How Men of Quality Resolve Differences

How Men of Quality Resolve Differences
Pudel and Peper attacks - an ugly but inevitable part of any 17th C. British Civil War, "Oh! The Shame of it All!"

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Return to Colomby-Nouilly

From George Hooper's work [CLICK]

This was a medium sized action involving around 80,000 Soldiers total, fought on 14 August 1870. Short article is here [CLICK]. Also called Borney - Columbey, it reminds me of Quatre Bras in that it was a shaping action that was followed by other significant battles, these being  (Mars-la-Tour and Gravelotte) which resulted in France's main regular army being trapped at the famous fortress of Metz [CLICK].

From the gaming stand point, it was a relatively indecisive battle, which makes it perfect for the gaming table. Yes, you heard me... an indecisive throw-down always makes for a better table top game than some famous blow-out victory; after all, who wants to fight the side that lost? Gamers want to have at it and give as good as they got.

This battle made it into the "1870" rules by the great game designer and great guy Bruce Weigle [may his Scotch never sour], with many battles presented in the back [CLICK]. Whether you play the rules, or are just inspired by them and his outstanding research and bibliography, I can strongly recommend you buy them!  Anyway, the map is below: 
As you can see, this is an excellent rendition of the battlefield, better than the top map. However, it is a bit busy to create a table out of, so I did a hand tracing below:
The gradations are still a bit unclear, so to create the ground for the game, I did another version with slope lines:
With level 4 being highest, you can see that there's a series of valleys that drain into a river at level 1.  The Prussian army is attacking East to West from the spurs and heights against the French who are mostly in the valley - an unenviable situation against an army with superior artillery!

Below is the same view, South to North, of the table being created out of insulation styrofoam. The host, Kevin K, has a great system for his 12x6' table.  take the 12 x 6 table, cut 3' squares of insulation styrofoam, and each piece cut makes two cut and shaped pieces, each still stacking into the 3' square for storage [could even be stored upon the table...!].
Above, "S3" is a medium curve hill, after the cloth is upon it one could also put a stream in the beveled "ditch". Nice!

Even in the raw, you can see the valley taking shape, and the heights and spurs to the right:
From East to West, at the South end, the heighest height:
From center, again East to West:
North end, same direction: long ridge towards 
View from the North to the South:
The blue painter's tape helps secure the layers from shifting, and it easy to remove [and doesn't damage the insulation].

     *     *     *

Below, the table covered with a cloth, view North to South. Unfortunately, the cloth doesn't show the contours well in the lighting. Over a few days, the cloth will settle a bit, too.

Upon the large [13' by 7' or so] cloth is laid the network of towns and villages, woods and streams. The single house may not look just like a town, but it gives the table some depth.
Above view, South from the North edge, French side.
Below view, West from the center East, Prussian side.

Finally, cultivated areas [orchards, brush, fields, etc] are shown with brighter green fabric with little patterns.  This catches the eye.  In tactical terms, it provides covered avenues of approach, important in a firepower-strong period.

Below, French view of oncoming Prussian divisions!  There's one per wooden tray, more or less.
Up close, the Imperial Guard infantry to left, cavalry to right.

South end of French sector, view of Prussian line of advance.
View South to North, from the French side - Prussians to right.

The above took just under two hours or so. This was mostly driven by the host having a system in place. I provided a certain amount of delay by not being fully prepared about a couple of things I overlooked, so I went morning of the [evening] game to finish them up.

In terms of scale and battle level, the rules are 1" is 100m, so the table is 14.4 kliks long by 7.2 kliks wide . The battle will involve around 1,000 figures, with each Regiment represented by 16-20 foot, 12 Cav. By comparison, Waterloo was 4x4 miles [6 kliks] and had about 140,000 men, so was twice the men in half the battlefield!

In terms of the rules, I did a bit more streamlining, and switched from a MU [Maneuver Unit, e.g. "Unit"] being a Battalion to being a Regiment. This only changes the mechanics of infantry units a little bit, basically making them more flexible. I'm excited as it overall suits both the period and the operational level of rules I'm looking for, which really captures the flavor of the period better than a low-level tactical set, IMHO.  We'll see what happens next!

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Mustafa's "Blucher" - The Rage Continues!

Well, they ain't Miniatures...but then again, I didn't have to paint'em!
Overall, a nice portable substitute for Miniatures, except perhaps 2mm.

Scenario #8 "Melee" from One-Hour Wargames, by Neil Thomas.
Russians will be defending, holding the hill while their reinforcements race to the scene. The French are making a push to secure the hill - it overlooks the road and is easily interdicted by Artillery. How can the French advance without a secure supply line?

Only changes to the scenario are to make it fit Blucher, which doesn't fight to the death, but usually until 1/3 of the Units are Broken.  Here I compromised and made it 50% of the Units per side - 10 for French, 11 for Russians [one is only a Cossack]. In Blucher terms, they were 2 armies around 130 pts.

