EXERT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Monday, March 14, 2016

Winnie's First Battle Part 2

For this game I took advantage of Grant's Programmed feature for the Blue army.
The first step after rolling terrain and laying it out as a compromise between what is now painted on my cloth and the maps in the book, was to roll to see if I had bothered to reconnoitre (I'm always embarrassed on my General's behalf if I fail the roll).  General Milne may be new to the job but was obviously well schooled. This means I got to look at Blue's initial deployment and then deploy my troops before the start of the battle rather than marching on in road column.

Blue's Deployment.

I then rolled up an even deployment for Blue with only cavalry and skirmishers allowed to deploy off the hills. After a brief study of the ground and mission General Scott began on his right by deploying 2 companies of the 1st Infantry and a rifled gun on West Hill figuring that the rifle had the range to bring a bit of crossfire to bear fire through the gap between the large Westwood and the smaller copse in the centre. In the centre, 1 company of Oerberg Volunteers was deployed forward with the 2nd company and a smoothbore gun in support with the gun deployed to shoot straight through the gap.  On his left flank he deployed 2 companies of the 7th Infantry in the wood with 1 company in support on the hill. He posted 1 squadron of cavalry on each of the 2 road exits on either side of the Centre Hill and held  4 companies of the Blue Guards as a reserve behind the centre.

(Technical note: Some of the pictures accidentally reflect some of the "rules in development" confusion. At one point I had experimented with using single stand units to represent detached skirmishers as opposed to a 2 company unit deployed 1 deep as skirmishers with supports. I also experimented with rolling dice per stand with stands being removed by the 2nd hit rather than my usual practice of rolling dice and totalling hits by unit .  Both experiments had been eventually rejected but initially I forgot that until the lack of squares made it really hard to tell who was who once stands got split up, not to mention trying to figure out whether a single stand was a skirmisher or the remnant of a formed company. I slowly eased things back to how they are supposed to be, slipping stands back on table and digging out more hit markers. ) 

Red's Deployment and advance. The infantry battalions are advancing in line with 1 company deployed as skirmishers in advance (and a little too close technically) 
My victory conditions were to seize the high ground dominating the road exits before dark. (Turn 15). Pondering this, the terrain and Blue's deployment, I decided to attack up the right with a pinning attack in the centre while holding my rifles back on the left to support my heavy gun and threaten his right should he withdraw troops to the centre. On the right were the Tigers with a gun then the Buffs. The cavalry covered the centre and formed a reserve. To their left the Volunteers supported by a gun advanced against the Copse while the ox-drawn heavy naval gun advanced up the road on their left to bombard the central hill, supported by rifles in the 10 Acre Wood.

Then I rolled for Blue's battle plan which turned out to be "Hold all the hills, Don't counter-attack off the hills,"  I flipped the first card and the game began.

Right away, the Tigers who were spearheading the attack and who had the longest way to go were immediately hit by a Chance Card which delayed their arrival by a turn. (No move). However, when my new heavy naval gun (Meg) opened fire on Blue's battery, she scored a hit with her first shot "Huzzah!"

In the background, how I pictured the reaction to Meg's hit.
A reprise of a 2015 photo of a mock up while planning Meg. 

It wasn't quite as smooth as Milne and I were expecting. Apparently Blue's infantry had built some sort of bulletproof defences in the wood and marked the ranges carefully since they were shooting down redcoats in droves while taking almost no hits at all from the return fire from rifles and grape. Milne had decided that there was no need for the cavalry to ride forward close enough to get shot at as there seemed little chance of Blue moving forward into the open. I mean, who in their right mind would throw a single, unsupported, squadron of lancers into the midst of the enemy army? Especially if (as his spies informed him) they were on hold orders?

The Buff's under pressure.



As the Buffs were pushed forward and prepared to pull back their skirmishers and charge into the wood, Blue hauled out the scenario book and checked his options: "Troops can't counter attack off the hills". His cavalry had been purposefully left of the hills, as allowed by his deployment, so they were not constrained! But they were just an inch or 3 too far away. I pulled the next card. Black King. Oh look, Blue goes first AND gets a free movement bonus for 1 unit. Sighhhh.   The Blue Lancers crashed into the skirmish line and pursued into the main body. Brigadier Stoneforte had to steady the Buffs in person but they held. However, they weren't going to clear the woods this turn at least, already they were down by about 30% for no gain. 

Slow progress and attrition. 
Better late than never, Milne released Flowerdew's cavalry and he stormed forward in the middle. The Blue Lancers were surprisingly tough. Despite being hit by 2 squadrons they threw one back and then checked the follow up charge by the supports before rallying back with what was left. It would take a third charge to finally drive them off.

