Monday, September 21, 2009

Raid on St Michel - Game 1 - "Bridgehead"..

A little overdue in providing a report, but I can report that DG and I have finally kicked off our next campaign, and have just finished the first game in the "Raid on St Michel" mini campaign (5 linked "teasers" by Charles Grant and Phil Olley...)

For our campaign the forces of the Vereinigte Freie Stadte (VFS) were represented by the troops of his excellency the Duke of Marlborough, while the French took the part of the Duchy of Lorraine - what follows is a brief description of how the battle went, and what interpretations we had to make based on the decision to base our game in the War of the Spanish Succession, rather than the Seven Years War or the Napoleonic War.

First off, the troop types...
  • The Teasers sometimes call for light troops - either foot or horse. As I've set our campaign in the War of the Spanish Succession where that degree of troop differentiation was not really the norm, I substitute mediums ie. regular infantry for light infantry, and normal cavalry for light cavalry.
  • The scenarios also need some militia - to represent these I also used regular infantry, but gave them a "-1" on morale.
  • Heavy cavalry however, is OK - cuirassiers filled the bill nicely..
So, for this first game we had:


..and for the French:

..and now, on to the battle...!

The Battle:

This first game in the campaign is similar to the old "Crossing the River" scenario that DG and I fought back in February 2007 (!) - here [click here] but with the complication that this river is impassable along its entire length except at the single bridge. So basically, unless the attacking (British) commander is a nutter, he'll deploy his numerically superior artillery and then blast his way across the bridge and on to everlasting fame and glory... and so it turned out...

Following you can see a good overview of the table with the river, the bridge, and the peaceful (up until now) village of Fleur in the distance - as is usual, click on any of the pictures to be taken to a bigger view.

The picture above is taken at move 8 - in the foreground is the British column (commanded by DG) now well advanced, and it's possible to see much scurrying about on the French camp as orders are sent to recover the scouting cavalry (which can be seen heading rapidly towards the village)...

In the picture above, you can see a close up of the bridge on the same move - in the distance DG is preparing for his assault, he's keeping his cavalry back (that's Schomberg's you can see) with some of the infantry behind. You can also just see his artillery coming into view.

At the bridge I've temporarily blockaded it with the half of the cavalry regiment present at the start of the game, but the Navarre Regiment have now formed and are moving up behind them to take over. The Royal Italienne are in the church. In the foreground you can just see a glimpse of my artillery shifting from my left flank to the right - their original deployment spot had a limited line of sight due to the woods just in front. It was clear DG was going to use those to shield his advance and I needed to make sure he couldn't!

Shortly after this photo was taken I completed manoeuvring my artillery, and a quite spectacularly lucky shot from them caused DG his first casualties when at long range I managed to bounce a ball through the ranks of Schomberg's horse causing them a casualty..

DG continued to bring his troops forward however, but it became abundantly clear that his main push was with the guns, supported by some infantry, directly through the woods.

Once he'd got his guns to the edge of the wood, he then opened up a sharp fire causing casualties to both the Navarre now guarding the bridge, and also the Royal Italienne who were in the church.. my return fire from the artillery was weak, I think DG would agree that my dice didn't exactly roll well!

As a result of the casualties taken both Navarre and Italienne rout - in the case of Navarre however, they end up routing from the table.

The next picture was taken at move 19 (so just over 3 hours in "real" time as each move represents 10 minutes in the rules we use) and the French have scored a lucky hit on one of the British guns, who then promptly do the same on the French gun! It wasn't all bad though as the Royal Italienne had now recovered, and were in position in the square between the Church and house and I realised that was by far and away the safest place to leave them! In the bottom foreground you'll notice that my French cavalry are now at full strength and are about to move to a position where they can provide support to anyone defending the bridge... you'll note that none of my units are in the open, the cannon fire was too hot!

Two or three moves later and DG thinks the time is ripe, and sends Meredith's across the bridge. The French return fire was ineffective, and in the British firing phase they cause the French cavalry further casualties such that in their subsequent morale test they fail and rout from the table... in the following Meredith's can be seen breasting the crown of the bridge - and what a fine sight they make! Schomberg's horse in support..

