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|
|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
|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
|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
|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|
|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!...
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!