Return to the Lovely Russian Countryside
One thing we want to add to our skirmish battles are new scenarios. This battle we tried out a scenario based on taking ground and holding it until the end of the game. On the rather barren table we put three objectives along the middle of the table, and each player got one objective that was sligthly more towards their own table edge. At the end of the seventh turn, the player controlling the most objectives (i.e. being closest to them) would win the scenario.
Shirty immediately put my French force to shame in the most efficient way: by plunking down his new deployment points on the table, depicting the horrors of the battlefield. With no nice looking deployment points to counter with, the French captain could merely stew at this Russian show of hobby supremacy.
As if to make his point even clearer, he also had a mobile deployment point vignette, depicting the horses left by his dismounted Cossacks! These he put down dangerously close to an objective point, and suitably enough just next to the lone stables.
The game kicked off with both the Russians and the French deploying line infantry formations, staring each other down across the table.
The Russian commander was more alert than his French counterpart. When he saw the French at the horizon, he quickly call for support. With the help of a good draw of cards, the French line infantrymen are soon staring down three Russian formations. The line infantrymen are flanked by a formation of veteran Carabinieris on the left a bunch of fresh recruits on their right: poor in quality, but ready to do their duty.
A French cannon opens fire on the approaching Russian lines. But the target is outside of canister range, and the bouncing roundshot is not disruptive enough to halt them.
Cannon in Sharp Practice 2 requires two activations to reload, so it can't fire every turn. This is a medium cannon, and at long range it is about as deadly as 12 men firing with muskets. But if the Russians get close enough I can fire with canister, which doubles inflicted shock. So not so dangerous on the attack, but a powerful defensive tool.
A Cavalry Duel, Again? What Were the Odds?
The Russians keep pouring onto the table, while the rest of my French infantry refuses to get out of their sleeping tents. In the second turn, the Russian line is reinforced with skirmishers and another new addition: Shirty's second unit of lance-wielding Cossacks!
Thankfully, the French cavalry prooves to be more reliable than the infantry, and a lancer formation appears to back the increasingly outmanned line infantry. A lone unit of dragoons turn up on the far end of the table, hoping to keep the Cossacks from rushing towards the cannon. This was before I painted up two new units, so yet again they have to join the fray as a very small, vulnerable unit.
The French dragoons are, by now, painfully aware of the role they end up playing in every game this far. Let's just say it is a very expendable role. They rapidly advance to plug the gap between the woods and table edge, blocking the path to the cannon with their bodies.
Meanwhile, two units of Voltigeur skirmishes finally catch up with their parent unit. They form up in front of the French line, and starts to snipe at the Russian lines. The Russian officers, clearly a bit hesitant due to the large body of lancers, seem a bit hesitant. Is it wise to advance? Far off in the distance, a formation of French foot carabiniers arrive, ready to defend the cannon if the Cossacks break through.
A Clash of Hooves
The French dragoons have the initiative. With the choice of receiving a charge or getting stuck in first, they decide to at least go out with a bang!
The combat odds are quite even, despite the dragoons being outnumbered 2:1, as they are of a higher fighting quality. However, their main disadvantage in this duel is that they don't afford taking any casualties.
Despite the French elan, the Cossacks are victorious! They push the Dragoons back, leaving several troopers killed, and the dragoon leader steels his remaining troopers for the inevitable attack. To little surprise, the dragoons are then wiped out, even though they drag several Cossacks down with them. But will there be enough time for the celebrating horsemen to wheel around and have an impact on the rest of the battle?
Clash of Hooves II: Equestrian Bugaloo
The Russian and French infantry formations edge close to each other, under a hail of long range fire from the skirmishers. Facing a 3 on 1 situation, the proud French infantry knows what to do: attack! The line marches through the skirmish line, aims, and shower the Russians in lead.
The French lancers, eager to prove their worth, see the opening. dig their heels in and pounce towards the Russian centre formation. By spending two command cards, they can use their "Tally Ho!" special ability to not only get a longer move, but also deal extra attacks in combat. With their opponents in some disarray, the odds are looking very favourable for the lancers. If they can make contact, that is! I measured the distance, and it would be about a 50-50 chance. Lets roll!
Let's roll two inches too short!
