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.

Saturday 25 May 2013

42nd Royal Highland Foot Regiment

No British Napoleonic collection should be without the 42nd Highland Foot, and certainly no Peninsular War collection. Having completed my series of games looking at the Vimiero campaign, I am now thinking about the army commanded by Sir John Moore and the battle of Corunna.

The 42nd Highlanders made their debut in this battle and were heavily involved in the fighting about the town of Elvina, after being encouraged by the General to remember their feats at the battle of Alexandria. It was members of the regiment who carried the mortally wounded Sir John from the field of battle.

For more information on the history of the regiment during the Napoleonic wars follow the link

My battalion in composed of figures from Campaign Games Miniatures, with the mounted Colonel from AB and the skirmishers from Fantassin. I really like the CGM figures, giving a burly highlander ready to close with the bayonet. My only criticism is their bayonets, not quite long enough for my taste, but I think, in 18mm, I can live with them. The flags are from the superb GMB range.

British Infantry Facings & Lacings - Corunna

With my focus moving to looking at the events leading up to, and the battle of, Corunna, I have posted a list of British Infantry battalions by brigade, for the battle, with their Facings and Lace details. The strengths for Corunna are based on estimates as the strengths for these units are not recorded on the day, probably because they had other things on their mind at that time!

They are available to download as a PDF under My Resources and Downloads


Tuesday 21 May 2013

Vimeiro Light - Carnage & Glory Files

As promised I have posted the updated files for Carnage & Glory II to play the two scenarios posted,Vimeiro  Hill and Action at Ventosa. They can be downloaded as a RAR file from My Scenarios labelled Vimeiro Light Scenario - Carnage & Glory.

I have made the changes as mentioned in my posts, and as with the Rolica file included the Officer and Unit labels for each game.

British Facings & Lacings for the Vimeiro Campaign

For those who would find it useful, I have put together the detail I have gathered on the colours of British infantry facings and lace, by brigade, for units that took part in the battles of Rolica and Vimeiro.

You can find the PDF in my Resources and Downloads section

Monday 20 May 2013

Action at Ventosa - Carnage & Glory II

After all the preparation and setting up, the day finally arrived to play out our first game on the new table and to complete the play testing of the "Vimeiro Light" two part scenario, having played the "Vimeiro Hill" game a couple of weeks ago at Legionary.

French Elite Company Men at the time of Ventosa

My previous post outlined the terrain set up and the effort to create blocked sight lines around Ventosa, to enable us to try out some of the other concepts that need more work with, such as the "Reverse Slope" tactics as laid out in the rules. This together with the use of blinds would help keep the French commanders "in the dark" as to exactly what British troops, were where, at any given time until spotted, and simulate the British ambush potential.

 Table Map

British & French Orders of Battle
The two sides are evenly matched with the French advantage of All Arms and slight Numerical Superiority, being countered by the British Quality and Command advantages, having a Senior commander (Fergusson) in  charge of both brigades.

The lack of a superior commander with the French meant that Brennier and Solignac were forced to act independently, with Brennier appearing on the British left flank at any time between turns four to nine. I was hoping to try out the flank march system on C&GII, but made the error of putting Brennier in as Officer 101 which identified him to the programme as the Army Commander instead of a separate commander with just his force. Thus I couldn't detach Solignac and Brenniers brigades when giving the flank march set up. In version two of the order of battle I will put Junot in as officer 101 but obviously he will not be present in the battle. This should remedy the problem. Now you can see why I wanted to playtest these games before releasing any orders of battle I have put together!!

So rather than re-write the order of battle we turned to the old mark one die roll to determine the French arrival with a six being required on turn four, a five or six on turn five etc, etc.

The other innovation we tried out was to allow the British to place "blind" markers down in the positions their two brigades occupied on the table. Thus the French would still know where the British were, but not exactly what units were in the blinds represented and in what formation. To save on writing, Steve, the British commander simply laid out the troops on duplicate markers off table in the set up they would be in when placed on table. The blinds, sideways on, indicating a deployed brigade's maximum set up width with no limit on its depth. If the blind is placed end on towards the enemy it would be in manoeuvre mode, with the narrow end being the maximum deployment width and all units in company/squadron/limbered formation.

