After the draw at Stautz and the French win at Sägwell I updated the map and forces. One wrinkle of the current campaign rules is, that you cannot retreat into a location with two forces already present. This means that Austrian II Armeekorps has been effectively dispersed in the retreat.
The Austrians could have avoided this but I simply forgot. Maybe I have to address this, as it does feel very forced to move in such a way to avoid it. It also seems not historical to split up retreating forces into different locations.
With the French now at 7 victory points and the Austrians at -3 I decided to stop the campaign here. Even with a fresh force still at Weil the losses have been too severe and the strategic position is untenable. The Austrians have to retreat and the French have won a major victory.
The overall losses are heavily weighted in favor of the French after the battle of Sägwell: French: 4000 Austrians: 25000
Thoughts on the Campaign Rules
For the first playtest the rules worked fine. Some of the mechanics to keep the armies on a broad footing strategically seem a little bit artificial. A more open map might help here to force armies to spread in order to cover ally approaches.
Thoughts on Volley and Bayonet
The more I play the rules the more I like them. Although I usually prefer more restrictive command and control rules the campaign did its part to come up with interesting scenarios that were challenges to commanding a force in itself.
Only artillery seems a tad too strong, especially on defense. But this can easily mitigated by fielding less dedicated artillery.
This is the second battle happening on day 3 of the campaign and the biggest one. Several French and Austrian Corps as well as both C-in-Cs are converging on the village of Sägwell and the nearby crossroads.
At 0800 in the morning Darche’s French III Corps is arrayed in defensive positions on a small hill. Sägwell is to the left while the strategically important crossroads are to the right. Darche knows that C-in-C Gérard will arrive with the Guard later in the day to his right. He also knows that another enemy Armeekorps is on the move against him.
In the distance II Armeekorps of Austrian general Brandauer marches to battle positions. Kress will arrive with reinforcements soon to his left (which is upper right int he image). Rumors of French reinforcements are unconfirmed.
The small wooded area lining the road will be a point of conflict all day.
0900 to 1100
The French moved to occupy the woods and Sägwell. Excellent defensive positions buffered by extensive skirmishers screens. The Austrians start probing attacks.
Both side use artillery to soften up the enemy
Thick clouds of smoke billow up from the woods. Although the French are outnumbered and outgunned, skirmishers and cover seem to be enough to even the odds.
C-in-C Stroheim arrives on the field with Kress’ I Armeekorps in tow. The long line of troops make their way to the crossroads to pressure the French flank.
Having the upper hand in troops on the field Brandauer orders to take the woods and pressure the enemy. Soon Austrians are streaming through the woods with Frenchmen in flight. With his forces stretched thin Darche opts to reform his left flank on the hill but keep one regiment in Sägwell. This proves to be a vital decision, as the Austrians have to deal with the village before they can roll up the flank.
Meanwhile reports of dust clouds on the horizon arrive Stroheim. It seems that the French have more forces in the area after all and he will not have time to defeat the Freench one after another.
C-in-C Gérard and the French Guard under Daucourt arrive. They too have the crossroads in sight as a way to connect to Darche but as they aproach, Austrian troops are already deploying along the road.
The situation as seen from the French table edge. Darche is out of image to the left, Daucourt’s small but formidable reserve to the right. The Austrian road column scrambles to wheel to their left to deal with the new threat.
After hours of preparatory fire and losing the woods Darche sees Austrian columns coming in along the entire front. Fortunately, his artillery is still intact and the attackers are raked with canister fire and musket volleys. The Austrians run before they can even reach the hill and are in dire shape.
Daucourt urges his Guards forward through the screens of Austrian Grenzers. Heavy cavalry also attacks against enemy light horse with surprisingly mixed results. Still, Stroheim feels the initiative slipping as Brandauer reports mounting casualties and Kress is under pressure.
1400 and later
Gérard sees the opportunity and orders a general counter offense. Darche is quick to react and pushes his troops forward. Morale is high and the Austrians are seen retiring. Near the woods the Austrians face difficulty maneuvering and are dispersed.
Kress has to shift his forces as he sees Brandauer retiring. Meanwhile the Guard presses on like clockwork. A mere three hours after arriving Stroheim orders a general retreat.
This image has been take some time later at around 1600. The Austrian committed their last fresh troops to cover the general retreat but it is not going well. Darche’s discipline in holding back his cavalry paid off as the dragoons are now advancing next to the Guard to sweep everything in their path.
The rearguard action goes on for two more hours before it end an uncoordinated retreat. Stroheim’s army has been severely beaten.
I played out several turns of the retreat and it was brutal. We often read about commanders fighting a brilliant rearguard action and saving the army. This was not the time and place. I don’t know how close a game of Volley & Bayonet can come to reality (I suspect not that close) but I definitely experienced the challenges of extricating a broken army from the field and the effect fresh cavalry can have in this phase of the battle.