...and this is the end state - all over for the French, and a rather disappointing end result. The British had inflicted further casualties on the Royal Italienne who had routed leaving only the French artillery on the table - who eventually decided that discretion is the better part of valour, and legged it!

Post Match Analysis:
  • This is a real black and white scenario - little or no shades of grey - and not a little frustrating for the Lorraine/French player. You know the French are going to lose (they're meant to), but what was frustrating to me was the lack of room to make a tactical difference. For example - the position of the woods was key - placing his guns in the woods gave DG a clear view of the open spaces around the bridge, while also giving him a cover bonus against return fire - bad news. I also couldn't think of anything I could do to counteract that. An attack across the bridge was the obvious solution, but not an option due to the fact that DG had brought up a number of his other foot and cavalry units in support (good combined arms!)... Musketry did not feature due to ranges - in fact I don't believe any unit fired muskets, it was all artillery. Like I say - frustrating.... I'd welcome some thoughts from readers with any other idea's..!
  • There are a couple of editorial typo's in this scenario to be aware of -
    1. On page 13 under "Coordinating instructions" it should read "have left the table at points C [not A] and B" otherwise half the French cavalry squadron will enter the table in the middle of the British column of march.
    2. On page 14 under "Game Mechanics" the third bullet should (of course) have 'five moves'..
  • Casualties for the scenario are carried forward at the rate of one fifth dead, two fifths badly wounded, and two fifths available to fight again - DG and I decided to throw a percentile dice for recovery with each point being a percentage of the total strength of the unit - this resulted in the following:

  • The scenario calls for a guard to be left behind - one of the problems with this is that there isn't much guidance or indication to the VFS/British player on what to base the decision on. To be fair to DG I let him know what the total size of the French/Lorraine forces were to give him an idea, we also read the post match reports from Charles and Phil for other clues... in the end DG decided to leave Schomberg's and Meredith's.
  • Tea was PG Tips and the biscuits were a particularly fine packet of oat & raisin cookies - one of your five a day, and a cholesterol busting grain, all in one biscuit!! Magnifique (but don't mention the butter! )

...onwards and upwards - the next game awaits!!


  1. Now that is what I would call an interesting post! Also a very nice looking game with some splendid figures and scenery.

    So to start the ball rolling I will make a few stupid suggestions.

    Firstly, I was surprised that Guns can deploy in woods under your rules? So there is the first argument started before even a dice is thrown! I think under the rules used by Charles and Phil they cannot.

    The aim of the attackers is not so much to take the bridge as it is to do so without casualties.

    How about putting the guns on the hill enfilading the brideg and hold back only attacking once the first units have crossed?

    I say these things in the certainty that I would have done worse than either of you.

  2. The rules define two classes of woods, "open" and "dense". All troops can move through "open" woods and only foot through "dense" woods. Had they been defined as "dense" then getting good angles of fire on the defenders would have been tough. Then the only option I can think off would be to protect the artillery closely with infantry battalions [cannon fodder] until the guns can deploy. But the infantry cost would be high ... DG

  3. Hi Steve, enjoyed this report and look forward to the rest. I do find some Teasers/rules are more susceptible than others to rules variations than others, esp wrt to ranges and movement rates. I'll 2nd John wrt to surprise to read of the artillery advanicng through and deploying in the woods but suspect that they them seem quite powerful and may have decided the issue anyway. I would also have been tempted to allow the British to cross the bridge and then try to throw them back with a counter attack.
    btw are those some Roundway miniatures I see?

  4. More agreement from me about artillery deploying in woods.
    I'm struggling with this series myself for the WSS. My plans were to replace the light horse with dragoons (who have a dismounted option as well) since we - at Grimsby - only recognise horse &dragoons as the two mounted classes for the WSS.
    All the same I look forward to the next installement.

  5. Enjoyed the write up Steve, and I love your terrain & figures. More please.


  6. Many thanks for the full and comprehensive responses, chaps….

    John - as per DG’s update - all woods were classed as “open” which would allow guns to deploy in them (I’m guessing it must have happened in reality or the French would have had problems at Malplaquet, for example… :o) )

    There are movement reductions but I *am* contemplating some changes following discussion with DG after the game - nothing that would have fundamentally altered the outcome, however..

