Thursday 22 September 2022

South of Leipzig, a Soldiers of Napoleon AAR

A one-off pick-up game, set at 800 points and Corps-level (so 4 brigades a-side, 3 deployed, 1 in reserve) using the 1813 army lists as my Austrians once again took on Bony’s boys in blue. The plan is run a slightly larger game at the Other Partizan in October, so we had a trail game for that (and just a afternoon’s entertainment).

Here is the force I picked.

Austrians 1813

Infantry Brigade 1 (rear right)
Fusiliers        6 stands    60 pts        1MV
Fusiliers        6 stands    60 pts        1MV
Fusiliers        6 stands    60 pts        1MV
Landwehr        3 stands    15 pts        1MV
Landwehr        3 stands    15 pts        1MV
Artillery battery    2 6 pdrs    18 pts        2MV
Jaeger Detachments    2    12 pts        0MV
Total                    240 pts    7MV    

Infantry Brigade 2 (rear left)
Fusiliers        6 stands    60 pts        1MV
Fusiliers        6 stands    60 pts        1MV
Fusiliers        6 stands    60 pts        1MV
Landwehr        3 stands    15 pts        1MV
Landwehr        3 stands    15 pts        1MV
Artillery battery    2 6 pdrs    18 pts        2MV
Artillery battery    2 12 pdr    28 pts        2MV
Jaeger Detachments    2    12 pts        0MV
Total                    268 pts    9MV    

Light Cavalry Brigade (screening left)
Hussars        5 stands    75 pts        2MV
Uhlan            5 stands    60 pts        2MV
Artillery battery    2 6 pdrs    18 pts        2MV
Total                    153 pts    6MV

Reserve Grenadier Brigade
(in centre on turn 3)
Grenadiers        5 stands    70 pts        2MV
Grenadiers        5 stands    70 pts        2MV
Total                    140 pts    4MV

Grand Total:  800 pts, 26 MV, 2 scouts.

And here are the enemy:

French 1813
Stalwart General    +5 pts

Infantry Brigade 1 (on right)
Reserve Infantry    6 stands    30 pts        1MV
Reserve Infantry    6 stands    30 pts        1MV    + Drillmaster
Line Infantry        6 stands    66 pts        1MV
Line Infantry        6 stands    66 pts        1MV
Veteran Infantry    4 stands    68 pts        2MV + Ruthless commander
Artillery Battery    2 8 pdrs    24 pts        2MV
Total                    294 pts    8MV

Infantry Brigade 2 (on left)
Reserve Infantry    6 stands    30 pts        1MV
Reserve Infantry    6 stands    30 pts        1MV    
Veteran Infantry    3 stands    51 pts        2MV
Artillery Battery    2 8 pdrs    24 pts        2MV
Res Arty Battery    2 8 pdrs    39 pts        2MV    + Full Caissons, Expert Gunner
Total                    174 pts    8MV

Dragoon Brigade
(in centre)
Dragoons        5 stands    70 pts        2MV + Le Beau Sabre
Dragoons        5 stands    70 pts        2MV + Le Beau Sabre
Dragoons        4 stands    52 pts        2MV
Artillery Battery    2 4 pdrs    14 pts        2MV
Total                    206 pts    8MV

Light Cavalry Brigade (reserve, in centre on turn 1)
Hussars        5 stands    75 pts        2MV scout
Chasseurs        3 stands    33 pts        2MV
Artillery battery    2 4 pdrs    14 pts        2MV
Total                    122 pts    6MV

Grand Total: 801 pts,  30MV,  1 Scout (max)

My plan was to fight a defensive battle, dig-in one of the infantry brigades behind fieldworks and invite the French to attack it, or the other brigade, then use the light cavalry to support them and the grenadiers to come in and hold the line behind them, counter-attacking if required. This of course was based on the assumption that the French would baulk at attacking the fieldworks. I didn’t want to be entirely static, I would punch-out to counter the French, use the light cavalry aggressively, but not just to ride off and get destroyed (losing the entire brigade would be easily done and cost me the game). So, how did it go?