The casualty rules of the campaign were harsh after Sägwell. Maybe a bit too harsh:
French: 1.000 Austrians: 13.000 (>30% casualties)
Several flags, battalion guns and horse artillery pieces were captured by the French as well. I will deal with the campaign implications in another post.
After Andris’ forces received a thorough beating at Neuben another French attack puts pressure on the Austrians at Stautz. This battle begins relatively late in the day and will only last a couple of turns but what the Austrians don’t know is that the French have a flanking force on the march.
Two Austrian Armeekorps in defensive position at 1500. Stautz is in the upper right wedged between a stream and a ploughed fields which makes it easier to defend. Therefore the job falls to the battered III Armeekorps of Andris. Meanwhile Sandmeier deployed on and around the hill. In the distance Philidor arrives.
The forces arrayed for battle.
Dust clouds on the horizon mark the arrival of further forces as Philidor moves his forces forward to pin the Austrians in place. A heavy skirmisher screen is thrown forward to navigate the rough ground near Stautz.
On Philidor’s right Barnier arrives at 1600 with his Corps and immediately rushes his cavalry forward to bring disorder into the Austrian formations. Meanwhile his infantry traverses the stream and artillery is send down the road to support Philidor as it cannot cross the stream.
The defenders react by shifting the reserves towards Stautz and form some battalions in masse.
The First Attack
The French commit to the center while keeping away from the enemy on the hill. Artillery is brought forward and begins to wreak havoc among the Austrian defenders.
Barnier brings the full weight of his assault columns to bear but is beaten back in the first attack. The Austrians have successfully formed a defensive line on their left flank but these are the already weakened forces of Andris and they are missing artillery support.
The overall situation at 1800. Sandmeier had to retire somewhat on the right under mounting pressure. But Philidor’s men are tired and casualties are mounting. They don’t have another attack in them.
On the left the next attack is clearly aimed at Stautz which has been shelled by artillery for nearly 2 hours while French and Austrian troops battle at the outskirts of the town.
The Second Attack
The second French thrust easily dislodges the enemy from Stautz and supporting attacks along the defensive line makes any attempt to recapture the town already impossible.
As this goes on Sandmeier counter attacks Philidor’s troops with some success.
End of the Battle
After 2 hours of quick but intense attack maneuvers the Austrian forces retire from the left flank.
Word arrives Sandmeier while his forces are advancing against Philidor. He has no choice to pull back. The French hold Stautz and broke Andris’ foce again while narrowly avoiding Philidor’s Corps breaking. On the field of battle this would count as a tactical victory but in the strategical rules it is counted as a draw as neither side’s will to fight was completely broken. Casualties confirm this:
French losses: 1.500 Austrian losses: 4.000
But within the campaign this is not a good result for the Austrians. Andris III Armeekorps is barely holding together, nearly half in size after two battles and unknown to them there is another French Corps on the way.
After the first battle of the campaign near Porthaus the French are in a good position with far less casualties and better scouting. The have received 2 victory points for the battle versus the Austrain 1 victory point for holding the Weil node. I raised the morale value of all forces by +5 as these were too low.
The Austrian C-in-C Stroheim received reports of the costly defeat at Neuben on April 12. He decides to defend at Stautz in the south and use his three corps in the north for an attack towards Kreuznach. This would bottle up the French in the south somewhat.
The problem is that the exact location of three French Corps are still in doubt.
The French C-in-C Gérard tries to do the reverse. His successful II Corps will soon be reinforced and can attack Stautz while III Corps at Sägwell needs to hold the enemy while this happens.
Early April 13
At midday the situation clarified greatly for the French. The Austrians are attacking at Sägwell and another Armeekorps has been revealed at Weil. and Stautz. This brings the number up to five and all Dummy forces are therefore revealed.
Again the Austrians on their scouting. This time it is crucial, as French force D at Grinn gives them trouble. As long as it is not revealed it is far too dangerous to move V Armeekorps into battle at Sägwell.
Late April 13
Gérard saw no choice but to reinforce III Corps with the Reserve as Sägwell. Meanwhile I and II Corps attack at Stautz.
Finally force D has been uncovered as a dummy but this happens only after all moves for the turn so the V Armeekorps stayed at Weil. Whats more is that the reinforcing counters at Sägwell and Stautz have not been revealed. This means that the Austrians will neither know if more forces are on the way or where they will arrive.
The battles of Stautz and Sägwell are about to follow in separate posts.
Late in the second day of the campaign the French and Austrian forces meet for the first time on the field of battle. Volley and Bayonet will be used for all battles of the campaign. Deployment and reinforcements is influenced by the campaign movement of troops. The Road to Glory system from the rules is not used. There is a turn limit and formation breakpoints to govern victory in campaign turns.
The Austrians arrived at Porthaus roughly at 1400 and proceeded to seek good ground to block the French. The village of Neuben (center) some kilometres away from Porthaus was where the forces met.
