The day of battle came and we saw the newly-arrived division of General Francois Severin Marceau-Desgraviers clash with the combined force of Prussians and Saxons, led by FML Knobbelsdorff and FZM Von Kaunitz respectively. Needful of the danger posed to their rear by Generals Pichegru and Jourdan they each detached two brigades to attempt to slow the inevitable advance once the sounds of battle drifted northwards. If they were swept away Pichegru and Jourdan would descend on the Coalition rear any time from turn 8, ie the 3.30 turn. We were starting at 12 noon campaign time.
The Coalition forces had been surprised by the arrival of this new French corps in their rear. This was due to their quite rightful fixation with the threat to their North, but also due to some dreadful scouting which reported the enemy troops as being the Emigre division that was known to be acting as rearguard midway between Tournai and Lannoy. Unbeknown to Knobblesdorf (and the French attacking his rear) the Emigres had temporarily withdrawn away from Marceau-Desgravieres rather than risk battle. They had then sneakily slipped in behind the French who were advancing blindly with their blood up and without any proper scouting, and were tailing them behind a thick cavalry screen as they advanced rapidly towards the Prussians. This could end up being one hell of a confusing battle, spread across several weeks and several distinct actions (just like the real Battle of Turcoing).
The game started with the French poised to attack the confused Coalition army. The latter would have a greater chance of becoming hesitant during the first three turns, and reduced ADC capacity in turn one as well. [Using General d’Armee as usual]. Although it might not look it, both armies were almost evenly matched in terms of units. However the Coalition cavalry were almost all classed as ‘large’ as were some of the Saxon infantry. Most of the French was made up of National Guards and Volunteers, so we wouldn’t know whether they were ‘recruit’, ‘line’ or ‘veteran’ until the first time they had to test for anything. Mean, aren’t I? The two halves of the Coalition army were to operate wholly independently, with no overall CinC and no exchanging of ADCs.
In time honoured fashion I will let the photos, which seem to be slightly out of sequence for some reason, tell the story.
|The Coalition left wing - Saxon grenadiers and artillery supported by a brigade of cheveaulegere and hussars.|
|One of the Saxon infantry regiments holding the centre.|
|More of the Saxons|
|Over on the right flank, after a slow start the Prussian heavy cavalry advance, intent on attacking the outnumbered French left that was hanging in the air. The Prussian artillery shown here proved to be particularly ineffective for most of the game.|
|Prussian KR No 7 von Borstel|
|The French centre and right wing were slow to advance. Only the cavalry brigade appeared keen to get to grips with the enemy. The infantry may well have been put off slightly by the massed Saxon artillery on the hill to their front.|
|After many false starts the Prussian heavy cavalry make it onto the flank of the French, but are taking a bit of a hammering from French horse artillery. |
|A wider view of the same shot, showing the Prussian attack on their right. The fusilier brigade were repeatedly charged by the French cavalry and forced into square, and the grenadiers were very slow in advancing tin their support.|
|After much dithering the main French attack commences in the centre, intent on driving the Saxons off the table.|
|The French attack as seen from the Prussian left wing, facing three batteries of Saxon artillery! Casualties were heavy, although the French did manage to clear away the Saxon skirmishers and occupy the wood.|
|Another shot of the Prussian heavy cavalry, if only because they look so good. As it was, poised to ride down everything in front of them, they hesitated! Not good.|
|The Saxon infantry eventually began to advance supported by Saxon and Bavarian (being played by Piedmontese) heavy cavalry.|
|Back over on the left the Saxon grenadiers were happily holding their position despite taking casualties from skirmishers and French artillery.|
|The French centre took some time to get moving but soon got the idea and advanced. I should perhaps point out here that most of the French battalions were made up of Volunteers or were Gardes Nationales, and therefore their classification was unknown until the first time in the game we needed to know. On 1D6, a 1 or a 2 meant the unit was recruits and a 6 meant they were veteran, otherwise they were line. The narrative behind this corps was that they had been transferred from the Rhine and had been in action a fair bit.|
|The French heavy cavalry, led by the 2nd Carabiniers seemed very keen to charge the Saxons. They did try, forcing one battalion into square, but they were bounced back, taking heavy casualties. The brigade were also taking fire from the massed batteries on the hill. |
