Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that


Thursday, 7 November 2019

Battle of La Rothiere - 1st Feb 1814

Yesterday was a fighting day, up at Kinross. There were four of us involved - the Archduke was travelling from Westmorland, Baron Stryker was arriving from much closer at hand, in his campaigning sedan chair, I was coming from south of the Forth, and the day's events were scheduled to take place at the legendary Schloss Goya, where the Count did a magnificent job of preparing and planning the game, preparing a very fine luncheon and (whisper it) even serving up lemon cake with afternoon tea.

The battle was a big 'un, no disputing that fact, the scenario lifted from the commandsandcolors.net website. Here is the scenario diagram - we used my Ramekin variant of C&CN - 8 Victory Points for the win.


We each contributed some of the troops. Stryker lost the toss of a coin and thus had to partner me in command of the French. A quick squint at the situation, along with the events of actual history, suggested that we were about to receive a thrashing.

Some of the Russian troops in action were very scary indeed - the Guard Grenadiers are very powerful, and the most formidable of the lot were their Guard Heavy Cavalry, who are 6 blocks strong, get a bonus of +1 die in combat and may disregard 2 retreat flags. Oh, jolly good. I was very pleased to see they were well back in the rear of the Allied reserve at the start - I had visions of their casually touring the battlefield, mopping up our army. The rules also bestow upon the Russian infantry a most unsporting reluctance to run away when pressed, and the final outrage is the Mother Russia die before the battle starts - on the day, this provided an extra block of strength for two of the Russian infantry regiments, and also an extra block for both of their field batteries. This did not seem like good news - since I had no idea how an extra-large battery is allocated combat dice in C&CN, we had to agree an ad-hoc rule for the day to cover this. Whatever, the Russian artillery was a major nuisance throughout the day.

It seemed very odd that the Bavarians present were, of course, not on the French side. The French had some Guard Cavalry, and some Young Guard infantry, but it was decreed that, this being 1814, the quality of the French line infantry did not merit the usual +1 combat die for elan in melee.

We (the French) assumed that the Bavarians would be sent across the stream into our left flank, so we set up to give them a hot reception. In fact they didn't attack us at all, so that was an effective feint! The VP rules for this scenario are fairly complex, but include extra points for possession of the 4 villages of La Giberie, Petit-Mesnil, La Rothiere itself (with the church) and Dienville. We duly defended these four villages, but things did not go very well at the start, the Russians drove us out of La Rothiere and eliminated one of our two field batteries. Thereafter the theme of the day was fighting for the villages, and trying to stay clear of the big Russian batteries. There was a good deal of cavalry fighting as the day developed. We started rather poorly, but as time went on we started to wear down the Russian infantry, and we got the VP score to 7-each. At this point we only (only!) had to push one of our Young Guard units across the stream on our left flank, and attack a wood containing a much-weakened Bavarian regiment (and, preferably, take out Wrede at the same time). This was such a vivid prospect that we could actually see it happening, but it was vital that we won the initiative for the next turn.

We duly won that initiative, and in a state of some excitement we attacked tthe Bavarian-held wood, but the attack failed completely, and the response was conclusive. Around this time, the Russian Guard Grenadiers eliminated one more French unit, and during that same turn we were driven out of two more of the key villages, so that, instead of sneaking a victory 8-7 (which would have been a travesty, to be honest), we actually lost - within a single turn - by 9-4. Hmmm. From the jaws of you-know-what.

Not to worry - great game - historically correct result, and it was exciting throughout. Questions will certainly be asked about the performance of the French artillery, but we are confident that (authentically) Napoleon will just lie through his teeth about the outcome, and publish appropriate Fake News in his dispatches.