    “How about putting the guns on the hill enfilading the bridge and hold back only attacking once the first units have crossed?” Yes - fair plan - but with the ability to deploy in woods, DG’s plan with his artillery was entirely sound… there doesn’t seem to be any doubt in my mind that the artillery are the battle winner in this scenario so the French response is how to minimize damage on themselves, whilst still being able to meet the scenario winning criteria - hold the bridge as long as possible.

    Ross -

    ~ you’re right about the Teasers and rule variations - my favourite (?!) bug bear are the Teasers where it states you only have a specific number of moves to complete. Without knowing how many minutes or hours their turn represents it makes it difficult to extrapolate all sorts of things!

    ~ Good idea about the fake retreat though - in fact the only point that I really felt like I was making a difference was when, towards the end of the game, DG sent Meredith’s and Schomberg’s over the bridge at the same time, and got them a bit “entangled” while on the bridge - but even then DG had a clear enfilade with his artillery as I crossed the small amount of open ground to engage….

    ~ Yes… the French cavalry are Roundway - good spot!

    Grimsby - I did toy with the idea of painting up some Dragoons as light horse but came to the conclusion that as the Teasers only contain Light and Heavy cavalry - then “mediums” were a fair swap for lights as I have the heavy’s available in the form of cuirassiers… just for interest do you differentiate for cuirassiers in your games??

    Steve T. - I keep trying…. :o)

  7. Hi Steve - like the others said, great write up and pics.
    I played the St Michel campaign over the easter hols using modified "The War Game" rules with 15mm figs and all the scenarios were great fun - I guess it helps that I was using the same rules in the same period as the authors?

    I'd agree to some extent about the lack of real options for the defender in this scenario - you're going to lose and just have to extract a high price from the attackers. I found the second scenario to give more options for the defender and managed to cause some serious losses while getting my rearguard away almost scot free!

    I'm looking forward to seeing how this unfolds.
    Good Gaming


  8. Steve,

    As always your table and figures look great . . . and your write-ups and post battle notes are interesting reads.

    As with most others, my own house rules would not have permitted the artillery in the woods.

    I think that I would have substituted Dragoons for both of the "light" units in your period . . . but, of course this depends upon what troops you had available to draw upon.

    Yes, this is a tough situation for the French . . . after all, they are not expecting an attack. Their goals are to alert other commands (that's why messengers are sent off at the top of the encounter), to inflict as much damage upon the invaders as possible; and, finally, to preserve as much of their assets as possible.

    As for DG's "holding force", that would be up to him. He should know that messengers were sent to adjoining commands . . . so the question he needs to consider is, "what do I need to hold this position from an expected counter attack from a force similar to what was holding it?"; and secondarily, "what will I need to accomplish my mission?"

    These are the sorts of questions that commanders had to make in the field.

    I would probably have let him know that the last word they had, St Michel was guarded by x units of cav and y units of foot . . . but roll a die for each with something like, 3 or 4 = actual number; 1 = 2 fewer units, 2 = 1 less unit; 5 = 1 more unit; and 6 = 2 more units.

    As a further complication, when I run it, I'm going to ask the invader what he plans to do with his wounded. Will he just leave them beside the road or what? Also what will he do with prisoners? I will ask this prior to the campaign so that he can bring more wagons if he so chooses.

    In any event, I'm looking forward to your further posts on this campaign.

    -- Jeff

  9. Good thoughts Jeff - yes, the cavalry decision was based on those I had available - I reckon that as long as their is a differentiation then shifting the "weight" of the cavalry up or down the scales by one or two is not so important..

    The woods question is interesting - I'd be interested in peoples views on why they don't allow guns in woods - bear in mind that in this case the woods were classed as "open" (so not dense), and in my rules artillery is only excluded to "dense"...

    W.r.t the holding force I think my (v. mild) issue is that the commander is given nothing to make his judgement on - given that this is a campaign setting, I would have expected some kind of guidance for the umpire/referee?? As it is I did what you suggested... I told DG what the total forces arrayed against him were, showed him what Phil had done in the refight, and he then based his decision on that..