and my other infantry columns advanced past his flank, threatening to cut him off. They beat a hasty retreat to the rear.
By now I was crossing the river on two fronts. The major crossing confronted by John's cavalry was now regrouping, while on the right, the second brigade crossed in the absence of the closest artillery battery. Bill's infantry columns were packed in close, which isn't all that helpful when you're playing with an Anglo-Portuguese army. I was hoping to get across and then attack him before he could shake his columns out into line. Of course, that didn't happen; he put out a line of Portuguese infantry close enough to the river that I wouldn't be able to shake off the disorders incurred in crossing the river. Inconclusive firefights meant we basically bogged down in our positions. That was fine with me, because it meant he couldn't bring his remaining columns to bear.
On the other flank, Darren was forging forward against John. I thought be my best option would be to add to the pressure and help Darren by distracting as many of John's troops as I could. I tried a charge on his light troops, but aided by Bill's remaining battery, that attack was repelled. I then tried getting into a threatening position in between a couple of his battalions, but again the results were underwhelming. Still, I was able to threaten his flanks enough that he launched a charge at my advancing infantry. Again, I wasn't successful in fending it off, but I was only forced to retire, not to retreat or break.
My pressure coupled with Darren's successful incursion on the left led to John's flank collapsing, which was going to leave Bill high and dry if I managed to push in through the gap left by John's retreating forces.
With Darren in firm control of the ford and John's Brunswickers falling back, it was declared a French victory. Allez les Bleus!
As an exercise in skirmish tactics, it was a demonstration in how it's only worthwhile in overwhelming numbers against an enemy whose own skirmish abilities aren't as good as your own. Bill's riflemen were beginning to get the upper hand against my skirmish screen, but all of that was cancelled out once my cavalry and artillery appeared on the field.
|The French view of the allies making their first move|
Caçadores and Riflemen move to the riverbank
|My French skirmish line advances to the river's edge opposite Bill and John's skirmish lines.|
|Darren's Republican skirmishers advance|
|Skirmish fire ripples down the river line|
|Plain old blasting away pays off for Bill: My skirmish line shrinks while his envelops the right flank.|
|Bill forms into line as my support column advances to cover the shrinking skirmish line.|
|The skirmishers incurred too many casualties and retreat!|
|Never fear, the main body's here!|
|Darren's main body also approaches the river...|
|...accompanied by dragoons.|
|Bill's cavalry lurk on my left flank, causing my skirmish line to break off for the woods, while my hussars protect the advancing infantry of the main body.|
|Darren gets stuck in straight away as John's troops advance on the ford.|
|Bill's main body also advances, covered by his skirmishers and cavalry beyond the river.|
|My first brigade deploys behind their artillery battery, flank protected by the hussars, while my second brigade angles to the right. The reserve waits to the rear to await developments|
|To my left, Darren piles on the pressure. My first brigade faces the gap between John and Bill.|
|Bill's columns leave little room for themselves to all deploy in line.|
|Bill unlimbers artillery at close range and brings up infantry support. My hussars are in for some curry!|
|John's hussars fill the gap between him and John, facing off against my first brigade.|
|Darren's infantry's advance is also covered by John's guns and hussars.|
|I sent my small chasseur contingent on a sweep around the rear of the ridge to scare off Bill's cavalry.|
|Bills cavalry backed off (top of image), while my first brigade scramble across the river in closed column, covered by the artillery battery. The skirmish line has fallen back, passed by the columns.|
|Darren has established a foothold on the far bank on the other side of the ford.|
|My reserve, which consisted of Nassauers, Hessians and renegade Spaniards|
|The first battalion across the river is charged by John's hussars!|
|They are pushed back to the river bank, but the advance of the rest of the brigade advances, forcing the cavalry to withdraw.|
|The reserve moves up, ready to exploit the advance of the first brigade. The second brigade lines up behind both batteries of artillery, which pound Bill's battery at close range with a 2:1 advantage!|
|Bill's gunner's say "Bugger this for a game of soldiers!" and decamp!|
|With the demise of one of Bill's batteries, the second brigade takes advantage and crosses the river.|
|The first brigade holds the line, covered by skirmishers. The battalion driven back by the Brunswick hussars moves up.|
|The second brigade masks their guns in moving forward. Bill's crowded columns get in each others' way.|
|John's infantry move up, leaving a tempting gap for one of my battalions to exploit. Leaving it in closed column, though meant I couldn't get the in the requisite 3 functions per turn!|
|Darren's main body wait to exploit any advantage.|
|My reserve move up to the river's edge.|
|The first brigade were losing troops to artillery fire and had troops approaching their flank. Time to do something!|
|With Darren piling on the pressure to the left, John decides action is the order of the day!|
|His charge succeeded in pushing one of my battalions back, but it was the last hurrah, as Darren had him on the ropes!|