My appreciation and very best wishes to my colleagues, and especially to Count Goya for his tireless hospitality. Excellent day!
View from behind the French right at the start, with the River Aube (unfordable) in the foreground, the key villages all defended. You can just see the Bavarian-Austrian force threatening our left flank at the far end of the table, beyond the stream.
Looking along the Russian line, from their left
Russians advancing on their left - this attack didn't develop as much as we expected, but it kept us worried throughout. You can see the pesky "Mother Russia" super-size batteries on the ridge in the background.
The French are quickly driven out of La Rothiere, and one of the French batteries has been overrun and eliminated. That's General Gerard (white border) attempting to convince his men that they should try to take the place back.
This is just a more expansive view of the same moment, I think (apologies for duff photos)
Over on the Allied right, you can see the Bavarians pretending that they might cross the stream and do something, but they sat it out, while we kept a very warlike eye on them
A general view - you can see the gap in the middle, between the armies, caused by the lack of a French answer to the artillery problem. Russians marching forward relentlessly.
The French are running out of infantry at this stage
Time for some volunteers to win the day...
Here we go - Stryker's Young Guard battalion, about to cross the stream and set about those Bavarians - at least they are thinking about it
First of all, they had to cope with an attack from an Austrian hussar unit - we did pretty well - the YG refused to form square, and convinced the hussars that they should take a Retire and Reform option. Good - not immortal yet, but working on it.
Meanwhile, my own Young Guard battalion took back La Rothiere - they didn't keep it for long, but we were starting to win back a few VPs at this stage

The Russians still have a lot of troops, and many of them are fresh. Note that the village of La Rothiere (with church) is now occupied by the Russian Guard Grenadiers - no-one was in any great hurry to take them on, so there they stayed.
Stryker's YG chaps lasted hardly any longer than mine - having failed to shift the Bavarians out of the wood, they were surrounded and eliminated. The game was over shortly afterwards. I hope that Stryker will be able to put a more positive spin on his blog report on this game! L'Empereur is depending on him.

31 comments:

  1. Fantastic looking game. You are a lucky guy to have such great guys to play against.

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  2. We woz robbed mon brave! Great post!

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  3. It would be great fun to play on your table. From thoughts of gaining an 8-7 victory turning into a realization of a 9-4 loss is par for the course with CC:x. Most games are never really over until that last banner is taken. Fab looking game. My compliments to Count Goya for hosting a well-presented game.

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    1. Obviously during an extended series of dice-rolls I would expect the luck to tend to balance up, but it is a regular feature of these C&C games that there are always swings - ebb and flow while you watch!

      Hope things good with you Jon.

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  4. Epic looking game! By this point in 1814, the French are all but on their last legs, so the fact that you actually had a decent chance to win this game is impressive! :-)

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    1. Without the guards we would really have struggled!

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  5. Lovely game, quality gaming time with friends.

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    1. Hi Norm - yes, an excellent day all round.

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  6. A splendid looking affair...
    If only the Bavarians had seen sense and ran away like they should have...

    All the best. Aly

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    1. I had a real mental-shift problem with the Bavarians. Of course I knew all along that they had joined the Allied side, but when I was checking over the map the night before, I (briefly) included them in the French side. I am aware this is like John Gielgud in his Lord Raglan role - I believe I may be getting more like Lord Raglan all the time.

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    2. Like Lord Raglan you say? Don’t worry Tony, there’s no ‘arm innit.

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  7. Looks fantastic but sounded like a set up till you nearly pulled off the upset. In the end though its really the players, friend and foe alike, and the game that make the difference not the ending.

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    1. Hi Ross - agreed - it's the context. Losing a wargame is nothing to get upset about - it is a privilege to have been allowed to take part [Rats!].

      I have spent most of my life supporting a football team who didn't win very often, or being governed by political parties that I never voted for. It's OK - just part of life's rich tapestry. Part of the Grand Plan to keep us humble.

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  8. What a great looking game, I am truly envious of your fine collections of miniatures and the beautiful battlefields you are able to construct. David (in Suffolk) and I played a much smaller version of the British attack on the French left at Salamanca, in a pub in London Bridge on Wednesday evening. We used the standard C&C:N rules on this occasion which lead to some incidents which felt very anomalous. For example, at one point David as the British played a Fire and Hold card that gave his already powerful infantry an extra firing dice, which lead to his decimating several of my units with withering volleys from a ridge two-hexes distant. Being mown down from such a distance didn't feel right at all! I think your modified ranged firing rules feel much more realistic and in fact I suspect we will be giving your Ramekin rules another airing in the not so distant future.