I diced for the forces using first the 6-unit then the 4-unit table in One-Hour Wargames. I came up with the below:
6 line infantry, 1 Guard infantry, 1 Militia Infantry, 1 Cossack, 1 Cavalry, 1 Foot Artillery, and buckets of Steadiness!

I Corps. 
Allied Infantry: 1 French Model, 1 Polish, 1 Conscripts, 1 Horse Art, 1 Lt Cavalry
II Corps. 5 French Line Infantry.

Atop the hill, Russians have two Infantry, Foot Artillery and the Militia have moved into the woods, on Turn 1 [the woods are the key to the position, CLICK here for analysis]. The Artillery nearly reach the road at 24".

French Turn 1, the Allied force entered, with the Light Cav, Horse Artillery at the front.  Three Infantry following up.  Russian Artillery range indicated by ruler. Uncertain if I placed their guns properly, but prefer Infantry to be close to the opposition, rather than the guns.
Guns in Blucher are pretty resilient - charges against them, even on a flank, are unlikely to succeed unless the guns are low on ammo.

Turn 2. Russians re-position as the Allies are moving up the road and avoiding them. French respond by continuing up road, unlimbering the Horse Artillery, and inflicting a Fatigue on the near Russian Infantry.

Turn 3. Russian reinforcements arrive - three Infantry following the Cossacks. The French cleverly held their Cavalry just out of charge range, so the Cossacks must be content with screening the Infantry, who are following closely behind. 
As defender's win ties in Close Combat with Blucher, and the Infantry can more than handle a lone light Cavalry Unit, Ivan isn't worried. The Russian Infantry spectacularly miss hitting the French Horse Artillery with 3 x 1's!
Meanwhile, on the Hill, The Russians have finished repositioning themselves into a more offensive stance. The Militia defending the wood have no reason to exit the woods and have a losing firefight against the Allied Infantry. 
In Blucher, the best thing for weak Infantry is to occupy a defensive position, which makes them a lot more effective than in the open. They also will wear down an enemy Infantry, even if they lose and retreat. 
Interestingly, Blucher doesn't allow Infantry shooting in or out of woods. Artillery may shoot up to 3" in. This makes occupied woods mostly a close combat problem. Only rules I know that do this! Reminds me a lot of the Histories I've read...

French Turn 3. Cavalry charge the Cossacks and are repulsed! Infantry advance.
French Horse Artillery blast the Russian Infantry for 2 Fatigues! Cossacks charge the French cavalry but this time THEY suffer a reverse!
Russian Infantry Move up and create a firing line.

French Turn 4. Polish and German Allied Infantry prepare to face the Russian advance, supported by the Horse Artillery. Meanwhile, they position Infantry to gang up on the Militia holding the woods, key to the hill position.
II Corps arrives on the road. Plenty of Infantry to reinforce the frontal push.

An Impatient Conscript attempts to oust the Militia, unsuccessfully.

Turn 5. French step up the pressure, charging the Light Cavalry against the severely weakened Russian Infantry, forcing a Retreat, and leaving them Fatigued. The Conscripts again try their luck against the Militia in the woods, and are again thrown back; this has left the Militia weakened, however.
Firing breaks out all over the East end of the battlefield, the French getting the upper hand right away, inflicting a Hit on each and taking none.

Turn 6. Russians hold the line as their reinforcements arrive at the West edge of the battlefield; a cavalry, a Guard Infantry, and an Infantry. French make a high risk charge and the Light Cavalry break the Russian Infantry - mostly due to the general failing to Prepare them. Firing continues, with the French steadily out-rolling the Russian Infantry.  A Russian charge against the horse Artillery fails [barely].
Russians down 5 Fatigues v. 1 French! Shooting is attiritional, and directly related to the amount of elan, so once you have been out-diced in a firefight, you may not recover from that.  Must shooting is a 50-50 proposition [slightly favoring the defense, which will shoot first] unless the enemy is softened up by Artillery first, or your Infantry have the Firepower or Skirmish Trait and the opposition does not.

Russian Turn 7. Cossacks attempt to be a nuisance, French Artillery Retires after running out of ammunition. Firefight continues as Russian reinforcements race to assist their comrades [oops, that's a 100 years too early...].

French Turn 7. I am at something of a loss to decide what to do with Units that have nearly run out of Elan. There seems to be a chance to charge the flank of the Russian Foot Artillery with the French Cavalry. Most rule sets would reward this clever strategm, BUT! Not Blucher!
The French Light Cavalry must score at least one '6' on its attack, which now will only have 2 dice. The Guns will have more, but even with only 1, and neither side scoring a hit, the result will be a tie which the defender wins. This would finish off the French light cavalry.  So instead, they Engage the Militia, which will make it difficult for them to escape the advancing French. As I am playing to 6 Russian or 5 French units lost, it is more important to destroy units completely than take the hill, ultimately. I have found a use for at least THIS weakened unit!
The French infantry meanwhile, will not be stopped for long by the Cossacks!