French II Corps of Marshal Philidor in the foreground with Rochette’s cavalry to the left, Couvreur’s veteran infantry in the center, surrounded by thick skirmishers screens (not depicted). To the right Beaumanoir’s conscript infantry and Corps heavy artillery.
The Austrian III Armeekorps of General Andris consists of Boltzmann’s cavalry to the left. Faymann and Burger field an infantry division each in the center and to the right respectively. The Austrians also have heavy artillery.
The Austrians press on and take Neuben and have a strong central position with artillery on both flanks. Philidor reacts by moving his right wing forward to engage the enemy while the conscripts on the left advance more carefully.
Heavy fighting erupts at Neuben. French skirmishers seem to have the upper hand, though.
On the other side of Neuben long range artillery shells the maneuvering troops.
Around 17 o’clock Austrian cavalry made a move to threaten French infantry. General Rochette reacted promptly by charging the Austrians although he had only light cavalry at his disposal. As one might expect Austrian Cuirassiers routed the Frenchmen and put Rochette’s division into disorder. The French hussars fared better however and dispersed their enemy. A costly action but the danger to the infantry line has been averted.
Just right of the cavalry encounter the firefight showed mixed results. One French regiment broke (lower left) while the other charged (center) and broke their enemy which brought Faymann’s division close to collapse.
On the other side of Neuben, firefights began with the Austrians suffering. Both forces are close to their morale break point as determined by the campaign rules.
Fighting in the outskirts of Neuben continue. Although the Austrians are holding the village the supporting troops nearby are suffering heavily.
In a desperate gamble Andris orders Burger to send his men forward from the protected position on the hill to break the enemy conscripts. The French defend well and then counter attack which sends two regiments routing (top left). The ensuing losses are more than enough to break III Armeekorps and win the day. Although General Philidor’s force needed only two more hits to be broken as well.
General Andris retreats back to Stautz. During the battle I noticed that morale scores of 35 are rather low to start with and changed the starting value to 40. This means a force that loses 40% or more of hits of all their units is considered to be broken.
The situation after post battle moves, stamina and morale adjustments.
Casualty rolls were made for both forces and the Austrians suffered 8.000 losses out of 21.500 men. Boltzmann’s cavalry division has been nearly wiped out. II Corps only sustained 1.500 losses. The disparity is in part due to the pursuit of the losing force which generates additional losses on the losers side.
In the next post I will continue with the strategic side of things.
While reading about Napoleon on his campaigns i noticed that almost all the campaign systems I know are quite symmetrical. Armies are pitted against each other that may behave differently in the field but the campaign rules, as a battle generator of sorts assume that there are no differences on the strategical side of things. The systems Napoleon employed in his early campaigns before his enemies caught on would lead to a much less symmetrical campaign, though.
Advantages in scouting and screening, force concentration and a flexible approach about where the own center is situated are things that come to mind. Living off the land as opposed to long and slow supply trains is another difference that will influence how forces move.
I decided to work on a campaign system (code named Project Icarus) to model such differences in a simple way without a ton of bookkeeping. Nothing will be very detailed but in sum I hope to bring more realism to the campaign layer.
I set up a short and rather symmetrical campaign in order to test the systems in place first. Namely my rules for scouting, screening (preventing enemy scouting), morale, exhaustion and setting up field battles.
The map below is fictional but very loosely based on the Eckmühl campaign during the 5th Coalition in 1809. The French C-in-C Gérard has 4 regular Corps and one Guard Reserve Corps starting west. The Austrian C-in-C Stroheim has 5 Armeekorps at his disposal staring from the east.
This is essentially a map of nodes or locations armies can travel between and a rate of one move per turn. It is essentially a test map and not very realistic in regards to the river. More on movement later.
Scouting and screening is modeled by 5 dummy forces (the lighter blue/yellow) on each side. At a distance of two locations scouting rolls can be made to uncover various bits of information depending on the roll.
There is also a stacking rule of 2 per side in place which is very work in progress at the moment.
Stamina and Morale are tracked per force counter. Each move and battle costs stamina and depending on winning or losing the morale is changed. Morale is simply the percentage of losses a force can take during a battle before it is considered broken.
My aim with this test campaign is to iron out quirks in the rules first before applying them to asymmetrical scenarios. It will be quite easy to give one side more dummy forces, better scouting modifiers, stamina or morale. Marching speed itself is more difficult to change but stamina is a good start.
The campaign begins with a day of maneuvers on standing orders. As no contact was possible on day one I gave all forces a march order and just executed it instead of moving one force at a time.
At the end of the day the French look like they can project quite a few forces towards Weil. In reality they have their center around Kreuznach and are ready to shift their forces south. Gérard is ready to retire his Corps from Weil to lure the Austrians in. Scouting has been bad this turn as the enemy forces B and H at Rabenhaus are not revealed. A and G stay unrevealed as well. Gérard suspects 2-3 Armeekorps in total in the area.
