A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that


Tuesday, 29 December 2015

An Actual Wargame – [No-One Expected That…]



Christmas has been a bit odd this year – we’ve sort of squeezed bits of it in between other priorities. One unexpected by-product was that our dining table was no longer required for dining by Boxing Day, so I took the opportunity to set up a Napoleonic battle, and fought it solo in short sessions over two evenings.

I had a whole pile of reasons for getting the toys out; apart from merely wishing to demonstrate to myself that I still do this sort of thing occasionally, I also had the Commands & Colors:Napoleonics Expansion #5 to explore.

It is obvious, very quickly, that the C&CN#5 game enhancements are really not suitable for solo play – they look interesting for a [sensible] two-player game, but it is not easy to surprise yourself when maintaining two hands of Command and Tactician cards – in fact this may be one of the few situations where short-term memory loss would be an advantage. So I played the game using C&CN’s movement and combat rules and my own (dice-driven) activation system. Since my activation rules allow orders to be given to brigades, I had a chance to use my recently-acquired coloured wooden cubes to identify brigades and their commanders. The Expansion #5 involvement was limited to some new rules (terrain related, and also some new rules for rocket units, of which more later), and I also borrowed the general form of the Brienne scenario from the new booklet.

I have said here before that I am not a big fan of the published scenarios – mostly this is because of my solo games; the scenarios specifically give a balanced game which for a solitary gamer can produce slogging matches. I prefer an uneven game, where the skill of conducting a hopeless defence (or something) gives more of a challenge. Otherwise, a solo attempt at a balanced scenario can become an exercise in watching the chance element play itself out.

My version of Brienne was – of course – not Brienne at all. It used an elongated version of the scenario field (17 x 9 hexes) and I added some extra units – the line-up was now a Peninsular War one – Anglo-Portuguese (General Henry Clinton with the Allied 6th Division, plus the Portuguese brigade from 3rd Division, plus cavalry, plus – hallelujah! – a rocket troop) attacking a French force (General Eugene-Casimir Villatte, with a large division of French and Confederation infantry, with cavalry).

The French were installed in a fairly open, flat area which contained 4 villages (3 of which were in a cluster, within musket range of each other, and looked like an ideal position to defend) and a walled farm (which was classified as a “fortress” for the new rules), which controlled a key river ford. 10 victory points were required for a win, and there were 2 temporary VPs available for whichever side held most of the 4 village hexes at the start of each turn. If the Allies took the walled farm that would be an immediate victory – game over – didn’t look very likely.

Clinton was required to take the initiative, and his general plan was to ignore the cluster of BUAs on his right, and attempt to score enough VPs on his left to win the day. He had a few early bad breaks, including the loss of both of the brigade commanders on his left, as a result of which Plan C was required (there was no Plan B), and the game suddenly became a face-off between two linear armies, exactly the sort of slugging match I wasn’t looking for. At the end of the first evening session, I came close to abandoning the game. The Allies were now forced to attack a strong defensive position, their approach being across open ground which made heavy losses inevitable; without the scope to move reserves quickly enough to provide a game-winning local superiority, and in the absence of the whimsical trump-card possibilities of C&CN, it seemed fairly clear that the real General Clinton would have thought better of the whole deal and would have pulled back, and whistled up some heavier artillery (or some Stukas, if he had any).

Thus the game only just made it into evening 2, but in fact the second session went well – there was a lot more ebb and flow than I expected, and the result could have gone either way – Clinton just edged it, though he might well have lost if it had gone on another turn. Good game, rather to my surprise – my faith is restored.

I’ll try to explain the action in the picture captions.

General view from Allied left flank. The cluster of villages is at the far end

Rule changes allowed me to field this rather scruffy rocket troop - as far as I recall,
they've never appeared in the field before - they have taken part in the odd siege
(brown bases mean they belong in the SIEGES box). The rules worked well
enough - the rockets had sporadic successes, but at least they avoided blowing
themselves up

Villatte set up his defence of the cluster in accordance with the scenario map
- the battery in the space between two BUA's proved to be a weakness - Villatte
has the white border to his base

Garde de Paris doing some berry-picking - no flag - having lost their eagle at
Baylen, the replacement unit was never given a new one (historical fact) - Napoleon
remembered...

