Friday, 5 January 2018

The first game of the year, 'somewhere in the Vendee, or thereabouts'.

John the Red came up yesterday for our first game of 2018. I thought it'd be a good idea to put on a French Revolutionary War game so I could get some new figures on the table for the first time, in the shape of my quite large Vendee Royalist contingent and a couple of new Emigre regiments. This game was to be the opener in a series of linked games set in the Vendee, but allowing for additional troops in the shape of a large French Emigre force (a la Quiberon) supported by varying numbers of British regulars. I will set out the basic premise and overarching scenario in another post over the weekend, adding place names and some background to the commanders involved. Maybe even a map.

So, the scene is set. A large force of Vendean insurrectionists has come together and has been joined by elements of an Emigre brigade and a brigade of four battalions of British footguards, both have which have been landed on the coast which is about 10 miles to the West (the right in the first photo). The Revolutionary forces in the area have been pulled together in an attempt to drive the invaders back into the sea and to crush the rebellious Vendeans.

The opposing forces are as follows:

4 battalions British footguards (v. good)
3 battalions Emigre infantry (average)
1 battalion Emigre chasseurs (average)
8 'units' of Vendeans, mostly armed with a mixture of muskets and pole arms (keen, but...)
2 squadrons of Emigre hussars (quite good)
3 British guns (2 light 6pdr, 1x12pdr) (v.good)

2 squadrons dragoons (rubbish)
1 squadron chasseurs a cheval (rubbish)
4 demi-brigades of newly raised infantry (12 btns) (rubbish)
1 demi-brigade standard infantry (3 btns) (not bad)
1 demi-brigade legere (2 btns) (Good)
1 btn combined grenadiers (v good)
1 battery foot artillery (3 x 8pdrs) (ok)
1 battery horse artillery ( 3 x 4pdrs) (ok)

We randomised the command levels for each general, so both sides had a mixture of 7's 8's and a single 9. We used Black Powder, suitably tinkered with.

Battle is about to be joined. The 'Royal' forces (to the right) deployed their cavalry on the extreme left, with the Guards on the left , the Vendean contingent holding the centre and the Emigre infantry on the right.
The Royal and Catholic army in the centre. They had few firearms but did have two units of musket-armed skirmishers. The other units were classed as having mixed weapons with a single shooting dice and 5 melee dice. I might rearrange these units into 100% musket or pitchfork-armed units, maybe.
The Hussars de Damas and the Rohan Hussars in the foreground and the Brigade of Guards, 3 btns plus a battalion of combined grenadier and light companies, supported by a 6pdr gun of the Royal Artillery.
The French right, curiously holding back at the start of the battle.
The Rohan Hussars (left) and the Hussars de Damas.
The French left of not-so-eager conscripts advancing slowly, covered by a screen of skirmishers.
In the centre the French make rapid progress (John threw low and got 3 moves)  and moved into musket shot of the enemy. Being newly raised conscripts this might not be going to have a good outcome.
The French horse artillery also advanced rapidly and deployed close to the Vendean skirmishers. Too close as it happens.
Fired on by the Vendeans to their front and the Chasseurs de Beon to their flank (off to the right in this picture) the battery quickly took heavy casualties and became shaken and disordered. Their combined fire at the Vendean skirmishers was poor, causing little damage to start with. I had though representing a battery of six guns with three models would be overwhelming. Experience has shown quite the opposite in the vast majority of games. Certainly here, it did the French no good getting to throw lots of dice, as they kept missing. With a stamina of 1 each gun section/model is extremely brittle as well.
The Vendean skirmishers gave as good as they got and caused most of the two (newly raised) demi-brigades to their front to halt in disorder for several turns. The commander of the French reserve brigade was also killed by a stray cannonball, halting the advance of his command for a turn.
The Footguards made slow progress through the cornfields having failed their first command roll.One battalion (1st Guards) can be seen in the distance adjacent to the deserted telegraph tower.
The French cavalry were pretty dire during the early Revolutionary Wars. Those attached to this army were  no different, and they took their time advancing on the oncoming redcoats.
When the French dragoons  did decide to go forward, they deployed each side of a small copse which was occupied by a battalion of French infantry.
Then John threw a blunder and a lone battalion of Frenchmen decided to charge the Footguards! They actually survived closing fire, only taking one hit and a disorder.
In the melee the French were soundly beaten by the Guards who barely raised a sweat. The French failed their break test and fled the field. Hurrah! 
Seen from behind the French right the Guards have been peppering the dragoons, disordering them.  "Damn Rosbiffs" said  General Jean le Rouge (a pseudonym obviously). The following turn I charged the French cavalry with my hussars and came off decidedly worst, both units having to retire after the French won the melee and managed to follow up into my other unit. One of the hussar units was now shaken. At least the French were in no condition to exploit their success and withdrew back to their base line.
The French attack in the centre has ground to a halt. The French chose to shoot it out with the enemy, which didn't quite work, although one annoying unit of Vendean skirmishers was eventually driven off temporarily.
On the French left, their division had finally got some momentum (do you like the left wing reference John?) and attacked. Actually, the move prior to this I had a different battalion of Emigres lining the stream, the Royal Emigrants, but they succumbed to the attention of the French artillery and decided to scarper before `i could take a photo, leaving the infantry of the Beon legion to face the brunt of the attack. The lone section of RA guns in the village did give the Froggies a bloody nose when they tried to charge them. However, the Beon Legion became shaken due to enemy cannon fire meaning the Emigre brigade was deemed broken and forced to retire.
The French cross the stream. It looks pretty bad for the Emigres.
In the centre the French grenadiers and legere were closing on the Vendean line. The French brigadier had been  hit ** earlier in the battle and had been replaced by a man of less ability, hence their pedestrian approach towards the enemy lines.

