domenica 19 gennaio 2020

Battle of Austerlitz 1805 (Scenario)

2019 has been a good year for wargaming, even if I didn’t play or paint as much as I would have liked. Still, since the last update I’ve paint some more Prussian 1813-1815 Dragoons, French Dragoons, Russian infantry and a few others, and I’m currently working on Russian Jagers (from RedBox), Austrian Grenzer (from HaT) and Russian Guard Infantry (from Zvezda).
After playing Saguntum, I decided to work on a bigger battle that would be a bit more interesting. Given my (still) limited unit availability, I chose Austerlitz (more on this later).
Finally, even if miniature wargaming on the Risorgimento is a bit on hold for now, for Christmas I received the excellent Custoza: Fields of Doom from Europa Simulazioni. I’ve played one introductory scenario so far and it looks like a really good game!

Battle of Austerlitz (1805) - Scenario

This is the scenario I'd like to play next with my revised Grande Armee rules. Why Austerlitz? It’s a big but not huge battle with both Russians and Austrians (this helps with miniature painting), an interesting terrain and more challenges than the historical result may lead us to believe.
I based my scenario on the Grande Armee scenario found here. I reduced the scale from 1 unit = 1 brigade to 1 unit = 1 division, more or less. While not all proportions remain equal, I feel the overall strength ratio is maintaned. I’d like to playtest this so I’m going to play it several times.

Some notes on the OoB: SPs represent effectiveness too, and not just manpower. Overall, the French have an advantage in infantry SPs, a very small deficit in cavalry SPs and have 50% less artillery (rest being included into the infantry units SP numbers). Even if manpower-wise this may not be totally correct, I feel the effectiveness ratio is ok. Of course, coupled with the superior command system, this means that it’s likely the French will win again, but I hope it will still provide a fun game. Also, playtesting will be useful exactly to evaluate balance.

Scenario General Info:
1. Basic Length: 7 turns
2. Weather is Normal, with no variation. Ground is Hard.
3. Both armies set up simultaneously, as indicated on the scenario map.
4. Morale of the French Army is Confident. Its Break Point is 7.
5. Morale of the Allied Army is Shaky. Its Break Point is 5.

Battle of Austerlitz opposing armies (source: The Art of Battle)

French Army
Napoleonic Army of 6 Forces
Napoleon (Great)
Break Point = 7 (Confident)
Imperial Guard (G)Bessieres (V) 2/6"
OG/GOld Guard9SP Sk2Guard
GN/GGrenadiers9SP Sk1Elite
GC/GGuard Cavalry8SP HCGuard
A/G6-pdr Horse Arty
I Corps (I)Bernadotte 4/6" Cautious
1/IRivaud7SP Sk2Veterans
2/IDrouet7SP Sk2Veterans
III Corps (III)Davout 1/6"
2/IIIFriant7SP Sk2Veterans
C/IIIBourcier5SP LCTrained
A/III8-pdr Foot Arty
IV Corps (IV)Soult 2/8"
1/IVSt.Hilaire7SP Sk2Veterans
2/IVVandamme7SP Sk2Veterans
1/3/IVLegrand 16SP Sk2Veterans
2/3/IVLegrand 26SP Sk2Veterans
A/IV12-pdr Foot Arty
V Corps (V)Lannes (V) 1/6"
1/VCaffarelli7SP Sk2Veterans
3/VSuchet7SP Sk2Veterans
C/VWalther4SP LCTrained
Cavalry Reserve (CR)Murat (V) 4/6" Aggressive
HC/CRCuirassiers7SP HCVeterans
LC/CRDragoons6SP LCVeterans
A/CR6-pdr Horse Arty
Allied Army
Traditional Army of 5 Forces
Kutusov (Poor/Average)
Break Point = 5 (Skaky)
Buxhowden Left Wing (B)Buxhowden 5/10" Aggressive
AG/BKienmayer6SP Sk2 MXTrained
2/BLangeron7SP Sk1Trained
1A/BAustrian 6-pdr Horse Arty
2A/BRussian 12-pdr Foot Arty
Fourth Column (4)Kollowrath 2/6" Aggressive
A/4Austrian 6-pdr Horse Arty
Fifth Column (5)Liechtenstein (V) 4/4" Aggressive
HC/5Austrian Kuirassiers7SP HCElite
LC/5Russian Light Cav6SP LCVeterans
CK/5Cossacks4SP Sk2Raw
A/5Austrian 6-pdr Horse Arty
Advance Guard (AG)Bagration (V) 2/6"
1/AGRussian Jagers5SP Sk1Trained
2/AGRussian Line6SPTrained
C/AGRussian Light Cav6SP LCVeterans
A/AGRussian 6-pdr Horse Arty
Russian Imperial GuardConstantine 4/3"
I/CRussian Guard Inf9SP Sk1Elite
C/GRussian Guard Cav8SP HCElite
A/GRussian 12-pdr Foot Arty

