Thursday, May 29, 2014

How Not to Prevent a River Crossing

The one with the biggest flags wins!

Another outing for my Anglo-Portuguese forces this Saturday just passed, but not so good an outcome this time, sadly! I was up against Darren B. and his French forces in a scenario of his devising where the French needed to cross the river and clear the defenders away so that the road north was open. My task, obviously, was to stop him. We divided our forces into vanguard, main body and rearguard on a quarter / half / quarter ratio of our forces as per our chosen Force Differential, meaning I had 1700 points to Darren's 1600.

My vanguard consisted of one light dragoon regiment, one light infantry regiment and one battery of 9-lber horse guns, while Darren went for 3 battalions of infantry and one battery of guns. We rolled for our main bodies and rearguards at the start with Darren getting his at the end of turn 4 and mine in turn 5, but I managed to get my rearguard on first in turn 8 while Darren had to wait one more turn for his; swings and roundabouts!

The stream was shallow and fordable at all points, but control of the bridge and the road was the key to the scenario. If I played this scenario with this terrain layout again, I'd do a couple of things differently I think; namely, occupy the hill on the French side of the river opposite the church and try to hold that position before my main body arrived. As it was, I allowed Darren's artillery to establish itself there with a good flanking fire at close range on units in the valley between the hills. Also, I would take heed of advice given to me by Andrew B., who came over to observe in a lull in his own game. But I thought I had things under control and didn't need advice. Anyway, the upshot was that everything he warned me about happened and I was forced back when Darren attacked the salient I had created, with the regiments on the wings unable to support the Gordon Highlanders, or even defend themselves in the inevitable breakthrough! 

While I held Darren fairly convincingly on the left, and the right flank wasn't that much of an issue, even when he eventually disposed of my cavalry, it was the centre that was the crucial area and where I flubbed my chance of winning the game, or at least grinding out a draw. With my forces whittled down and his fresh units approaching my left flank, I was in no state to be able to resist the inevitable, so we called it a day after a great tussle.

The terrain. My vanguard is on the left of the picture and Darren's on the right.

Darren's 1796 French masquerading as Empire-period troops

His guns supported by more infantry

My guns were posted on the hill above the bridge, while my infantry blocked the road in front of the bridge

Darren's right flank; skirmished troops

On his left; two more battalions.  One in skirmish order, one in closed column. That was a good indication he was going to cross the river in the face of my cavalry!

Darren's first move; his skirmishers on my left move towards the river.

An inconclusive artillery duel ensued in the centre.

As predicted, his troops in closed column crossed the river. I met them with a cavalry charge!

Even though I was forced back, I didn't lose any casualties...

...and I stopped Darren in his tracks!

His skirmishers cross the river on my left and occupy the woods behind my position!

Frenchmen lurking in the woods, awaiting my main body to provide targets for them

First blood! Darren's artillery inflict a casualty on my light infantry

Darren tries to cross again in the face of my light dragoons

Cavalry vs. closed column again

This time I inflict casualties on him...

...but he stayed where he was and pushed me back. I still didn't loose a casualty, though!

While my cavalry was otherwise engaged, his skirmishers double-timed it over the stream and up the hill behind my artillery and infantry!

In the center, his infantry form line and advance beyond his guns in preparation for a crossing.

The British perspective. His first battalion of the main body have appeared on the board in the background!

Skirmishers form up to try and disorder the workings of my gun battery.

My horse guns limber up and relocate directly in front of the main threat, abandoning the church on the hill to the French skirmish line.

Meanwhile, Darren's main force marches on to the board!

Feeling slightly hemmed in...

...especially when his cavalry started a wide flanking maneuver around my left flank!  

Time to panic yet?
I had my fingers crossed that my main body would be able to cope with the threat, but I had sweaty palms nonetheless!

Back on the right flank we continued our charge-and-bounce routine

Darren's skirmishers line up behind my formed troops and fire, causing disorders on the line

Cavalry on my flank

More skirmishers in my rear...

...and now artillery formed up on the flank of my artillery and infantry!

Time for my cavalry to stop mucking about and do something about the main threat!

My main body enters the board! 92nd Highlanders preceded by a couple of companies of the 95th rifles

I was expecting the flank fire on my guns, but hoped to weather the storm...

...but with a die roll like that...

...they're outta there!

Things look dicey for the light infantry with formed enemy troops in front and behind...

...and artillery at close range across the river. I was banking on the cavalry threat to allow the infantry to extricate itself.

