|The Table-Top Battlefield|
It was to be an attack using the cover of darkness and he immediately discovered two rifle companies were separated during the night march on Burro and duly rolled to see where they would arrive. As it happened, one of the two companies ran into the main group upon entry but the other found itself stumbling about in the midst of a cow herd.
|Picket hidden by darkness and distance ... until sun-up.|
Before the second turn was up, the isolated company managed to DISTURB the cows and announce their presence to any waiting French - but none were sent to investigate. Worse still, the same company remained at the wall, continued to cause reactions amongst the nervous herd and were not to leave that position until well after sun rise. In spite of his orders, Astor seem paralysed and dithered until sunrise whereby he closed on the bridge and engaged whatever French he could see with rifle fire.
|Sunrise - surprise!|
Through a combination of unfortunate rolling, cautious decision making and a seeming aversion to risk what few troops he had, Astor failed to achieve the bridge before sun-up. Having formed an arc about the Villa end of the bridge, the Rifles appeared to be playing defensively and with full light restored at turn seven (7), everyone could see sentries on the bridge. At this point, fire poured out from the villa where another company of Voltigeurs had been waiting.
The alarm was thus raised and Grant rolled well for the guard to emerge from their billets the following turn. The initiative and element of surprise was certainly well and truly lost by Astor. Not only was he being faced off by superior numbers, but from behind buildings and the village stone walls which commanded the river from the French side. To make maters worse, the following turn (nine) Grant rolled well for the immediate appearance of supporting cavalry - a squadron of hussars which arrived by the church.
By this time, posted sentries on the hills about the church moved together with the hussars toward the river and forced a crossing down-stream from Burro; threatening the rear of the Rifles. The crossing was hard going; however, and at half speed. With a poor Staff Rating, Major Tron was unable to hurry even his cavalry - despite their Marauding ability of ignoring distance penalties for receiving orders, they either moved once per turn under own Initiative or Grant failed his command rolls.
When they finally did get across and behind the Rifles, it was already turn eleven (11) and Astor's Light Dragoons and artillery had arrived. Unlimbering immediately, they opened up on the Voltiguers in the villa and began taking a toll - eventually forcing it's abandonment. At the same time, Grant had rolled for more Hussars and they appeared behind the British front, on the left of their side of the table. Limited by his ongoing command restrictions, they too only made it one move before Matt in his turn rolled for the appearance of a squadron of KGL Hussars who appear immediately to the rear of the recently arrived French cavalry!
|The Vistula Lancers appear on the British side of the Greco|
and French Hussars join after seeing off the KGL. But there
are more Light Dragoons ahead.
Curiously, there was only one instance where anyone's cavalry charged down on infantry and that was toward the end when Matt committed a squadron of Light Dragoons against a relieving company of Voltiguers who had crossed over the Bridge. Amazingly, they succeeded in fighting off the horsemen and kept their ground - stalwart fellows!
Sometime after midday (turn 16) Grant began dicing for the arrival of the French main column - none too successfully. Over the course of the following eight (8) turns, he only managed to get two battalions of foot (without skirmishers) and the General de Brigade down the road toward the bridge. The first battalion to arrived was checked almost immediately by the appearance of more KGL Hussars from out of the corn field behind Burro. Forming square, they eventually saw the cavalry off but had choked the road and caused a significant delay. The appearance of a further squadron of British Light Dragoons by the river on the French side made the approach to Burro far from certain for Grant.
|The beginning of the end ... for Astor|
Nevertheless, Grant had managed to march two infantry battalions toward his objective and it seems improbable that Matt could achieve his - the destruction of the bridge. Matt's Major Astor had only one more card to play - he knew that the bridge was heavily mined with powder and it appeared the French did not. It was agreed that there would be a chance, albeit a slim one, that a lucky shot from his gun might detonate the charge and blow the bridge sky-high.
The bridge over the Greco was an old stone structure but with a wooden deck. It was agreed that is he could hit it on a roll of six (6), then roll a further six (6) would set off the charge underneath. Looking back, I'm surprised none of us came up with the idea earlier. With so much enemy cavalry movement about; however, getting the gun into position was difficult and in the end Matt only got two shots off and neither of them successful.
|Cavalry everywhere and time to move that gun. By days end, this|
was all of the table-top left in British hands.
I think the scenario played out very well and all agreed it was enormous fun. It took us about six hours to play but might have cut that time down with greater familiarity with the Black Powder rules. Grant was of the opinion that whilst great fun, there was too much cavalry and a 2in6 chance for their appearance would have been better.
The British player needs to make best use of the dark and push hard for the bridge. Attacking from several different approaches at once and leaving the half-movement STEALTH advantage until getting closer to the bridge may have served Matt better. Even if observed and contacted, another company may avoid detection depending upon the sentry and patrolling patterns of the French player.
Black Powder firing and especially skirmisher firing can be devastating but in this game, in spite of everyone blasting away turn after turn, it wasn't until the afternoon turns that units began to break. The British need to take risks - do or die. Certainly, a better commander capable of pushing his troops harder would have had significant advantages. If rolling two or even three under a Command roll enables a unit so commanded to move two or three times per turn. At STEALTH movement rates, a good roll would enable the Rifles to move up to 18" over even ground. With a poor commander like Matt's Major Astor, this was next to impossible.
When DISTURBING cattle or pigs, it is prudent to remove the unit using cover of darkness. Matt failed to do this and Grant could have sent a company to investigate but Grant preferred not to leave the confines of the Villa or Bridge and had allowed for no patrols. Perhaps he was right to.
This was the first of four games we played this weekend (different era, scales and rules) before I'm posted overseas for a couple of years. It's going to be some time between games. Between the three of us we have a couple of thousand figures and play at a 1/20 representative scale in favour or big battalions.We could have set up for a massive bash but I have to say, this evolving skirmish 'pre-battle' was something different and great fun. Fighting with skirmishers and squadrons rather than regiments is dynamic and enjoyable.