The Austrian perspective shows the wall of possible French troops closing in on Weil. The Austrians indeed have two Armeekorps there but Stroheim’s other forces are too stretched out to support each other. At least their scouting has confirmed that the enemy at Weil is not a dummy but in fact III Corps of General Darche.
Early April 12
This day begins with the standard campaign sequence. Players roll for initiative and the winner decides who moves one force first. After that it is alternating between the two sides. There are two of these movement phases each turn, hence the early/late distinction of the day. Battles might start early in the day but are only fought after all moves have been completed to give reinforcements time to march to the sound of guns.
The situation for Gérard around midday. He drew his dummy forces closer to Weil in order to keep the enemy from launching an attack. It worked and French scouts also identified one dummy (which is discarded) and the names of two real forces around Weil. Unfortunately enemy force C at Porthaus has not been identified. The plan is to shift more forces to the south for a left hook while keeping the enemy at Weil busy with guessing Gérard’s real dispositions.
The Austrians failed at scouting as well and enemy force I remains veiled. So far the French could be anywhere. As III Corps stayed at Weil Stroheim believes that there are definitely enemy reinforcements on route to Weil. He probably should have attacked while he had the chance but hesitated.
Late April 12
The second movement phase begins with French initiative and Gérard decides to pull III Corps out of Weil due to increasing reports of enemy formations in the area. The Austrians don’t waste time and move in with their two Korps and possibly another one behind it. Force J up at Korik has to be dealt with in a day or two as well.
Meanwhile the southern column marches on and II Corps under Philidor discover a dummy at Porthaus before engaging a real enemy.
After said dummy has been discovered Stroheim decides to engage the enemy at Porthaus before forces can be concentrated. As enemy maneuvers around Weil become erratic Stroheim judges that his intel must be wrong and three Korps will be sufficient for the Weil area. He sends Sandmeier with the IV Armeekorps towards Stautz to help in the south and stays at Offen himself to keep both fronts in view.
Around midday two opposing forces clash somewhere in the area of Porthaus. As the encounter happened in the late part of the turn and both forces rolled high on their time to march, it will be a short battle. Andris’ III Armeekorps arrives first. This gives him choice of table edge but he also has to set up first. The battle will start on turn 10 of 15 for the day.
The battle will be subject of the next campaign post. Volley and Bayonet will make its debut on my blog as the rule set for the battlefield side of things.
While the Russians suffered a major defeat at Inask (orange frame) there was also an even larger battle raging to the north at the same time. This is the story of the battle of Bolkhov (blue frame).
The six sectors translated to the following tabletop after additional terrain placements and deployment. Note, the battlefield is rotated 90° counter clockwise. North is to the left in the image below. Every unit shown on the map is a division. Prussians are dark blue, French are light blue, Russians are green.
Both sides faced several challenges on this battlefield. The French had fewer numbers but a good defensive position if they managed to block all three bridges over the Msta river (impassible). As the Prussian contingent started on the wrong side of the river and the French center was only occupied by the cavalry reserve, it was not a given to achieve.
The Russians could just sit on their side of the river and defend as well. Their position would probably be even stronger but they had superior numbers and limited time before their flank at Inask would be rolled up towards Bolkhov. Their strategic position felt a tad like Waterloo from Napoleon’s perspective here. A strong force to attack with on a battlefield with limited space and the clock is against you.
I wrote two sets of orders, one offensive, one defensive for both sides divisions and let the dice decide. These orders could be changed during the game but the basic mindset (offensive/defensive) would be a principle factor for order changes.
The French and their allies decided on defensive orders: -Von Steuben (left flank): Cross the Msta and defend south of it. -Collin (center, cavalry only): Stay in reserve. -Merle (right flank): Defend the hill in the southwest. -Lessard (right flank): Defend the central bridge.
The Russians decided to attack: -Koltsov & Vorodnin (right flank): Attack the enemy in front of you. -Medhorovsky (center): Stay in reserve. -Nosov (center): Advance and cross the Msta. -Davydov: Cross the Msta and take the hill in the southwest.
So the Russians plan to cross a river with superior forces to crush the French. Suddenly I get a whiff of Friedland…
The stage is set. French have the initiative but let us watch the action from the Russian side first, as they are the attackers.
Davydov arrays his men to cross the Msta near Bolkhov. Their crossing will be unopposed as Merle on the other side has orders to hold its position. Merle doesn’t even have artillery to harass the Russians.
In the center, Nosov sends his Cossacks in first to scout and is slow to reorganize his men for the crossing. On the far side you can see the bulk of Lessard’s division marching up to the river to oppose Nosov.
On the Russian right flank the battle starts in earnest. Koltsov sends swarms of Hussars to harass the Prussians. Zimin is repulsed by Hülse’s Prussian Cuirassiers while Polunin sneaks around the flank to attack infantry in march column. He is repulsed as well. This wouldn’t be a believable result in small scale games, where cavalry will eat march columns for breakfast but here it is. ~3000 bayonets won’t be ridden down by light cavalry in just one attack. Hasty squares will be formed, everything gets in terrible disarray (disordered) and men will die but eventually the Hussars don’t have the numbers or stamina for a prolonged attack and retire. Yellow markers are disorder markers.
