Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Battle of Liege 1815 (Commands & Colors Napoleonics Game)

Greetings Friends - I got to play in a very large Commands & Colors: Napoleonics game on Sunday at Brian's house with Mark and Ken.  We played with Brian and Rich's magnificently painted 1/72 plastic and metal troops.

  This game was a culmination of a "Play by Text/Email" campaign Brian had hosted of the classic boardgame "Napoleon" replaying the 100 days campaign.  Yours truly played the Prussians, co-commanded by Ken.  Mark played Napoleon.  As fascinating as that campaign was, the subject of this post is the CCN game we played Sunday afternoon - the fictitious battle of Liege.

The strategic situation as it was had us playing a massive battle to decide the outcome of the city of Liege, and the future of the Prussian Army's involvement in the campaign to stop Napoleon in 1815.
Initial setup.  Brian had sent me a map of the field and I placed my Prussian units down where I thought they should be.  Facing the ENTIRE French Army!
 Brian used the status of the forces we had in the boardgame to determine the forces of what we started with.  The Prussian Army consisted of 14 x infantry units, 3 x artillery units, 2 x cavalry units, and 4 general officers.  The French had....well I can tell you they had a shed-load of cavalry!  The imperial guard, plenty of infantry, and artillery.  In short, almost the bulk of the French army in 1815 was coming after the Prussian Army in Liege.
Old Guard, Young Guard, Middle Guard.  It's all Guard!

Prussian forces on the Ridge.  Note the Redoubt on the right.  Grenadiers and Landwehr to reinforce behind pic to the left.

Stacked up Prussians defending the town and a redoubt in the foreground

Eye Candy!  Including some troops painted by yours truly!

Mark (seated) and a very Charles Grant-esque Brian (standing) discussing things.  Mark commanded the French
 Mark's first move is to send light cavalry forward to assault the guns next to the redoubt!  "The ball has opened".  We send Prussian Uhlans out to counter them on our turn.  The Prussian redoubt on the right proves to be a very tough nut to crack.  Mark also sends a unit of Imperial Guard up the center to assault the ridgeline!  An interesting aside, none of my artillery started in redoubts.  None of it!

Charge the guns!

View of the entire Prussian Right flank

counter attacking the French Light Cavalry with Prussian Lights!  Ignore 1 Flag!

Mark sends the Guard forward (well, one unit of Guard anyways) to seize the  central redoubt!
 The major action in this game would center on the ridgeline in the center section of the battlefield and the redoubt located there.  The French would make some big pushes to clear off the ridge, including moving up heavy guns and plenty of infantry and heavy cavalry.  Mark would eventually score a breakthrough with heavy Guard cavalry, but didn't have the infantry to follow up the success.  Mark also skillfully stole the initiative by using his cavalry to keep multiple Prussian infantry units in square for much of the game.  More on this...

The center ridgeline position before the French overrun it!

Action on the right flank!  Mark had some fearsome combat power on his left / Prussian right, but didn't have the cards to use them!
 Mark does a great job of clearing off the initial line of defenders on the center ridgeline.  I made sure to keep elite Prussian Grenadiers and also Landwehr in the woods behind to reinforce the ridge.
Breakthrough!  Mark tears a hole in the Prussian line on the ridge.

The right mostly quiets down....for now

Prussians in the town.  The Prussian left would not see much action, save for action around the redoubt.

French right.  Plenty of Infantry and Cavalry!

Old Guard!  Painted by Yours Truly!  Brian has done them a great service by basing them and I'm super proud they make up part of his Army - even if they don't look as good as Brian's other troopers!

 The battle starts to take a different turn as 2 of 3 Prussian batteries are wiped out and Mark unleashes the full might of his Cavalry to start "taking out" units and/or forcing infantry into square, then pounding them to dust with infantry or artillery.  It's a good strategy.  The Prussian Cavalry gives a good account of themselves but the Prussian "Fire Brigade" Heavy Cavalry can only do so much!

A French unit forced into Square!  Yes, Brian has units in Square!
 Mark's Heavy Cavalry charges into the fray!  Mark has 5 units of very good quality cavalry and they certainly earn their pay today.


Our Heavy Cavalry (lower left) go in, fight, retreat 1 or 2 hexes.  It's the same each turn!
 Probably worth mentioning that the victory counters are about even here and this game has been SUPER close the entire time.  Both sides are neck and neck.  10 are needed for victory and I think we both have 5 or 6 when this picture was taken.

