Saturday 29 August 2020

French Revolutionary Wars Campaign: Anyone remember what happened to the Emigres? The Battle at Tourcoing #3

 One aspect of our campaign that has developed over the course of the fighting in the Austrian Netherlands has been my “D20 Table of Randomness” which  I use for all non-player interactions such as the effectiveness of patrolling and the quality intelligence reports, and how well cavalry screens are in covering their parent forces from the prying eyes of the enemy. There are quite a few other instances where I use the table, the range of options for each I hope accurately reflect the situation I’m trying to resolve.

Harking back to the previous couple of ‘Campaign days’ readers may recall that the army of General Marceau-Desgraviers had spied a body of Emigres on the road between Tournai and Lannoy. However, when he tried to close with them Marceau-Desgraviers patrols Wrongly reported that the cowardly Emigres had retreated back towards Tournai. Two D20 were thrown at this point. The French result was the worst possible in terms of accuracy, while the Emigres’ was the best possible in terms of screening. What the Emigres had actually done was slip away to the North East undetected.

Marceau-Desgraviers then decided to march towards Lannoy and Tourcoing, where he was able to surprise the Prussian and  Austro/Saxon/Bavarian/Ragamuffin Corps who were quite rightly fixated with the forces of Pichegru and Jourdan just a few miles to the NE of their position. A few more D20 were thrown. The Coalition forces wrongly identified the French as being the Emigre Corps that was “known” to be covering their rear, while the French were able to get within two miles of the Coalition force before they were correctly identified! What nobody knew at that point, except me, was that the Emigres had been following the corps of Marceau-Desgraviers at a distance. So intent were they on attacking the Coalition forces in the rear that the French failed to spot they were being followed (more D20) until the first cannon balls landed amongst them coming from the wrong direction! 


Now I know this sounds a bit contrived, but using the instructions I’d received from the players together with the random effect of the D20 for the situations related above, by lunchtime of the first day of the game I could see what might happen and was getting a little anxious. The scenario was developing by itself and becoming more and more complicated. We have the Coalition main force facing the French to the rear under Marceau-Desgraviers; the Coalition rearguard is a couple of miles to the NE facing an attack by the (probably) overwhelming numbers of Pichegru and Jourdan’s divisions; the Emigres have in turn snuck up in the rear of the already engaged French of Marceau-Desgraviers and are lobbing cannonballs into the rear of their right flank. Aaaargh!  Interestingly, the real Battle of Turcoing in 1794 was a vast sprawling affair with vast and numerous dispersed columns of French and Coalition  troops manoeuvring and clashing over a wide area, so the game isn’t too dissimilar to reality.

Thankfully, given the option of attacking the Coalition rearguard without deploying before doing so or after deploying, Pichegru and Jourdan chose the latter. This meant that even a complete walkover by them would result in there being at least eight turns before they could arrive in the rear of the main Coalition army, and I could leave that battle for another day. Phew! 

So on Saturday the battle of Turcoing will continue, with only minor adjustments to the table, to allow the Emigre corps (little more than a division really) to attack the rear of Marceau Desgravier’s Army of the Scarpe, while the Coalition forces do their best to maintain their attack. 

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