Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Battle of Brussels 1815 (Commands and Colors Napoleonic Game)

Last night Brian hosted the culmination of his outstanding play-by-text of the boardgame "Napoleon" where we played the 100 Days campaign and when the blocks aligned on the map for a battle, we played a Commands and Colors: Napoleonics game to settle things.  

You may recall the gigantic nail-biting clash at Liege last month where the Prussians put a good sized dent in the Armee du Nord and almost....almost snatched a victory from Napoleon!  (Played by Mark).

The final battle saw the French squaring off against the British, who are guarding their main escape route to Ghent while defending Brussels.  The stage was set for a massive confrontation where the "Allied" Army (Dutch, Belgian, German Armies) faced off against the French.  We played with a gigantic 20-21 units per side.  Look at this table!  

Readers know how I feel about playing CCN with Brian and Rich's awesome kit.  Large single-unit stands with 1/72 plastics makes for a gorgeous table, complete with colors flying, and mounted officers pointing out the enemy.  I was in for an even bigger treat last night as Rich brought over his completed HaT Dutch Belgians which looked simply amazing.  Brian provided food, snacks, and even sherry.  ("To the day's fox, gentlemen!")

The Battlefield.  Brian randomly picked a CCN battlefield to use, gave us the map and had the commanders plot the troop dispositions.  I gave him the laydown for the Prussians at Liege and so since Rich was playing the English, it was only fair to allow him to plot.  Plus I take full responsibility for the Prussian defeat last month!
Our deployment was good although we learned some hard lessons during the game about deploying and staying too close to the baseline and also "brigading" the British and their allies together.

Mark and Tom listen to the pre game briefing from Brian.
 The Allies occupied the left wing of the field with their best troops including Grenadiers and Belgian Heavy Cavalry.  A "grand battery" was established in the center covering the most likely French approach from both the center and French right.  The French had a very significant amount of quality artillery (4 or 5 units) as well as 4 units of high quality Cavalry, including Guards Heavy Cavalry.

The rear row of Dutch Belgians.  To the right of the town, Picton's Division's extreme left shared the center with the Dutch Belgians.  

Looking towards the British "wing" note the ridgeline in the center, a village where Sean Bean and the men of the 95th were posted (Chosen Men!) and the British Guards (forest hex straight ahead).  Rich had some nice moves with the Guards, ambushing French units with a huge amount of firing dice.

Militia along the back row.  Note my custom CCN dice I ordered off ebay!  I'll post the link below, Mark!  :)

The reader would be forgiven for noticing a Portuguese flag in the center.  We needed more units!  Look at the spectacle of this battlefield!  

French Dragoons and Guards Heavy Cavalry. The bane of my existence!

Dutch-Belgian wing consolidates itself for the upcoming fight!
The French launch an assault in the center only to be bloodily repulsed by the 95th Rifles and a mass of Allied artillery.  It's a bloodbath and the French pull back from the center assault.  Rich correctly identifies the mass of terrain in the center as key terrain and it turns out to be a bastion for the British as the French dont even come close the whole battle to over running the Guards.  They do, however, have a score to settle with the 95th and launch a concerted attack against the 95th's position with both artillery and troops to flush them out.  They do so with extreme prejudice!

French beat the Pas de Charge in the center and come forward!  Note the Rifles in key terrain

A French assault in the center takes shape.  They would be repulsed with heavy losses from this attack.

Picton cursing and swearing at his men to fire.  Royal Horse Artillery next to them - there are no shortages of targets!
The French having taken a beating after their initial assault look at the battlefield for their next opportunity.  Napoleon notes the Dutch-Belgians on the Allied left.  The next assault will fall against them!  The Cavalry moves forward...

French Lancers move out to assault the Belgian Heavy Cavalry!
 A concerted effort is shaping up against the Dutch Belgians on the left.  Mark (Napoleon) pushes a ton of combat power forward and the Allies will have to take all of it without their British allies backing them up (a major lesson i learned today).

Guards Heavy Cavalry and French infantry move out!

