Friday evening saw us gather at the Club as usual, only this time Steve and I were introducing the others to “Bloody Big Battles”. We shifted over to the Franco-Prussian War for this one with the Germans attacked the defending French. We had 3 German Korps as follows, each with a General,
GERMAN ORDER OF BATTLE
3 Div: 6 S Trnd NG
4 Div: 6 Trnd NG
9 Bde, 5 Div: 4 Vet NG
10 Bde, 5 Div: 5 S Vet NG
11 Bde, 6 Div: 5 S Vet NG
12 Bde, 6 Div: 4 Vet NG
13 Bde, 7 Div: 6 S Trnd NG
14 Bde, 7 Div: 5 Trnd NG
15 Bde, 8 Div: 5 Trnd NG
16 Bde, 8 Div: 5 Trnd NG
6TH CAVALRY DIVISION
2 Vet Lt Cav
12th CAVALRY DIVISION
2 Vet Lt Cav
against the following 2 French Corps, also each with a General.
FRENCH ORDER OF BATTLE
1 Div: 4 S Trnd LB
2 Div: 4 S Trnd LB
3 Div: 4 S Trnd LB
2 Trnd Lt Cav
1 Div: 5 S Trnd LB
2 Div: 4 Trnd LB
3 Div: 3 Trnd LB
4 Div: 4 Trnd LB
2 A Trnd Lt Cav
We had 6 players in total, which gave everyone a corps to command with Steve taking on the role of Commander in Chief and general adviser to the German side.
We also tried 3 ‘special’ rules:
- The Germans had to advance if they rolled 10 or more on the movement dice and were not spent. We actually dispensed with this as the Germans needed no encouragement!
- Each German Korps rolled 1D6 at the start and counted as Tactically Inept on a roll of 1 or 2. This resulted in the right and centre Korps both being Tactically Inept!
- We gave both French Corps an MG unit but reduced them in effectiveness to reflect the parceling out of these assets rather than their concentration. We counted them as FP 4/2 rather than 12/6 and they were removed if a Reduced result was scored. I felt this worked well.
The table looked like this – a purely fictitious setup, with the French determined to hold Frembourg (left side, just before the second wood) against the German hordes.
The French deployed as shown below:
A very thin deployment – everything in the shop window with no reserves and so far back any reverse would see us off the table. However, the plan was simple. Force the Germans to advance a long way, hoping they would become disjointed and therefore attack in piecemeal fashion. The second part of the plan was to position ourselves where the field of fire matched the range of the Chassepot and no more – we didn’t want those nasty Krupps to be able to engage us without exposing themselves!
True to form, the Germans pressed ahead across the board but the aspiration that they would arrive in a disjointed manner worked well. The centre Korps closed first, leading with an infantry unit, which was duly shot to pieces by the defending French. At this stage, they were attacking without artillery support and the results were predictable. The supporting German units were also separated and came on individually and so, at no stage, presented the French with too many targets to cope with. When the German artillery finally came into play, it did cause a loss to the French in Frembourg, but went low on ammo as a result and this compromised its utility in the longer term.
On the French left/German right, things looked a lot less rosy for the French – a whole German Korps coming at one, lone unit with only the Corps Cavalry and one battery of guns in support. Once again, however, the artillery was slow to move forward (the player blaming an unmarked swamp for his poor dice!!) and the infantry came forward in a disjointed manner. The first unit came forward in isolation and was shot to pieces. An attempt by the French cavalry to see off this spent unit resulted in the cavalry being destroyed! The German artillery finally came into play and the 2 supporting units were closing in on the French when night fell – phew!
Over on the French right/German left, the Germans had more success. Once again, their artillery played little part. The French use of the reverse slope prevented them being engaged and then they became masked by their own infantry closing on the wood between the hill and the centre. This was held by a weak unit and an MG battery but they certainly fought hard! However, this time the German infantry was better coordinated and they came forward in 2 closely supporting waves. The French could hold off one, but not 2. The MGs were silenced and played little further part, the skirmishers were cleared from the front and in went the Germans with the bayonet. The French were repulsed and the Germans took the wood!
And, at that point, we called it a day. Certainly a French victory, but that was not the point at all. The aim was to introduce the rules and play out a game that would allow us to do that. The lack of German coordination was due entirely to unfamiliarity with the rules and period and the fact that Steve could not be in all places at one time. I suspect the Germans will do better next time! That said, the French plan worked well – the distance the Germans had to move and the use of reverse slopes negated their artillery and broke up their initially tight formations to allow defeat in detail. The ‘special’ rules also worked well, although 2 German Korps being deemed Tactically Inept really hurt the Germans. I was most pleased with the MG rules. They became useful additional firepower but not the dominant force they could have been. They were also quite vulnerable.
Reaction to the rules – universally positive! At no stage did I hear anyone express any doubts about them at all, everyone said they had fun and wanted to play them again and 2 of the new players (50%) declared an intention to buy the rules on the back of just one game. In fact, as we finished, people were putting forward ideas for more games they would like to play with the rules. Several times I heard someone comment on how cleverly the rules handled situations and how easy they were to grasp. Bottom line, big thumbs up and more games are in the offing – just need to get the figures painted!
Monty the Desert Rat