Sunday, February 25, 2018

Bonaparte by email, a first try

I wanted to turn Chris’ BBB Dego scenario into a point-to-point play-by-email (PBEM) game, acting as the umpire. I figured we would lose a lot of tactical finesse from the table top game but gain the fog of war endemic to operation level combat, and also try to simulate the road conditions that led Bonaparte to march in separate columns and combine for battle. Four of the Fencibles were willing to try my mad escapade. The scenario is fairly simple and limited to 8 turns. My previous experience with PBEM suggested it would be best to keep it simple.

Paul played the Sardinian commander, Colli, while Bill was the Austrian Beaulieu. Andrew played French division commander Augereau with Jay as Bonaparte. I was umpire and chief of staff to all players, answering questions about rules but none about enemy whereabouts. The map is below.

Units might march one area (BBB half move), two areas (BBB full move) or not at all. Each turn was presumed to have three combat phases, morning, afternoon and evening. The movement table would specify what time of day troops started marching. Road congestion dictated that only two units could move down the same road in the same phase, with no more than 4 per turn over any one road.

Austrians and Sardinians will be in italics from here on.

On the first turn, Bill ordered Pittoni and Vukassovitch to concentrate in the face of the enemy at Voltri while his brigades at Sassello and Mioglia reinforced Dego. They marched slowly, each advancing one area. The move against Voltri wasn’t quite simultaneous, Pittoni and Beaulieu arriving in the afternoon, followed by Vukassovitch in the evening. Paul ordered his brigade (and Colli) at Millesimo to advance to Carcare.

Augereau intended to lead his two brigades into Carcare the same turn but the march was hot and the troops stopped at Montefreddo.
Bonaparte ordered one of Massena’s brigades to Arezzano but again the march was hot and they stopped at Varezzo. Bonaparte himself, with Massena, two brigades and the artillery, set out for Montenotte but again stopped at Cadibona after a hot march.

There was a battle at Voltri.
Austrian Brigade Pittoni attacked Brigade Cervoni in the afternoon. Austrian die: 5, French die: 5, 0 attack. Modifiers: -1 for Voltri, final score -1. Both disrupted. Austrians forced back unless reserves are committed next assault phase (evening).
Vukassovitch arrived in the evening and was committed, keeping Pittoni in the fight. Austrian die: 4, French die: 3, +1 attack. Modifiers: Voltri -1, Austrians have 2-1 odds +2, both sides have disrupted units, final score +2. All disrupted, Cervoni and division CO Laharpe fell back overnight to Arezzano.

Souts noted the presence of enemy for each side at Montefreddo-Carcare and Montenotte-Dego. Below is the umpire map for turn 1.
Red symbols are allied units, blue are French. Squares are infantry, circles are artillery and triangles are commanders.
Contrast this with the Austrian situation map for turn 1.
On turn 2 Colli’s chief of staff noted that Millesimo was a better defensive position than Carcare, which generated this hilarious rejoinder:

“Defense? What is that? Defense does not win wars, my friend. Fortune favors the brave!

We will attack! Troops in Carcare, following up on scout reports, to Montefreddo, to deal the French a devastating blow.”

And so his troops made ready to march to Montefreddo, while the umpire chuckled.

Augereau ordered his troops to advance to Carcare. They marched in the morning, arriving in the afternoon.

The battle of Carcare:

The Sardinians had a fine lunch and made ready to march in the afternoon, when the scouts came rushing back shouting that the French were coming down the road from Montefreddo. It seems they had forgone lunch! The French formed two brigades up and attacked.

French roll 4, Sardinians roll 3, +1 attack. Modifiers: +2 outnumber enemy 2-1, total +3.
Defender forced back, both sides disrupted. The Sardinians retreated to Millesimo during the evening. A French prisoner taken early in the fight revealed they were facing General Augereau and his two brigades. There was no pursuit.

