Saturday, April 7, 2012

Peninsula Battle, 1811, part 1

Five of us got together for a game last night, including Leo, Dave, Ryan and Ryan's friend Tim. The last time we had discussed what to play next, Ryan expressed an interest in Napoleonics, which was fine with me, as it is one of my favorite historical periods but one which we haven't played much over the last few years. I used to play From Valmy to Waterloo often at conventions, and really enjoyed the rules, although it is a little too complicated to be played with a mixed group of casual players. I picked up LaSalle a couple years ago at Cold Wars when it came out, and we played it shortly after and liked it. After a long hiatus, and given that I have spent the time recently getting my armies based properly to be ready to use, we decided that the game would be a LaSalle game.

The game itself was a throw-together, as I had to clean off my gaming table, set up a game and re-learn the rules (at least well enough to be able to fumble through) all during the day on Friday. Since my 15mm collection at the moment consists of French and British with a few Spanish and Portugese thrown in for good measure, we are pretty much stuck with playing Peninsula battles for the time being. I do also have some Austrians, but not enough yet to really so anything with them. That will go on the long list of things to make progress on.

Setup - French at left, Allies at right
The game pitted three French infantry brigades with brigades of light cavalry and dragoons in support, defending against an attack by three British, one Portugese and one Spanish brigade. The Allies had one light cavalry brigade at their disposal. The French goal was to hold their position long enough for their straggling brigade to get onto the board, join its comrades, and be able to withdrawal in good order off their table edge should they need to. The Allied goal was basically to attack the French successfully enough to prevent an orderly withdrawal. Ryan and Dave played the French, with Ryan taking two infantry brigades on the left (farther) flank, while Dave took an infantry brigade and light cavalry brigade on the right (near) flank. Leo and Tim would be the Allies, with Tim taking Spanish and Portugese brigades on the right (farther) flank, and Leo taking a British brigade and the light cavalry on the left (near) flank. The other two British brigades would enter as reinforcements.

First contact - light cavalry clash
Initial moves would see Ryan swing his arriving French brigade left towards the approaching Spanish after crossing the bridge in the distance. Tim marched the Spanish down the far flank at that brigade. The British and Portugese infantry moved up the middle, while the British cavalry moved aggressively at their French counterparts on the near flank. Ryan's decision proved to have a big impact on how the game developed, and was a nice example of the "friction" of war. In the short briefings I gave each side before the game began, I thought I was pretty clear on what the French goal was. Ryan heard something a little bit different than what I intended. Which would explain my slight confusion at his choice of actions - I fully expected him, at a minimum, to march the newly arriving brigade further along the road and tie better into the existing French defensive line. If he chose to be more conservative, he could march that brigade all the way behind the French center and set up a much stronger central defense. He chose to do neither, effectively moving forward to attack the Spanish.

British and Portugese advance in the center
The first real action was the clash of the light cavalry brigades on the near flank. Dave had a distinct advantage in quality even though the numbers were even, and he had a tactically superior leader. That didn't stop him from doing the statistically improbable and losing. LaSalle is a "buckets of dice" game, and in a combat between French hussars and British light dragoons, Dave was rolling a bigger handful of dice looking for easier numbers to get, and lost badly anyway. Poof, the hussars were gone, and his brigade leader was wounded. This would be the first of a number of such "how did I lose that one?" moments in this game. As expected, we fumbled with the rules, but I think we did ok in most major areas. Some of the same things that struck me as odd last time, still struck me as odd this time. The two most readily noticeable being the very restrictive arc of fire as concerns artillery (resulting in the ability of potential target units at long range being easily able to move out of the way of enemy guns), and the other being the fact that most melee combats seem to result in one of the two sides vaporizing. It is very much an all-or-nothing combat system. As I noted the last time, it is strange to see large, good, unscathed units vaporize in one turn. But that happens a lot.

Cavalry massacre
Anyway, the Allies continued to advance in the center, taking some hits from French artillery as they did so. The French and Spanish continued to advance on each other on the far flank, and the British cavalry pressed their initial upper hand in the cavalry fight. The next group combat saw the French chasseurs a cheval

Once the British cavalry chased away their opponents, Dave's infantry brigade on that flank was forced to deploy into square, preventing them from doing much to deter the British brigade that was advancing toward the French center other than to keep shooting long range artillery at them. This did cause a few hits, but the British kept coming. The French light cavalry losses did also force the French to begin moving their reserve dragoon brigade toward that flank to keep the British horse from getting too frisky. In the picture below, the British foot of Abercromby's brigade are finally in position to hit the French lines.
British attack the center

Next..the infantry fight.

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