Prussian Grenadiers in the redoubt now!  They would take severe punishment for the entire game being forced into square, coming out of square, and going back in.  

Heavy Cavalry Breakthrough!  The French force their way onto the ridgeline!

Blucher's Fire Brigade!  (Lower Left)

Speaking of Old Blucher....

Ken (in Bicorne)

Mark brought up more (MORE) Cavalry and forced more Prussian units into Square.  We don't have the cards to effect our plan and get these guys out of square.  At one point we had a single card on the cardholder.  

Polish Lancers Assault the infantry next to the redoubt!  

Three Prussian Infantry Units in Square

French Heavy and Guard Cavalry threatening the Squares.  These 2 untis in Square have 3 hits each.  They're brittle and ready to break!

We have reinforcements behind the ridge but are they enough?
 The battle pretty much from here on continues to rage around the central ridgeline and redoubt.  Ken and I are trying to feed units from the left flank over to the center but it's hard with only 1 or 2 cards!  Meanwhile Mark is doing his best to break our squares.  He eventually breaks the grenadiers' square, captures the redoubt (forcing out the officer) and gets another victory point.  A joint assault from marauding heavy cavalry finally finishes the job and Mark takes the field 10-9!  What a close run thing!

French Heavy Cavalry - the Most Valuable Players of the game!
WOW What a fight!  Believe me when I say this was a nail-biter.  Both sides were neck and neck the entire game.  Mark handled the French perfectly and I have to say Ken and I didn't do too bad with the Prussians.  I was expecting this to be a "jail-break" with the French pretty much running rampant from every direction.  Not so.  The Prussians are a stubborn force and have enough good quality units to give a good accounting of themselves.

I can honestly say I've never played a CCN game quite like this before, with so much cavalry, high quality units, and dramatic reversals of fortune.  In hindsight, I definitely should have put my artillery in the redoubts to begin the game with.  Probably also should have started with more infantry in the center position, instead of the town.  In terms of moves during the game, I'm not sure we could (or should) have played any moves differently (Ken may disagree).  While we surrendered the initiative to Mark with so many units in squares, we also prolonged the battle long enough to continue to attrit the French.  If the board game (the strategic campaign) continues, we definitely took a good sized chunk out of the Corsican Ogre's Army!

This was super-fun and just what I needed with my gaming-funk.  Brian's outstanding figures and terrain are always a joy to game with.  This was a splendid afternoon of Napoleonic gaming and I am still quite tempted to single-base my 15mm units specifically to play CCN, a game that I have always very much liked.

As an interesting aside, I think I'll do a separate post on the campaign, complete with the orders I sent Brian as Blucher, and some screenshots Brian sent me of the map.  Brian has some great power-point files of the progress of the campaign. 

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Lobositz "Surprise" - Something Completely Different!

Alex was over Friday night for some gaming goodness and had a "surprise" agenda.  I texted him and asked about possibly playing the "Kings of War" fantasy mass battle game and he responded that he had some other games in mind.  I was intrigued.  (This was perfect because I've been in something of a gaming "rut" lately.  More on that later.)

The cat was out of the bag with Alex's Friday blog post on Commission & Regiment [click] his 1700-1900 warfare blog.  Alex's posts are always well informed, thoughtful, and extremely entertaining.  Imagine my surprise when I clicked on the the post entitled "Lobositz Excusion - Solo".  It was just what the doctor ordered for my gaming-weary soul.

pic from Alex's blog.  Head over there and check it out!

Alex had borrowed my copy of the 1978 GDW Frank Chadwick classic "The Battle of Lobositz" which is part of the GDW Series 120 board games, a stable of games that should be able to be played within 120 minutes.  Alex played a few games of this classic SYW confrontation.  Blogging excellence ensued!

Anyways, Alex brought my copy back along with his excellent and handy plexi-glass cover, the mark of a true board wargaming grognard, and we refought my favorite battle of all time, Lobositz.

View from Frederick the Great's side.  Von Browne (Alex) would be opposite me on the field!