Vorodnin brings up his infantry but is slow to do so. Even with the Hussar attack going on von Steuben might have enough time to cross the Msta to the save side.
Lessard gets his men to the center quickly and Plante starts to engage with artillery support. Enemy Cossacks and infantry are held in check on the far side of the river.
Von Steuben (center of the image) gets his infantry over the Msta while Hülse’s cavalry beats back repeated charges from Hussars. This is only possible by emergency unlimbering his substantial artillery assets to canister the Russian cavalrymen. Ammo reserves are further up the column and which turns out to be problematic.
Concerned about the huge number of Russian infantry crossing near Bolkhov on the French right flank, the French activate Courcelle’s heavy cavalry from the reserve to offer flanking support.
Meanwhile Merle’s infantry opens up with telling volleys. Return fire is effective as well, as the Russians have heavy artillery support from across the river.
A similar situation develops in the center with Lessard’s troops stopping the Russian advance with help from horse artillery of Collin’s reserve.
Pressure on the French allies mounts on the right flank. Hülse’s Cuirassiers are beating back enemy Hussars for hours now.
By midday von Steuben already received a slew of confusing orders from the French commander. As the C-in-C of the whole theatre is not present, the French commander is rash and micro managing. Luckily the bad orders don’t arrive in time and the good orders do. Meanwhile an order from the Russian command reaches Nosov with some delay. He is ordered to cease his advance in the center and hold his side of the river bank.
After the first unsuccessful attempt to cross the Msta he is happy to oblige and arrays his troops at the river bank. This is a strong defensive position but his men are bad shots and lack artillery support. They are quickly out of ammunition as well.
Merle and Davydov are fighting over the hill on the French right. French cavalry from the reserve is held in check by Pugin’s infantry in square (further back center in the image). Abramov and Bychkov have trouble to advance against thick clouds of French skirmishers.
Hülse is pressured to retire and Prussian artillery unlimbers again in an desperate attempt to keep the advancing Russians in check. At least von Steuben’s infantry forces are now in position to defend the bridge.
by now the frontlines are mostly drawn and the battle gets into its attritional phase.
Davydov’s brigades charge uphill but are repulsed.
Nosov and Lessard fight along the river bank. The French are gaining the upper hand.
Hülse rallies his men and sends them forward again to repel the enemy. Under the cover of his cavalry von Steuben can finally get his artillery over the Msta. The Russians are hampered by traffic jams and poor command.
Another attack goes in near Bolkhov and this time the losses are horrendous on both sides. Russian morale is still high though. Coudert’s brigade lining the hill becomes spent. Is this the end of the French right flank? French command thinks so and orders Lessard to extend his line to link up with Merle.
The order arrives but fighting troops are difficult to shift. Combat ebbs though, as the Russians retire with mounting losses. Behind Nosov (right side in the image), Medhorovsky is ordered to leave his reserve positions and prepare for a road march towards the Russian left flank. The intention is to support Davydov but the lead column is slow to move.
Von Steuben finally gets all his forces safely to the French side of the Msta. His infantry lines the river banks. A strong defensive position but he is outnumbered quite a bit.
As the line infantry retires on the French right flank, the entire Russian reserve is ordered to support Davydov.
Here is Medhorovsky whipping his march columns into shape. Nosov retired further back as telling artillery fire dispersed his cossacks. Farther in the back on the left you can see Plante’s brigade from Lessard’s division moving to support Merle.
Vorodin and Koltsov throw their forces into the fray as an order arrives to be aggressive. Casualties begin to mount on both sides.
Once moving Plante wedges his brigade efficiently between the other French forces and begins to push the Russians back. Pugin’s men face severe ammo shortages which makes it difficult to hold the ground.
Just as Lessard sent his biggest brigade away to support Merle another order arrives: Counterattack! With artillery reshuffling and nearly half his infantry not in place he launches the attack. For what its worth it is well executed and leaves Bogdanov’s brigade spent and bloodied. Nosov manages to threaten the flank with Kravchuk.
The tragedy about this can’t be seen in this picture. Just right of the image Medhorovsky’s reserve troops are still on orders to march away. The order to turn and support Nosov are late! Half of Medhorovsky’s men march away from the failing center while one of his brigades bumbles about, unsure which way to turn.
What started as a running battle for the Prussians now becomes a painful grind. At least Hülse’s Helden (heroes), as they are already called, have been pulled back in reserve and can get some desperately needed rest.
As darkness begins to fall a hodgepodge of troops from three French divisions shore up the French right flank against Davydov. The Russians are finished though. Losses, low supplies and constant threat from cavalry makes it impossible to take the hill before nightfall.