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    1. Hi Dave - I believe it was during the Battle of Eggmuhl (!) that I finally realised that in some situations in C&CN there is simply no point in attacking. In that game, as I recall, the French infantry were attacking Austrian Line (5 blocks per unit) in wooded country - if we could have got to melee with them we would have stood a good chance of damaging them, but moving fire is relatively ineffective compared to standing fire, especially if the defender is in cover, and the French infantry just got blown away before we could do any damage at all. I suspected something was out of whack with the basic game, and the clincher for me is that ranged combat has more or less the same killing power as melee combat; since "melee" combat includes close-range musketry, this must be impossible, you would think. I was concerned that the balance of the game might show some distortions I hadn't thought of, but it seems OK. Important that National Characteristics should reflect the situation at the date of battle (thus French line got no melee bonus in our 1814 game). Another thing that bugs me a little in the Peninsular War C&CN base game is these 5-block British Light Inf units - what is that about? In my games, British LT are 4-blocks! Oh yes - and the special rule that Cuirassiers can ignore 1 musketry hit per turn is unjustified too - most hits would be on the horse, and cuirassiers have too many advantages generally! That's enough for today...

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  9. Memories of the battle of La Rothiere fought in 2016 with Roy Boss's extraordinary collections still make me shudder, Foy, so it was with some trepidation that I clicked on this post. The thrashing received by the French on this occasion, however, seems to have been far less traumatic. My compliments to you and your fellow generals for such a masterclass in game design and presentation. Napoleonic wargaming never looked better!

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    1. Hi WM - as you say, this thrashing could have been far worse than it was. Count Goya is currently knitting an extension to his battlefield - a fine effort, I'm sure you will agree. I'm confident I speak for all of us when I say it's a fine effort.

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  10. Despite the result, looks like a most enjoyable day. Good company, good figures and a nice set up what more could you want?

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    1. Hi Graham - agreed, it is a happy situation. What more could I want? - interesting - if I had a little talent as well, that wouldn't go amiss.

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  11. Splendid looking game Tony, I might give this one a try myself with the blocks. A quick note re the Mother Russia Roll and Paper Strength markers - how did you play the artillery with the additional block? The Russian Army booklet states that when a paper strength marker is added to an artillery battery 'the added block does not increase the batteries combat roll by 1'. Seems a bit odd to me but I guess it helps absorb the first hit.

    I do like the cavalry symbol adding a 2 block unit of Cossacks, that was fun as you can chuck them about the board and when lost does not result in a victory banner. They have good nuisance value.

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    1. Aha! - Hi Lee - in fact we don't have the Russian rules - well, I have a download of the Russian rules in Spanish (discuss), but it doesn't seem to mention that. The use of the Mother Russia dice in this scenario is for infantry and artillery only - since we didn't know any better we allowed the enhanced batteries an extra die. If we'd only known, the Emperor wouldn't have needed to lie about the result of the battle. Would VAR have helped?

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  12. The Russian rules in Spanish sounds interesting! if you ever need any further clarification I have all of the expansions here so can check. I like the little nuances some of the additional rules add.

    Have you used the Prussian 'Iron Will' rule yet? You can spend an Iron Will counter to ignore a retreat flag that otherwise can't be ignored, very useful.

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    1. Thanks Lee - I may well take you up on that. Some trickiness in C&CN these days since each Expansion potentially adds new rules, but there is no superset of the rule book as far as I know. We SOMETIMES use Grand Battery, Garrison Markers, depending on the scenario and the nation, and nowadays we tweak the national characteristics pretty regularly.

      Iron Will - yes we used that a few times, I think - Moeckern, Plancenoit and Quatre Bras. Useful.

      I know less than nothing about the Russians - things I learned on Wednesday were that their infantry are very brave but the units are small, so they can be broken, and that the Guard are unstoppable.

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  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. I was going to reply to this one, and here it's been snatched...

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  14. It's super that we get a double report of these great looking games, thanks Tony!

    (BTW: they all embellished reports, as I'm sure you are aware. Wellington's famous order to Beresford to 'write me a victory' springs to mind, but there are loads of others. First casualty and all that. 'To lie like a bulletin' is a wonderful example of some of the propaganda that has made it down the ages.
    Not meaning to go all ranty on you...
    *One* day we'll actually have the pleasure to meet, I'll bring a bottle of your fav. tipple and we can chat about wargaming and history (and even British propaganda) into the wee hours!! :)
    I hope that does not read as some kind of threat, intended in a spirit of shared cameraderie and interest, haha!!

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    1. That's a very upbeat promise - good idea. I've positioned my painting chair so I can keep an eye on the driveway. Thanks James - take care.

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    2. Brilliant image Tony--brought a broad smile and a hearty laugh at this end!

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