 French cannon announce the arrival of General Solignac's men in front of Ventosa
With the scenario briefing covered off together with Reverse Slope rules and Flank Marches we turned our attention to the best way of running the British Brigade Light Battalions. The issue we encountered in the Vimiero Hill game was that these battalions, being very weak in comparison to the French and British Line battalions are very vulnerable to French columns charging at them when performing their normal screening activities. If placed in open order they can be easily pushed aside before getting any chance to out skirmish the French Voltigeur screens.

Our remedy was to allow the British brigades to declare that the Lights were operating as brigade skirmishers, just like their Voltigeur counterparts. This meant that the Light Battalion could not be targeted for charges made by French columns. Any charge declaration would have to be made on a battalion in the brigade that the Lights were drawn from. This would allow the Lights to do their usual job of screening their brigade and sniping at the French, but also allow them to form up at any time and act as an independent light infantry unit capable of occupying important cover.

This approach in using the Light Battalions will need to be played to destruction to see if it works, more anon.

British skirmish troops and artillery welcome the French in return
So to the game. The French were tasked with taking control of the ridge above Ventosa, by having more good order troops in occupation of it than the British, whilst avoiding their army having a morale failure before game end, turn twelve. The British were basically tasked with avoiding the French victory requirements.

The Ventosa ridge was identified as the ground between the village and three strategically placed small woods that gave a perimeter to it, thus making it very easy for both sides to keep the objective in clear sight.

 French troops occupy the hamlet of Ventosa
The game started with the arrival of Solignac's brigade in front of Ventosa toiling forward over the disruptive terrain that is the "Eastern Ridge". Thus by the third turn after some intial skirmish and artillery fire the three French columns were preparing to leave Ventosa and advance up the slope behind it towards the skirmishing redcoats of Nightingale's Light Battalion.

The French advance up the slope unaware of the British troops behind the crest
The 58me Ligne lead the assault up the hill taking skirmish hits and canister fire from the British on the way. This barrage caused the French battalion to loose momentum and as it crested the ridge in sight of the British battalions behind its attempt to charge in failed and it was forced to deploy in line instead.

 French guns engage in counter-battery fire as their columns advance

The skirmish battle begins.
Ironically the Light Battalion to its front was encouraged by this and given the option to counter charge whilst in open order. The British commander decided "discretion was the better part of valour" and declined the charge invitation , but feeling secure on the crest, decided to form line.

On reflection, this was probably not a good idea. The change from open order into line now presented the French with a much better target, which although they couldn't charge, they could shoot at.

The French unit, still organised on the pre 1808 nine company organisation, was extremely strong with just over 1200 men, and the volley it let loose at 75 paces was devastating, dropping close on 100 of the redcoats in one shot, and despite the return volley from the "light bobs" despatching close on 80 Frenchmen in return. the result was predictable with the British Light battalion routing back off the ridge, and the French battalion, retiring back towards Ventosa to lick its wounds.

Note to self , "Do not form Light Battalions into line in the open in front of strong French battalions and expect to out volley them, even if you have disrupted their charge attempt". In the words of my old school teacher, "It's not big and it's not clever!" I told you we were on the learning curve with these units.

Both sides kept up the artillery fire as the columns advanced up the slope
The disappointing result of the British Light's running back was they had done a brilliant job of stalling Solignac's attack. The continual skirmishing backed up by the British artillery had caused the 58me Ligne to fall back, and had convinced the 12me and 15me Legere that they were better off in the cover of Ventosa hamlet, with both units refusing to leave cover or charge the 36th Foot who had moved into the British side of the village.

In addition their departure had unnerved their parent brigade and left them unable to skirmish offensively as they prepared their own counterattack.

On reflection perhaps it would have been better if the Lights had stayed in open order and fallen back behind their supports, before getting volleyed. Then returning to the fray after the French had been pushed back, as they would inevitably would have been, by the British line battalions on the crest.

