Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Carnage & Glory II - Peninsular War Training Mission

 Reverse Slope Tactics & British Brigade Light Battalions

General "Black Bob" Craufurd at Bussaco

This Bank Holiday Monday Tom and I set up a "Training Game" to run through the British "Reverse Slope" tactics as played in Carnage & Glory II. I took a few pictures of this run through to make a visual record of the play test and Tom captured our orders and reactions in notes as we went.

As a follow up to last weekend's game we used French and British brigades used in "Action at Ventosa" and set the game up on the same terrain but with nothing "fancier" than a ridge position with a "Military Crest" identified as suggested in the rules.

British Order of Battle

French Order of Battle
Following our game last weekend I contacted Nigel Marsh the author of the rules. Nigel provides an excellent back up service to any new players, like myself, by responding to messages on the Yahoo group at the speed of light, always with a full and informative response to questions.

I wanted to clarify how to play British Reverse Slope tactics and the use of the combined brigade light companies that the British used to cover the front of these positions as their skirmish screen.
Thus following Nigel's detailed response and his thinking when putting the rules together, Tom and I set up the following play test.

I have left the range stick visible in some of the pictures to give an indication of scale. The game was set up to one inch to fifty paces, about 37.5 yards.

The British were on Defend orders and naturally the French on Attack and from Turn one we went though the play sequence of Movement, Firing, Close Combat, Rally and End Turn, during which both sides activate their units as we go.

British Set Up
The picture above shows the initial set up for the British with the military crest marked up and the British front line battalions over 75 paces from it to be considered out of sight. The Light battalion is on the forward slope 150 paces from their supports covering a 275 pace frontage in open order.

French Set Up
The French were deployed as above in double company columns and unlimbered artillery in support.

French Move Turn 1
Turns one and two were simple moves with the British having the initiative, but choosing not to move themselves, thus allowing the French columns to trundle forward at 450 paces, and with the artillery limbering up and following in their wake. The British guns fired during both moves causing 16 casualties on the nearer Legere battalion and 17 casualties on the centre Ligne battalion.

British Fire Turn 1

French Move Turn 2

British Fire Turn 2
Turn three was when things got interesting and I have numbered the units as per the order of battle to help illustrate the move.

French initiative
Movement Phase Turn 3
1. French 107 declares charge on British 505, successfully with a total charge move of 525 paces available to the unit.
2. French columns 108 and 109 advance on to the ridge with their skirmish lines detecting the British defenders.
3. French artillery move up limbered
4. British artillery prolong back 75 paces.
5. British battalions 502 and 503 advance onto the crest line.
6. British 505 is pinned by the charge to their front.

French Move/Charge Turn 3

French Move-Charge Turn 3 from the French View Point
Firing Phase Turn 3
108 fires at 502 causing 10 casualties
109 fires at 503 causing 21 casualties
502 fires at 108 causing 53 casualties
503 fires at 109 causing 118 casualties
505 skirmishes with 107 during the charge causing 15 casualties and reacts by falling back 150 paces
The British guns were silent as the advancing redcoats moved forward into their canister zone.

Fire!! Turn 3
Close Combat Phase Turn 3
505 having fallen back exposed 503 to the charge of 107
The French win the combat losing 23 casualties and inflicting 31 causing 503 to fall back 150 paces.

 Reactions Turn 3
French initiative
Movement Phase Turn 4
109 and 107 charge 503 reforming after being pushed back
108 charges 502
French artillery moves to flank the ridge position
505 falls back behind main line
Note the French charge markers at the back indicating how far the French charges can continue too should they break through.

Move Turn 4
Firing & Charge Reactions Turn 4
502 stands the charge and fires at 108 causing 142 casualties
503 fails to stand and falls back through 501, 300 paces
501 fires at the chargers 50% on each causing 60 casualties on 107 and 72 casualties on 109
108 fires at 502 causing 10 casualties
107 fires at 501 causing 10 casualties
109 fires at 501 causing 11 casualties
502 counter-charges 108 which breaks and retreats 250 paces

Close Combat Turn 4
107 and 109 charges 501 , French win losing 12 casualties and inflicting 19
501 retreats 300 paces.