Err, not that well. First off, I failed to get any fieldworks built, which was a blow, still, the defence could still work, same plan, just no defences. I really should have included a sapper detachment for the digging-in brigade, but it’s something I need to add to my Austrians. Note to self, buy some Austrian sappers and paint them!

The French planned an infantry assault, on their right with their strong brigade, reserves out front in line, to take the punishment, with the line infantry following in columns behind that screen to rush through the make the final assault. It would be supported by the guns of his weaker infantry brigade (their job was to shoot a lot and the infantry was just to protect those batteries from the enemy, like roving light cavalry. He also had his dragoon brigade, a powerful asset and it would move up and try to co-ordinate its attack with the infantry, so if the Austrians formed square, then his infantry could blast them into bloody ruins. Behind, his own light cavalry had it’s own mission, the hussars were insurance, to get a fourth cavalry charge (looking to complete the ‘grand assault’ objective) with the chasseurs only being used for driving-in Austrian skirmishers (those pesky jaegers).

We both deployed, French with flanks forwards (both infantry) and the dragoons in the centre, being further back wasn’t a issue for them, one ‘at the quick’ move would catch-up. The Austrians had a screen, the light cavalry in front of the left flank. The right (French left) was something of an issue, as in randomly generating the terrain I had rolled up a large, dense wood, which was an big obstacle. I couldn’t leave it undefended, otherwise his light cavalry could gallop round and either flank me or quickly complete the ‘advance through enemy lines’ objective. Still, it was clear to both commanders no major attack would come that way, so the fight would in the centre and on the Austrian left.

Added to this issue, pre-game everything was working like a well-oiled machine for the French, whilst I had 1 command point, they rolled 3, for a total of 5!. His reserves would also arrive on Turn 1, mine on Turn 3 (quick for infantry though). The French won the tactical advantage and so chose table edges and I deployed first, so hey, it couldn’t go much better for Bony’s men before shot was fired in anger.

So, Turn 1 and the French began their attack against my left, infantry lines, columns behind moving up slowly, and taking fire from the deployed jaegers and the artillery. The Austrian centred moved up across the cornfield and formed firing lines here, awaiting the cavalry and prepared to jump into square if/when the dragoons got too close. On my left the infantry line also moved up, as the light cavalry pulled back through their lines (1 disruption all round) but they were in place to charge back through (just taking that disruption) and punch out if his infantry approached. At the end of the first turn, a bit of damage done, but nothing dramatic, mainly we were finding artillery lines of sight and ranges were poor, so not much doing from the gunners yet. In the end phase, continuing the French run of good rolling, their light cavalry arrived in the centre in columns of march to advance in support of the infantry attack.

As predicted, nothing was happening on my right, so back to the French attack. The cavalry first moved up, but a ‘stalled’ dragoon regiment stopped the entire brigade, willing to wait to move together. The light cavalry were soon behind the infantry and deploying into line. The chasseurs sent out a harassing squadron and drove in my jaeger skirmishers. The lines were then close enough to exchange volleys, both sides raking the other and the French flinched first, after 2 volleys the reserves withdrew back out of range and rallied off the damage, costing a few bases. As they did, the Swiss battalion-column behind burst through and charged my forward horse battery, overrunning it. They then paid the price for such boldness, counter charged by my waiting hussars and an infantry battalion, beaten twice, then shot-up, the Swiss fell back, rallied and removed all but 1 stands to remain in the fight (well, not really, just still there). Carnage, and a big pile of Swiss dead. The Austrian line was holding well, as the hussars came back to position again, but only after being bombardment by artillery and taking more damage, they needed to rally too and lost a stand. On their left the French limbered up a battery and moved it off, heading up the small hillock, which I could nothing about. If the French got the ‘guns on high ground’ battlefield objective then it was easy VPs. The random terrain generator had favoured the French here. A bit more skirmish fire saw out the turn.

