Sunday, 29 March 2015

General Bonaparte's Chain of Command

This is the working title of a new set of divisional scale Napoleonic rules from Too Fat Lardies (to be more precise they are by Darren Green, author of Le Feu Sacre and They Couldn't Hit an Elephant).

I have a copy of them to play-test and had a go at them solo a couple of days ago. The rules as written are for Napoleon's early campaigns in Italy against the Austrians (also vs Russians under Suvarov) though they can probably be expanded to cover other periods, eg the Peninsular War. Although I have neither Austrians or Russians, I did stick to a French-Austrian scenario using a mixture of Dutch-Belgians and Brunswickers to substitute for the Austrians (so bear with me on that & apologies if you are a  purist for these things).

The rules are heavily influenced by some of Chain of Command's command & control mechanisms but it is very definitely a different game.

The scenario I played  had two brigades of infantry on each side (a little variation between the two sides but not too much) and one battery of artillery (6 guns) and a brigade of light cavalry arriving as reinforcements (determined by a random die roll).

The game starts with a 'Grand Tactical Phase' which is similar to the Patrol phase of Chain of Command. You are supposed to use flags but I just used my CoC Patrol markers. In my case the Austrians won the initiative (slightly unusually). You wind up with the two side about 18" apart, which is long range for artillery and about 2 moves for infantry in column; a bit more if, as here, they have to cross a stream.

After the Grand Tactical Phase all of the forces are put on the table. Here you can see one 'Austrian' Brigade in supported lines, in the centre is their battery and on the far side another brigade with 3 more line units plus a unit of Grenzer skirmishers (the only skirmishers in this game).

The French also deployed with two infantry brigades on the flanks plus their battery between the two, Here I chose to make the artillery limbered as I was hoping to use the artillery for close support (in the event I lost patience when the Austrians guns opened up on the limbered French guns)

Incidentally my infantry units are generally only 12 figures strong (that's 6 bases of two figures each). I think that 24 figures would be more common and would certainly work with the rules but I personally think that the proportions are more correct this way, especially for columns. The rules do not require any particular basing scheme.

Here the two sides close. The French decide to move one of their regiments (two battalions of legere) across from their right to the left leaving just two battalions remaining on the right on the defensive. You can see the legeres here just crossing the stream. (Going over the bridge would mean going into the face of the enemy guns and I didn't fancy that much).  This did mean they ended up traversing across in front of the enemy guns; in practice this was at close range (not a great idea)

Here we see two of the French columns closing in on the Austrians. There were another two columns further over to the left as well as the legeres traversing across from the right (the skirmishers have turned towards the legeres to shoot at them). In the background you can see Austrian cavalry have arrived; they were much more timely than the French horsemen.

The French had a real piece of good fortune; 3 5's on the command dice which meant few units commanded that turn but a full 'Special 5' dice (that's like a Chain of Command dice). Next turn the French took full advantage of that as 4 battalions charged home on the Austrian lines; the Special 5 let them do 'La Marseillaise' all round (that was two points of shock inflicted immediately on each of the enemy lines). In the subsequent combat one line fled (shown above) while the second were left cowering under the trees on 5 shock (that's just 1 point short of routing). This was definitely a big turn for the French.

The Austrian cavalry gamely counterattacked despite having taken shock from the infantry who fled through them. First one unit was repulsed with heavy losses.

And then the second cavalry regiment caught one of the columns in the flank. But they too were repulsed; the French were distinctly lucky here.

On the other flank the French were short of command dice; they were only just in time to deploy into the BUA and gett into line. Once there though they were able to hold their own against the advancing Austrian lines.

Here is the position later on from the Austrian side this time. The final Austrian line has come out of the farm and is bravely holding off the French columns; a firefight developed and, by now laden with shock, the French were struggling to finish their enemy off. Meanwhile the Austrian skirms retired to hold the farm.

Here's a close up of that stand-off. Although the Austrian position looks untenable the French were not making much progress.

On the French right we see that their chasseurs have finally arrived. However one of their units bounced off an Austrian line; not that unlikely actually. It was however less than inspired to put the second  chasseur unit directly behind the first so they took shock when the first unit retired through them! Use an echelon next time. Overall it wasn't a good day for cavalry.

I called the game at that point. I reckon a French victory as the Austrians certainly took far more damage and I think their right was bound to collapse eventually. It took me a little under 3 hours to play from the point where the toys had been put onto the table; another hour probably including the GT phase and set-up of troops.

Overall I was very impressed with it. My initial thought was that with 5 command dice you may well be able to activate pretty much all units and there would not be that much friction. That certainly wasn't the case; there were some real choices to make about which units to activate. Having kills is relatively unusual but shock can mount up alarmingly fast and can be very debilitating; using your commanders to manage the shock well is key. There is though quite a high casualty rate among the commander; the Austrians lost two regimental commanders but the French were luckier.

Really hope to have another go soon. Do I go away and get some Austrians though? (Trying to resist that; too many projects!)