Game Report
"Crossing the River"

It being some time since my regular wargame buddy Darrell and I have pushed some lead (in fact, not since the re-run of the Wagon Train scenario written up elsewhere on these pages), we agreed a get together to remedy the situation.. Saturday evening found us doing just that.. pushing lead, chatting, drinking tea, and eating biscuits while wrestling with the broad philosophical constructs of why we seem to throw so many "1's"... The background bits: Broadly speaking two roughly equal forces of French and Allied troops are contesting a river crossing that is vital to the strategic aims of the two countries. The table was set up roughly as follows (though the sharper sighted amongst you will note that the church magically changes aspect by 90' before the game actually started) and measures 6 foot by 4 foot:

........'Crossing the River' table layout..

We then diced for sides and starting edge, and this ended up with Darrell as the French, starting from the edge on the church side of the river, myself as allied facing him, with initial deployment having to be within 6" of the edge.. finally, we documented on paper what are starting deployment was, and once we'd both completed proceeded to the tabletop...

The aim was to secure the bridge by the end of the game, which was set as being 8 'game hours'. In the rules we use each move is 10 minutes, so that makes 48 moves - which sounds a lot, but we fairly whip through the moves once we get going!

Order of Battle:

French Force:

NB. At the last minute one of the Line Infantry units was designated as a "reinforcement" with it's arrival on the table diced for from the moment the first French unit was destroyed - basically each French move following the destruction of the first French unit, a D6 was thrown. The unit arrived on a 6 on move 1, a 5 & 6 on move 2, etc. This makes the sides unequal but it was done purely due to the fact that I wanted all my WSS units to be on the table.. megalomania perhaps, but we spend a lot of time painting not to put units on the table just because it makes the sides unequal!

Allied Force:

Victory Conditions:

Either side needs to be in control of the bridge (ie. a unit on the the other side of the bridge from their starting position), by the end of turn 48.

So what happened?

The French had set up basically in a mirror of the Allied set up with the majority of their infantry, and the artillery, in the centre behind the church - and the rest of the infantry and their cavalry on their left flank facing the ford.. the Allies set up basically the same, with the British Brigade (Guards/Orkney's and Ingoldsby's) in the centre, and the Dutch brigade and the British cavalry facing the ford. The French commander proudly surveys his forces... The French commander proudly surveys his forces...

The Allied plan was to force their way across the ford with all the cavalry, supported by the Dutch infantry and using the artillery to provide cover, while pinning the majority of the French infantry at the bridge. The pin at the bridge was to be caused by putting in an assault with two of the British infantry regiments - if it had worked this would have been a very typical Marlburian tactic (suck the enemy in to one point, and then throw in a massive assault elsewhere, and hopefully where he least expects it), but unfortunately it didn't quite work out the way I'd hoped....

The Allied Dutch brigade hot foot it towards the ford.. in the distance it can be seen that the French cavalry have beaten them too it..The Allied Dutch brigade hot foot it towards the ford.. in the distance it can be seen that the French cavalry have beaten them too it..

Either way - the Allied attack was launched as described above - fairly soon the Dutch cavalry with supporting British cavalry were involved in fighting at the bridge

Dutch cavalry contest the ford with their French opposite numbers..Dutch cavalry contest the ford with their French opposite numbers.. behind them you can see other British cavalry in support

..while in the centre the British infantry advanced on the bridge - I'd detailed the Guards and Orkney's for this task, with Ingoldsby's placed centrally and able to support either the Dutch, or the Guards/Orkney's, depending on how either assault went... well.... that was the idea, anyway!

The Guards assault the bridge for the first time...Truly magnificent site - the Guards prepare to launch their assault across the bridge for the first time...

..and it has to be said that as far as the centre was concerned, that was largely it - an entirely unimaginative tactic, but my thinking was it only took one small chink for me to drive those two regiments right through the covering French force - what actually happened was that the 'Royal Italiene', in their first major engagement (they'd only had the flock and static grass applied the night before!), did their commander proud and stood like a wall not letting anything or anyone past, and driving back the Guards and Orkney's, in succession, over and over again.... this unit won their first battle honours in this game.