Special Rules
1. Kutusov quality: Kutusov was the nominal Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Army but the command situation was confused and the presence of Emperor Francis I and Tzar Alexander didn't help. In theory, Kutusov should be rated as "Poor", but in order to make the scenario a bit more balanced, roll 1d6 at the start of each turn. 1-3: command confusion. Kutusov is rated as "Poor" for this turn. 4-6: the Emperors let Kutusov run the battle without interference. Kutusov is rated as "Average" for this turn.

Scenario Options
1. Historical Allied command situation. Rate Kutusov as "Poor" for the whole battle. Keep in mind this will make it even harder for the Allies to win.
2. Better Allied command situation. Rate Kutusov as "Average" for the whole battle. This will help the Allies.
3. Better Allied Morale. Morale of the Allied Army is "Fair". Its Break Point becomes 6. This will help the Allies.
4. Davout is late. Do not set up Davout's force on the board. At the end of Turn 1, roll a die. On a 4+, Davout enters on the first pulse of the next turn. Add 1 to the die roll at the end of each turn until he arrives. This will help the Allies.

mercoledì 23 ottobre 2019

Battle of Saguntum (Battle Report)

I've played the Battle of Saguntum scenario. At first the battle unfolded on mostly historical lines: Zayas' Expeditionary Corps advanced towards the French Left Wing, while O'Donnell's Valencians and Mahy's Murcians proceeded to attack the hills defended by the enemy Right Wing. However, it remained effectively two distinct fights, with little influence on each other.

Spanish point of view (Zayas)

Spanish point of view (O'Donnell, Mahy is on the left)

French positions (Right Wing)
Overview of deployment

On the Spanish left (O'Donnel and Mahy), problems with command control led the two sides to close fast, but the Spanish couldn't coordinate properly. They did some damage with the horse guns, but the French skirmishers made short work of the Murcians. The Valencia's had some more success when Miranda's division forced the Poles back and briefly gained the top of the hills, but both sides ended up weakened and still facing each other. Once Robert's brigade had eliminated the Murcian infantry alone, it moved to hit the Valencians on the flank, sealing their fate.

Attack by O'Donnell (right) and Mahy (left)
on French positions

Villacampa attacks the French positions, but will be repulsed

On the Spanish right (Zayas), at first Loy's cavalry had the upper hand against the French Dragoons, as historically, but were then routed by the Cuirassiers. These too routed when hit by Spanish artillery, but it was the Spanish veterans that definitely underperformed (compared to historical results). Lardizabal troops faced both Harispe and the Italian infantry and were unable to advance much, while Zayas' division took the worst from Habert's troops. The Spanish first suffered the enemy skirmish fire, then they were counterattacked by the fierce French who scored 6 hits out of 9 dice rolled, while the Spanish only scored 1. They Spanish "veterans" were routed and failed to rally at the end of the turn (it was turn 3). Hebert then attacked a Spanish horse battery and routed it too. At the end of turn 3, with 5 units routed and not rallied (Zayas' division, Villacampa's Valencia's, all the Murcians and one other artillery), I halted the battle as it was getting late.

Loy's cavalry routs the French Dragoons...

...but is then routed by French Cuirassiers, who then
face the Spanish artillery while Lardizabal's division attacks

Lardizabal and Villacampa are repulsed (the latter will be
routed shortly after), but Miranda presses the Poles.

