Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Battle of le Mans Jan 10-12 1871

This game was played on February 2 2017. German units are in italics.

Last evening the Corlears Hook Fencibles played a game of the 1871 battle of Le Mans using the Bloody Big Battles rules. Bill commanded his Prussians as always, seconded by Jay on his right. I led my French and also commanded the 16 Corps (Admiral Jaureguiberry) on the right. Ken led the 17 Corps (General de Colombe) in the center and Rick had the 21 Corps (General Juares) on the left. I deployed Chanzy (C-in-C) on the left to help put more of the widely deployed 21 Corps into command radius. Our tired, cold, hungry and sick raw troops were dug in on right and center. Only a couple Prussian divisions were on the field, but scouts reported many more were right behind them. We outnumbered the Prussians overall, but our army was badly frayed.
The battle started with a flank threat against a forward unit (1/16) that had fallen back onto the field in disorder before the Prussian advance (started the game disrupted).
1/16 managed to rally and faced the coming threat.
The Prussians had traffic problems on their left and center, not helped by the woods and steep hills. 1/16 fought on.

Meanwhile on the French left, 21 Corps advanced. There had been a staff foul up. I had not clearly explained the victory conditions. This advance exposed our left rear since an enemy division was headed for that table edge, according to scouts. The advance collided with the Prussian 17 Division, but the 22nd was due further behind our left.
Back in the center, Prussian firefight dice lit up, causing heavy losses.
Bill’s dice, otherwise none too stellar now went into the can. Many of his units refused to move, many of those that did weren’t going very fast. My dice were nothing to write home about but nothing like the trash he was rolling.
Chanzy got 4 Division of 21 Corps headed back towards our left rear, in the nick of time. 21 Corps took over and faced the oncoming Prussians.

22 Division came on, as the winter sun got low in the sky. A storm of rifle and artillery stopped them cold with heavy losses. Rick’s dice heated up.
We had been playing slowly. The excellent wine with dinner might have had something to do with that. Ken had to go and he turned over his corps to me. Jay said he couldn’t stay much longer. There was one turn to go and no one wanted to leave it for next week. Jay and Bill said it was impossible for them to grab 5 objectives needed for a win. They said it was a tie. I said we had a chance for a French win. We looked at the table and found there were 3 places that could be taken. So we played only those parts of the last turn, leaving out any troops that didn’t directly affect the fights. On our left, the 17th Prussian division had badly beaten the 2nd French division the turn before and displaced artillery and mitrailleuse battalions during their exploitation. This put one brigade behind Montfort (an objective town) while another was firing from across the river. We rolled for the French movement. A shot up brigade abandoned the town. The other brigade rallied and faced the threat from 17 Division. Both Prussian brigades charged and were not stopped by abysmal defensive fire dice. They disrupted the garrison with fire as they advanced and then narrowly beat the French. A check showed the French unit had a hit. Raw units become spent after a single hit. This changed the defeat to a more serious one. In any case, Montfort had been stormed and the Prussians had two objectives. One more and they would have a tie.
35th Brigade had only to advance into the village of Champagne and not get stopped by rifle fire. Once into the village it was unlikely that the raw troops in the entrenchments on the hill above the village would get up and throw them out. Bill’s dreadful dice continued. The brigade refused to move. He had a free re-roll from his victory at Beaune la Rolande. He rolled again and again the brigade failed to move. I assume that brigade commander lost any chance of promotion.
9th Brigade of 5th Division rolled a full move and charged the decimated 1/16. But the unit behind them moved more slowly and didn’t support the attack. Another brigade rolled a full move but terrain kept them from getting close enough. An average defensive fire roll was enough to halt the charge – a good thing, since the battered 1/16 would have likely been beaten in a bayonet fight.
With that, the Prussians ended the day with 2 objectives, by the rules of the scenario, a French victory. The French start the next battle, of the Lisaine, with a free re-roll.
In reality, this would allow us to withdraw quietly after dark rather than decamping while the sun was up. Our dignity was intact, if not our army. We lost 14 stands of infantry (3 ran away) of 77. Prussian losses were 4 stands of infantry of 56. We played 5 and a short turn (plus a night turn) in about 3 hours and 45 minutes.

Both sides evinced some confusion during the game. I must pay more attention to clearly describing the victory conditions. The Prussians still need to work on their artillery tactics. We have two more games to end the campaign, which has gone on for a little over a year so far. I discussed playing one more game, the sortie from Paris that I’d bypassed before but Bill sounded like he’s had enough of this campaign for a while. Well, we still have several American Civil War scenarios to play. We could play French vs. Austria 1858 and/or Austria vs. Prussia 1866, or use British and Russian Napoleonic troops as stand-ins for the Crimean war…

This game saw our figure collections taxed. I didn’t have enough Gardes Mobiles and had to bolster the ranks with naval infantry. The Prussians ran out of skirmisher stands and had to use some of the Bavarians. Aside from that we were fine.

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