The third turn would see more skirmish fighting and rallying on the Austrian left, and the dragoons moved up, but with one regiment under accurate artillery fire and in disorder they had to stop again and rally-off the disruption. They were finding it hard to just get forwards. With more cannon fire into the French infantry they too could not press their attack either and so it was stalemate for a turn, fine by me on the defensive. We were holding them off, and the VPs were pretty even, slight advantage to the French. In the end phase, my grenadiers marched in to reinforce the centre, expecting that looming cavalry attack soon. If the infantry broke, which seemed unlikely in square (which I had to get into this turn), then the grenadiers would be their to hold the line and their volleys into the dragons would hurt. Speaking of which, I had (just) completed the ‘hold the line’ objective. All VPs help (and I rolled a 1 of course - eye-roll!).

Turn 4 would be decisive, and not in a good way. The French launched their grand assault attempted, with a lethal combination of special events and orders. First, the dragoons used a ‘at the gallop’ to race up and, with a second play, immediately charged my infantry lines. Oh no, my next play was to form square, nooo! Too late now! 2 dragoons regiments ploughed in and smashed up the lines, both falling back in disarray and with a lot of disruption. It got worse. I had to rally, but the dragoons followed up and charged again, in a repeat and saw both infantry regiments ridden down. The third dragoon regiment had also raced up (using at the quick) and they moved through and attacked my reserve landwehr, also caught not in square and torn apart too. A mess. My centre had been cut to ribbons under dragoon sabres. As I rallied again to try and save something, the French hussars joined the heavy cavalry and charged, to be counter-charged by my lancers which rode through the infantry line ahead to meet them, and defeat the French, sending the hussars riding back where they had come from and needing to rally, but so many cards had already been used, they couldn’t and were routed… but their charge had completed the fourth unit needed for the ‘grand assault’. The French also, by fortune, held the ‘guns on high ground’ objective… and could claim it. Drat!

Well, that turned into a disaster, the Austrian centre had been smashed open by the dragoons and the French VP total raced up to 40! The Austrians had just 14, so not even half the French total. A decisive victory for France, and 20+ VPs in a turn. The Dragoons were in a bit of mess, but no units had broken, only losing the hussars (in a continuation of our theme that hussars rarely seem to do very well). Bony will be pleased with that report.

The lesson here, wait too long to form square at your peril, because the special events can throw out all your planning… still, it was a fun 3 hours of gaming, even if it ended in a kicking. I cannot stop the French dragoons… maybe I just need my own to counter them, add a new Austrian dragoon regiment to the shopping list (it's growing).

Austrian left and light cavalry screen.

The centre in the cornfield.

Hussars and uhlan, the counter-attack force.

Sound the pas de charge! The attack columns.

French gunners, found with few targets or out of range. Note the hillock behind, handy for high ground, screened off by the large, dense woods.

Austrian guns, the forward horse battery was lost, but the foot battery 6 pdrs did good work on the flank.

Smoke, as the game started in morning mist (it soon lifted). Austrain counter-attacking column waits to go in against the reserves. 

French cavalry in the centre, deploying their 4 pdr battery.

Grenadiers arrive in the centre, but block the 12 pdrs line of sight.

Uhlan meet French hussars and drive them off, but behind, the dragoons are tearing through the cornfield.

Charge! and Charge! again, the dragoons catch the Austrians in line and destroy them. Here, the poor landwehr are hit.

All that is left in the cornfield, 1 stand of the landwehr and the 'at risk' command stand. Two battalions  shattered and gone.


Saturday 10 September 2022

Colborne’s Doom at Albuera - with Soldiers of Napoleon

Continuing a series of historical re-fights, testing scenarios and ideas of how they might work, as well taking away the player’s ability to choose their own force, this would be a scenario from the Battle of Albuera in the Peninsula. Not the entire battle, that isn’t what SoN seeks to recreate, instead an hour or two, this time on the far right flank of the Allied line, as the French launched their first flanking attack, taking the ‘southern knoll’ high ground and attacking the Spanish line holding the ‘northern knoll’, and to include the fateful arrival of Colborne’s British brigade in a counter-attack that turned into a disaster as it was caught by surprise by the French cavalry in the one of the battle’s most famous events. Having worked out the forces, made a simple map of the battlefield and added a few extra special rules to help recreate the action (like the heavy rain storms that blew through on the day), it was time to crack-on. This time, for a change, flipping a coin, I got the French.