While the cavalry fight was going on Red's infantry pressed forward and Blue's casualties slowly mounted.  Finally it became clear that they did not have the strength to hold both the hills and the woods and a slow fighting withdrawal from the advanced positions began. In the centre the gun duel continued with the Navy easily ahead but the Blue gunners hanging in grimly.  Milne gave the OK for the rifles to start moving up under cover to within rifle range.

It was about this time that some Joker stole a few turns of precious time from the deck. (Who drew these bleeping 15 cards for the turn and chance deck?)

Huzzah! Taken with cold steel!

Things were starting to look bleak for Blue. One hilltop had been lost along with all of the woods that covered the approaches and 1 of his 2 guns had been destroyed. Red's losses had been heavy but now his own were as well and his orders prevented him from shifting his last infantry reserve to the centre.

It was at this point that Lord Snooty, the impartial foreign observer who often accompanies Blue, leaned forward and asked Scott if he had checked the Blue Reaction section. "What?" A quick check of the reaction chart followed by a die roll led to permission to disregard orders and react aggressively to any enemy foothold. "Ok boys! 1st Infantry: shift left to counter the enemy riflemen and  reinforce the centre leaving the gun to hold the West Hill. Blue Dragoons: climb the hill and dismount to reinforce the Blue Guards."

Casualties had been too heavy on both sides to risk any more bayonet or sabre charges except as a last resort. Milne ordered his field guns up and a fire fight between long lines of skirmishers backed by artillery followed. In the end, the dice averaged out, Red drew a Rally card that allowed him to recover a few hits, and as the light faded, Blue hit his army morale level.   8 out of 14 units destroyed or forced to retreat off table. But.......Red hadn't actually occupied the hills yet....... let's check the book again.

The scenario says that no draw is possible so "discussions" continue to this day as to whether Red won or lost the day by breaking the enemy on the 2nd half of the last turn!  

7 comments:

  1. Ross Mac,

    Yet another very interesting battle report! It makes me want to clear my wargames table of all the detritus that is currently covering it and to set up a battle. (I won't do so because I am currently in the middle of building several models ships, but as soon as they are finished ...)

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great read, Ross.

    "Both sides claimed the victory". One of the problems of 'one-off' battles like this is that lack of context tends to leave an open outcome, well... open. I can well imagine that, though tactically indecisive, such an end result might be a considerable strategic victory for one side or the other. Charged with holding the broken ground, BLUE might yet have carried out his orders even if he had to give up the position just as the sun slid beneath the western skyline, as RED might have been reluctant to occupy such wild country after dark.

    On the other hand, if it was intended that the ground be held until reinforced overnight, say, its loss at nightfall might constitute a major setback, having to be retaken on the morrow. So the legend "both sides claimed the victory" seems a fitting close to the battle narrative.

    This one looked a tough nut for the attackers. Must try it some time for my occasional 'Retreat from Smolensk' campaign. Not the next one though. If I can just clear that bally table...

    Oh, before I go: I was thinking during the story I do like subordinate generals' names. Stoneforte, Flowerdew; these fellows no doubt have an illustrious career ahead of them!

    Cheers,
    Ion

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I quite agree that this ending needed a context. Its actually a harder task for the defender I think, if the attacker's roll allows him to deploy. If red had not lost 3 turns to a chance card, it would have been a clear victory.

      I do like to have things stable enough to have both names and some history, unfortunately, neither of these are original. Flowerdew was named after a WWI VC winner in the Strathcona Horse. He made his debut in 2012 by breaking a square at the head of his dragoons.

      Stony Creek Surprise

      Stoneforte is of course from a joke in Lives of a Bengal Lancer. and dates back to 2011 and the first edition of the Noodle.

      Delete
    2. I quite agree that this ending needed a context. Its actually a harder task for the defender I think, if the attacker's roll allows him to deploy. If red had not lost 3 turns to a chance card, it would have been a clear victory.

      I do like to have things stable enough to have both names and some history, unfortunately, neither of these are original. Flowerdew was named after a WWI VC winner in the Strathcona Horse. He made his debut in 2012 by breaking a square at the head of his dragoons.

      Stony Creek Surprise

      Stoneforte is of course from a joke in Lives of a Bengal Lancer. and dates back to 2011 and the first edition of the Noodle.

      Delete
  3. Crikey - that Meg'd be - what- a 64 pounder?

    Good show,

    Greg

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Apparently just a Naval 24 pounder. I would suspect some exaggeration but the artist was an experienced naval officer who was there. Being naval guns where weight was not an issue they would have been iron and big. The photos of 24 pdrs I've seen make them look big but I haven't found any that have a human for scale snf these ones were on improvised carriages.

      Of course mine was scrounged from what I had to hand.

      Delete
  4. There were 32 and 64 PR smoothbores in the forts around Melbourne.

    Big beasts.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/68-pounder_gun#/media/File:Iron_64lb_RML_at_Fort_Nelson.JPG


    Greg

    ReplyDelete