Guards assault in actionThe Guards and then Orkney's meet the solid brick wall that is the Royal Italiene... these units spend the rest of the game butting heads..

Things were going far better on the Allied right flank however - the Dutch drove the French cavalry at the ford back, and advanced rapidly into the open ground bordering the corn field. This involved some fairly bloody manoeuvring in order to pass the French infantry that was now lining the hedge facing the ford. They were swiftly followed up by the two British cavalry units.

British cavalry cross the ford, in the distance the Dutch prepare to finish off their second French cavalry unit of the day..British cavalry cross the ford, in the distance the Dutch prepare to finish off their second French cavalry unit of the day, while extra French troops are arriving to support the solitary French foot regiment... could the Allied plan be working??
NB. The tea and biscuits sont arrivés...

In a stunning series of engagements, the second set of battle honours were won by the Dutch cavalry - having earlier driven off the French cavalry at the ford, they then successively broke two further units driving off separate French attacks from both cavalry and infantry. Stunning work and roundly cheered by the whole army..

Having successfully manoeuvred from column to line the - an initial success here leads to the first of the French foot retreating (see first new rules lesson of the day below..!)

British cavalry (Lumley's) assault the hedge line.. the yellow pin indicates that the infantry (Regiment Navarre) have successfully held them, but Navarre subsequently throw away their advantage by launching an assault that the cavalry win..

In the centre things were much the same as successive Allied assaults were thrown back by Royal Italiene - on the French left however, the Allied attack seemed to be succeeding. The French cavalry all failed morale tests, and eventually were to all leave the battlefield in rout, the French infantry infantry, however performed much better and this was to prove the turning point for the game..

Denouement, and the death of the British cavalry as they fail to break through to the bridge - the artillery in the foreground is unlimbering and behind them the standard of Navarre can be seen advancing to their assistance.. in the distance the French reinforcements can also be seen to have arrived (Regiment Toulouse)

I'll remember that next time....
  • First new rules lesson of the day - if you're infantry, and you've inflicted casualties on cavalry such that they can't attack you ie. they are "shaken", it doesn't make much sense to then attack them... first, you lose the benefit you've just gained of stopping them from attacking you in the first place, and second, even shaken, cavalry can sometimes generate the wherewithal to countercharge!
  • Second new rules lesson of the day - French cavalry have an interesting conundrum when faced by Allied cavalry in melee. In the rules we use, if a unit fires in it's firing phase then it doesn't have the option of 'counter charging' if subsequently charged - now if you're French cavalry, and you've fired in order to stop the Allied cavalry unit attempting to charge you, then you've got to hope that firing is successful.. otherwise you operate at a significant disadvantage (Allied on +3, as opposed to only +1 if you counter charge). It struck us that this is a remarkably apt conundrum and one that the Colonels of the day must have had to face many times.. "do I fire now, or save it for the melee??"
  • Just before the last game I happened to be reading through the rules and happened to notice that there was an extra step in the move sequence for these rules (compared to the AWI ones) which is a 'change formation test' - speaking to Will McNally (the author) by email he was kind enough to send the latest version and as of this game the rules were included, but in a slightly modified format. In summary, changes from line to column, and vice versa now take a move, and are only completed after a successful test - to test, throw 2D6, add the morale modifier (which is an indicator of the quality of the troops taking the test) and a 6 or better means the formation change is completed. If the unit fails their test they become "disorganised" a morale state identical to "shaken" for firing and melee, but the the unit doesn't have to test to become "organised" it happens automatically they pass the formation change test .. this worked well and we'll be keeping it in. By the by - only one unit failed a formation test in this game, and that was the Guards!
  • After previous failures the amount of artillery was right for the size of the game...
  • Afficianado's may be interested to know that on this occasions the tea was Twinings Everyday and the biscuits were McVitie's "Fruitsters" - those of us in the know, like to get our "five portions a day" where we can......
  • Other than that, another most enjoyable game - once again I thought it was a foregone conclusion right up until almost the end - the French cavalry had all broke, the Allied cavalry was wreaking havoc, and then all of a sudden the French infantry came back... revenge for the last game where I'd given up, Darrell persuaded me to play on, and I then went on and subsequently won! Here's to the next one..
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