Move Turn 5
We then played through two more turns with the remaining French columns tiring and eventually forced to halt their advance. The British 71st Highlanders (503) remained to their front also halted.

On the other side of the ridge French unit 108's retreat turned into a rout which the French General was unable to attend to given that he was rather busy else where. This freed up British units 502 and 504 to start to wheel onto the flanks of the remaining French columns, although they too were forced by Brigade fatigue to stop their advance.

The end of game stats are below clearly showing the damage inflicted and the "knackered" state of both forces.

We ended the test at this stage with a Major Victory to the British defenders.
End Turn 5

British Casualties at Game End
French Casualties at Game End
The Results Table
Play tests are a valuable method of learning the rules and seeing what units will do. From this game we replicated the classic British move when unit 502 halted the charge of unit 108 with a crashing volley causing 142 casualties and were rewarded with the option to counter-charge immediately following, which, taken up, broke the French unit and sent it recoiling down the ridge.
In addition the British Light Bobs behaved as predicted in Nigel's message by firing at the charging French column and then retiring behind the British line in support.
On reflection Tom and I thought we could have played a three up one back formation with the British brigade thus matching the French columns one for one with a reserve battalion at the back to cover any problems. This would have probably been a better tactic given all three French units were over 1000 men strong, so took some stopping!
Tom is now looking forward to trying out his "new lessons learned" in our next game. More later.


  1. Replies
    1. Hi Paul,
      Thank you. I am really looking forward to getting several units of heavy cavalry on the table , because when you see two forces battered like these two at the end of one and a half hours of battle, just imagine what a big cavalry attack might achieve. Salamanca here we come!!

  2. Jonathan,
    I think this is a great way to experience the overall capabilities of the system.
    Not all games have to be grand affairs involving countless units and multiple commands.

    I think your opponent Tom should remember that the French fought the British and their allies for seven consecutive years in the Peninsula and in all that time no French general was ever able to effectively 'crack the code' and come up with a reliable method to outwit the British reverse slope tactic. They came close at two engagements both fought in 1811. At Fuentes d'Onoro Massena attempted to out maneuver and outflank the British positions, and at Albuera, Soult probably came closest when he attempted a grand-tactical outflanking maneuver. In both actions the French largely precluded the British exploitation of reverse slope positions, by effectively choosing the ground where their assaults were to be decided, rather than merely accepting the positions presented to them by the defending British and their allies.

    The only other advise I can offer would be this. He who has the last reserves will normally prevail, and don't expect to win all across the board. Focus on one point and achieve maximum strength superiority at that location. Trying to make a break through with equal opposing forces will rarely be successful, concentrate and always have the last fresh unit.

    All the best

    1. Hi Nigel,
      Thanks for your comments and a great game system. The more I play C&GII the more I start to see things that the game has to offer that I haven't seen with other rule sets.

      I think in addition to Fuentes and Albuera you could also include Talavera where Wellesley was forced by his Spanish allies to occupy ground not totally of his choosing. The battle that resulted left a large part of his force in relatively open ground in the centre, exposed to artillery fire. The casualties from the battle reflect how hard his army was pushed by the French.

      The fatigue system is a brilliant design, to force commanders to behave historically, by looking to keep a fresh reserve at hand to be able to rescue a hard pressed defence or to capitalise on pressure caused in previous attacks. That aspect is very difficult to model in paper based rule sets, but the computer is able to model the effect effortlessly. Having now played out a very simple attack and defence scenario I am much clearer on what the potential is in much larger games that I am planning to play later on. I was very much inspired by your game of Talavera and I am keen to do something similar in 18mm.

      In the mean time we will be playing scenario games to build up our experience with the rules as I start to increase my forces for some larger games. I am also looking forward to your much anticipated campaign system. I am really interested in using the system to its full potential by having units gain in experience through a campaign.

      Thanks again