French winning the Firefight, 8-2 Fatigues!

Turn 8. Russian Reinforcements continue to rush to the fight.
French Light Cavalry - like heroes - re-roll their '6' and roll another '6', breaking the Prepared Militia!  The French Line, unsurprisingly, shoot the Cossacks away.

Turn 9. Russian Dragoons move up to the "trap" created by the cunning French Revolutionaries.  Confronted by two weak French Units, and a full strength Line Infantry in the woods. Choices are not actually that great.
Meanwhile, the Poles and French charge and destroy a Russian Line Infantry. The other has only one Elan left. Weak French Cav Engage a weak Russian Line, making escape very difficult, probly impossible.

French Turn 9.
They move the Fatigued Conscripts into the face of the Russian Dragoons. Even if they defeat each of these Infantry Units sequentially, they will take two Fatigues, leaving them vulnerable to attack by the lurking French line.
This is the one of the few things I've found Fatigued Units are useful for.

Russian Turn 10. No matter how the Dragoons cut it, they will still be vulnerable to shooting from the other Infantry unit after they defeat the Conscripts.
If they Turn to face the Conscripts directly, they'll end up sideways to Infantry Fire.
Best to just go straight in and be ready to charge the next weak unit.  At least the Dragoons will finish off two French units. Won't change the game, however.

Russian Reinforcements make themselves noticed, setting themselves up for Fire next turn.  Instead, on French Turn 10, they get a thrashing from French skirmishing! 2 Fatigues on the Russian Guards and one on the Line Brigades.
This will be known as "The Turn of French Firepower"!  A hit by the weakened French Infantry, which is now also Prepared for the cavalry charge...

Turn 10 continues... French blow away the Russian Line.

Russian Turn 11. Seeing defeat at 50% staring them in the face, the Russian Infantry charge the French Line. The Guard roll 11 dice, and get NO SIXES!  The French roll 4 dice and get one, but they needed NONE since they win ties.
The Russian Line fare better, and win by one 6.
Russian Dragoons try to break the French Line square...French beat them straight up, one 6 to none [without a re-roll]. 

French Turn 11. They blast the Russian Line's last Elan off.

According to OHW, the scenario is won by whichever side ends up in sole possession of the hill, a pretty steep hill to climb, and likely to draw.  For this game, I modified it to the Blucher forces lost victory, also.  The side that takes 50% losses for this *valuable* hill will withdraw.  Blucher isn't a fight to the death wargame, like the original OHW rules are.

The last couple of turns were disasters for the Russians.  A bunch of units melted, and were unable to extricate themselves from their situations, anyway. Russians lost 4 Line Infantry, the Militia and the Cossacks. French lost a Conscript.

Furthermore, comparing Fatigues, the Russians had a couple more units with just a few Elan left. The French had two that were hurting badly, but were able to shield them from marauding Russkies.

This battle is usually a draw - if either side wins, it is usually the defender.  Today, the Russians took a much worse beating than I thought they would. Partially this was caused by a great decision of the French to advance forward as quickly as possible, engage only part of the hill defenses and fall aggressively upon the first Russian Reinforcements.  They also rolled very well at a couple of times, setting themselves up to win the battle of attrition.

The Russians badly mishandled their guns, but were perplexed by the woods, which is an obstruction.  They also should have moved all their reinforcements together along the North edge of the hill, where the Dragoons may have been able to make a better impression upon the French.

Blucher gave a very good game here, and altho I only had Momentum problems once a side, it was still tense at times, wondering if I'd have the MO needed to move the second Brigade.  I didn't encounter anything in the rules that was a significant issue.  Couple of lessons:

- weak units need to be protected, but - especially if cavalry - can be effective at Engaging the enemy, trapping them or slowing them against advancing forces until they are crushed.
- Combat against any defender where you have to re-roll Successes is VERY unlikely to succeed, since the Defender wins ties.
- Same goes for two weak units facing off against each other - neither side should bother to charge as when neither rolls a '6', the Defender wins. The resulting Fatigue distro is predictable and will eliminate the Attacker with 2 Elan left, not just the Defender with 1 Elan left.
- That being said, Fatigued defenders are a predictable charge for fresh cavalry - they can take the two Fatigues for losing, but will eliminate the Fatigued defender.

While certain aspect of Blucher make some results VERY likely, it is possible to beat all the odds with dice, which is pretty fun when it happens. 

Overall, I really enjoy Blucher, and plan to play it a bunch more while improving my paper terrain for it.