Mark's attack shaping up - Constant, savage attacks against the left wing will take their toll!

Cool looking unit of French lights.  I love the drum laying on the ground.

Assault against the guns!  The Guards will slice their way through the line here.
I ended up forgetting to take more pictures but I hope you can tell from the pictures that the game was outstanding.  

The French ended up winning the battle 10-8 but we gave it one good try with a center assault card, trying to unleash a few units' worth of firepower against the Guards Heavy Cavalry.  Unfortunately they take a flag result and retreat back to the safety of their lines.  That was the last chance we had to tie the game at 9-9.  The next turn, the French roll up the Dutch-Belgian Grenadiers and the game ends!  It was a real nail biter with dramatic reversals of fortune on both sides.  We started playing around 8pm and didn't end the game until well after midnight!!  I was able to hang in for awhile but by 11:45pm I was starting to crash!

It's probably worth mentioning here that I really love Commands and Colors Napoleonics.  In fact I told Brian and Rich that all week I was really looking forward to fighting this battle.  I feel like no other game gives you the narrative, excitement, and tension that CCN gives you and it's one of my favorite Napoleonic games.  I will never turn down a game of CCN, especially with Brian and Rich's outstanding plastics!  Gorgeous looking toy soldiers!

I definitely learned to brigade more quality troops with lesser quality troops, especially British.  The British infantry as Brian pointed out, are even better than their artillery in terms of close firepower.  Had we had a British Brigade on the left to shore up the Dutch, I think the game may have turned out differently.  Also, we should have advanced the line further up to give our units room to retreat.  Deploying and staying on the edge seems to be asking to lose units in the game.

It was a pleasure playing a game with these guys.  Rich is a great partner to have on your team and he plays tough but careful.  I had a blast and I can't wait to play again.

Probably also worth mentioning that Mark, had he lost, was going to have to read Napoleon's letter to the Prince Regent requesting asylum:

"Royal Highness, Prey to the factions which divide my country, and to the enmity of the greatest powers of Europe, I have terminated my political career, and I come, like Themistocles, to throw myself at the hearth of the British people. I put myself under the protection of their laws, which I claim from your Royal Highness, as the most powerful, the most constant, and the most generous of my enemies. Rochefort, 13 July 1815. Napoleon.”

Mark - if you're reading this - you can order the custom CCN dice on ebay here.

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Battle for Oak Ridge: TWO FLAGS - ONE NATION ACW Rules ENDGAME

Following yesterday's dental appointment, I raced home for the epic, bloody conclusion of the Oak Ridge fight during Day 1 of Gettysburg.  This could have gone lots of ways with the Union clinging on desperately despite losses and the friction of many units in flight.  We are coming back on Turn 5 less than halfway to endgame for the battle.

Confederate Artillery sets up in the gardens behind Forney's House
 The Rebels continued their assault up and down the line, with O'Neal's Brigade pushing into the ridge.  The 12th Alabama takes pressure and finally relents, leaving their toehold on the ridgeline.  Fresh Regiments of Paul's Brigade take their place.

Quick thinking by one of the last fresh units of Baxter's Brigade moves into the hole in the line - effectively barring the door for the 12th Alabama and O'Neal's other Regiments!

Regiments of Daniel's Brigade begin to orient themselves on the other ridgeline objective.  They'll try to apply pressure to the Union flank while Iverson's men go up the middle.

The Rebel Artillery see an opening in the line and take full advantage, scoring an impressive 3 hits and driving off the New York Fire Zouaves from their positions.  Unfortunately, they beat a hasty retreat with nowhere else to run!  They drove off the Yanks for the cost of a crate of ammunition.

12th Alabama is disordered and would be for most of the rest of day.
 On the Confederate left, a sharp firefight breaks out with volleys being traded each turn.   Lots of leadership rolls here, and O'Neal is personally directing the fire of his Regiments.  The Union Division Commander, Robinson, is doing the same.  Guess what happens?

