Thursday, 14 July 2011

'Counter Attack at the Bridgehead'

 After much delay, I can finally post the next Napoleonic battle report!

The fourth game in our Napoleonic mini-campaign was played before I went off on holiday (just about three weeks ago now...), and for the first time in the campaign I was the aggressor! So far I've been on the back foot, facing whatever the Austrians could throw at me with whatever minimal and hastily-gathered forces I had available, but this was my chance to take the fight to the enemy!

The scenario this time took the action back to the small and (previously) peaceful village of Fleur. You may remember the first game where the Austrians were aiming to force a bridgehead against the French garrison. Well this time, it's the French who are trying to force the bridgehead but rather than trying to prevent the Austrians getting in, I was now trying to stop them leaving!

The board was set out much like the first game (as you'd expect - good job we took photos or we'd never have remembered what it looked like!), except this time with more of the "French" side on show to allow for manoeuvres.

The French forces were made up of fresh troops, marched urgently from the northern training camps upon hearing the news of the Austrian invasion. Commanded by General de Lude, they consisted of a squadron of Cuirassiers, three Line Battalions and two medium artillery pieces.

The Austrians, meanwhile, had only what had been left behind after the first battle at Fleur as a rearguard. This gave them a squadron of Hussars, a Line Battalion, a Grenzer/Jager battalion and a single artillery piece. Alas, my inability to cause casualties in the first game came back to haunt me as the forces were more or less even. To make matters worse, there was the pervading threat of the main Austrian army arriving at some point on their way back from St Michel. Needless to say, time was of the essence for the French. The bridgehead had to be secured before nightfall, and before the main Austrian force arrived to sweep my meagre resistance aside once again.

Deployment was commenced with the Austrians having to set up all forces and assign orders before the French entered the field. I had the advantage of seeing the Austrian deployment, but was restricted to deploying in the valley between the two hills. At the start of the game, only my advance unit of cavalry was available - the footsloggers and guns would show up on Turn 3. The Austrians, clearly unaware of where the French would approach, set up in a general perimeter around the village with the cannon guarding the bridge (despite twice informing my opponent that the cannon could not see over the buildings - leaving it with a very limited arc of fire!)

Turns 1 and 2 began in unspectacular fashion - general advances with the Austrian light infantry maintaining their central position while the Hussars and Line Battalion advances towards the Cuirassiers.

Turn 3 got things off with a bang; the three French Line Battalions showed up in the valley, along with the artillery, and the Cuirassiers made the first charge of the game against the Austrian Line who elected to stand and shoot rather than attempt to form square. With some very jammy dice rolling, it paid off and the Cuirassiers were forced to retreat in ignominy.

Turns 4 and 5 saw the situation quickly restored, with the Cuirassiers once more launching themselves at the Austrian Line, this time with the direct support of General de Lude himself! His inspiring presence must have done the trick, and the Austrian Line pushed their luck too far by electing again not to form square and they paid for it. The Cuirassiers pursued them right up to the river, just failing to catch them (by 1/2"!). This left them in a bit of a predicament with the Austrian cannon now staring them straight in the face.

Meanwhile, the Hussars began their harassment of the lone Line Battalion, forcing them in to square and halting the advance. The other two Battalions continued their march forward towards the village, with the Austrian Grenzer reformed to plug the gap left by their fleeing compatriots.

Turns 6 and 7 saw the inevitable bombardment of the Cuirassiers, who duly fled only to once again benefit from General de Lude's direct involvement to rally them. Unfortunately, the Austrian Line infantry also managed to rally with the assistance of the Austrian General. Meanwhile, the Hussars continued to frustrate the French infantry battalion, so much so that a second battalion was diverted away from the village to deal with them.

Turn 8 saw much manoeuvring (accompanied by many a confused look on the umpire's face, as he wondered what the hell I was doing!) All I can say is that I knew what I was doing, and it sort of worked. While the 6th Line marched between the woods to see off the Hussars, the Cuirassiers marched across the front of the 5th Line Battalion to take up the vacated position previously occupied by the 6th and line up ready to launch a charge into the Grenzer. Meanwhile, the French artillery finally took up firing positions alongside the 5th Line, and opened fire on the Austrian Line.

Turn 9, and the Cuirassiers launched their charge against the Grenzer who also elected to stand and shoot rather than form square. Once again, it didn't work and the Cuirassiers struck home with predictable results. Even better, the Grenzer fled straight back across the bridge and prevented the cannon from firing! The Austrian position was looking tenuous, and there were anxious glances at the umpire and questions. Where was the rest of the Austrian army?!

Unfortunately, the tables quickly turned. Success against the Grenzer left the Cuirassiers open to a counter charge by the Hussars, and with the casualties sustained thus far the Cuirassiers were unable to stand up to the Austrians. Likewise, the 5th Line also succumbed to the firepower of the Austrian infantry and artillery and fled the field.

The Hussars then took up position in the village, ready to face off against the two remaining French infantry battalions, who advanced onto the hill each forming square alternately. Meanwhile, the Austrian infantry marched against the French artillery, taking casualties along the way.

Turn 14, and in an attempt to force the situation, the Hussars charged the infantry squares. Taking fire as they came in, they luckily managed to break the square but were unable to catch them. Meanwhile, the combined fire of the cannon and Line infantry put paid to one of the French artillery pieces.

Turn 15, and the French artillery had inflicted enough casualties to break the Austrian infantry, who fled towards the bridge. The Hussars charged the infantry square again and this time they were beaten and broken for good, leaving a single cannon defending Fleur. Victory was within my grasp, and the Austrian army was nowhere in sight!

Alas, it was not to be. Turn 15 proved to be the last of the game, and night fell just as the French were within reach of the village and the bridge. It also turned out that the Austrian army never did arrive - my opponent had convinced himself that help was on it's way, and this proved not to be the case.

All in all, things are set up very nicely for a climactic finish! Can Frankreich salvage her honour (and oodles of stolen cash) by defeating the Whitecoats before they can make it back across the border? Can Osterreich stop eating sausages long enough to get away with their ill-gotten loot?

The final, thrilling encounter will determine all!!!

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