In the center Saindon and Verieur of Lessard’s division have crossed the Msta in a counter attack. Saindon managed to advance as far as the road and clashed with Modhorovsky’s bumbling brigade but they held the advance in check. With the Russian reserve streaming back the counter attack would probably be beaten back in time but French achieved their goal to cause losses and confusion.
Primakov breaks and Essen suffered heavy losses against concentrated Prussian artillery from across the Msta. Vorodnin and Koltsov still have more men but a breakthrough before nightfall is not possible.
Final positions after turn 10.
After ten hours of fighting the battle of Bolkhov ends. It is time to rally the survivors, tally the losses and decide the winner.
The French and Prussians rallied one infantry stand and chalk up 5 infantry lost. I was quite surprised as the Russians mounted so much pressure that losses felt higher.
The Russians rallied several stand back but still lost 11 infantry, 2 cavalry and one artillery is reduced.
Looking at the battlefield the French achieved their goals while the Russians didn’t. Both flanks are secure, albeit with a lot of help for Merle. The center delivered a successful counterattack. It is not complete success though. The Russians can retreat in an orderly fashion. Only Davydov at the left flank is a bit isolated but he has heavy artillery support which makes retreat of the Msta possible. In conclusion this is a French victory.
How did it play?
To be honest, the battle was a slog to play to completion. I wanted to have a variable turn number and roll if the battle continues after turn 10 but couldn’t encourage myself to play another turn.
So what happened? Basically I tripped over myself. I placed an impassible river at the center of the campaign map, I decided to battle there and I set it up as the map told me to do it. So I ended up with a table where I essentially fought three bridge crossing mini battles (to put it negatively). Take a look at the start and end position of all forces to see how static the whole affair was.
What I probably should have done was to combine both campaign battles into one and shift the battlefield around a bit or make the river fordable. BBB and its scale lends itself well maneuvering and that’s what I limited, funneling the Russians down three lanes.
Of course this is always a risk when playing campaigns where the battleground can be chosen by the commanders. It is a powerful reminder, of an aspect that is missing in most pickup battles. A good battle ground does not necessarily make a entertaining battlefield. The same holds true with troops arriving piecemeal and at sectors you don’t want them to be. From a period flavor perspective everything worked like a charm. Many things felt like I read them somewhere. Late and confusing orders lead to decisions a general might have taken but a wargamer wouldn’t. Counterattacks, attrition, the importance of artillery support, it went the whole mile.
From a rules perspective it also was a success. All these historical aspects of the period were achieved by Blücher’s Scharnhorst system, the order system and Big Bloody Battles with Napoleonic amendments. The French are responsive in command and have powerful skirmisher screens. The Russians are tough to crack, bad at musketry but a tad better in melee. They are slow to get into gears but then they roll towards you with numbers and relentlessness.
So overall I’m happy with the result. I learned a lot for future battles and campaigns and added BBB+period amendments to my top tier rule sets. Looking back at the battle I think I will have fond memories for these parts that worked. This is why I was more thorough in this battle report 🙂
I will address the campaign implications of this battle in another post.
After a long hiatus I finished the write up of the first campaign battle. It has been fought quite a while back but it has been a tumultuous year to say the least. See my prior posts to read about the days leading up to this battle fought with the Big Bloody Battles rule and Napoleonic amendments.
The battle of Inask (a small village not depicted) is happening in the lower (orange frame) of both battles fought at day 4 of the campaign:
These six sectors translated to the following map after additional terrain placement. The river in the upper right sector is impassable except by the bridge. Further down it becomes a stream and is passable.
Reinforcements will arrive in turn 3 at the earliest but usually later and sometimes never.
Zimin deployed his Guard Cavalry on the center hill. His orders are to buy time for reinforcements to arrive. Past the stream Ménard’s Division has deployed.
Another view from Zimin to the south. Pirot’s Guard Division in the distance has been ordered to attack the hill aggressively.
At first Zimin’s Cavalry keeps the French at bay by defending the river banks.
But the extremely aggressive Pirot soon pushes back Zimin before Ilyin’s Infantry and artillery is in place. The ensuing fight at the foot of the hill is chaotic. On the lower left French Cuirassiers of Penterre fall back from a long sweeping advance that began with routing Grishkin’s Cossacks.
A view of the western front. Glazkovsky’s Guards hold back Ménard’s entire Division but they won’t hold forever.
Beretschov arrives at the earliest possible moment but has to cross the bridge to get into the fight.
The Russians barely stabilize their lines at the foot of the hill as Glazkovsky’s Guards fall back (right). More French will soon cross the river.
Faltenbach arrives in the early afternoon with his massive, unwieldy columns. This photo and the next two are shot from left to right.
On the other side of the bridge. The Russians already suffered some losses and now Kirilov’s flank is threatened by the large Austrian Division.