Baxter escapes the roll.  General Robinson is not so lucky.  The Division Commander is cut down in a fierce volley that also disorders the 88th PA, sending them reeling back.

Iverson's men move up to take position within the yankee lines.

Sharp fighting as the 147th goes out of the frying pan and into the fire, trading shots with the flank and the front.  They would reorient themselves to face repeated close assaults up the hill from the front.  They would also face the dubious distinction of fighting against elements of both Iverson and Daniel's command

The Union bolsters its position with Paul's Brigade.

General Robinson is killed.
 The 147th PA holding the Union left flank is defending itself gallantly, fighting off 2 of Iverson's close assaults.  It's worth noting that Iverson's Regiments are going in unsupported.  It's the best they can do at the moment.

Iverson's Regiments disordered from assaulting the 147th PA.  As you can see on the right though, it's only a matter of time before Daniel's Brigade moves in.  They are slowed by the Random Events Table but not stopped!

The Big Picture.  Daniel's Brigade is moving up to flank the whole position

O'Neal's men move up to the hedge and fenceline

 O'Neal is killed in a sharp exchange of fire on turn 7 and the Rebels alter tactics, opting for "the back door" of the position, instead of a direct, frontal assault against the ridge.  O'Neal's death puts his brigade in a tough spot as they are all disordered and only 1 of 4 would rally on subsequent turns.  Tough luck but they did their job admirable holding down Union reinforcements while Daniel's fresh brigade takes the ridge by storm.

O'Neal is cut down in the firefight!  Officers are falling everywhere!

A NC Regiment falls back, disordered with 6 heavy casualties!  They would fail to rally from disorder for the rest of the day.

The final of Iverson's assaults.  

The situation at the end of turn 8.  All of the 12th Alabama's hard fought gains melt away on the Union left however with the movement of the 147th shifting to fend off Iverson's assaults, it's bought crucial opportunity for Daniel's men to get into position for a crushing assault against the ridge.  The 147th is holding the "major victory" objective for the Rebels, by the way.  If Daniel's assault can knock out the 147th and he can capture the position, they rebels will instantly win by capturing the position and knocking out 40% of the Union Regiments.

Most of the units have casualties of some sort
Turn 9, with high drama, Daniel's Brigade goes in!
 Daniel's attack is fierce, garnering 2 x extra dice for flank assault and 2 x extra dice for supports he will assault with a crushing 9 dice!  The final tally would be 4 hits scored, and 1 hit scored against him (a single "1" rolled).  It's enough to cause the 147th to lose 2 more casualties (only 2 due to their cover) and force a Capability Test which they lose.  The position has been gained by Daniel's attack!

The McPherson-Wills forest in new hands!

Capturing the ridge after a day of hard marching and fighting.  The Tarheels are exhausted.

Union right.  O'Neal's Brigade is in rough shape.  A new commander has been appointment but he faces a tough challenge trying to rally all these Regiments under heavy fire!

Final dispositions
 Wow what a nail-biting slugfest.  I think the game captures the tension and high drama of the first day of Gettysburg accurately with a great "back and forth" see-saw to the fighting.  Victory goes to the force who has a convenient and immediate reserve to plug a gap and can take advantage of a hole that's opened up in the line or flank a unit that is distracted to its front.  The random events table adds a nice element of tension and unknown as well.  I would say O'Neal's Brigade did the lion's share of fighting, save for some brave Regiments from Iverson's Brigade who attacked the 147th PA again and again only to be repulsed again and again.

For a battle involving a total of 22 Regiments, I can say I probably spent more time planning this fight than playing it, which is a huge plus.  THe whole game probably took 2.5 hours which is great.  The squares made it a little bit fiddly and I wonder if it would have played easier with hexes.  Also, the use of my tablet forced me to constantly scroll back and forth between certain key sections of the rules and I still forgot certain rules like the casualty retreat test when a unit reaches 6 casualties.

Thanks to Norm who has created an outstanding game that captures ACW flavor, action, and drama with simple and elegant mechanisms that deliver plausible results.  Mission accomplished!