Anson's light cavalry on the Allied right saw an opportunity to clear their front of
their French counterparts - it was nippy while it lasted, but they succeeded

Straight out of the box, the rockets scored a direct hit, first shot, on this battery
- they did not maintain anything like this level of success

General Hulse brings up his brigade in the Allied Centre - the idea was that he would
swing left, and, with Col Palmeirim's Portuguese, he would assault the French right.
It didn't go well - Hulse's men were repulsed pretty decisively, and Hulse himself
fell, and at about the same time Paleirim was shot in the woods to the left, which
meant that activation of the entire Allied left wing became a major problem
- without a commander present with a brigade, the constituent units have to be
ordered separately

Synchronised dragoons - the 20eme, with their brigade commander, did a bit
of riding backwards and forwards on the flank, but never got involved - note the pink
brigade identifiers

Their opposite numbers - Le Marchant's British heavies, facing them, also
contributed nothing to the action

After Hulse was wounded, the French started to organise their defensive line,
and this was the point where General Clinton had grave doubts about continuing the action

A decisive moment came when the light companies from Col Hinde's brigade overran
the pesky battery at the cluster - you will observe that I use red tiddlywinks as loss markers

Gen de Bde Bouton brings up a battalion of grenadiers to dispose of Hinde's light
bobs, and to plug the gap left by the artillery's demise

More reserves - the 3rd Confederation Regt (Frankfurt) look on from the rear

Allies on the right - this really doesn't look too promising, but at least the artillery
has gone

All quiet on the Allied right - the light cavalry spent the rest of the day glaring at each other

Looking back the other way, from the Allied right, as Clinton resolves to give it his best shot

For the first time, the British musketry has cleared part of the village (though reserves
are available, Bouton was a casualty) - at the bottom of the picture, Clinton
has arrived to take charge of Hulse's leaderless troops

Villatte himself brings the Chasseurs des Montagnes up to defend the village (this
is getting pretty near the bottom of the barrel!), while Hinde and Madden
organise the Allied assault - the more battered units to the rear, as per the text book

...and the marker is spitting blood - including the (green) temporary VPs for
majority possession of the villages, the French were leading 9-6 at this point - 10 for the win... 

Once again, the firefight forced the French to vacate the village - Clinton began
to smell victory, if he could just avoid losing any more units - at least the French
no longer had the green VPs (though they could march back in and reclaim them)...

So the action came down to 3 assaults with the bayonet - on the left, Clinton led
one of Palmeirim's Portuguese battalions against a battered French unit - the
French routed immediately, and the brigadier with the blue cube was captured...

...while Col Hinde attacked one of the villages...

...and a Portuguese battalion attacked another village - this was regarded as
the least hopeful of the assaults, so was kept until last!...

...the Portuguese attack on the village was not required - Col Hinde took his
village almost unopposed with the 32nd Foot, the French legere battalion
which opposed them routed from the field, and Villatte was taken
- Allies won 11-8, but it could have gone either way at the end
Now I must try to pencil in a future evening, and invite a guest general to help me give Expansion #5 a proper try-out. 

If I don’t get back to the blog before next month, I wish everyone a happy and peaceful New Year. I'd better get the battlefield tidied away!

12 comments:

  1. Good to see a holiday game, Christmas is for toys after all and it all looks attractive and enticing.

    I confess that flipping through various c&c/Battlecry etc scenarios, I usually struggle to find the connection to the original.

    Also good to seeing the Heavies fulfilling their primary duties of looking good and staying alive.

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  2. A splendid looking game!

    Best Regards,

    Stokes

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  3. A game??? A game??? A rather spiffing looking game at that! Love the Rocket Troop!

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  4. Very nice again! You must do more Napoleonic games because they send m on a nostalgia trip (ignoring the hexes of course). You must consider your readership. 😉

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  5. Another great looking game Tony and nice to see some British on the field especially the rocket troop! I'm looking forward to more in 2016...

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  6. Despite my known antipathy to all things hex, that is a most pleasing looking game...! A happy New Year for later in the week...

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  7. Great looking game Tony, and good to see the Heavy Dragoons on the table at last :)

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  8. Thank you all gentlemen - best wishes to all - from several points of view, I could do with 2016 turning out rather better than its predecessor! Onward and upward...

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  9. Tony:
    Your toys en masse look absolutely splendid on the tabletop. Your buildings are quite pretty as well. You keep a very precise table, I must say - I noted the precise spacing of the victory marker tokens. I wish I was that neat.
    I am somewhat disappointed in your findings on CCN Exp 5. I have this on my wish list but don't think it will add much to my mostly solo gaming. :(
    Best for the new year,
    Michael

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    1. I'm sure CCN#5 will be fine once I've tried it out with an opponent and got my head around to make the extra cards work solo. One faint concern I have is that it makes CCN a bit more card-focused - I'm sure it gives a good game but I would guess the turns are bound to be slower.

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  10. I don't see why the new cards have to be a bigger problem for solo play than the old cards, provided you remove First Strike and a few others. On the other hand, I think they have the potential to add some much needed story and Napoleonic color.

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