Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Encounter at St. Arnac

This was a simple "old school" encounter scenario between French and British forces, set somewhere in Belgium in 1815. Both sides selected the same number of units from a list of permitted forces; the French picked slightly more cavalry. Both sides were organised as a Division of two mixed-arms Brigades in order to test both C3 and the players' abilities to manage mixed commands!

Ion's sketch map of the engagement at St. Arnac
Despite the equality of force, almost from the start the French seized the initiative, and once contact was established the British found themselves in an uncomfortable, and eventually untenable, situation. This probably  resulted from their decision to concentrate their whole force onto the west side of the river (left in photo, French position in foreground):

Initial developments
The French responded on the west bank with an attack in force which eventually captured the village, but also sent a force of light cavalry and a horse battery over the river; these took position firstly on the hill to the east of the village and later down in the loop of the river, pouring increasingly devastating fire into the British flank.
Despite reaching the village first, the British were unable to hold it and their position became increasingly constricted. French heavy cavalry moved to threaten the British rear, and a withdrawal was the only option.
Ion has written up a much fuller version of events (with more photos) at http://archdukepiccolo.blogspot.com/2010/08/vive-lempereur.html

Fighting retreat

Conducting a fighting retreat against superior forces is one of the sternest tests of any General, as well as of wargame rulesets.
This scenario, set in the foothills of the Pyrenees,  saw a relatively small number of strong French infantry units supported by some artillery having to hold a position against a much stronger British Divisional attack. The French player was tasked with holding out all day to give time for engineers to arrive and prepare to blow the bridge, while saving a large proportion of his force.
The French commander decided to establish a hard line as far forward as possible, using the bulk of his troops to force the British to deploy and engage as early as he could.
The strategy almost worked - after a long and exciting game, the French came within a turn or two of successfully extracting the required number of units and blowing the bridge.
All the players handled their forces skillfully, and the rules worked extremely well, especially in facilitating  realistic withdrawals in the face of constant enemy pressure.

Hold the line!

This Peninsular game saw a strong French attack  on a classic British reverse-slope position. They came on in the same old way, and we saw them off in the same old way!
On the British left, the French advance slowed and became a firefight:

Firefight on the left
Then on the ridge, things started to go against the French - their columns were repulsed, and a timely charge by British Light Dragoons turned a retreat into a rout:

On the British right, their only other cavalry - a small unit of Heavy Dragoons - managed to hold off repeated charges by French Dragoons until both units were virtually annihilated. Unaccountably, the French infantry seemed content to be spectators:

Cavalry slug it out on the right
Finally, the British were able to counter-attack through the very weak French centre and began to roll them up in both directions. On the British left, a couple of battalions reached the river and seized the ford, while on the right the Light Brigade hit the French attack in the flank :

British reach the ford
Light Brigade arrives