Thursday, 27 October 2016

Game 48 : Bailen : the second go!

This is the same battle of Bailen, refought with the players switching sides. I won't go through all the planning detail but just give the highlights. The French elected to drive through the centre with the largest infantry formations, taking advantage of the semi-broken terrain that unformed cavalry. The wings would be cavalry heavy and be the flank guards. The Spanish plan was one of defence along the main line with the exception of the largest infantry division that would attack in the centre. They would exploit the same ground as the French were advancing over for the same reason; protection from cavalry. The Spanish also kept a division in reserve. 

The French left advancing. It comprised of 4 btns of infantry, 2 of them light infantry and supporting cavalry. The Spanish were holding the ridge line with a refused flank; taking advantage of the ridge protection. 

This is the Spanish left. The cavalry would engage the French cavalry to try and drive the flank protection away. The French infantry can be seen advancing in the centre.

The Spanish division advance against the French. There is likely to be battle in the semi broken ground with little or no cavalry interference.

The combat on the Spanish left with the cavalry is decisive. The French cut a swathe through the Spanish cavalry. The idea of driving back the French flank guard on this side has gone for the duration. The French centre would be able to advance with no worries on their right flank.

The Spanish advance in the centre stopped as soon as it started. One turn and a battalion took a few casualties and then decided to retreat. Being positioned as a lead battalion, it really stopped this advance in its tracks. The issue for the Spanish would be how to recover and not have this whole division rendered hors de combat.

On the French left, the advance against the ridge involves taking a key wood which is being contested by light infantry from both sides. Ownership of the wood gives control of the whole of the ridge by looking down its length. It is a natural anchor point.

The French left centre, supported by cavalry, now has the ridge line open to them. The Spanish infantry, lacking cavalry in this sector at this time, would not be able to hold and would soon yield the ridge.

The same position but seen from the French side.


The French right centre is now advancing to the ridge line as well. Despite spirited Spanish resistance, the French infantry were able to keep some Spanish infantry retreating and stop any co-ordinated Spanish counter in this sector.

Viewed from the French left, the whole Spanish line has retired from the ridge to attempt the formation of a fresh defensive position. French artillery, now deployed on the ridge, is able to give effective fire support. Spanish artillery has been driven away with some significant losses.

This was the last turn. The Spanish centre was in flight and running headlong into Bailen but had just successfully changed orders to retire which would probably allow it to defend the centre and rear of Bailen itself. We called it at this point. A French victory was declared. The games were great, not least in that everyone thought that the Spanish behaved as players perceived they should. Moments of brilliance mingled with unfathomable hesitation and disruption. This was achieved by the simple manipulation of morale classes, random General ability for each and every morale test and the use of the roster sheet top reflect the brittleness.

Well, here we are. Graham and myself were Spanish in the first game and French is this one. Bob & Herbert were here for both games on the opposite side. We all declared it a great success.
Next stop is Austerlitz, the northern sector. Some new ideas to try with national characteristics being applied to the order change system. So keep an eye out for that battle!!

