Sunday, March 26, 2017

La Guerre est Finie

On March 23, 2017 the Corlears Hook Fencibles finished the Franco-Prussian War campaign that we had begun on January 28, 2016. We played 14 battles using the Bloody Big Battles rules, with 15mm figures, mostly Old Glory with some Minifigs and some Lancashire. There was no map movement which greatly reduced the paperwork. That pleased me since I’m the paperwork guy and have done that for other campaigns in years past.

I always led the French and Bill his Prussians. I supplied the Bavarians. I was surprised to discover how many of the battles they appeared in, and were most of the troops on hand for Coulmiers. If you are planning on doing this period, after filling out the Prussian ranks, get Bavarians. Other Fencibles played whatever side they preferred or as dice determined, game by game.

We discovered BBB about two years ago and found the rules hit our sweet spot of simple enough that we don’t get headaches from calculating combat results and yet the game feels right and gives us the period flavor we want. The rules are simple; the elegance sneaks up on you. These are grand-tactical rules, with the smallest unit usually brigades or divisions. The rules first got our attention but over the two years I’ve really begun to appreciate the scenarios designed by the author Chris Pringle. Some of the battles are in the rule book but others have been added to the files of the Yahoo group. We ended up playing 14 games. You may ask why I chose the French when they were thoroughly trashed? They had the best uniforms and I figured doing better than they did – a low bar – would be enough. I managed that. The Germans won 7 games, the French won 3 and 4 games were ties. These victories were according to the scenario, so most French victories would not change the strategic situation. For example, I won the battle of Gravelotte but Bazaine’s army was still cooped up in Metz. The Bavarians won the battle of Coulmiers but they still would abandon Orleans after suffering such heavy losses against superior numbers of the enemy.

We started with the battle of Spicheren, a tie.
No doubt the French pulled out at nightfall as the Prussians kept pouring onto the field. Next we played Froeschwiller and got another tie. This was a hoot, a last stand against spike-helmeted swarms. Beau Geste, anyone? The Prussians did not get the best use of their superior artillery.
Next up we played Borney, a rearguard action near Metz. I got caught up in giving the Prussians a bloody nose and did not start pulling out soon enough, giving the Prussians the win. I also had the idea of giving the Germans enough of a hit to slow them down in future games. I have no idea if that worked.
The win gave the Germans a free re-roll in the next game. For most of the campaign players forgot to use this. In one game it was invoked and the re-roll was just as bad as the original.

Next up was Mars-la-Tour, a wild game that saw a hard-won Prussian victory. That’s another one that might be revisited.
Then at Gravelotte the Prussians were shot down in heaps by Chassepot fire. The Prussians again failed to fully exploit their artillery superiority. I’d like to play this from the Prussian side sometime. The French had their first win.
Next we played Beaumont, where MacMahon’s army fought too much and ran too little, yielding another Prussian victory. It was another interesting scenario.
After some delays as real life interfered with players schedules, we played Sedan. I’d been dreading playing a scenario that starts with the French encircled, but the scenario is actually quite good. A French victory means perhaps some troops escape the trap, but only some. I thought I had a tie but on the last turn the Bavarians stormed into Sedan for a Prussian win. Goodbye Napoleon III, bring on the Third Republic.
We were onto the part of the campaign I really wanted to play, the one many gamers barely know existed.

Next up was the battle of Coulmiers, the only actual French victory of the battles we played. I became fixated on neutralizing the damned Krupp guns. I largely did this but neglected flanking the Bavarian position and ended up making a bloody frontal attack on the town of Coulmiers. Bill had pulled his line back, giving up some objectives to hold the remainder more securely. This combined with my head butting produced a German victory.
The next battle in chronological terms was Beaune la Rolande. Due to an error on my part, we played it after the next two. I can at least put it the correct sequence here. Long story short: mobs of poorly trained French surged up against entrenched Germans and were shot down in droves. A Prussian division that showed up on our left center had a field day cutting swathes through our disorganized troops. A German win, most definitely.
The battle of Loigny was the first battle on snow, as all the rest were to be. I had painted up French naval infantry for this phase on white bases. Loigny saw an extremely bloody tie.
The next battle, Beaugency, saw Chanzy’s French manage to hold their entrenched front line while their left flank was knocked around but not quite broken. This gave us another victory. We would of course fall back at nightfall.
Chanzy’s French army did it again at Le Mans, holding on defensively for longer than the actual force did. Again, we’d hightail after that.
Then came the Lisaine, where Boubaki’s frozen, sick, hungry mobs assailed entrenched Germans. As in the actual battle, the French were shot down in heaps. On the second day we managed to get across the river in a place where the German defenses were thin, but not near any objectives. And most of our infantry was spent. Rather than complete the game the next week, I conceded – the only time this campaign.
Our last game saw Faidherbe’s Army of the North try to raise the siege of Paris before all the animals in the zoo were eaten. We failed but managed to hold on for a tie.
And that was the end of our year-long campaign. I think we all had a lot of fun. The games certainly produced a lot of jokes. It was enlightening playing all those games in the Republican phase, when the odds were so long but those ragged armies kept up the struggle in the snow.


Joseph.Cade said...


As I stated on TMP, really enjoyed following your guys' campaign. Great AARs!

Phil said...

Nice, very very nice!

vtsaogames said...

Aw, shucks, guys. Thank you.