But the danger is not over for the Russian company. As the lancers thunder towards him, the quick-thinking Russian officer rapidly forms his men into a square. He's now safe from the pesky cavalrymen, but the Russian attack is halted. Meanwhile, the poor formation of fresh recruits seen in the foreground above realize that they are now the most tempting target in range. Their officer barks out orders to present their weapons and aim, ready to either receive a charge or start firing on the approaching lancers.
The French lancers are obviously proud enough to consider a bunch of raw recruits an easy pray, even though they are completely unharmed and bracing for impact, with loaded and presented muskets. Obviously Shirty knows my weakness by now: I'm second only to British cavalry when it comes to charge at everything, every time. Needless to say, the lancers sweer off course and crash into the raw recruits instead of the square hedghog that was their original goal.
It's an absolute carnage. The two units that receive the charge lose the fisticuffs, and are pushed back. But the lancers take heavy casualites, since the infantrymen had presented and were unaffected by shock. The remaining two units of Russians evidently had ice instead of blood in their veins, because the simply wheeled around, and let loose with a volley on the lancers who were about to pursue the retreating units.
The carnage continued as the French cannon, seeing the distress of the cavalry, piled in and pounded the retreating Russians. But the musketry from the remaining troops were too much for the lancers, and they decide to head off from the field as quickly as possible.
At this point we had a dilemma. According to the rules, we had several distrupted units of lancers and recruits, all milling around in various stages of routing. This single lancer charge had cost both sides about half the Morale points available for the entire game, and the game could pretty much end here, with both players just forcing more morale losses by shooting at retreating units. This felt unreasonable, given that this entire fight involved maybe 10% of our forces. So we settled on removing both French and Russian routers, and then continue the game to reach a more suitable finale. This is when our optional rules for better Morale were born.
The Russian Curse
By now we were rapidly approaching the last turn of the scenario. It was clear that the French carabiniers might as well be deployed on the Champs de Mars, because they'd be just as likely to get close to combat in time. Both side's cavalry were either dead or too far away and weakened to do anything. The surviving Russian recruits were still thanking their lucky stars that they were standing on the right side of the line that day, and not the left side.
With the French elite infantry far away, it would be down to the single formation of line infantry to fend off the remaining two Russian formations.
And then, as if by some mysterious force, the Russians seemed to be dull and slow to react, while the French lieutenant rushed back and forth, urging his men to fire another volley. And another volley again.
The Russians in the square seemed unwilling to redeploy and approach the French, who suddenly seemed to fire and reload with an unholy speed. The Russian carabinieris knew that it was now up to them to carry the day. Slowly, but steadily, the fixed their bayonets and got ready. It was time to show the French invaders once and for all. These pesky fusiliers would be no match in close combat. They charged forward, with a loud "huzzah! huzzah!"....
The final French volley ripped loose, just as the first rank of carabinieris were just meters (1 inch!!) away. The point blank fire cut a huge swath through the Russians, who were stopped in their tracks. Just then, the flanking French skirmishers added their firepower to the crescendo, and it was over. The survivers pulled back, dragging comrades with them as they made their retreat. It was over.
Yet again, the battle between the French and Russians had been settled by a failed carabinieri charge. It's insane, but true. This time it was a mere inch missing! I feel bad for Shirty, I really do.
At the same time, I also missed out barely on a charge, and I do believe that it was the right option to try both of the lancer charges. If the first one had hit, it would have been a good chance to disrupt his entire center. Instead, I got into a much worse charge, but it was an entertaining one! So in that way, it was worth it.
My left flank was completely wasted. I should have deployed the cannon closer to the action so that I could have used the canisters. Then I could maybe have gotten some use out of the main investment of my army, the carabiniers who ended up deploying after half the game, and then just move forwards twice. Instead, it was the plucky line infantry who were my heroes of the day. Despite their skirmish screen snoozing, and despite being vastly outnumbered, they really pulled double duty, advancing into the jaws of death and beating back the superior Russians with volley after deadly volley. They're definitely getting a proper flag after this!
But to be honest, a lot of the reason why the line infantry could appear so heroic was because the Russians just couldn't draw the right activations. The line infantry unit started out sluggish, and wouldn't redeploy into line or attack column quickly enough after the lancers passed them by. The carabinieris came closer, but with enough shock stacked on them they just couldn't get to grips with my troops, and were carved up by musket fire.
All in all it was a great game, and it was down to the wire at the last turn. I think the scenario worked well, as the multiple objectives made us spread out our forces, and the turn limit put a definite pressure on us to advance quickly. I'll happy play it again.
"Glory is fleeting,