The 36th Foot moved into Ventosa to contest the advance

 British Light troops swarmed over the Ventosa ridge picking off officers and NCO's
So with events at a tipping point on the Ventosa front and the initiative moving from one side to the other each turn, indicating the swings in morale and fatigue, fate dealt another turn of events.

Tom was in command of Brennier's main force marching "to the sound of the guns". On turn four he managed to roll a one requiring a six, doh! Then on turn five, requiring a five or six he rolled a five.
Things had now swung towards the French.

At midday the troops of General Brennier advanced onto the table revealing the British position
With the arrival of Brennier's battalions, the British positions were exposed to view by both Tom and Jack commanding the French. The new arrivals had caught the British reserve brigade in line, deployed facing Ventosa, thus requiring it to rapidly wheel to face the new threat.

Fortunately for Steve, Tom had led on his forces with his infantry rather than the 3me Provisional Dragoons. If these heavy cavalry had been first on then the problems for the British would have multiplied by the effect of limiting the complicated movements the redcoats were attempting to do in response to the new situation.

The 58me Ligne are staggered by the fire that the British put into them and attempt to form line

 Fighting for Ventosa "hots up"
As it was the disruptive terrain that Wellesley had selected to place his infantry force in was helping to delay the French attack and giving his men the time to redeploy. General Bowes rushed his Light Battalion forward and to the left flank, skirmishing with the lead French battalions and taking possession of a small copse in their line of advance.

This move slowed the French attack still further and allowed the "light bobs" to fire at the French dragoons from the safety of the trees as they entered the table.

General Brennier pushes forward onto the British left flank

General Bowes is forced to wheel in response to the new arrivals
Meanwhile the attack on the Ventosa ridge had stalled with the forces under Solignac unable to advance on or charge the enemy. With both armies within one per cent of each other on the force morale score and only eight per cent away from  either loosing the game the next decisions would be vital.

On turn seven the initiative lay with the British, and Steve decided to contest and "bottle up" Tom's advance on his left, whilst counter attacking Ventosa to his front. However given the objective of just holding the position, which the British were doing and given the fatigue on both forces, made worse by the disruptive terrain, perhaps moving to the attack was an order to far.

Nightingale's brigade moves onto the crest

British gunners attempt to hold the French back whilst the infantry get into position

The battle on the British left at its height
As the British advanced on Ventosa the lack of a Light Battalion skirmishing to their front had its effect.
In spite of the Voltiguers sniping at them as they crested the ridge they pressed on towards thevillage.

They were met by the reformed 58me Ligne in line who were ably supported by the French guns. as the range came down to 150 paces both sides "let rip", but with the fatigue, all the units were now experiencing, the casualties were minor for both sides.

General Fergusson oversees the advance on Ventosa

The 3me Provisional Dragoons feel out the flank of the British left whilst taking fire from light troops in the woods
Meanwhile on the other flank the 70me Ligne charged the British guns who had turned to face the new threat, and after a brief exchange of musketry and canister the gunners fled from the French attack.

The pressure builds on the British left

The French fight hard in front of Ventosa

Close range volleys in Ventosa
Suddenly on turn nine it was all over. With such a close affair it was not clear which side would crack first. The British morale failure flashed up and the French had achieved a "Minor Victory".

The last combats, although light in casualties had been enough to break the British force's will to continue the struggle, but the French army was only just slightly better off. As you can see the losses were fairly equal.

The 32nd Cornish Foot prepare to cover the withdrawl

This was a very enjoyable battle to fight, with the variable French reinforcement adding to the replay value. We are still learning to master C&G and I come away from games with my head full of questions and thoughts about how to get the best out of the situations presented.

We all agreed that the rules are a lot of fun and the effects of fatigue, that you just don't get with other rule sets, really build in a limit to what you can expect your men to do in two and half hours of fighting.

As soon as I have updated the files for the game I will post them in the downloads section of the blog, so stay tuned if you are a C&G player and would like them.

Thanks to Steve, Jack and Tom for a great day of wargaming. Onward to Corunna!