Monday, December 22, 2014

The Thin Red Line Saves the Day!

"A thin red streak tipped with steel"

General Rosbif ended his year of campaigning being mentioned in dispatches!

After a year of ups and downs I ended it on a winning note! Andrew B. offered me a game at the club's Croydon venue and last meeting of the year. How could I pass up a game with the rules whisperer? It's always a master-class in tactics and how to get the best out of your available forces. His coaching always makes you stop and think through the consequences of your decisions, which I'm not the best at doing, but having literally grown up with these rules, he can almost unfailingly predict the likely outcome!

The scenario was another defend-the-ridge style setup. The road behind my line was the objective. If Andrew could force me off the ridge and set up his gun batteries to command the road, my supply lines would be cut and the rest of the allied army would have to retreat ignominiously. The Iron Duke was relying on me!

To the right of the ridge was a heavy wood, which lulled me into a false sense of security early on, and to the left was another wood and some farmland. I set up my line with the infantry behind the crest in line, the artillery on the crest and a small skirmish screen on the forward slope. My heavy dragoons were deployed in column behind the artillery, while two regiments of light dragoons were deployed out on the left flank. I also had 3 British regiments and a Portuguese brigade in reserve.

Andrew came on with 2 brigades of 8 battalions each, 3 batteries of artillery and 3 regiments of light cavalry (chasseurs a cheval).

The main lesson from this game (which I should have learned from the last game against Paul!) is that if the enemy outguns you, then there is no point in engaging in a counter-battery duel, as you will lose! True to form, I was soon minus several guns form each battery, and though I took some of his, I was definitely worse off!

Another lesson is that if you're going to skirmish, you need numbers! I only had 5 figures of the 95th Rifles to reflect the historical distribution of these troops in penny-packets  throughout the army. I also deployed the light companies from my elite regiments, but these really weren't enough once Andrew deployed several battalions in skirmish order to counter my skirmish screen. While I only lost one figure in skirmish combat, my screen was pushed back on several occasions. So lesson 2; bring numbers, or don't bother!

Lesson 3 is one that I already know, but seem to need reminding of on a constant basis. To whit; your cavalry can be just as effective as a threat in being, rather than just as a battering ram. I suppose British cavalry have a reputation for being reckless and I certainly made them live up to that reputation! Only their high morale class allowed them to survive a couple of questionable actions. In the end, though, my heavies made one too many crazy-brave charges and paid the ultimate price! My light dragoons had a different story out on the flank. With luck on both sides, there was more or less of a stand-off, but once I got my mojo working, one regiment of light dragoons cleaned up Andrew's chasseurs, while the other angled for a charge down the French line.

In a series of firefights, our infantry whittled away at each other and with Andrew's numbers telling, I found myself under pressure across the whole line, but especially on the right where he'd pushed a battalion through the heavy woods to get in the flank of my line. Once the post-firefight morale check was carried out, that battalion on my flank counted and my Scottish regiments fell back. They were hastily replaced with a second line which stemmed the tide.

On the right flank, things fared even worse, with 2 regiments put to flight after they came off worst after several bruising firefights. With reserves rushed up, the line stabilised again. In the third and final firefight, one of my battalions retired after the morale test, but in a cascade of failure, one of Andrew's battalions broke and ran. Their  fear infected the remaining units which also broke, leaving a gaping hole in Andrew's line. This French calamity coincided with my light dragoons charging his chasseurs on my left flank, cleaning up two regiments in one charge, and opening his rear to my cavalry. It was at this point that Andrew conceded the game, which was fortunate, as on the right he was massing his infantry into columns which probably would have smashed through my Portuguese line.

The set up

The view down the line. I always think it's a little too thin! 

Especially when facing massed french columns!

However, with two lines of reserves, I wasn't panicking yet

1st blood! I knocked out one of Andrew's guns. Though when 3 batteries are focusing their fire on one of yours, it's only a matter of time...

...before they lose 50% casualties and fail their morale test! Only a retire, though.

The horse guns decide to move off the ridge after losing 2 guns, as well.

The foot battery returns, limbered, to the reverse slope to await developments

Here come the French!

The rifles pop away, causing a disorder across the leading columns.

As do the elite light companies.