I have to say I wasn't impressed with the scenario at first. I knew it was hard for the Spanish, but play balance wasn't the real issue: the battle saw little maneuver, also because of terrain and restrictions to cavalry. Still, it has some interesting challenges: the Spanish player has some interesting decisions to make: it has few CPs and using them on Zayas and O'Donnell looks like the best choice (they are his best troops), but Mahy's Murcians are really weak and due to Mahy's Aggressive status they tend to charge the enemy anyway, which makes them even more vulnerable. They should be kept behind, but this requires using lots of CPs on them and making O'Donnel (in particular) more prone to not activate as desired. This time, the Spanish mitigated this with several good initiative rolls, but it also led to some stops in the advance which favored the hard-pressed French.

For the French, quality is superior but a fresh Spanish division is still hard to face, so it needs to weaken them with skirmish fire at first, and the evaluate when to counterattack. Deciding where and when to commit his reserves (which are very few, mainly the Italian infantry brigade on the Left Wing) could be relevant, also because it risks having his forces effectively isolated from each other. Options are limited however.

Not sure I'll play this scenario again due to the general lack of options for maneuvering, but at least it was useful to test the rules again, which was positive.

venerdì 6 settembre 2019

Battle of Saguntum (scenario)

For my next battle using the Grande Armee rules I chose Saguntum, again taken from here. I wanted to try the rules again, and add the rally rules in. I'll also switch and test FPGA-style skirmish fire, with both sides rolling a die and adding the Sk factor. Whoever has the higher results inflicts 1 SP loss to the other. If result is a draw, nothing happens. If one side is beyond range (like Sk1 engaged at Sk2 range) or has Sk0, it will not inflict SP losses on the opposing unit even if it rolls higher.

This time I needed very few modifications to the existing scenario. Under my rules modifications, I thought that Loy's cavalry (for the Spanish) couldn't really attack if it had only 1SP as in the scenario, so I merged both cavalry units in Zayas' command as a single 3SP Trained cavalry unit, which would also make them behave more historically anyway.

The Battle of Saguntum in 1811 was a small but important clash between Suchet's forces (which were besieging Saguntum) and Blake's relieving forces. Blake was defeated and the town surrendered soon after.

Scenario general info:
1. Basic Length: 6 turns.
2. Weather is Normal (with no variation). Ground is Hard.
3. See original scenario for terrain effects: Streams count as obstacles. Horse may not enter the Carob groves which are all land to the NE of the streams between the Expeditionary Corps and the French except for a 3" area along the Valencia- Saguntum road. Horse may not enter any upland area.
4. Both armies set up simultaneously, as indicated on the scenario map.
5. Morale of the French Army is Confident. Its Break Point is 3.
6. Morale of the Spanish Army is Shaky. Its Break Point is 4.

Scenario map:

French Army
Army Commander: Marshal Suchet (Good)
This is a Napoleonic Army of 2 Forces

Left Wing (L): Suchet 1 / 12"
1/L Hebert's Brigade                    Trained   9SP   Sk2
2/L Harispe's Division                 Veteran   9SP   Sk2
3/L St.Paul's Italian Brigade        Trained   6SP   Sk2
1C/L Cuirassiers                          Veteran   3SP
2C/L Dragoons                            Trained   2SP

Right Wing (R): Chlopiski (V) 1 / 12"
1/R Poles                                     Elite        6SP   Sk2
2/R Robert's Brigade                   Trained   8SP   Sk2
C/R Italian Horse                         Veteran   2SP

Spanish Army
Army Commander: Blake (Average)
This is a Traditional Army of 3 Forces

Expeditionary Corps (E): Zayas (V) 2 / 9" Aggressive
1/E Zayas' Division                      Veteran   8SP   Sk1
2/E Lardizabal's Division             Veteran   7SP   Sk1
3/E Velasco's Valencians             Raw        5SP
C/E Loy's and Caro's Cavalry      Trained   3SP
1A/E 4-pdr Horse Arty
2A/E 4-pdr Horse Arty

