Monday, February 20, 2017

Battle of Borny, August 14, 1870

The following game was played on March 24, 2016.

Yesterday evening the Corlears Hook Fencibles continued our campaign of the Franco-Prussian War. We are playing a series of 15 battles (I think) of that war using scenarios for the Bloody Big Battles (BBB) rules. The first two Spicheran and Froeschwiller have ended in ties, though the French strategic situation is still dire and about to become worse. We played the third battle, that of Borny (AKA Colombey or Corcelles), fought on August 14, 1870. as always, I commanded the French and Bill (or is that Wilhelm) commanded his Prussians. Rick assisted the French while Ken played for the Germans. This battle saw Bazaine get involved in a passive rearguard action while he should have been making tracks to the west. I would do something similar though not passive. The bloodshed would be copious. The terrain was complex enough that I gave up trying to replicate it from my stock and instead drew a map on butcher paper. You can see the result here.
My plan was to go forward aggressively and give the Germans a bloody nose, something that is not in the cards for a lot of the battles coming up. I thought I could do this and get 8 units off the west edge of the table too. Nice plan, eh?

The Prussians moved first but declined to advance against the mob of French crowning the plateau. I moved forward and began drilling them with chassepot fire, rolling high and knocking out infantry bases. Two of my brigades went low on ammo and would remain that way for most of the game.

The Germans fell back a short distance and I advanced, dealing out hits.

Some bayonet attacks saw my front line go forward, probably too far forward. But the sight of the Prussians falling back was an elixir. Prussian general Glumer had to dive into a dung heap to escape from a French charge. This led to jokes about getting his uniform cleaned.

It is very painful when a smaller unit attacks a larger one and gets a tie. Each side loses a base and you fight again immediately. It really hurts the smaller unit.

On my right flank Prussian reinforcements arrived. The infantry took the cautious (and slow) route through the woods. Cavalry and Krupp guns arrived in the open. I shot up the guns with chassepot and mitrailleuses. Bill sarcastically suggested Ken charge the machine guns. Missing the sarcasm, Ken did just that. Dead horses and troopers were the result. The French brigade in the area moved out and enfiladed the next German unit in line, rolling high too.

A Prussian attack on one of my brigades was stopped by rifle fire, the Germans going to ground beyond close range for their needle guns but within easy chassepot range. To temper my glee, Ken pushed a fresh brigade forward in the center. It broke one French brigade and exploited into another, driving it back.

This brigade was now taking hits from various French units but it climbed the stee slope and overran a battalion of artillery. 5th Corps CO Decaen went down with a mortal wound.

Faced with a disrupted and spent infantry brigade, my cavalry charged after other French poured withering fire into the brigade. The Germans responded coolly (they rolled a 6) and the cavalry pulled back in disorder (I rolled a 1) before closing. That was my best chance for a glorious charge.

Fighting continued on my right center as more Prussians got into line.

Back near Colombey, the lead Prussian brigade was being torn on shreds but they clung to the edge of the plateau.

And here you can see a picture of Paper Terrain’s excellent product, even when assembled by my ham fists.

Some Prussians from the other half of the table got close to my troops, who turned about and fired.

The other half of the table was substantially more civilized and sedate.
Now a fresh German unit climbed the steep slope into Colombey. A battalion of Krupp guns moved through them and unlimbered.

The cavalry charged into a storm of lead and went about, leaving dead horses and troopers behind.
On my right, things were getting rather intense. On Bill’s last turn his movement dice were hot. The sound of Lutheran hymns rose from the troops as even the spent units joined the final push up onto the plateau.

We played 8 turns in a little over 4 hours. The French lost 13 infantry stands and 3 ran away, a cavalry stand and one of artillery, perhaps 14,000 troops. Prussian losses were 18 infantry stands, 3 cavalry and 1 artillery, perhaps 21,000 troops. Both sides lost perhaps 4 times the historical losses.

I had marched the Imperial Guard off the table early, followed by one line infantry unit. Rick managed to get 2 of his three infantry brigades off the table. If we got one more off the table we’d have a tie, two more would give us victory. Around turn 7 I realized no more were getting off the table. I hadn’t planned far enough ahead. A French victory also required an undisrupted infantry or cavalry unit on the central plateau at game end. Removing two infantry brigades would have made the likelihood of this less likely.

The Prussians chalked up a sanguinary and hard-won victory at Borny. This gives them a free re-roll at Mars-Le-Tour, the next in line. They can re-roll any one movement roll, firefight roll, or their half of an assault. All enjoyed the game. I never had such a good time losing.

The campaign score is now two ties (Spicheren, Froeschwiller) and one Prussian win (Borny). Stay tuned, Mars-La-Tour is next.

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