Ménard sends Jetté’s Lt. Dragoons into combat again and again, making the Russian reinforcement road a dangerous place. Here is Frolov’s Brigade in square. By the end of the battle Jetté charged 4-5 times. Half of those charges against superior numbers or positions.
Russian reinforcements make slow progress due to bad command and French cavalry in the vicinity.
Kirilov and Katzbach falter. Kirilov is in square but after this photo has been taken, a massed cavalry attack from Penterre’s Cuirassier Guards and Beyen’s Hussars sweep away the disordered square and exploit into Kalzbach. During all this Ilyin got wounded and Zimin got killed by a French Cavalry squadron.
Remember Frolov’s brigade defending the reinforcement road in square? It’s gone. Aggressive French skirmishers harassed the square at will. As a shot hit Frolov, the tall commander fell down dead like a tree. His men routed immediately. With this gap threatening the reinforcement route and turn after turn of devastating cavalry assaults, partly into the flank of march columns, the Russians break and quit the field.
Inask was a disaster for the Russians. Their initial position seemed to be well laid out for a defensive action but the French and Austrian forces attacked too soon and too well coordinated. The Russian reinforcement corridor was quickly contested as well. Boxed into a small area with cavalry roaming around the losses were high.
Zimin fell during the battle. His Division lost the Cossacks and Popov’s Guards lost too many men to be fielded again in this campaign. Though Popov stepped up to command the Division.
Ilyin lost one heavy artillery battery and Frolov’s Infantry is way too weak to be fielded again. Katzbach and Kirilov recovered some men in their retreat but are both at 50% strength. Ilyin himself was wounded, captured then freed and wounded again. He will continue to command his troops against the hated French. As Beretschov received the blame for Inask, Ilyin is already celebrated as a hero of Russia preventing an even worse outcome.
Beretschov was lightly wounded as well and had Rechensky lose a base. The campaign forces 7 and 8 are now both under 50% strength.
On the French side losses were surprisingly light due to several rally rolls during and after battle. Only Ménard’s Division suffered permanent losses. Both Routhier and Jetté lost a base each. Corbin’s Division didn’t even show up in time to influence the battle. In terms of bases lost this battle ended with a lopsided 2 French to 12 Russian. Several Russian standards and guns have been captured as well.
As news from the battle at Ghetra stream in it looks grim for FedCom. Their supply depot at Ghetra is in enemy hands, the surviving Mechs are still on the retreat and not available for the final stand. Combine forces have advanced far and are now on the other side of the New Rhine river. It marks the last defense line FedCom can maintain. Their forces are mainly light machines but for the force commanders Warhammer heavy Mech.
The Combine smashed through everything FedCom could field within mere days. It has precious little to make the final push. Even the Dragon from the battle of Ghetra is joining with most of its armor gone.
Assault over the New Rhine
Said Dragon (bottom) and a Locust advance around the large woods on the right flank to be safe from enemy fire.
On the left flank the Wolverine (bottom) and a Jenner hug the hills.
FedCom makes use of the large central hills to utilize its Warhammer (center). It is the slowest, most powerful Mech that has to be protected from light Mechs flanking it.
The FedCom Wasp pushes on aggressively but receives precise fire that strips its armor.
With the Wasp damaged Combine forces make a push for the central hill. The Dragon with damage from the battle prior hangs back and fires missiles into the fray.
The tag team of Jenner and Locust outmaneuver FedCom forces. In order to protect the Warhammer Fedcom pushes its light machines into close combat only to get smacked to the ground by the Combine Jenner. The FedCom Wasp laying down wont stand up after this, ever.
Some hundred meters away the other FedCom Wasp jumped to different positions turn after turn making the Combine Wolverine’s position untenable. With long range support from the Warhammer armor and internal structure breaks, tears and burns. The Wolverine is too damaged to stay around and is about to retreat.
After this pivot turn passed several turns of high maneuver warfare commenced. FedCom’s Firestarted broke away to go after the already damaged Crusader. Moments after this hsot the Crusader closed and cored the tiny Mech from point blank range. The pilot had no time to eject.
This left FedCom with only two Mechs but the Wasp lost all its weapons and retreated. The FedCom commander in his mighty Warhammer was all that stood between teh Combine forces and total victory.
But the machine and its pilot were simply no match for three enemy Mechs. It took out an enemy Locust but crumbled into a pile of molted metal and torn myomer muscles shortly after. The Combine managed to pull through and achieve victory even with inferior forces. One day later the black and red flag of the Draconis Combine was raised at Cylene’s military base and all FedCom forces formally surrendered.