Valencian Corps (V): O'Donnell 3 / 5" Aggressive
1/V Miranda's Division                 Raw        6SP
2/V Villacampa's Division             Raw        6SP
3/V Obispo's Division                   Raw        6SP
C/VSan Juan's Horse                   Raw        4SP
A/V 4-pdr Horse Arty

Murcian Corps (M): Mahy 4 / 3" Aggressive
1/M Creach's Brigade                   Raw       3SP
2/M Montijo's Brigade                   Raw       4SP
A/M 4-pdr Horse Arty

This isn't an easy battle for the Spanish to win. Only a few units are veterans and reliable, while the rest is of low or very low quality, with their Raw quality meaning they are unlikely to recover once routed. They also have a difficult command situation, even if the "Aggressive" status of their Sub-Commanders (which in this battle means they are prone to follow their attack battle plan) helps move them forward even in face of few CPs. Suchet instead will have little or no problem in controlling his higher quality forces.

Cavalry is very limited in numbers and strength for both sides. Yet its ability to interdict skirmishers (especially for the Spanish versus the French), threaten infantry flanks and face opposing cavalry trying to do the same may prove vital for both sides. In the end, this is a fairly small scenario that lends itself well to being used for introducing new players (in this case, just let them use the French!).

giovedì 5 settembre 2019

Battle of La Coruna (Battle Report)

I've played the Battle of La Coruna scenario I've recently modified (see here). It was a fun battle, and helped me test my modified fast Grande Armee rules (more on this later). I have a heavy green cloth to cover the table and books under it as hills. The weight of the cloth allows it to give the whole battlefield a very natural look of hills and valleys, with hillsides gradually degrading from the top. I didn't have anything to make the river on the French right / British left, but I had a turn record sheet there, so anyway there was no chance of units inadvertently moving there.

View of the battlefield, showing elevations (and the turn record sheet)

Another view from above

The battle started in a mostly historical way. Mermet's division on the French left started its attack towards Elvina and Baird's division on the heights, while the rest of Soult's troops advanced more slowly and less coordinately towards Hope's troops.

View from the French (Soult's) positions

View from the British (Sir John Moore's) position

British Artillery alone routed one French brigade but the rest of Mermet's troops pressed on. A furious skirmish battle erupted along the line. Still, the British forces were progressively suffering losses too and despite heavy casualties the French ultimately gained the top of the hill. It was brief however, as they were then routed by a counterattack by Werde's British Guards.

Start of French attack

The other side

Overall view of the French advance

French right flank slow, while action unfolds on the left

Around Elvina

The French have stormed the top of the hill...

...but get repulsed by the Guards' counterattack

Things went mostly likewise on the British left/French right. Delaborde however moved more slowly (Soult was concentrating on the fight on the left) and the skirmishing was more protracted.

Another view of the struggle on the hill
Once the French managed to organize a full assault, it was fierce. Faced with a strong British defence from the top of the hill, Delaborde led his troops personally with great valour but was shot and killed just as one of his brigades managed to open a hole in the British line, threatening to rout the entire enemy position. Hope quickly intervened to stabilize the line and repulsed one other French brigade, but he too was severely wounded and had to leave the field, leaving this part of the battlefield involved in a confused struggle. Ultimately the French managed to briefly storm the top of the hill, but they too were repulsed, this time by Crawfurd's reserve brigade.

Delaborde killed

As dusk neared, the French attack had been defeated along the whole line despite heavy British casualties. On the French far left / British far right the French cavalry and Paget's reserve division effectively nullified each other, but in the end this helped the British by avoiding a French flank attack on Baird's battered troops.

Technically the French routed, but the British had no cavalry to pursue and anyway were more interested in covering the embarking troops. The British could then embark without further French interference. Both sides suffered more than historically, thanks to the fact that this time Soult managed to attack on almost all front, even if a certain lack of coordination made his attacks less effective, and his lack of reserves proved vital, but the game had a mostly historical flavor.