My horse guns catching a breather now had enemy infantry to worry about, now the cavalry has had their attention diverted to more pressing things

Who will reach the cross roads first? The highlanders, or the French cavalry?

The British do, infantry in closed column leading. Huzzah!

In the centre, the cavalry wait to pounce on the infantry crossing the bridge...

....while my light infantry sweats as the noose tightens.

The light infantry decides it's too hot in the kitchen and begin withdrawing....

...and are fired on in the flank as they do...

...causing them to retire in the direction they were going anyway!

Still not out of danger, as they now have cavalry in their flank!

Darren's infantry cross the bridge in closed column. All I needed to do to stymie his advance was to roll equal to or greater than the distance in inches between my cavalry and his infantry to launch an opportunity charge. If memory serves, it was around 5 or 6 inches, so I had a roughly 75% chance of  launching the charge. What happened? NOTHING!

The silly buggers sat there examining their nails, picking their noses and generally neglecting their duty! The general is going to face an inquiry with the predetermined outcome of a severe reprimand and being cashiered! 

Darren's leading battalion advances in closed column, blocking the cavalry from interfering with the other two battalions crossing the bridge.

Here comes trouble! 3 more battalions of infantry detour behind the hill with the French artillery...

...intent on joining in the forces threatening my left.

Meanwhile, my horse guns were sped on their way when Darren's lone battalion on my right flank marched up and fired into their flank while they were still sorting themselves out...

...leaving them an open field!

In an attempt to neutralise the cavalry threat, I marched the Buffs in close column to fire on the French cavalry. Darren took the opportunity charge and met me half way in an inconclusive encounter

With infantry in front and to the rear, my cavalry tried to extricate itself ...
...but only put itself in harms way, when Darren turned the battalion around to fire in their flank!

I really had no luck with morale tests!

My Gordon Highlanders marched up in line in the centre to cover the withdrawal of my light infantry

On the left, an inconclusive firefight developed in the wood

Darren occupies the church BUA on the hill, but I still had a nice flank target in front of me, so the highllanders stayed were they were.

The 71st in closed column blockling the way forward for the French cavalry, but also exposing their flank to the hill across the river!

Darren tried to extricate the battalion in danger, but in doing do took my opprtunity fire in the flank...

...failed the resulting morale test and broke to the rear! Huzzah!

He split his flanking forces with one battalion heading behind the cavalry...

...while the other two headed staight up the hill to threaten the light infantry's flank. Gulp!

The firefight contiues in the woods with both sides inflicting casulaties, but neither side budging!

I decided to sacrifice the light infantry in the hope that they would be able to get the cavalry running if they  fired in their flank before the French turn. Not only did they miss, but the French cavalry treated their poor effort with contempt and didn't budge after easily surviving their morale test!

After their success, the highlanders backed up to try and reagin contact with the rest of the division

On the right flank, the 1st Provisionals marched up and fired on the flank of Darren's cavalry killers...

....sending them scooting to the rear. But they'll be back!

In the "I told you so!" moment (thanks, Andrew!) Darren's two battalions crash into the 92nd's line...

...absolutely smashing it...

..and carrying on into the flank of the foot battery which was also smashed without getting to fire a shot!

Fortunatley my rear guard came on the board the very next turn!

With the reserves on the board I finally dedcided to heed Andrew's advice and create a defensive line between two points.

But those damned cavalry justt won't go away!

Darren's infantry advanced on my cavalry in closed column, while his cavalry lurk in the wings

Two more battalions go toe-to-toe in the woods with an equally inconclusive result.

In the move which probably spelled my doom, I advanced the weakened infantry line too far to protect the cavalry's flank, not paying close enough attention to the angles of attack...

...and only succeeded in triggering an opportunity charge by Darren's cavalry! D'oh!

The line is vaporised...

...and the cavalry retreat in disarray! Luckily the French charge ends up just short of the Caçadores.

The Portuguese line troops move up and pour in a devastating flank fire on the cavalry, breaking them and sending them flying to the rear! The damage was done, though.

The Caçadores had other things to worry about, like flank fire from the artillery...

...which forced them to retire and tangled them up in the other battalions!

With too many fleeing and retreating units, my line couldn't hold and the next charge smashed the 50th Foot.

I did manage to get another of his battalions to break, but the rot had set in and he still had his rearguard to come. He had overwhelming numbers and I was getting pushed back closer to my edge of the board, so with his reinforcements heading in a wide flanking movement ready to cut me off, we ended it there with a well-deserved French victory.

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