Monday, 27 November 2017

Battle of Sombreffe

We finally managed to find the time to play the first big battle of our Blucher 100 Days Campaign.  Alan's French had crossed the border on the 15th and  moved en-masse against my Prussians, resulting in a big battle just N of Sombreffe featuring all of the French bar II Corps, and all of the Prussians bar IV Corps. In a mirror image of Waterloo Nick's Brits were racing to the scene and expected to get a  couple of Corps onto the field sometime during the day, coming in on the Prussian R flank. here's the campaign map:

Sombreffe is buried under column C&F.

The battlefield generated by the map and some terrain choices, with column start areas was:

Which when put out on the table, looking E to W, looked something like this:

The broken terrain was not idea, but interesting, and showed that nice aspect of campaign play that you don't get "simple" battlefields. The Prussians started in control of 2 objectives/map squares, and the French 4! Unfortunately Alan was well enough to play, but after a quick game of Sun Tzu (nice game), Nick changed sides and received Alan's briefing.

The key question was (in true Waterloo style) could the Prussian hold on long enough for the Brits to arrive.

The French pushed quickly forward making good progress on the Prussian left, but being rebuffed on the Prussian right. In the centre 3 Imperial Guard artillery units pushed boldly forwards, to be met by some courageous Prussians, who whilst they didn't inflict any serious damage kept the "beautiful daughters" out of the rets of the game.

Prussians taking on the Beautiful Daughters!

The French advance!

Another French gun at risk, but otherwise pushing forward

At the end of Turn 4 (Allied 2nd turn) I rolled a 1 and so the first British reinforcements arrived behind me, far earlier than I'd dared hope. The immediately blocked a gap on my R flank, and interestingly hardly played an part in the rest of the game!

Highlanders stabilise the R flank.
British and French (well Confed of Rhine) come face to face!

Worse was to come for the French as on my next Turn I again rolled a 1 and the whole of the British Cavalry Corps arrived on my R flank, almost into the rear of the French! The rest of the game on that flank was a series of melees between the Cavalry, including Grenadiers a Cheval and Royal Horse Guards - all a bit of stalemate by the end but stopped any serious French threat from my right.

Light Dragoons mixing it with Cuirassiers!
Scots Greys and Cuirassiers on a collision course!
The nail truly went in French coffin when the Prussian III Corps finally turned up to not only secure my crumbing L flank, but trigger a general push forward on that flank.

Prussian L flank, looking towards the thin French lines!
With night rapidly falling (i.e. we'd run out of time after 15 turns) the French made one last fling against the central hill, aiming to inflict maximum damage before the attrition calculations, and the game was over.

The French still trying to push forward!

At the end the Prussians held 3 squares, the French 2, and the 6th only had a solitary Prussian Hussar unit  who was desperate to seize the glory of the 6th objective in Sombreffe itself, but never quite made it!

Trying to seize Sombreffe - and a vacant objective

As the Prussian commander I certainly feel that the French were saved by the night - Nick and Alan might have other views. In the very last turn the 2nd Corps of British infantry arrived, so I had almost 3 fresh Corps to throw against the Guard and one French reserve Corps - would have been fun!

Rules-wise there was quite a bit that concerned us about Blucher this time round (my first game had left me with a poor view, but the 2nd seemed to go OK). Key issues appear to be:

  • Guns fade very fast, and even with canister aren't anything to be afraid off
  • Cavalry are just mobile infantry who've lost their muskets as they get no bonus against infantry not in square/prepared, and even if they are prepared the infantry advantage is not massive
  • My valiant cavalry unit tasked with seizing Sombreffe couldn't make it since I could never afford the activation points, whereas in practice it would just be a simple "gallop there" command and not need me to do anything else
  • We just ended up ignoring the Commander cards - but perhaps partly since we were rushing it
  • The 50% damage threshold for campaign attrition means we started "gaming" it in the last turn, just going after the hits that would tip a unit over
It does play nice and fast though, and the activation system is nice if a little gamey. I had already started on a "bucket-of-dice" version of my own SLS rules, so perhaps that may be the way to go!

We'll play out the campaign with the standard rules, but then reassess I think. Also keen to give Over the Hills a try as they seem closer to SLS.

For this game the Blucher rules were hexified (as are all my rules!), and figures were 20mm plastics and Newline metal. We also realised that we really need some nice sabot bases if we're going to do this again!

I've now got to do the attrition sums to find out the campaign impact - my suspicion is that it will actually be worse for the Prussian as we have a lot of Conscript and Understrength units who won't recover, whereas every single one of the French will in some shape or form :-(

10th Hussars about to enter the fray!

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