**To explain, I don't like the BP risk to generals rules. Well, the melee risks are fine but I quite like the rule from Honours of War where if a general is within 15cm of a unit that has been fired at there is a chance of him being hit. We agreed that each move, in the firing phase, any enemy general in musket range would be hit on a roll of an 11 or 12, and on a 12 if they were anywhere else on the table, stray shots and all....).  This was to have dire consequences on the British side in the coming turn  when the commander of the Guards, the Vendean leader commanding the skirmish line and the CinC were all hit in the same turn, resulting in half the army being unable to receive orders for a whole turn!

As a result of the temporary lack of commanders I threw caution to the wind and my entire Vendean force charged the newly-raised French in the centre. What closing fire the French could throw at them was shrugged off and a massive melee began.
My last minute gambit failed however, as all bar one of the Vendean units was broken in the first round of melee, and as a result the entire command was deemed spent and forced to retreat, what was left of it anyway.

At that point I decided that with two of my three commands pretty much destroyed that it was time to call it a day. We agreed that the totally untouched Guards, the artillery and the surviving cavalry would cover the withdrawal of my broken commands. Thankfully the French were hardly in  position to pursue effectively so my army was able to escape and fight another day.

True to form all my new units (the Loyal Emigrants and the Vendee units) did the 'first time in action on the table thing' and ran off. Well, Monsieur Johnny Frenchman, it won't happen again!


  1. Defeat for the reactionary Royalist scum, a grand start to the year! Fine game there Colin, looking forward to more in the coming weeks.

  2. Grand looking game, those sheep seem to get everywhere, they need a good shepherd to keep them in hand :~)

  3. A great looking game in an interesting and rare period...Excellent!

  4. What a great way to start a new gaming year! Superb looking game and can't wait for more updates on this:)

  5. wonderful game Colin. I very much enjoyed your reporting of the game.
    A great game to start the year...

  6. Very nice looking game ..........a lot of forces on display 😀

  7. The Vendean chaps will rise again!
    ps splendid looking game

  8. Jean le Rouge ici. Well we certainly crushed those rebellious Vendeans and thier shop keeper paymasters from perfidious Albion!. Managed to kill all the main leaders to boot and I m sure thats the last we ll hear of them now. Madame Guillotine was nt even required. Vive La France

    The Republican plan was to attack from the left (naturally), pin in the centre and refuse on the right, whilst keeping the most reliable troops in reserve to deliver the final coup de grace. Broadly speaking it actually worked, with a few ups and downs admittly. I feel us overlooking the 'Untested troops' BP rule during the game may have helped, given 12 batts of my army were untested. The combination of skirmishers and cannon fire did work well against the Emigres but the bayonet oddly enough did for the rebels, scythes and pitchforks not withstanding. The new rule on officer casualties certainly added flavour, given the tendency to lead from the front and get shot during this period. We floated the idea of restricting linear troops to 9" move to reflect the more ancient regime approach compared to the more mobile but more brittle republicans. One to try out next time?

    Another grand game hosted by Colin and a good start to the new year.