Bonaparte ordered the brigade at Montenotte to advance to Dego, while the main body would march to Montenotte and then Dego. His chief of staff warned that things might not show up simultaneously. The chief of staff was overruled.

Bonaparte also ordered the brigade at Verzze to reinforce the one at Arezzano.

Beaulieu ordered the two brigades at Voltri to advance and attack Arezzano, while the CO himself rode to Sasslleo, to see what was going on to the west.

He ordered the two brigades at Dego to attack Montenotte, and the brigade at Mioglia to move to Dego.

The brigades at Voltri rallied from their fight the turn before but that was all. They did not march.   

The brigade at Mioglia moved off in the afternoon, reaching Dego in the evening. The planned offensive from Dego fizzled as the local commander decided things weren’t ready yet.

And now Bonaparte’s risky plan was undone even further by a design flaw in the movement table. It had seemed a good idea to have some rolls specify that 1 unit set out, followed by the rest in succeeding phases. It was a bad idea. The brigade at Montenotte set out before dawn, arriving in the morning. Bonaparte’s main body set out before dawn, again with one brigade in the lead, followed by the remaining brigade and the artillery.

If the planned Austrian offensive had gotten under way, the lead brigade would have fallen back to Montenotte and the battle would have taken place there. Instead, one French brigade attacked in the morning, another arrived in the afternoon and the last with the artillery in the evening, fed into the gathering white-coated forces at Dego, behind works. In case this wasn’t enough, they had execrable dice while the Austrians had pretty good combat dice.

The battle of Dego:

Brigade Meynier arrives in the morning, having marched before dawn. and tries to surprise the Austrians but the scouts sound the alarm (roll 2, need 6 for surprise).

Morning assault phase:
The Austrian gunners (4.5 firepower) roll 8 and disrupt Meynier, but do not stop the veterans from closing. French roll 1 (something has gone wrong!) while the Austrians roll 5 for a -4 attack. Modifiers: -2 Dego & works, -1 outnumbered 3-2, -1 disrupted, total -4. Added to the -4 gives a final total of -8. Menard’s brigade is whipped, loses two bases, is disrupted and runs back down the road to Montenotte. The Austrians cheer as the morning turns into afternoon and then Brigade Joubert arrives and attacks.

Afternoon assault phase:
The Austrian gunners score 6 and disrupt Joubert but do not halt the veterans. The French score 2 (ouch), the Austrians 5, a -3 attack. Modifiers are -2 Dego & works, -1 outnumbered 3-2, -1 disrupted, total -4. Final total is -7, Meynier’s brigade is whipped, loses two bases, is disrupted and runs back towards Montenotte. Again the Austrians are not even disrupted.

Evening assault phase:
Wild cheering ceases when Brigade Menard and artillery arrive in the evening. Nicoletti’s brigade arrives from Mioglia and is placed into the front line. The Austrian artillery scores 7, disrupting the French brigade but not stopping it. The French artillery fires 1.5 firepower at the Austrian artillery and scores 6, missing. The evening fight sees the French score 4 to the Austrian 4, a 0 attack. Modifiers: -2 Dego & works, -2 outnumbered 2-1, -1 disrupted, total -5. Final score -5.

Joubert’s brigade was defeated, losing a base and having to retreat. All units on both sides were disrupted. The French fell back to Montenotte, having lost 5 bases of infantry. Prisoners revealed that Massena was present.

Umpire’s map end of turn 2:

I had planned on having the grapevine spread tales of the Austrian victory at Voltri, which Augereau and Colli were ignorant of.

The combination of a bad idea in the movement table, a moderately risky French move, and a bizarre combination of poor Austrian movement dice with hot combat and lousy French combat dice eviscerated Massena’s division, the largest of three, on the second turn of an eight turn game. I suggested the French CO call the game and he agreed. I’m currently reworking the rules, aided by Jay’s proof-reading and editing. I also am going to take a good long look at the map and see if it could use changes. If nothing else, I can make the boxes for the areas larger to make more room for unit symbols and such. I hope to try this again in late March.