Sunday, July 14, 2013

Eylau: Murat's Charge

Having played the first scenario of the Battle of Eylau  a couple of times, we were ready to move on to the second part, Murat's Cavalry Charge. Historically, the Russians under Bennigsen were pushing back the French under Napoleon, when Joachim Murat, "First Horseman of Europe", led 13,000 cavalry in a charge which broke through the Russian lines and disrupted their advance. Napoleon was able to hold a draw until nightfall, when the Russians withdrew, leaving the French holding the field.

In this battle, the French have seven infantry (including a unit of Old Guard), three artillery, and seven cavalry (including a Guards Heavy Cavalry); almost all the infantry is on the flanks, with the cavalry in the center. Opposing them, the Russians have eleven infantry, three artillery and five cavalry, although two of those cavalry are Lights and two more are Cossack.  Josh took the French.

The Russians got first move and immediately sent two battalions to attack the one Ligne infantry in the center; the Russian grenadiers broke them with the bayonet on the first charge. After that I concentrated on wiping out the two forward artillery batteries, which the grenadiers accomplished with heavy casualties. I sent my one unit of cuirassiers to tie down the French infantry on my left, but their concentrated musketry quickly destroyed the squadron. My Cossacks spotted a gap and drove through. "Grigory, those other fools are riding around the French to loot their camp. We shall ride straight through them, and get there first!" Slashing left and right, laughing and chugging vodka, they rode across the front of the French heavy cavalry (who stood amazed) to charge into the mouths of the French Horse Artillery battery in the rear.   Yes, a single, unsupported Cossack squadron broke through the center of 13,000 cavalry...almost. Except for the actual "breaking through" part. A little matter of the French artillery getting to fire back. Ah, well.

The French horse continued to stand still, then stand still a little more, followed by doing nothing much. Meanwhile, on my left, their infantry pushed back my two remaining units (one light cavalry, one light infantry); and on the right, Napoleon himself sent the Old Guard ahead, and followed them with a line battalion. They captured the windmill on my far right and advanced against the ridge line I was holding, trying to turn my right flank. They assaulted, but my grenadiers and guns struck first, and drove back the Old Guard unit. "La Garde recule!" Okay, technically they took one flag hit and elected to use it instead of ignoring it, but they still retreated.

By the end of the game, I had no units on my flanks; everything was pulled in to defend my three gun batteries and the ridge line they held. And finally the French cavalry stirred itself and charged. The Guards Heavies and Cuirassiers swept past Eylau and threw themselves at the right flank of the ridge, wiping out the artillery battery I had anchoring that end and one poor depleted infantry battalion. That was enough to gather the final two victory banners the French needed. Final score, French 9, Russians 5...although the Russians claimed "Most Glorious Charge" for their insouciant Cossacks, and also counted "driving back the Old Guard" as a moral victory.

Josh revealed that he'd had two Cavalry Charge cards in his hand the whole game, but only at the end did he get cards for the center section that would allow him to marshal his squadrons before the charge. He also pointed out that "you played the Russians in French style"--daring attacks, bayonet charges and so forth--while he'd played the French in a stolid, plodding, inexorable Russian style. A fun game.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Battle of Sybota

Ryan hosted a Trireme game for us, with Kevin, Dan, Brian, John, Bob, Joe and I attending (Josh had to work, but cheered by phone).
Starting positions

The scenario was the Battle of Sybota, which in this scenario pits fifteen Corinthian triremes against an allied force of eight vessels from Corcyra (Corfu) and ten Athenian biremes. The average quality Corinthians and green quality Corcyraeans have the same type of ships, with a cruising speed 3, maximum speed 5, and two armored marine squads per ship; the Athenians are expert quality but their biremes are smaller and overloaded with two light marine squads, so they only move at speed 2.  Corcyraeans start in line abreast with their left flank at the middle of the south edge; the Athenians are behind their right flank, in three columns at the eastern edge; the Corinthians start in two ragged lines form the northwest. The Athenians are just arriving and cannot have a command conference with their allies, and there are no fleet signals. The scenario as written also has a rule that the Athenians can't attack until either they are attacked or two of their allies' ships are destroyed; we didn't use that rule, although things worked out as if we had.

Athenians try to flank
We the Corinthians divided our fleet into left, center and right squadrons, each squadron having three ships in the first line and two following. Our theory was that the front line ships could ram (or be rammed by) and immobilize an enemy, and the second line could then follow up with another ram. Kevin and John took the center and right, with their 10 ships tasked to engage the 8 lower-quality Corcyraeans; my five ships of the left wing were to hold off the ten Athenians. The Athenians, in turn, counted on their allies to hold firm while they got around my flank.

They just didn't get around my flank far enough away from me. I brought my wing into an echelon line, then wheeled left, driving home rams with four triremes against two biremes and causing others to collide with their suddenly-stopped friends. Meanwhile, Kevin and John were methodically ramming and boarding the Corcyraeans, and generally winning, although there were several tense moments pulled out by Kevin's luck with the dice. The resemblance of the Corinthian ships to bacon was noted.
The Corinthian left wing rams

The Athenians swarmed one of Kevin's ships which drove into the fray, and destroyed one of mine as well, but at a cost; they lost a couple, several more were dead in the water (which is one good ram from being "dead, period") and the rest of the Corinthian fleet was heading their way. We called it at Turn 10.

Just before the end
At the end of the battle. 3 of 15 Corinthians had been destroyed, versus 7 of 8 Corcyraeans and 2 of 10 Athenians. Post-game discussion focused on the Athenians' being heavily laden with consequent slow speed; perhaps the Athenians should be allowed to bring fewer marines and thereby gain some speed? They'd be toast in a boarding battle but the extra maneuverability, and ramming ability, might make it worth it.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Battle of Eylau, Take 2

We traded sides and played again. This was the Mirror Game, as the Russians generally played about the same card, in the same sector, as the French had just played.

Josh, as the French, opened the game by playing Bayonet Charge, which took two blocks off each of two Artillery, and killed a Russian regiment in the center; the Russian Bayonet Charge in reply destroyed a French regiment. We spent three more turns pushing back and forth in the center, rendering most of the infantry on the front line. Score is now 2:2.

On turn 5, the focus shifted to the flanks. The French took the windmill on their left; Russian cuirassiers charged past them and up the hill to saber the gunners. Score was 3:3. At this point, things started coming unstuck for the Russians; there wasn't enough infantry on the flanks to hold back the French, and there weren't any cards for the center section to let the regiments there transfer to the flanks. My gunners managed to bombard the windmill and destroy the regiment there, but the French finished off damaged regiments and won with a 7:5 victory. A much harder-fought game than our previous play of this scenario.