A try-out of yet another Napoleonic set – the holy grail of rules still eludes me, but I really want to like this set – I’ve tried them once before and thought they had potential. I decided to try something different from a stand-up fight for a change, so the British rearguard are holding a village which controls the bridge over a river – the French must take the village and control the bridge. A French cavalry brigade has found a ford somewhere downriver and will appear on the British side of the river at some point. This situation allows me to try out 2 aspects of the rules I haven’t tried before – fighting in built-up areas (FIBUA in the rules) and cavalry. I’m a bit worried by the 42″ (!) charge reach of light cavalry in these rules, but as they have to be on attack orders to charge, this may not be as bad as it appears at first glance.
The French division consists of 2 brigades of 4 battalions of 36 men each and a cavalry brigade of 2 Hussar regiments of 12 men each – all brigadiers are average (seasoned in the rules), while the CinC is Skilful (+1 MP). The divisional 6pdrs are stuck down the road somewhere. The British rearguard is a brigade of infantry – a regiment of 30 Highlanders, a garrison for the village of 24 British Line (it is a type 2B complex under the rules, so this is the most figures if can hold as a garrison) and finally a unit of Portuguese line.
They are supported by a cavalry brigade consisting of 2 regiments of 12 Light Dragoons led by a sluggish brigadier and also by a battery of Royal Horse Artillery. Both the British C-in-C and Infrantry Brigadier are average. The 95th cover the ford, supported by the cavalry brigade, as we wouldn’t want them damn Frenchies playing dirty and crossing at the ford!
The first French brigade start on the table with Move orders, and roll 1 average dice to see how many manoeuvre points (MPs) they can use for brigade and single unit actions. They roll a 2 (doh!) and add +1 for the C-in-C’s skilful attribute, so 3. They pay 2 MP to maintain Move orders as a “seasoned” brigade, which leaves 1 MP. The Legere battalion really wants to deploy into half-batallion skirmish formation, but this takes 3 MP from march column, so they have to march past the riflemen at the ford and expose their flank. The brigade advances 16″ in march formation and that’s all it can do. The British are in position already, so don’t do anything with their MP. The artillery are at extreme range so conserve their ammunition (they only get 4 shots before having to retire to re-fit), but the rifles fire on the flank of the Legere, causing 2 casualties.
The 2nd French brigade arrives, giving them an extra dice to roll for MP – a 5 and a 4 gives 9, +1 for the C-in-C is 10 – that’s better! 2 MP for each brigade to maintain orders leaves 6. The brigade moves until a battalion is within 9″ of the village – at this point it must stop, as BUAs exert a zone of control which can’t be entered unless to assault the BUA. The French spend 3 MP to put the battalion closest to the village into attack column with their colonel at the front (a FORM single unit action) and also spend 3 MP to deploy half a battalion of Legere into skirmish formation to shield the flank of the brigade from the fire of the Rifles across the ford (I found out later I can’t deploy the Leger as skirmishers because the brigade is on Move orders – I should have formed line facing the Rifles to achieve the same result) .
In the British turn, they fire artillery at the newly-formed attack column, starting off with 3 dice per gun, but getting plusses for enfiliade and being veteran to bring it up to 17 dice – only the fact that the column was a new target brought the dice down to 9 which only caused 3 hits. After the riflemen fired at the newly deployed Legere, the column had to take a resolve test for being hit by artillery, but passed.
On turn 3 the French again won the initiative and rolled up 10 MP. It took 2 to keep the 2nd brigade on Move orders leaving 8. After 50% of the 2nd brigade moved slowly to fulfill their brigade order, 3 MP were then used to change the 1st brigade order to Attack to allow an assault on the village. The exploitation mechanic then allowed the brigade to activate again, so 2 MP to maintain Attack orders +1 MP as it was a first exploitation used 3 more MPs for a total of 8 used. One more MP allowed the attack column to be ordered to charge the garrison in the village.
The column passed its resolve check to charge, and the defenders passed to stand. For their stand-and-fire check they rolled a 5, meaning it was going to be a point-blank volley. The column moved to 3″ where it received the volley from all 6 garrison bases (I think that’s right), which caused 5 casualties bringing total casualties to over 25%. Because it is an assault, there are different modifiers for resolve, and the colonel gave a +1 to cancel out the -1 for the casualties, so the resolve test was passed. Now for the close combat phase of the assault. It turned out that the French had 9 dice (7 combat groups of 4 men plus 2 for the colonel leading the assault) against the British 9 (6 combat groups of 4 men plus 3 for defending a class B building). The odds were with the British as a result of a difference of 0, 1 or 2 hits difference would result in a draw, with another round being fought immediately and the French being disordered as they hadn’t breached the defences, so halving their dice. However, the French didn’t see it that way, and rolled 7 hits of 4,5 or 6 out of their 9 dice against the British average roll of 4 hits. With a differential of 3, the French win the assault and breach the outer wall and lose 4 figures to the British 7 – the gallant colonel survives (didn’t roll a 6 on a leadership check) and the British pass their resolve check. On reading the rules, I think this means that the British can’t reinforce the building without a resolve check as they have lost the combat, so the remaining 17 figures might have to fend for themselves.
