Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Battle of Beaune-la-Rolande Nov 8 1870

This game was played on January 12 2017. German units are in italics.

The Corlears Hook Fencibles continued our Franco-Prussian War campaign with the November 1870 battle of Beaune la Rolande, using the Bloody Big Battles rules. Our campaign is a succession of linked historical battles rather than a full fledged campaign with strategic maps and such. It’s much easier to run, with not much paperwork. Due to an oversight on my part, we played this game out of historical sequence. Our last game, a rare French win (Beaugency) actually happened in December 1870. The effect of that win was the French went into this battle with a free re-roll of any one movement, fire, or assault. The French needed five objectives at game end for a win, 4 for a tie.

Bill commanded his Prussians as usual, aided by Rick. I led my French aided by Ken. The Prussians were outnumbered about 4 – 1 but dug in and awaiting reinforcements – a cavalry division and more important, an infantry division with copious artillery support.

Ken led his 18 Corps onto the field, looking to get around the Prussian left. The Prussian artillery was accurate from the start.
On the second turn my 20 Corps moved against the Prussian right, making good time for the first few turns though smarting under Prussian artillery fire.
Some of Ken’s infantry emptied their cartridge boxes to little effect against dug-in Prussian foot.

I got a unit of Mobiles into Borville before the Prussian division showed up. I thought that would guard my flank well. I had also seized two objective towns without serious fighting, Ken had taken one.

The 5th Division promptly attacked the Mobiles. Scattered rifle fire (lousy fire dice) didn’t slow down the attack, which unleashed a storm of rifle fire, causing loss and disruption. Raw units become spent after a single loss, and the Mobiles, like most of the rag-rag French army, were raw. In the ensuing assault, the Mobiles were thrown out of the town. My response? Assault the heavily fortified town of Beaune la Rolande, worth two objectives. If it worked this bold action would be hailed as brilliant. If it failed other words would be used to describe it.
The Zouaves were incorrectly marked as spent; trained troops can take two losses before reaching that sad state. Spent troops suffer heavy penalties in movement and assault.
Meanwhile Ken built up pressure against the Prussian infantry before him. His heavy fire had little effect – his firefight dice were cold.
I realized the Zouaves weren’t actually spent. The Prussian brigade in the fortified town was disrupted and low on ammo – it was time for the assault. The Prussian artillery in the town emptied their limber chest, killing two stands of Zouaves and sending the last stand to the showers. The last stand of a unit is always removed, barring special scenario rules.
A unit of Mobiles also struck from north of the town, but without the aid of the Zouaves, was driven back with loss. They would soon be hit from the flank by Prussian cavalry. 
The artillery supporting the Prussian 5th Division unlimbered within Chassepot range of a brigade of depot regulars and were roughly handled. One battalion was scattered, another driven back with losses and the third silenced and forced to relocate. But the infantry pressed relentlessly forward, routing French infantry as they went.

Meanwhile Ken struck the brigade in the village of Les Cotelles from both flanks and drove them out. The Prussian infantry rallied and fought their way back in. All of the French thrown out were in front of the position, with all the prior movement to the flanks for naught.
A panic broke out (crap movement dice with negative modifiers for being fragile, like most of the French infantry, and spent, a big minus 2) and a brigade of depot regulars stampeded to the rear, finally beaten into a semblance of a line before they fled the table.
One of Ken’s brigades did flee the field.
The 5th Division continued on their glorious charge, after the artillery in the fortified town silenced the mitrailleuse battalion. They wiped out the early machine gun unit and then exploited over an artillery battalion. Ouch.
On the last turn, Ken ordered two brigades to storm an objective town, having winkled a brigade out of their entrenchments. One brigade bolted to the rear. Another came on like heroes and was stopped by a hail of fire.
Mediocre movement dice prevented a coordinated attack on Les Cotelles, so the situation settled down to a firefight.
We had been thumped soundly.
French losses were some 17 stands of infantry, with another 10 having quit (out of 48) and 2 artillery battalions destroyed. Prussian losses were 2 stands of infantry, 1 of cavalry and 2 artillery battalions. It was the most lop-sided loss rate we’ve seen in the campaign so far, or for that matter in any BBB game we’ve played in two years. It took nearly 3 and a half hours to play the 8 turn game, but we completed it in one evening, not counting the dinner break.

As usual, I forgot to use my free re-roll. The Prussians have usually forgotten theirs. I think we need to use a visual reminder. I have a vivandiere painted up. She’s mounted on a mule carrying a cask of spirits. Perhaps this next to the HQ will remind players. I could have used it when the Mobiles fired their first ineffectual volley at the 5th Division or Ken could have used it on one of the several times he rolled truly lousy fire dice shooting at the dug-in Prussian infantry.

Anyway, the Prussians head to Le Mans with a free re-roll. We likely won’t get to that until sometime in February. In the meantime I’ll have my orderly do something about the Prussian boot prints on the seat of my pantalons rouge.

Campaign score so far: French wins. 2. Prussian wins 6. Ties, 2.   

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