Austrian Grenadiers look on next to "the dice of Austria"

Initial Setup - the units conform rather well to their linear brethren.  You're looking at the Prussian battle lines, and facing the Austrian battlelines.  The Elbe is clearly visible in the upper left with Lobositz the black structures on the map next to the river.  Prussians are exiting the saddle between the Lobosch Hill and the Homolka Mound

We actually used my Volley and Bayonet "Seven Years War Expansion" to deploy our forces.  I've got the Prussian dispositions as close to historically accurate as I can.  My plan is to advance the infantry in the center and threaten the Austrian main body with my gigantic Cavalry corps.  if they attempt to cross the Morellan Bach, I'll charge them head-on.  But there's a catch - the fog.

The fog was so significant at Lobositz that it created serious command and control problems.  These are elegantly replicated here with flipped counters.  You can only see a unit if you're next to it.  It isn't until the 5th or 6th turn that the fog lifts.  This would mess with my head almost as bad as it did with Frederick's on that day!

The first few turns are primarily spent shaking out my main body of infantry and artillery, while going after the detachments of Croats on the Lobosch, which was quite possibly the one right decision I made!

Itzenplitz Regiment - AKA the "Sitzenplatz" elite unit that I dispatched to clear the hill, along with converged Grenadier battalions.  My plan for clearing the Lobosch was very aggressive.

Red units are Croats.  Their 3 morale isn't very good (pass morale on a 3 or less - sound familiar Volley and Bayonet fans?)

Assaulting uphill in woods?  Bring it on!

After a few turns, the Croats have been beaten back, and Alex chooses a different strategy than Browne did - he withdraws his line further into Lobositz, protecting his flanks (nested against the Morellan Bach and the Elbe).  Additionally, if I touch a Morellan Bach hex, it will release the Austrian Main Body.  Something I definitely do NOT want to do!

My biggest mistake of the game captured on the camera for all to see
Around 1030 hours, Frederick is getting impatient.  The Austrians withdraw FARTHER back towards Lobositz.  Note the Morellan Bach turns sharply to the north closer to my lines, so my lines have shrunk even more.  I can't help but feel as if I'm being lured into a trap (which I am...kind of).  So what do I do?  I do what any self respecting Prussian officer would do........

I order an attack.

In hindsight this was absolutely the WRONG call to make and the cream of my infantry, the Morale 6 units, walk straight into the waiting guns of the Austrian artillery batteries, and their muskets' defensive fire.  Now I'm stuck.  The best and only choice I have is to melee the units to my front, or else Alex (Von Browne) is going to get a chance to shoot AGAIN before I can.  To make matters worse, Alex can shoot his artillery against my units which are adjacent.  My guns are silent until the fog lifts.  The US Army calls this "decisively engaged" and it's not a good thing if you didn't want it to happen.

My units are stuck in.  Alex still has 2 lines behind the advance guard.
 I am inventorying my second line and while there is still some good combat power in the second line (including more artillery and very potent cavalry) it's not going to be enough with the losses I've taken to hold Lobositz.  I'm going to have to call it!

Growing list of casualties.  The Kleist infantry regiment disgraced themselves by routing against a much lower strength unit.  

Solid wall of white and red and a very small number of Prussians to face them

At this point, just like in the real battle, Frederick personally quits the field!
What a battle!  Alex's plan was excellent and I've never usually played Lobositz this way.  Frankly, on my 6 x 4 table, the players in Lobositz don't have the operational depth to withdraw that far.  It's brilliant because Alex has his flanks secure and can lure the Prussians into a grinding, desperate battle of attrition, and that's not even against the Austrian main body!

The right call - which you may have already guess, would have been to wait in battle lines until the fog lifted, then order an all out attack along the line with a glorious, splendid artillery barrage to soften up Von Browne's force.  I would have then seen and known all of the Austrian units I was facing.  Instead I committed myself impatiently to a meatgrinding quagmire!  I have only myself to blame!

Wow thank you to Alex for an outstanding and fun game that was literally just what I needed in this gaming funk that I've been in.  Literally none of my rules or games really appeal to me and I'm not sure lately what's been going on but this was a great shot in the arm.

I highly recommend you head over to Alex's "Commission and Regiment" blog and check it out.  You just might find the motivation you've been looking for, too.  [click]  Now after conversation with Alex - another Chadwick classic.

Possibly a teaser of what's to come?  

Stay tuned everyone.  Battle of Liege 1815 (CCN fictitious) coming up soon.