With 9 MP rolled, the British move the Highlanders and Portuguese to cover the bridge in case the garrison falls next turn, or attempt to reinforce if it doesn’t. The British artillery cause some casualties, as do the rifles, but the units pass their resolve – with nothing to gain, the garrison in the village choose to take a breather (they can do this, and if they were to fight and lose that would be 2 consequtive victories for the French and the village would fall).
The French win the iniative for turn 4, and their cavalry turn up on the British bank of the river. This gives the French 3 dice to roll for MP and they roll high with three 5s which with the +1 for the division commander gives them 16 MP in total. It costs 2 MP to maintain the cavalry on Move orders and the 2 infantry brigades on Move and Attack. With 10 to spend, the 2 cavalry units spend 3 each on single unit actions to go from march column into column of squadrons and an infantry unit in front of the village uses 3 to go into column from march column. This leaves 1 MP. The French Legere cause casualties on the rifles and they have to take a 25% casualty resolve test which they pass easily. The assault on the village is reinforced by using the remaining MP to order the newly-formed column to join in the assault – as they are from a different unit from the unit engaged in the assault, they must roll for resolve, but as they pass this they can move to the village. (This should have cost 2 MP as it is a 2nd single unit order to the same unit, so the French shouldn’t have been able to do this with only 1 MP remaining).
The British roll 10 MP. They use 1 MP to maintain Defend orders for infantry, but the cavalry will need an exploitation to turn to face the French cavalry on their flank and also need to get off the Ready order to be able to counter-charge. Changing a sluggish brigade from Ready to Advance orders is 3 MP, but to act on it this turn they need an exploitation. So 3 MP more to maintain Advance orders +1 MP because it is an exploitation and the cavalry can wheel to face the French, then spend 1 MP per unit to go into column of squadrons ready to counter-charge. As it turned out, I should have foregone the wheel as it put the Light Dragoons closer to the French – a Form order allows change of facing as well as formation, so they could have formed column of squadrons facing the French on the spot (this became important due to the counter-charge mechanic). The French win initiative again.
On their turn, the French pay 2 MP for each infantry brigade to maintain their orders, then spend 3 to change the cavalry brigade order from Move to Attack. To get the charge in they need an exploitation, so that is a further 2 MP to maintain attack orders +1 MP for exploitation. They wheel to face on the brigade orders, then declare a charge for each unit for 2 MP. The British cavalry declare a counter-charge, but the French roll of 3D6 to see the distance moved before the British can react takes them close and the British do not get time to move more than than 6″ which is the minimum required for a charge bonus. I should have made a roll for distance for each French unit at this point, as a charge is a unit action.
In the ensuing melee the 3rd Hussars had 6 dice against the Light Dragoons’ 3 (+3 bonus for charging) and rolled 4 hits to 1 – a clear win by a difference of 3, so 7 casualties for the British and 4 for the French. The British unit failed its resolve roll and routed off the table followed by the 3rd Hussars who failed to halt pursuit. In the second combat, the total dice rolled were the same as the first combat, though each side scored 3 hits, so a draw resulted in 2 casualties each and in further rounds of combat. However, as both sides were disordered (50% dice) and light cavalry in 2nd round of melee (-2 dice), they were only rolling a single dice each. Both sides scored a hit and 2 casualties for another 2 rounds of combat, but on the 3rd round the French scored a hit and the British didn’t, so the British had to take a resolve test as they had gone under 50% – they failed miserably and routed off the table pursued by the French. Both French units could return in subsequent turns at the spot they left on a roll of a 6, but for this game they were a spent force.
With the French preparing to assault the ford and over the bridge and no reinforcements in sight, the British withdrew. I really enjoyed the game, and found the rules a lot easier than the first time I played. I especially liked the BUA fighting rules, even though the French had an easy time of it due to my not realising that the charge single unit action which allowed the 2nd battalion to join the assault should have cost 2 MP (as the unit had already changed formation that turn). The 42″ charge move for the light cavalry may not be too much of a problem, because they have to be on Attack orders and the terrain has to be suitable – in Spain that isn’t going to happen often, and the most cavalry I’ll be fielding will be a brigade. I’m definitely going to take co-author of RtE Clarence Harrison’s suggestion on-board – bring the infantry on in column-of-companies rather than column-of-march as it is painful in MP to change them into fighting formations from march column. An alternative would be to look at the Reform order which costs 7MP in addition to maintaining the current of cost of giving a new order – so for 9MP for example a brigade could move all its battalions out of march column into line, which is a damned sight cheaper than doing it by single unit actions. I think I missed the fact that only brigades on Attack orders can move within their charge distance of an enemy – so a unit on advance orders would halt, and unless MP were paid next turn to put the brigade on Attack orders, their orders would revert to Defend- I found this a bit hard to remember I’m afraid.
Next time we shall give the French some cannon and have an infantry battle to try out those aspects of the rules over the same terrain set-up.