Rush of blood #1; My dragoons charge at the battalion in front of a limbered artillery battery. I had hoped to charge the battery, but they were just beyond maximum charge distance, so I opted for the infantry. Of course, they easily made it into square, my attack halted in the pre-melee phase, and in the reulting fire... dragoons were repulsed with losses and disorders!

My skirmish screen is met with overwhelming numbers
Any skirmish combat is not going to end well with these numbers against me!

The horse guns reposition to the flank of the ridge to cover the flank of any French attack, while the cavalry move  up in support.

On the far left, the other cavalry regiment moves to threaten the flank. The regiment at the edge of the ridge forms echelon and throws out a vedette and uses the farm buildings as cover from the artillery behind the crops.

Andrew contemplates his next move while my infantry all shelter behind the crest.

The French skirmish line approaches and puts a disorder on the highlanders with their pesky harassing fire.

A battalion of infantry comes out of the woods, blissfully unaware of the danger lurking. My light dragoons pounce! Victorious, they are now blown in the centre of the crop field!

Andrew's guns fire (and miss, luckily) and his chasseurs storm into the field. What choice did I have, but to counter charge?

Andrew would have successfully routed me if he threw anything but a .  What did he roll? 1!

We both bounce, blown with disorders. Phew! That was close!

My other cavalry regiment charges the remaining French chasseurs. i thought that even if I was still in column, I'd be able to do some damage to the French.

But the dice have other ideas, We both bounce with casualties and disorders. Hmmm, that wasn't supposed to happen!

Meanwhile, back on the ridge, my left flank regiments advanced to engage the French in a firefight. Nothing happened except I lost figures I couldn't afford to!

On the other flank, the dead ground obscured the artillery's target, but Andrew's guns had a close range target in front of them.

After a blast of canister, the French advanced to engage in a firefight. Note the French column to the right, advancing into the British flank.

After the morale check, the highlanders retreat and the light bobs retire. The 50th Foot rush up to plug the gap, while the dragoons are aiming their attention elsewhere.

Specifically at another flank approach by a French column. They take the opportunity charge, whether the artillery fire (which missed!) and collect the closed column. 

Incredibly enough, they pulled it off and the column was forced to retire! The dragoons just have to worry about artillery in the flank, now... 

Incredibly, they survive the flank blast at close range, but fail the morale check and retreat back over the ridge. Job well done, lads!

In the ensuing firefight on the left flank, both allied units take casualties and fail their morale checks, breaking for the rear, with the general desperately beating the men with the flat of his sword trying to get them to attend to their duties, damn yer eyes!

The victorious French line, reduced somewhat, have a clear line to the ridge, with only the depleted horse gun battery in the way.

In the nick of time, my next line interposed themselves between the French and victory!

The rear slope shows plenty more reserves approaching, while the cavalry forms up on the ridge, ready to charge anything to the front.

My other light dragoon regiment moves more aggressively, formed into line, this time.

Back on teh left flank, Andrew's infantry engage my fresh troops in another firefight. The regiment on the right is a provisional regiment, so was a little shakier than the veteran regiment; They retired after the mandatory morale check, while the veterans stood their ground.

That's when it all turned to ashes for Andrew; one regiment spectacularly failed their morale test, breaking for the rear. This in turn affected the remaining battalions' morale tests, with the result that three battalions were heading for the hills!

That's when I launched my cavalry at Andrew's chasseurs. They counter-charged...

...and were trampled underfoot! I took the breakthrough, which took me into the remaining unit, who couldn't counter-charge as I was outside their charge arc. Goodnight, Irene!

Trying to hasten things along, the Buffs advanced down the hill and fired into the unit in the woods, who had lots of disorders. Besides knocking off a figure, they stood firm!

Portuguese line troops enter the broken ground on the crest, ready for action!

Now, what should the dragoons do next?

I know! (Rush of blood #2) Attack the artillery battery head on! In a whiff of grapeshot, the dragoons lose 35% and break to the rear, never to be seen again!

The light dragoons on the ridge do something more sensible and angle for a charge down the slope at the remaining French infantry lines
Fortunately for me, Andrew's left crumbled at this stage...

...because he was winding up for a massed charge of columns on the right. I had rallied my highlanders and light troops into a second line though. Still,  I'm glad I didn't have to face it in the end!

The wide view: I still have neat serried ranks, while Andrew has big, gaping holes and plenty of troops running for the rear to the cries of :
 "Sauvez votre peau!"

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