Sunday, July 19, 2015

Battle of Halle - When Real Life is a Metaphor for the AAR

So we fought out the second battle of Halle yesterday and evening (1:30-10:30 pm), and it was a WWF wrestle mania of an affair featuring the entire French army, all of the surviving brigades of the Anglo-Allied army and almost all if the Prussian army.  There were about 300,000 troops represented on a huge battlefield.

And it went like my dinner.  We ordered pizza from a national chain, and I risked a pizza that met my dietary restrictions on paper (gluten free and milk free).  But something bit me back and it turned into a religious experience involving much prayer at the shrine of the porcelain goddess when I got back home.  And that is kinda how the game went... down the flusher...

For the second day in a row the Anglo Allied army took on the bulk of the French army on a flat Belgian plain devoid of shelter or terrain.  This time Boney set up a Grand Battery and used a cavalry threat to force me into squares.  They were vaporizing a brigade a turn, while leaving their infantry out of musket range.  They obviously learned from the first day when the redcoats' fire was deadly.

The Prussians arrived in force, sooner than expected and much closer to me than I expected, but Boney was able to screen them and focus on me.  Meanwhile, aided by my atrocious activation rolls early on and a triple epic fail on a cavalry charge later on, the column led by Ney moved off board to threaten our supply line.

Bottom line

  • Anglo-Allies broken in the field for the second day running and forced to retire.
  • French achieved victory by exiting twelve units off the road to our supply lines.
  • Anglo Allies and Prussians damage the French Army, but not enough yo break them n the field of battle of knock them out of the campaign.
  • French victory in the campaign.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

100 Days Campaign - Battle of Halle pt 2 (or Not Dead Yet)

So today our 100 days campaign likely winds up with an all in all out slug fest in the second day of the Battle of Halle (our campaign map spells it Hal, but everywhere else has is as Halle and Halle looks classier).  We invade Curt's house for an afternoon cum pizza cum evening battle.  The map at day break looks as follows.

Curt has got out the "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" machine and downscaled the armies by 1/3 (see the post) to fit the entire thing on one 4x8 foot table.

The French can win the whole thing in four different ways.

  1. Knock the Anglo-Allied army our of action permanently
  2. Knock the Prussian Army out of action permanently
  3. Exit a sufficient force off board at the road at B1.
  4. Exit a sufficient force off board at Brussels in A6.
The allies can win by avoid all of the above, or by knocking the French army out of action permanently.  As Curt has noted, all three armies have been knocked about a bit and could be crippled today.

In the first days action (AAR), the Anglo Allied army faced the full French Army and was forced to retreat North, while Ney took a column off table to the west and threatens our supply chain at B1.  Meanwhile the Prussians missed their appointed date with Ney en transit and showed up just as the Brits broke.  Boney has the main French force facing the Prussian advance guard to the south of Halle.

I have a really good idea of the French numbers and locations and only a foggy knowledge of the Prussian numbers and location (this was a constant theme during the campaign).  I have been assured that they will appear and cross the river between Braine le Compte and Halle, but Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny might also appear at the same locations....

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Grog, the Civilized Version

We are having the hottest weekend so far this summer, with temps at 30C with the humidex at 36C and now a Tornado watch.  For those of you still measuring distances in medieval Kings' body parts and temps based on sick Germans, I don't know the translation to Farenheit.

So we went for the modern reboot of18th Century Naval Grog -Mojitos.  Actually the recipe is not that different: rum, sugar, soda water, lime, mint.  Very refreshing, and the mint camefrom the garden.

Friday, July 10, 2015

100 Days Campiaign Decision Points - The Lead Up to Placenoit

With our 100 Days Campaign close to winding up, I thought I would look back on some key decision points based on the information available to me at the time.  To start with, I will revisit the lead into and follow up from the Battle of Placenoit.

The map below shows what the Anglo-Allied army knew and saw after the action at Placenoit, but gives useful references for the lead in.  Note that a column can move 6 squares/day by road, 3 if moving cross-country.  Also a standard battle would set up a 3*2 set of squares on a 6*4 table.

The campaign starts about ½ way through June 15 and the Anglo-Allied forces are essentially spread all over the place. We had two small columns (R and S on the map) at Nivelles and Quartre Bras.  Wellington entered at Brussels with a larger column T and our cavalry enters on the west end of the map as column U.

For our army, the early objectives were
  1. Get our widespread columns together in one group.  The most obvious place being the Mt. St. Jean area as it was both central and blocked a main route North for Boney.
  2. Try and figure out what the French were planning to attack, which became much easier as a strong French column arrived at Quartre Bras and drove our defending column North.  There is an overrun mechanism in the rules that displaces smaller forces facing huge odds without a battle, and that is what was employed here.
  3.  Link up with our Prussian allies.  To this end we received a rather cryptic note from Blucher stating “Meet you at Mt. St. Jean on the 16th”. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Prussian, but figured that Blucher would be on the road south east of Mt St Jean with a column of Prussians.   As the morning of the 16th played out, the French moved North and the various Anglo-Allied forces closed in on a junction at Placenoit.  There was also apparently contact to the east as French columns moved on Prussian forces at Sombreffe and then towards Gembloux.

However it was the Prussians who caught us all unawares as they shifted most of their army west and had moved into Placenoit before any Anglo-Allied troops could.  Under the Blucher system up to two columns from the same army can occupy a square, but columns from two different armies cannot (except for during battle).  So since the Prussians won the foot race, the Anglo Allied columns got pushed aside and our plans to centralize our forces got postponed.  Also, it meant that only one of my columns (T) got to take part in the action as the French came north to Genappes since columns R and S were elbowed off to the west by the Teutonic hordes.

I have blogged on the action at Placenoit earlier, but have some afterthoughts given what I know now.           
  • I think the French had hoped to catch elements of the Anglo-Allied army and do enough damage to knock us out of the fight for a while.  They were as surprised as I at the number of Prussians, so once the Prussians arrived in force it turned into an exercise of testing our combined strength and gathering information.
  •  From our perspective at the time, we had to hold Placenoit for the afternoon and gather more forces for the 17th.    There were a large number of French coming our way and initially the Anglo Allied forces were outnumbered.  We had no idea how many French were following up behind, nor for that matter how many Prussians were showing up.
  •  The Prussians apparently had a master plan, but never bothered to tell their allies what it was!  The idea seemed to be that they had enough troops to attack the French and hopefully do them some harm.  They might have had a chance at this if we had coordinated the efforts of both armies, but the Prussians didn’t want to let us in on the plan and in fact seemed very much of the opinion that they didn’t need us.

In fact Curt has since confirmed that the combined Allied forces had the French outnumbered at Placenoit.  However to have a chance of success I think three things had to happen.
  1. We needed more time.  There was only half a day left n the 16th and the Prussians were still arriving in column as the action started.
  2.  We needed much better coordination between the two armies.  Parts of the Anglo Allied army were blocked from entering the table and the plan wasn’t communicated well at all.
  3. The French had to stick around and let us attack them.  This to me was the biggest problem, since I think that the French have the imitative and get to call the shots on when and where we fight.  With their superior cavalry forces I think it would have been easy for Boney to pull back south and draw us forward after him.

Apparently the French was scared by what they ran into because they pulled out overnight.  Curt’s map above shows the situation