Monday, 6 June 2011

The Battle of St Michel

Last weekend we played the third game of our narrative Napoleonic campaign, the Raid on St Michel.

Game Three - The Battle of St Michel

This was by far the biggest battle of the campaign so far, and appropriately so given that this scenario is also the crux of the campaign. The Austrians have fought through the French resistance to finally reach St Michel, where the French treasury is located. The French have amassed forces to make a stand defending the town, and so it was that Marshal Du Bious found himself in command of the defenders.

The task was relatively simple - stop the Austrians taking the town.

The Austrians were arriving on the north side of the table, with the French defending the town on the south side. The town itself consisted of the churchyard (left of the road) and a group of houses (south and right of the road). On the left flank the road led away over a bridge spanning the river, while on the right the road led through a valley.

Because I was defending, my deployment zone was extended to cover the whole of the town and up to the beginning of the river. Any units not in plain sight could be deployed as hidden, with orders to reveal in certain circumstances, or when sighted by the enemy. The Austrians had to deploy by map without seeing the disposition of the French forces, and were allowed to start up to 6" in from the north board edge in column.

The rest of the Austrian forces started backed up along the road, but it wouldn't be long before they turned up! The white 'H's show which units were hidden at the start of the game.

The opening turns were relatively uneventful - my Cuirassiers and Chasseur á Cheval advanced to the top of the hill on the right flank, while the Light Infantry and 4th Line advanced alongside them with the Line taking up position along the ridge of the hill and the Light deployed in skirmish formation at the bottom of the hill.

Meanwhile, the Austrians advanced along the front - the infantry and artillery marched quickly down the road, while the cavalry on both flanks advances also; the Dragoons and Hussars (followed up by three infantry units) moved to take on the Cuirassiers and Chasseur; the Kuirassiers and Austrian Chevaux-Leger moved into what they thought was the empty French left flank. By the time they realised their mistake, it was too late...

It didn't take long for battle to be joined. In the centre, the Austrians had brought the majority of their infantry to bear, while the cavalry tried to break through the flanks. As you can tell from the deployment, I was expected a much stronger push on the left flank; as it turned out, the Austrians were going for a left-hook instead of the right-hook I'd anticipated!

With the Austrian cavalry on my left in trouble, I immediately took my chance and charged with both the Dragoons and the Bavarian Chevaux-Leger. The Austrian cavalry was hit in both the front and flank - much to my shock and horror though, they not only managed to hold but they fought off both charging units! Needless to say, that didn't go to plan. On the right flank, things didn't go much better. My Cuirassiers charged and broke the Austrian Dragoons, but my Chasseur á Cheval were broken in turn my the Austrian Hussars. In the centre the French artillery began their pounding of the Austrian infantry, ably assisted by the militia and 2e Line.

The following few turns formed the climax of the battle. On the left, the Bavarians rallied and ploughed into the Austrian Chevaux-Leger again, this time beating them and causing them to flee. Unfortunately, this left the Kurassiers with a clear charge into the Bavarians and they were routed in return. Meanwhile, the Light and Line moved up to enfilade the Kurassiers as they charged in, causing casualties but not enough to break them. On the right, the Cuirassiers charged and broke the Dragoons again but were then left facing two infantry squares, with the Jager providing enfilade fire. This all proved too much for them and, unable to repeat the performance at Peche Valley, they were routed. Meanwhile the Hussars followed up the Chasseur and broke them a second time, causing them to rout off table and leaving the Hussars dangerously to the rear of my infantry on the hill. The three Austrian infantry units advancing on the hill took heavy casualties on the march in; the Gyulai regiment were forced to retire, quickly followed by the Jordis, but the Splenyi managed to march through the fire and charge through the Light Infantry, who retreated to the far side of the hill.

In the centre, the 2e Militia finally broke and ran from the incoming artillery and infantry fire; the 2e Line marched forward to take up their place holding the road junction. The Austrian Grenadiers took massive casualties and were routed by artillery fire, and the Duke regiment suffered just as badly when the 2e Line got into position. Unfortunately, by this point the 1e Line had been forced to retreat after coming under fire from the advancing Hoch-und-Deutschmeister regiment.

With casualties mounting up and units fleeing all over the place, the battle was coming to its conclusion. On the left, the Kurassiers turned and charged the 3e Line despite suffering casualties on the way in. The Line broke and ran, but conveniently left a gap for the rallied Dragoons to charge through into the Kurassiers. This time, the Kurassiers broke and fled for good, having been reduced to below half strength. On the right, the Cuirassiers launched a last desperate charge at the Austrian Hussars, only to once again be defeated. This time they were too close to the board edge, and with enemy units all around they routed off table. In the centre, the pressure was becoming too much. The Archduke Charles regiment suffered the fire of the French artillery and 2e Line but returned fire and forced the 2e Line to break in turn. Meanwhile, the Hoch-und-Deutschmeister unit continued to force the 1e Line to retreat and the Klebeck marched forward in the wake of the Archduke Charles regiment. The Splenyi paused at the foot of the hill to exchange fire with the 4e Line, while the Gyulai and Jordis regiments both rallied and returned to the firefight.

The French lines were now looking dangerously thin. The left flank had eventually prevailed and cleared their opposition, but the time it had taken them had left the centre and right to bear the brunt of the Austrian assault and they were quickly crumbling. With no reserves left to plug the gap in the centre, the artillery was looking particularly vulnerable and this proved to be the case, as the Hoch-und-Deutschmeister and Klebeck regiments both charged the fortifications around the cannon and cleared them at bayonet-point. Without artillery support and a drastic shortage of non-running infantry units, it looked like the French had been overcome. On the right flank, the 4e Line were forced into square by the approaching Hussars, while the 2e Light formed column and marched away from the area to try and plug the gap around St Michel. The 1e Line continued their harassment of the Hoch-und-Deutschmeister regiment, while the Militia in the churchyard turned to face the Klebeck and the Dragoons and 1e Light moved to the centre whilst staying out of range of the Austrian artillery. The 3e Line managed to rally before exiting the table, but the 2e were not so lucky and fled the battle.

It was at this point that the game was ended. It was decided that the remaining French forces withdrew in good order, with the exception of the 4e Line who were forced to surrender (surrounded by enemy forces as they were), granting a narrow victory to the Austrians. The Whitecoats had captured the treasury, but had suffered heavy casualties to do so (far higher than the French casualties). Now the question is whether they can make it back to Austria with the money, and more importantly, with their lives. Already reports are coming in of a French force marching rapidly from the north to seize the bridgehead at Fleur once again, in the hopes of stopping the Austrians from crossing...

Stay tuned for Game 4!

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