Thoughts on Alpha Strike
During play I tried many different advanced rules and house rules and always came back to the base rules with the exception of variable damage. In Alpha Strike damage is deterministc, only the hit roll is up for chance. This makes for a very deadly game where there is not much chance for unit damage and critical hits. At the rather low unit count I’m playing with this robs me of the epic feel of these large lumbering machines. Variable damage makes you roll 1d6 for every point of damage. On a roll of 3+ it is scored as damage with a minimum of one damage. Especially the last scenario showed me that this is a good rule but even the minimum one damage is too powerful. Small Mechs can survive extremely well with high movement modfiers while chipping away at larger targets. They only deal 1-2 points anyway so the variable damage with minimum of one damage is not that relevant for their shooting. It rather helps them, as large Mechs will hit only few shots but with high damage. Damage that is potentially reduced by the variable damage rule.
The movement modifier system makes light Mechs very hard to hit but also at no downside for them. In classic Battletech light Mechs are a bit weak while here they seem a bit strong.
Apart from that the game flows quickly and gives interesting decisions. It is reliant on the Battletech flavor (universe and single mechs) or I would not play it I fear. What is lost by summarizing all the weapons into a statline of four numbers can only be won by knowing what weapons the Mech actually fires.
As the Combine won all three scenarios there was no chance to test the repair and resupply rules but the scenarios and their limitations produced intersting games and dilemmas. I had to fudge it a little here and there as the campaign rules are unclear here and seem unbalanced there. In the obove scenario for example the defender deploys all terrain without restrictions and then chooses his home edge. There is not much to prevent the defender from stacking the terrain into a killzone. FedCom could have sat in forests behind Level one hills for a whopping +4 to hit while Combine charged at them for 2-3 turns without any cover.
It was a fun experiment and I found several, more intricate scenarios I might try in the future or write my own rules.
After smashing through enemy forces at Valley Pond the Combine commander sees a chance to exploit the hole in FedCom lines. The recon and assault lances are brought forward to break through enemy positions and wreak havok. FedCom has their heaviest assets in the are but these lumbering beasts will have problems catching the lightning fast Combine recon Mechs.
Breakthrough at Ghetra
A kilometre in front of the town of Ghetra, where FedCom has a supply depot, the opponents clash in a hilly area. Combine outnumbers the enemy 2:1 but they need to exit 4 Mechs through the opposing table edge to win. FedCom needs to prevent that.
The FedCom commander knows that the center of the board is too open for trying a breakthrough, so he positions his Mechs to the flanks where the enemy light Mechs are expected.
The Combine hols back its heavy machines as fire support while the light machines are split to the left and right. They race off from turn one to make the breakthrough.
Although Combine pilots push their engines into the red, heavy fire occasionally connects with the lightning fast Mechs and a Combine Hermes III (top) receives too much damage. Its pilot turns around to get back to safety as a severely damaged Mech behind enemy lines would do no good. Shortly after the other light Mech successfully breaks through. 3 more Mechs and the Combine wins.
On the other flank FedCom has more problems. The enemy can advance in cover of the hills and heavy Combine Mechs are closing in on the flank to give their fellow Mechwarriors some breathing space.
Some turns later Combine forces put up so much pressure that FedCom had to retreat into the forest. The Jenner (bottom left) could have broke through to Ghetra easily but turned around to surround the enemy completely.
Back on the right. With the retreating Hermes II down and the Locust through, Combine heavy assets advance to put pressure on FedCom Mechs. Their goal is to keep FedCom occupied here so they cannot help on the other side of the battlefield. The FedCom commander sees no way to extricate his forces securely so he pushes his Hunchback (right) forward aggressively to at least score a kill on the Awesome (left), a slow Assault Mech.
The Hunchback cannot close fast enough, however. It melts in a spectacular fireball before bringing its heavy autocannon to bear. Meanwhile the FedCom Longbow churns out swarms of long range missiles that damage the Awesome badly. It has to crawl back to safety.
The attrition battle on the right is costly for both sides but FedCom at least has the upper hand. On the left side, however, a Dervish succumbs to enemy fire and the Marauder nearly lost a leg and is overheated. Combine Mechs push into the enemy without abandon and even forget their mission goals. It has become costly for them as well, as their Battlemaster (middle) is badly damaged and has to retreat.
A FedCom Valkyrie manages to peel off from the right flank and help the struggling Marauder. It will finish off the enemy Battlemaster but the Marauder will be destroyed soon after and another Combine Mech breaks through, with a third into position to make a dash.
Meanwhile the FedCom Longbow has become the MVP on the field. It beat back the Awesome, stripped a Dragon heavy Mech of its armor and now goes toe to toe with a Combine Crusader. Missiles slam into the surprisingly fast Crusader. As it gets obvious that Combine forces elected it to break though, the remaining FedCom assets pour everything they have into the mech but it withers the fire and breaks through together with a Blackjack on the other end of the battlefield, completing the mission.
Another victory for the Combine forces but at atrocious costs. Only after I read the next scenario I come to realize that I just witnessed a pyrrhic victory. Draconis’ heavy machines are all damaged beyond battlefield readiness. Repairs and resupply are still not available and so Combine forces can field precious little to go into the potentially last scenario. It doesn’t look good for FedCom either but in contrast they seem to be in good shape with a pristine Warhammer to field.