Monday 29 January 2018

French Revolutionary War Mini Campaign: The first engagement

Given that I shall be making all the strategic decisions for both sides (or is that all four sides?), based on what I think will be/are appropriate movements and reactions to the enemy I've simplified the map movement aspects I am using for this campaign, by allocating a single movement point between each town or village, taking into account terrain and distance on my rather inaccurate map. Movement is only allowed via roads, or sea in the case of the Rosbiffs.  Each  represents a point of movement that must be expended to go between ‘A’ and ‘B’, in this case between any town/village and another. So , for example Pornichet to St Nazaire takes the British one turn and the others half a turn. The different belligerents have been allocated different numbers of movement points per turn, as follows:

Revolutionary French    2
Vendee Rebels               2 (3 if trying to evade)
British & Emigre           1
Cavalry                         Add 50%

Hopefully the irregulars won’t end up zipping around the countryside too quickly but I want to reflect their ability to slip away from the enemy if things start going badly. Likewise the British (and their Emigre Allies) were not the well-oiled military machines (?) of the later Napoleonic Wars and campaigning in Flanders during the previous couple of years had hardly been notable for speedy strategic manoeuvring. The Revolutionary French have an advantage here of being far more mobile. I am not using an IGOUGO approach to movement (that would be an IGOIGOIGOIGO as I’m doing this solo) but will draw tokens from a bag to get the move sequence, moving each group in turn when their token is drawn.

Turn 1 (the morning of Day 1) starts with a small British/Emigre contingent landing to support the local Chouan/Vendee forces in the capture of the small coastal town of Pornichet as a precursor to a landing by the main body on the beaches to the west of the town. Pornichet has been chosen as it has a small serviceable harbour which will facilitate the disembarkation of horses and artillery. The British/Emigre force needs to deal with the coastal battery and the telegraph tower quickly before occupying the town otherwise enemy reinforcements will start arriving from nearby garrisons (they will arrive anyway at some point, no doubt about it actually as the landing did not go unobserved), while the Catholic and Royal Army (the insurgents) attempts to delay the arrival of the aforesaid reinforcements.

Peter came down the hill on Saturday evening to play, armed with counter-revolutionary fervour and some nice craft beer, and took the role of commander of the British/Emigre/Vendee forces, the Emigre Comte d'Hervilly. To recap, the British/Emigres have landed a small force of two Emigre battalions, a small battalion of Emigre Chasseurs and a British battalion of combined flank companies. In addition to this are 10 ‘bands’ of Vendee Rebels. By contrast the Republican forces are initially quite limited. There is a battery of coastal artillery in the fort, together with an understrength and unenthusiastic battalion of infantry under the command of Chef de Battalion Aubin Didon. In the town, by chance, is a battalion of experienced infantry en route to its new posting ( this was one of two random events that influenced the game from the start). Two randomly generated (a bit like wandering monsters in D&D) Demi-Brigades of infantry (one newly raised Conscripts) under General Adhemar Patacaisse are potentially close enough to reinforce the garrison, but we don't at this stage know when and where they will appear. The second random event was the appearance of a supply column heading for the port, escorted by two squadrons of dragoons.

