Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Battle of Sedan Sept 1 1870, part 1

The following was played September 22 2016. German units are in italics.

The Corlears Hook Fencibles started a scenario of the 1870 battle of Sedan last night using the Bloody Big Battles rules, 15mm Old Glory figures (with a few Minifigs) and a map drawn of butcher paper. Bill and Rick commanded the German hordes while Ken and I commanded the doomed legions of the Second Empire. A perfect storm of subway delays and traffic jams delayed Bill so we played the first 3 turns without him. Play moved slower, as always when one player has to run one side and all calculations done sequentially. The table looked like this, as seen from the hot air balloon to the northwest.

Towns and villages with red stars are objectives, determining victory. Yellow discs mark disruption, red discs mark hits on artillery units (or starting under-strength).

I had the eastern front of the 1 and 12 Corps. MacMahon (French C-in-C) was stationed near the Sedan Citadel so he could aid the battered 5 Corps when they finally activated on turn 4. Ken had the healthy 7 Corps and the demoralized 5 Corps. The latter was at least in the Sedan forts. My plan assumed the Bavarians would hold Bazeilles against my early counter-attacks. If the Bavarians held the town, I would send much of 1 Corps south when it activated on turn 3 and see if Ken could grab the two objectives on the western escape route, Floing and St-Menges.

Rick started off with some fancy shooting, knocking a base of the French naval infantry in Bazeilles and the French division holding la Moncelle. I replied with some sharp fire that knocked a base off the Bavarians in the southern part of Bazeilles. This made the raw Bavarians spent. On Rick’s first turn a low movement roll saw the Bavarians panic and abandon Bazeilles.

I was able to take the town without having to pry the enemy out with bayonets.
Plan A was tabled. The 1st Bavarian Division assaulted the town but was narrowly repulsed after rolling anemic dice.

German reinforcements began arriving from the eastern half of the table.

The Prussian Guard Corps discovered their arrival zone was swept by French rifle and artillery fire. They edged to their left into a steep wooded ravine. This provided cover both from French fire and our roving photographer. Meanwhile the French occupation of Bazeilles was put right.

The Saxon Corps began massing against la Moncelle. So far I had a tidy victory shaping up on the eastern end.

In they went. The French defensive fire was apparently aimed at the sky (lousy dice). The Saxons made no such error and blasted two bases off the hitherto pristine 3rd Division of 7 Corps, making them spent. The assault went home with a die roll of 6, matched by the battered French. The division was driven back with further losses and the massed Saxons exploited onto the hill behind, overrunning one artillery battalion and driving the others off in disorder. My tidy victory evaporated with the morning dew.

We broke for dinner and heard the details of Bill’s transit trail of tears. Dinner was the Dutch/Belgian staple Stamppot, made in honor of the battle being so close to Belgium.

Now began the attempt to stem the tide. I had no fresh reserves beyond a roving under-strength mitrailleuse battalion and the 7 Corps cavalry. These duly charged and were repulsed by the Saxon mass. The Saxons tried to extend their run. The second line division was stopped by flanking fire from naval infantry and mitrailleuse. The lead division was stopped by the battered French in front of them rolling 12 on 2D6, taking out their jagers.  I needed fresh troops. The Saxons needed help from their flank. Behind them was the IV Corps which was still reeling from the previous battle of Beaumont.

On the western front, the Prussians had grabbed both St-Menges and Floing before the 7 Corps was able to activate. In a flurry of shots, both French and Prussians around Floing became low on ammo and the Prussian 22nd Division also became spent. Ken was preparing to head home so I took over that front as well. I threw the reserve cavalry against the spent unit but the charge was halted by rifle fire. Meanwhile the II Bavarian Corps had appeared on the south table edge and was gingerly sidling to the west, staying out of Chassepot range. A panic (crap movement dice) had broken out in Sedan and 5 Corps 1st Division had high-tailed it before the officers got things back under control. The view from the hot-air balloon:

Having gotten off to a late start and cycling almost every turn through single resolution, we called it a night and will return to the game next week. So far the game is a tie. If the Germans can take one more objective in the east, they have a victory. Note that even a victory by scenario standards means the French army will surrender, just that some elements will escape, either to Metz or towards Paris. If the latter, they have a good chance of being extricated by Vinoy and his 10 Corps. If the former, they have another month or two of liberty before going into the bag along with Bazaine.

A French “victory” means we will have a free re-roll for our next game, when the rag-tag Republican forces will take the field. The Prussians have a free re-roll in this game since they won the last battle in our campaign, Beaumont.

Losses so far: Germans have lost 8 infantry stands and 2 ran away. The Bavarians managed to recover another lost stand with a mighty movement roll of 12. French losses are 8 stands of infantry, 1 ran off and an artillery battalion overrun. Two Prussian artillery battalions have taken hits. We played 5 turns in about 3 hours. This would have gone faster if the MTA had cooperated and delivered Bill on schedule.

Mistakes made so far: the French cavalry charge should not have been able to get so close due to terrain penalties. The upshot is there is a mob of disrupted French cavalry milling around within easy rifle range of the Prussians. I also treated the Sedan forts as earthworks during the Bavarian artillery bombardment. No big deal as hopefully I will remember when we complete the game next week.

I’ve not been looking forward to playing this game since it was such a tremendous French defeat. I have to say Chris’ scenario is really quite a lot of fun to play, to the surprise of all.

For sale: one Imperial throne, used, rather shaky. Sale ends after the 8th turn next week.

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