The first turns would see my two infantry brigades advance on the Spanish lines, and having deployed my columns, they attacked en masse, whilst the guns deployed onto the southern knoll’s high ground and opened fire with some effect on the Irlanda (Irish) volunteer battalion. It seemed, give the weakness of the Spanish line, especially on their left (with just 2 militia battalions and 1 4 pdr gun), the French would overwhelm them. Not so. As my columns closed in, sending out skirmishers to harass the Spanish, who could do little back, a sudden withering volley from the Spanish line turned two battalions into a bloody mess, including my best (the combined grenadier battalion leading the attack on my right). Reeling back to rally, the French were suddenly in disorder and losing stands. Even the militia battalions in line (with some good rolls) blasted my columns into a mess. My voltiguers had done good work, but the Spanish had rallied as well and completed their ‘hold the line’ objective. Nowhere did the French reach the Spanish and in response a few of my line battalions formed into lines to try and respond with their own volleys… the Spanish were fighting hard and well ahead on VPs.

On turn 3, the British reserve brigade arrived on the Spanish right, Colborne’s 4 line infantry battalions and their 6 pdr guns, these pressed forwards to counter-attack and it looked like they might flank the French attack and threaten the guns on the knoll. I had 1 reserve infantry battalion to throw in their way.

That was, until the French light cavalry arrived, the full Vistula lancers regiment and 2 small hussar units rode in, in columns of march for speed but with a ‘well drilled’ special event, raced forwards and smoothly deployed into lines, ready to attack. The British were sitting ducks, no time to form square before the lances were lowered and the charge! sounded. In the French cavalry crashed, predictably, through the British in lines, winning both melees and causing a lot of disorder (they weren’t lucky enough to capture the colours though, but it was close).  As the British pulled back and rallied to save themselves, a quick rally on the professional and elite cavalry saw them back in good order again. Using a consecutive order (sometimes its worth taking the hit, for the gain), they charged again, into 2 different British battalions and again, it was carnage (well, the hussars just won, by dint of being better quality troops than line infantry). Still, 2 more melees won and the British had to rally again, the cavalry attacks had earned 10 VPs in a turn and the French had turned round the earlier Spanish lead on VPs.

On the right, after much difficulty, and another Spanish withering volley, two of my infantry columns finally charged. One was defeated and pushed back, the other, the doughty grenadiers won and pressed on victorious, the Spanish militia that had flayed them with repeated volleys now running for their lives.  

By the end of turn 5 it was very close, but the French had just broken the Spanish (a good ‘How Goes the Day’ rolled also helped). The Allied break point  was 20, the French had 22 VPs. The French break point was 20, the Allies had 20 VPs… so a very marginal win to the French.

The game had played out very close to the actual day, the French infantry attack floundered against unexpectedly tough Spanish resistance, but Colborne’s counter-attack had been shredded by the lancers and hussars… still, with a bit more luck or maybe just not bad roll at the end, it could have been different. Great fun. 

French guns are dragged up onto the southern knoll. Target rich environment ahead.

Vielande's brigade advance on the French right, confident of a swift victory.

Brayer's brigade in the centre, 6 battalions in attack column (have are 'bis' troops though).

Vielande's attack approaches the hillock, held by 2 Spanish militia battalions and 1 4 pdr gun.

French fire support.

The weak Allied left needs reinforcements, the reserve Navarre volunteers are on the march to their aid.

On the Allied right, Colbornes 4 battalions arrive at the march.

The French winning the skirmishing duel in the centre. But closing the gap into musket range hurts a lot, from the Irlanda and Patria battalions.

To counter the British counter-attack, the French cavalry, led by the mighty Vistula lancers, gallop on at top speed.

Well disciplined, they form line to attack. Hussars cover their right flank.

Back on the hillock, the Spanish militia have held out and driven back Veilande's columns with withering volleys.

The Irlanda battalion, disordered but fighting on and holding back the French columns as well.

Charge! The lancers go in, and tear Colborne's redcoats to shreds. A second charge saw all 4 British battalions withdrawing in disorder and needing several rally cards. Guard lancers (treated as here), are very good troops.