|The Saxons again.|
|The French heavy cavalry and their attached horse artillery company were very much on their own for a couple of turns.|
|Losses mounted among the heavy cavalry, causing several discipline tests which unformed at least one unit a turn.|
|The Prussian attack on their left reaches the boundary of their own camp. The fusilier battalions had been slowed by the presence of a brigade of French cavalry that repeatedly charged them with impunity as the heavier Prussian horse were so slow in coming up.|
|Two regiments of French heavy cavalry on their right. |
|A fuzzy shot of the Saxon Reserve cavalry brigade that was glued to the baseline for several turns. Until their infantry advanced they were stuck.|
|Viewed from being the French lines, the Prussian main attack.|
|In the penultimate turn of the game the Saxon heavy cavalry had advanced through the camp. In the final turn they advanced to within 3" of the French. They could have charged the French columns in that turn as they had the 'forwards' order and only needed to throw a total of 1 on three D6 to have enough move to hit the French columns. Their commander chose not to so they finished their move poised to strike, if they'd not left it too late, next turn.|
By this time it was 4pm so we halted proceedings until next week. If I'm allowed to make some observations (yes I am, its my blog) I will:
I continue to be happy with the rules and the way they play out in a game (Gen d'Armee), and everyone is getting more used to them.
This is a BIGGIE. The Prussians and Saxons were on the clock and needed to use their greater numbers and massive superiority in cavalry to attack the French. They had a good workable plan to fulfil this but then, for whatever reason, failed to follow it through. I know unfortunate ADC and hesitancy rolls contributed to the initial sluggishness but the attack, when it went in, was piecemeal. The main Prussian infantry brigade was bombarded relentlessly by the French reserve artillery and 'faltered' when one battalion was swept away. They recovered but were taking heavy losses. For some inexplicable reason the Prussian commander chose not to engage the enemy battery with his artillery but to take pot shots at the French skirmish screen. Yet again the main Prussian artillery were ineffective and between them they caused more casualties on themselves (fatigue hits) than on the enemy!
Knobbelsdorf scarified his superb heavy cavalry by not ensuring they had the wherewithal to sweep round on the French flank. They were halted too many times and took fearful losses from a company of French horse artillery. One regiment was forced to retreat off the table so the first thing we do next week is a 'faltering' test for the rest of the brigade.
The Saxons, everyone in fact, seemed scared of advancing through the camp. It only slowed movement by half, with cavalry having a 1 in 3 chance of becoming unformed. When the Saxons did move it was too late and the chance to charge their heavy cavalry into the French columns was lost.
The French were supposed to be on attack orders as instructed by their absent player commander. His two surrogates did their best but the commander of the left was psyched out by all the Prussian cuirassiers and the commander of the centre took ages before he could get his main attack rolling as the brigade commander clearly didn't relish the thought of all those Saxons to his front, by which time his cavalry and flank brigade were being chewed up by the Saxons.
On my part visibility in the centre of the table was apparently difficult, as were the corners of the battlefield. Clearly my table is too big! We shall work on a solution to that for next time. Big big big thanks to Conrad (Coalition) and Steve (French) for helping move the troops and to act as the real eyes of their respective 'remote' players. They were only allowed to give an overall briefing at the start of the game and then only respond to questions about the detail of what was going on and could not prompt nor coach the commanders. I could of course, but mostly it was ignored. Their growing frustration with their Prussian/Saxon and French army commanders was most amusing to behold.
However I have to praise the Prussian commander (Dave) for acting in character for much of the game (except when his technology failed him temporarily). We said he'd taken a head wound and was unable to see anything for a couple of turns, which is true.
That said, everyone played a great game in good humour, and I believe great fun was had by all. Next week we shall complete part 2 of this extravaganza.
Meanwhile, near Mouscron, the French under Pichegru and Jourdan have been marching to the sound of the guns and have encountered the Prussian/Saxon rearguard. What will happen? Well, you will have to wait and see.