I received the dreaded 'bye' in the second round of our small tournament and had to sit out while the other competitors had fun in their rounds. In order to speed things along, the organizers released the rest of the pairings for the tournament in order to allow those that wished to, to play their later round games when it was convenient. For my 3rd round opponent Ed with his middle French army featuring a very high-quality cavalry arm and I, last Friday night was a good time for a game.
Above you can see both of our armies deployed before the start of turn one. Our armies are very similar in quantity and quality of infantry, with maybe a slight edge in favour of my Russians. Artillery was fairly even with Ed outnumbering me 3:2, but my guns were heavies which out ranged his field battalions. For cavalry, if you ignore my division of Cossacks (and who wouldn't), Ed had a decisive advantage, matching me stand for stand in quantity, but besting my Russian troopers in all measurable quality metrics (strength points, morale level, exhaustion and cavalry weight). From the beginning I believe we both knew that the battle could hinge on how the cavalry battle worked out. I hoped to try to shield my inferior cavalry with my infantry and allow my advantage there to with the day for me, but Ed wasn't about to let me off that easily.
During his half of turn one, Ed moved aggressively forward across his whole line. Knowing that my left and reserve wings were returning detachments that would have to leave at the end of turn one, I chose to deny my right flank (opposing Ed's strong cavalry), and deploy my center anchored somewhat on a dense forest with my small guard division as my only reserve. To my surprise at the end of the turn all but Ed's right (to my left) wing were removed to also return later on as returning detachments. Ed's aggressive advance worked and fooled me into not advancing when I actually had the upper hand. The one command I was sure was going to stay on the field of battle (Ed took an unusually long time working on its deployment) was the only command left.
Ed's detachments returned earlier than mine did and he chose to try to outflank my left flank with his original infantry which held up well to my initial assaults, while deftly deploying his first returning wing in his center just in time to deploy a solid line of battle from which he would launch attacks against my line with the French middle guard. On my right Ed cleverly chose to deploy his Bavarians (French provisinal constript troops of slightly lesser quality than the majority of his arny) in a town to secure his flank while the bulk of his cavalry started to outflank my infantry. Forced to respond, I took all of my cavalry and shifted them to answer the threat. Just what Ed wanted. I knew I was bringing a knife to a gunfight but I didn't have any other answer.
On the left flank Ed's original infantry division and my center infantry division mutually exhausted each other in our respective turns, turning that flank into a somewhat comical you shoot me in the flank/rear, I shoot you in the flank/rear until after a turn each I withdrew my troops (without the benefit of Leger reinforcing skirmishers) to a line of battle near my unexhausted Guard Jagers. In the center my Guard held up to the initial charge of the French Middle guard and on their countercharge routed one of the French stands, and with the morale collapse of the small division, permanently disordered the other stand. We were both content to conduct ranged fire in the center, neither of us relishing the task of breaking the other's stationary line. That left us to the flank with the cavalry on it where Ed had forced me into the fight he wanted, cavalry on cavalry, or so he thought.
This photo shows the result of the first round of the cavalry battle. I charged one brigade of Ed's curiassers with two of my cavalry brigades (hussars and dragoons) while at the same time supporting them with two stands of infantry firing on the Curiasser's flank. Alas, it was not to be and my 15 dice scored one hit and Ed's four dice scored two. My cavalry recoiled and before Ed's heavies in disorder - an easy target. Further along I faired better besting Ed's dragoon division and exhausting it but also exhausting one of my cavalry divisions in trade. At the extreme right my light cavalry division (including the Russian guard lights) threatened Ed's position but chose not to charge home.
In Ed's following bound he finished off my disordered cavalry division near the town by killing them to a man, while also collapsing their morale (an additional scenario VP for Ed). Unfortunately for him this put him behind my lines and within striking distance of my infantry. On my following turn I charged my remaining non-exhausted hussar stand stationed adjacent to the town (other than those in the cavalry division holding the extreme right flank) at his Curiassers and brought an additional 5 stands of infantry to bear using small arms and dedicated guns. All that firepower was enough to eliminate the French heavies. With this flank in danger Ed thoughtfully withdrew his remaining Hussar division to guard his flank, while I pursued it with my cavalry and pressed the flank with a division and a half of my army commanded by the CinC and one wing commander.
The final three turns were spent with me pressing Ed's exposed flank to try to capture his line of communication (LOC). Capturing the enemy LOC is an additional victory condition in out tournament. Ed's Bavarians proved to be sturdy due to their entrenchment in a stone-walled town, and his remaining cavalry division and additional corps cavalry brigade did prove to be quite difficult in defence, but the coups-de-grace was when my infantry held to a combined charge of all three of these cavalry brigades repulsing Ed's cavalry and leaving them vulnerable to my cavalry, which made short work of the disordered horse. In the final turn Ed had just enough 'speed bumps' to keep me off his LOC, but the cost of the delaying action was his last cavalry division, which ended up in morale collapse and afforded him a loss greater than the LOC the cavalry was expended to protect.
This was a fantastically close game, fought down to the very last roll of the very last turn. Despite some things we still are unsure we like about the 'new' Volley & Bayonet rules, it's still generating games that are great fun. I'd like to thank Ed for being a good opponent and a great sport.
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