It was a fun game, with a great Napoleonic feel that I hadn't felt in a long time. I'm very pleased with how the Grande Armee rules worked, especially with my modifications making them faster. I'm wondering if using the unit quality/rally rules would add much more time, because - contrary to my previous judgement - I now feel they could be useful to give a bit more flavor. At least, I'd like to try them once. I'll probably play a test game including them, to see how they work. If not, I will leave them aside.

venerdì 2 agosto 2019

Battle of La Coruna (scenario)

It has been a long time since my last post. Painting has been very slow, and miniature gaming too. But I never gave up so I'm ready for my next game.

The idea is to test my fast Grande Armee rules with a more challenging scenario, using full rules for command and control, and the turn/impulse sequence. I took a small scenario, the battle of La Coruna. The scale is lower than my usual target (each unit is a brigade or a large regiment, instead of a division), so as to keep the command rules meaningful, but the battle is still suitably small.

The base for my scenario is found here, but I've changed a few things, reducing the units (leaving aside those who didn't fight, only leaving them as optional troops for play balance) and a few other details.

Scenario general info:
1. Basic Length: 3 turns.
2. Weather is Normal (with no variation). Ground is Hard.
3. The river is unfordable.
4. The British set up first, then the French, within respective deployment boundaries.
5. The French have initiative on turn 1 Impulse 1. Roll as normal after that.
6. Morale of the British Army is Shaky. Its Break Point is 4.
7. Morale of the French Army is Confident. Its Break Point is 4.

Scenario map (from the original scenario):

British Forces
Army Commander: Sir John Moore (Great)
This is a Traditional Army of 3 Forces

1st Division (1): Baird 3 / 4"
1/1 Warde (Guards)                6 SP   Sk2
1/2 Bentick                             5 SP   Sk2
1/3 Manningham                    5 SP   Sk2
1/A 6-pdr Foot Arty

2nd Division (2): Hope (V) 1 / 6"
2/1 Leith                                 5 SP   Sk2
2/2 Hill                                   6 SP   Sk2
2/3 Crawfurd                          5 SP   Sk2
2/A 3-pdr Horse Arty

Reserve Division (R): Paget 1 / 3"
R/1 Anstruther                       5 SP   Sk2
R/2 Disney                             3 SP   Sk2

Optional: Access to La Coruna (A): Fraser 3/4" (if used, the Army now has 4 forces instead of 3)
A/1 Beresford                        6 SP   Sk2
A/2 Banes                              5 SP   Sk2
A/3 Portuguese Volunteers    4 SP
A/4 Fane (Hvy. Dragoons)    4 SP

French Forces
Army Commander: Marshal Soult (Good)
This is a Traditional Army of 4 Forces

I Division (I): Merle 4 / 3" Aggressive
I/1 Legere                              7 SP   Sk2
I/2 Ligne                                6 SP   Sk2
I/A 8-pdr Foot Arty

2nd Division (2): Mermet 3 / 4"
II/1/1 31e Ligne                     4 SP   Sk2
II/1/2 47e Ligne                     4 SP   Sk2
II/2 French & Swiss               7 SP   Sk2
II/A 8-pdr Foot Arty

III Division (III): Delaborde (V) 2 / 3"
III/1 Ligne                              5 SP   Sk2
III/2 86e Ligne                       3 SP   Sk2
III/A 8-pdr Foot Arty

Cavalry Division (C): Under Soult command
C/1 Lahoussaye (Dragoons)  6 SP
C/A 4-pdr Horse Arty

Optional: add the following units to the Cavalry Division
C/2 Franceschi (Hus/Chas)   5 SP
C/3 Lorge (Dragoons)           6 SP

Optional Units:
These units weren't present during the battle. Frazer's forces were protecting the approaches to La Coruna, with the cavalry already on board the ships. Lorge's French cavalry instead was protecting the right flank of the French forces and didn't participate in the actual fight, while Franceschi's light cavalry division was on the left and did little in front of Fraser's forces. They were all included in the original scenario for balance purposes, so I prefer to keep them optional. In particular, if the British forces look too outmatched, the British forces should include Fraser's command (including the cavalry), which brings the British Army to become a Traditional Army of 4 forces. If the British units are added, add Franceschi's and Lorge's units to the French Cavalry Division too.

I'm eager to try this scenario and see if the small changes I've made are ok or unbalance it too much. This will also be my first true test of my full fast version of the Grande Armee rules.