The French army views the Russian position.
I know at only 250 points it would be expensive to bring the Guard but I did anyway. 2 infantry corps accompanied Napoleon and his guard along with 120 guns. Drouot, my artillery commander, rounded out the French force totaling 14 units. With Nappy being a "Legend", my army morale would be 7.
Russians deploy on their hill defending the crossroads objective.
When I arrived Chris had already set the board and the scenario to save time. We set the victory conditions making the town at the crossroads a 2 point objective. The farm in the valley and the hill on the road would be 1 point each. This configuration allowed for a draw outcome and would make the Russians have to move from their deplyment zone to contest 2 of them. We thought this fair and the battle began.
French Turn 1. II and III Corps advance against the Russian left.
French Guard heavy artillery take position overlooking the valley on the left
The French Plan. The Russians had a strong position with both flanks guarded by woods and their main body deployed on a hill at the crossroads. They outnumbered the French with a numerical superiority of guns as well. Any thoughts of winning this scenario by objectives quickly disappeared. The plan was simple - break the Russian morale. My two infantry corps would attack the Russian left. The Guard heavy guns would take up a position on the hill on my left providing overwatch on my flank while the remainder of the Guard Corps would stay in reserve. I would try to play to my advantages. The Russians on defense gain a bonus in melee while the French advantage is the Skirmish trait. This would be an infantry battle at long range. Wear my opponent down in firefights before launching advantageous charges into his lines. This is why I spread most of my artillery out amongst the brigades to beef up the firepower.
The Chevau-leger of III Corps advanced and screened the line of sight between the hill and the light woods allowing the infantry to reserve move up and gain some early ground. This maneuver was repeated by II Corps on their left. Now let's see what Chris will do. Russian I Corps advanced to contest the hill objective while his cavalry corps advanced to threaten the flank of the advancing II Corps. Russian heavy guns from II Corps conducted counter-battery fire on the Guard artillery. Rolling only 3 dice Chris rolled two 6s forcing the Guard guns to retire from the battle! So it's going to be one of those nights, eh? This was a major setback for the French losing essentially 17 points from the battle and fire support. Drouot had no artillery to command so he was wasted as well.
Drouot and staff search for the Guard 12-pounders. What the...?
The French attack begins
III Corps engages and the firefight begins. II Corps brigades prepare positions against the threatening Russian cavalry. Guard lancers charge annoying Cossacks.
After losing my Guard artillery early, I saw my next deployment error. Infantry of the Guard were deployed within range of those same Russian guns and took an unnecessary hit. Chris advanced his cavalry placing his Cossacks well forward. Now I was forced to move my Guard and give up the opportunity for a timely reserve move later in the battle. My hand was tipped as I repositioned my forces to support the attack while keeping the Guard out of range of his pesky artillery. I should have deployed my reserve BEHIND the hill. 20+ games of Blucher you think I should know better!
The Middle Guard take cover behind the hill while Drouot continues looking for his missing artillery.
Guard Lancers repulsed by Cossacks! Again, what the...?
This was another disappointment in a series of disappointing French attacks. Concentrated fire on the Russians guns (8 dice) never resulted in more than one hit so while it did keep the Russian heavy guns from firing every turn due to retreats, the horse guns simply moved back up and fired into my lines. Skirmish fire between the two lines was a draw and it is here I had hoped to win the attrition battle but, alas, no. The occasional "6" was never supported with a "first 5" for my skirmish trait. Thankfully Chris made the fateful statement, "I've never charged prepared infantry with cavalry." I responded, "It is your army. Do as you wish.". He did.
2 Russian cavalry brigades charged each French square! I needed my troops to hold and II Corps withstood the cavalry onslaught inflicting heavy loss to the Russians. A total of 8 hits had to be absorbed while my brigades took a hit a piece. Now I needed to somehow deal with those Russian guns. They were killing me and losses were mounting.
Desperate times call for desperate measures! The French light cavalry hurl themselves at the Russian guns. 1 brigade has already been sacrificed from II Corps while III Corps courageously fights on!
The situation was getting desperate. My army had already lost 3 brigades and on the verge of losing a fourth - the III Corps light cavalry. The Guard guns disappeared early and most of my remaining brigades were worn. Three brigades of the Guard moved to support II Corps while a fresh brigade in III Corps moved forward to relieve its worn companions. It was only a matter of time before the Russians unleashed their fresh Corps into the fray. Napoleon needed something to happen NOW!
Guard cavalry move to positions supporting II Corps. Russians activate their II Corps but only to advance a brigade to take the farm.
The battle rages around the hill objective. A series of attacks and counter-attacks see the loss of the Russian horse guns and a determined III Corps cavalry brigade driving off their heavy pieces and now screen the Russian grenadiers.
A view from the Russian lines shows how worn they are becoming as well.
Fortunes begin to change for the French. Russian fire dwindles as Chris begins to roll ice cubes. He couldn't buy a hit on the French while my skirmish trait starts paying dividends. The heroics of III Corps cavalry inspire French troops all along the line and they actually survive the hard fight and withdraw to safety behind the lines! At this point I still have only taken 3 hits to my army morale and the Russians losses have caught up. I need a quick and decisive push before Russian reserves relieve their battered comrades.
The Russian send a brigade to forage the farmland while the remaining forces play spectator to the events unfolding on the battlefield
Napoleon gallops up and issues stern orders to finish the Russians
There is no time to wait. French Guard cavalry charge and overwhelm a Russian brigade while infantry reposition to refuse the left and renew attacks on the beleagured Russian I Corps.
Nappy remains near the crux of the fighting...
...while Russian cavalry circle around to the French rear
Following up their success, the Guard cavalry turn on the worn Russian defenders. III Corps renews their attack on the Russians with a charge of their own. The Grenadiers a Cheval run down their opponents. With only 2 hits remaining, the Dutch Red lancers and the Russian dragoons eliminate each other! III Corps infantry overruns the tired Russian defenders. The Russian army breaks!
Turn 17 and the battle is won
Despite early setbacks, the French were victorious for two reasons - Chris went ice cold at the critical point in the battle and he never used his fresh reserves. To Chris' defense, I have well over 20 games under my belt while he has a handful at best. If he were more experienced he might have seen early on I had no intentions of winning by objectives so parking troops to defend them was unnecessary. Those reserves could have put enormous pressure on my left flank and relieved the worn forces on his left. That is an enormous drain on MO dice and takes some finesse retiring units from the front lines and replacing them with reserves but it beats the alternative of not using half your army. The heroics of the French light cavalry cannot be understated! They were key to this victory.
Chris is a quick study and I am certain every battle from here on in will be tougher and tougher. I welcome the challenge!
I hope you enjoyed the battle and, until next time...