The vanguard of the supply column winds its way down the narrow hedge-lined lanes. (I know the dragoon guidon is  from a slightly later period but so are the dragoons, and I had a couple of Adolfo Ramos flags going spare)
The rearguard passing the gate to the churchyard.
On parade. A battalion of Republicans at the harbour.
The garrison of Pornichet. A battalion of ex-Regulars still in their white uniforms together with a battery of coastal artillery.
The local telegraph station. 
A Royal Navy gunboat glides silently and undetected towards the harbour.
The British (fording the stream) and Emigres head towards the tower and the town, supported by Chouan skirmishers.
The main body of the Chouan force is deployed along the hedgerows inland from the town. 
Ambush! The supply train and its escort come under fire. The leading dragoon squadron takes casualties and flounders around in the lane disordered. The wagons are also taking casualties.
Skirmishers covering the advance of the British and Emigre columns.
The only mounted troops opposing the Republicans are a motley band of Vendean farmers, poorly  mounted and poorly armed. Wielding a scythe on horseback seems like a hazardous endeavour!
The British battalion has deployed into line alongside the two Emigre battalions. The Emigre chasseurs have taken the signal  tower.
Flushed with their success the Emigre chasseurs attack the coastal battery but are driven off by the gunners, and a hefty load of grapeshot. 
The Loyal Emigrants regiment charges the Republican battalion which has left the safety of the battery. Closing fire and a brief melee and the Loyal Emigrants are  surprisingly repulsed.
Battalion Bachman advances on the town.The British 'flank' battalion assaulted the town and remarkably (not that remarkable seeing as I managed to throw four 1's in my saving rolls!) the garrison had to take a break test and threw snake eyes. They ran. The town was now in the hands of the British.
Meanwhile, inland, the leading dragoons were forced to retire which at least got them out of the trap that was the lane. Then, one of the Vendee units blundered and charged though the olive groves, becoming a bit exposed. Ooops!
The first of the French reinforcements arrived in turn 6. Once I had thrown to see where they entered I rashly ordered them to advance as far as they could, little knowing that I would throw a 3, so we got three moves, ending up in march column behind the Vendee forces all of which promptly about faced and peppered the columns with musketry.
Back on the coast the garrison of the battery (the battalion of 'les Blancs') have been driven off  but the gunners are made of sterner stuff and hang on resolutely.
The dragoons charged the rebels in the olive grove but to my surprise were repulsed. I think I cocked up with the rules here but never mind. Never mind indeed! The  other squadron of dragoons from the rear of the supply column and the second demi-brigade of reinforcements have worked their way around the churchyard and wood.
Under galling (sorry about the pun) musketry and after some dismal saving throws one battalion of French were forced to take a break test, and being newly raised rubbish decided to run away! A long and confusing melee ensued on this flank as more troops from both sides being sucked in, before the rebels gained the upper hand, destroying another Republican battalion. 
The Vendee troops reorganised themselves along the hedgerows.
The British battalion moves inland from the town.
The French dragoons could do  nothing to shift the Vendee units and were taking casualties and disorder every turn. Added to this the first demi-brigade had been thrashed by the  Vendee troops.
The Vendee troops ready for the final attack which never came as the Republican forces were spent and in no state to continue their attack.

At the this point, time and the beer had run out. The Counter Revolutionary swine backed by their Aristo and Shop Keeper allies had achieved their objectives by capturing the tower, battery and harbour. An added bonus was the capture of the supply column. Casualties on both sides had been relatively low, and most of the fleeing Republicans will reform later in the day, perhaps.

Turn 2 (from noon to midnight) will see the Royal Navy disembark the rest of the Emigre invasion force, another battalion of English infantry and some artillery. Work will then begin on reinforcing and extending the coastal battery with an additional earthwork which will be manned by sailors from the fleet. The Emigres will no doubt spend the rest of the day rounding up, judging and executing known (or suspected) revolutionaries,  such as the mayor, or anyone else whom they had a grudge against in the past. The irregular forces have also made use of the arms and supplies captured in the convoy but apart from a few patrols along the coast to the west and east towards St Nazaire have done little other than bask in the glory of their victory. Already their leaders are at odds with the commander of the Emigre forces over what move to make next.

The Revolutionary forces have retired to regroup, and await reinforcements from St. Nazaire and elsewhere. It remains to be seen what troops they will have gathered together before the demands of Citizen Maldetette from the Committee for Public Safety are heeded and the invaders attacked and thrown back into the sea.  But you will have to wait until later this week to find out what happens, after the next game which is on Wednesday.


  1. What a great way to start your campaign. Also a visual treat.

  2. What a splendid looking game, wonderful pictures and figures, especially Chouans skirmishers, telegraph station and harhor...Must have been a great moment!

  3. Wow stunning stuff Colin! Very impressive.

  4. Great campaign idea, love the collection and terrain too. Not a fan of Black Powder but it does give a faster game than many rules.
    Looking forward to more of this one!
    Hopefully the Republican French will do a better job of it next time.

  5. Thanks. I only use BP because they’re quicker and most of my gaming circle are familiar with them. When I summon up the courage I shall be having a go with General d’Armee.

  6. A lovely looking game there. Why venture beyond BP though?

  7. Superb beginning of the campaign. The counter-revolutionaries didn't have it all their own way! Great generating circumstance and opening chapter.

  8. Great narrative, great pics.......and you won! :-)

  9. ruddy marvelous stuff, and inspiring for me too (I am just this moment starting to turn the mind cogs, and get my own French Revolution/Napoleonic campaign up and running). Love the table set up and photography, and love the style, great blog.