Friday, 14 October 2016

Game 47 : Bailen 1808

This battle had a number of firsts. It was the first Peninsular battle that has been played. As the Brits are yet to arrive, I decided to try the classic battle where the Spanish achieved their only sole noted victory. As usual,
I'll leave the reader to investigate the books at to what precipitated the battle and why. In a nutshell, a French Provisional Corps has to break through the lines of a Spanish army to escape back onto their supply lines. They have 600 wagons in tow and so the objectives are clear. The French need to clear the heights and main road in front of Bailen, then clear Bailen and then be able to march off the battlefield via the main and only road.
The Spanish have a good defensive line of heights in front of the town. In essence, if the hill is taken and the Spanish are in disarray, then the French objective has really been met.
Terrain considerations also require some thought. Maps of the battle are inconsistent with regards to how much area was wooded and how deep were the woods. I decided to adopt a simple solution to reflect lightly wooded and broken ground areas. I used the fields to represent an area where visibility was limited but infantry were not affected in terms of order/disorder. The same are would count all mounted troops or limbered artillery as disordered. This simple approach breaks up the terrain in a way where infantry are free to move and cavalry have to pick their ground. I used woods to represent woods as we normally understand them.
The next biggest problem is how to reflect the historic behaviour of the Spanish, with regards to their morale, without making the outcomes too predictable. For both armies I adopted a variable morale system and utilised the casualty roster sheets to reflect tenacity and effectiveness as attrition is suffered.
Every troop type, for each army, had a table where the morale of the troops was variable. I'll use the French as an example.
Take French line infantry. The basis is that the line infantry were raw conscripts that had been trained on the march. Their elan was reasonable.
So, as a morale test is required and not before, a 1d6 roll is made.
On a 6, the unit is Seasoned, 4,5 1st class, 2,3 2nd class and on a 1, militia.
This is done for each unit. Unit types had different ratings and chances.
French Dragoons had 5,6 Seasoned, 2,3,4 1st class, 1, 2nd class.
The last factor are the roster sheets. Irrespective of morale class, the roster used was for 1st class. The reason for this is explained at the end of the Spanish notes.
Using the same approach, the Spanish Infantry had the following, 5,6 1st class, 3,4 2nd class, 1,2 militia. The roster sheet used, irrespective of morale class, was for militia.
The morale ratings are based on my research on the troops at the time. The roster used reflects my view that the Spanish were, on the whole, more brittle. The effect would be that is a one to one trade of volleys, French troops would likely stay longer.
The beauty of the system allows many variations to be used and allows the designer to paint whatever picture he wants. Now the pics! 

This Bailen itself. The escape road exits at the bottom and in the distance can be seen the main defence line that the Spanish hold and the French must break. The exit road heads east.

This is the ridge line starting at the northern most end of the Spanish line.
This is to the south of Bailen showing the church as it is pretty!
The French tactic was to have a very weak centre screened with cavalry and strong flanks to try and turn the Spanish on both wings. The Spanish had elected for a right hook at the northern end of the battlefield with their strongest infantry formation and where possible engage the French cavalry to try and prevent the French from using combined arms. The above shows the Spanish and French both advancing.

This is the same action taken from the French side. This battle would rage all weekend. The cavalry from both sides would hew chunks out of each other without any great result. The Spanish infantry, without organised Spanish cavalry support would get nowhere, advancing a foot and then having to break off as their advance was checked and then thrown back by the French. In turn, the French infantry could not easily advance as their own cavalry was continuously engaged by the Spanish cavalry.

The action at the southern end of the battlefield was the same, except it was a major French push from their right flank with their best infantry (there is a Swiss brigade in the army).
The attack was checked by a large amount of Spanish cavalry and some infantry. The resulting engagement was bloody. The Spanish infantry were eventually driven back but the French infantry suffered when a Spanish Lancer regiment got in amongst them and broke at least 3 btns.

The above shows the overall result at the southern end of the battlefield. Their is an impasse as both sides regroup to have a go again. The French can still attack, the Spanish are still holding the line. 

At the top of the picture is the typical action at the northern end. At the end of the weekend , it looked like the troops were virtually in the same position that they had started in, especially the Spanish. Overall, the French had advanced by about 2 feet, but the Spanish line was still intact.

This is from the centre where I managed to get things lined up perfectly on about 4 occasions only for some Spanish unit to not do what was wanted. It appeared very apt and Spanish, if somewhat exasperating!
The end of the battle saw the French slowly forcing the southern end of the ridge but the remainder still under Spanish control. The Spanish line was also intact and continuous. The French flanks were secure but the weak centre was coming under pressure, albeit very slowly. So a draw really. Another factor that makes this interesting is that the game has been played again, with the players now on the opposite sides. That report will be next!!