Wargame Thoughts and Commentary

The Road To Metz Is Closed!

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From the Citadel of Metz looking toward The distant Rhine and Approaching Prussians!

Our group's latest Die Fighting II wargame was an FPW scenario I have been working on for the last six months. We have played it twice now, once back in January, which resulted in a crushing Prussian win and two weeks ago, which ended up quite the reverse!

SET UP

It is a very stylized scenario. It is played down the length of my 12 foot long wargame table, with the Prussians starting at the far wall, which represents the Rhine river, and then moving down the table with the ultimate goal being the investment of the Fortifications of Metz. The route from the Rhine requires crossing a heavily forested area with a deep stream, getting past a small village, and then crossing a ridgeline with light forests, before a final river crossing unto the plains of the Metz works. The burden is entirely upon the Prussians, which given their rating advantages, marvelous Krupps artillery, and command advantages, should be doable. The French must simply stop the progress of the Germanic host and prevent the investment of the Fort.

The fort need not be taken, merely surrounded.

The OOB for both armies forces may be found, along with all ratings in a folder in the Files section of the Yahoo! Repique Rules site. The folder also contains added folders and a reprint of special rules in play for the game.

The Prussian force is made up of 33 units consisting of infantry, artillery, and cavalry. Eight units are Crack including nearly half of their batteries. Their command is quite good with the CinC rated superior, two subcommands are Very Dependable, and one is average. They all enter at the Rhine (wall edge).

The French Force is a mixed bag of 32 units, again of all arms, but only six are crack. Their artillery is outranged and of lower quality. Their only advantage is the superb range and effect of the Chassepot compared to the Prussian Needlegun. The French Commander is Timid, and one of the commands is rated Foolhardy. The other two commands are average, and Douay has a Very Dependable force. The French start with Bazaine the CinC and De Cissy's force in Metz, and they may not leave prior to the roll of a diminishing D6 roll ( 6 on the first turn, 5-6, on the second, 4-5-6 on the third turn, etc.)

The other two commands may deploy anywhere south of the first river. (in the first play of the scenario they could not deploy beyond the hills at mid-table. Because of the decisive result of that game, this was changed. It may have been too generous).

The only other change from the first attempt at the scenario was to make the first river line much more wooded. This, too, was a reaction to the first game, and may have, again, been too generous.

The village was all Class III. The woods and river lines were class II. Hasty earthworks on the ridgeline would be rolled for as needed.

The new Proximity Rules were introduced, as was the increased die rolls for a 4 hour game as suggested in the March 20 update to customers.

The French force had a Lose Phase card added to their deck. This would be removed upon appearance if a diminishing 6 roll were made. The Prussians had a Command Brilliance card that would be a permanent part of their Phase deck.

The Game Play

The French Command Player showed a very good eye for ground and an understanding of his one good advantage, the Chassepot, and established a line EXACTLY within chassepot range of the river and wood line to their front. His deployment ran from Douay's excellent command join the open fields to the East of the village, through the village, which offered cover to some of his weaker units, and then incorporated the small hill, which gave him the Position Magnifique, of which the French were so fond. They were all deployed and ready for combat. A small force, primarily of cavalry, was kept back at the ridge line as a mobile reserve against any rupture of the line and as protection from any immediate rifle or artillery fire. DeCissy's's force, along with Bazaine, was in Metz awaiting the alarm to move.

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(Top #1) French Left Douay's forces in line supported by artillery and Mittraileuse (Bottom #2 )French Right Under Colbert. Note massed guns on hill also dense woods.

The Prussian command was less focused on its approach. It was decided that the Gruenwiller command would advance directly upon the enemy, crossing the river and woods and falling upon the French toothier front. Von Stumpel with his Prussians and Baden troops would do the same to the West of the road. No attack would proceed over the bridge until the first French line had retired when the cavalry would use that route. The assumption was to lead with the artillery, and then use superior command and good troops to overrun the initial French position. This was to prove wishful thinking.

On the first turn, The French generally stood pat. They rolled to see if Bazaine and De Cissy would leave Metz, and failed. They then contented themselves in rolling for their 4R card and adding dice to their buckets. Since they could not expect to distribute the CinC's dice during the game without a considerable delay due to the separation of Bazaine from the bulk of his command, they took special efforts to distribute all of Bazaine's dice to Douay and Colbert prior to play.

The Prussians began their advance from the Rhine with both Infantry Moves and Cavalry move cards appearing, They had a 4R card early in their turn. But no Officer move or Artillery move card appeared so neither guns or command (and their dice) appeared. In an important oversight, they had not distributed their CinC dice to sub-commands prior to play as their supply of dice, at that time appeared more than sufficient. They did get a Command brilliance card in the first turn which they chose to represent an Officer move card. This allowed several commander to enter the field.

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Prussian Infantry and cavalry enter the field headed for the first river line

The Second Turn

On the second turn, the French again stood pat-secure in their positions. They rolled for the Metz force to activate, but, again, failed. They rolled on a 4R card and bolstered their command dice for all units. They received a Lose Phase card, but, as they were doing nothing, caused little difference to their turn.

The Prussians again surged forward into the wood line on the near bank of the river. Again, they had both Infantry and Cavalry moves cards, a useless specialized action, and a 4R Card. NO artillery move, and NO Officer Action card! They were surging forward, but lacked sufficient command control, and the artillery was still absent! The doctrine of Guns Forward was being frustrated by some unknown delay to the rear. The wrong road taken? A mix-up in the order of march? Who knew?

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The Prussian advance to the river line. Note the lack of command and Guns!


The Third Turn

Again the French stood fast in their defensive lines, but on this turn they made the roll for Metz and Bazaine and DeCissy began marching to the front in the far distance. They, again, lost a phase, but also rolled to remove the card from future use in the deck. All in all, a good turn for the French as they awaited the oncoming Prussians.

The Prussians finally got an Artillery Move, AND another Command Brilliance card which they also called an artillery move. This allowed their artillery to appear and finally get to the front. However, they were limbered, and avoiding the bridge crossing, which would expose them to crushing close range fire from the village, they were faced with transiting the wood and river line-no easy task for artillery and limbers! Still no Officer Action card, but the 4R card appeared allowing reinforcement of the Resource dice. Nevertheless, absent command and with late arriving guns, the Prussian Force continued determinedly forward!

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(Top )Gruenwiller and Von Stumpel's forces invest forest line. Note guns arrived! Prussians view of the French beyond the river. Artillery has no line of fire!

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Bazaine on the march from Metz!

Fourth Turn

This is where the Prussians made a number of grave errors! It took a full move to clear the woods and river, and get themselves securely in the wood line on the far bank. This was very frustrating, as had been the lack of command presence in this sector! The River and trees precluded the artillery from deploying, and blocked any LOS for fire, so the premier weapon of the Prussians was negated, as was their superiority in command! Rather than waiting to sort out the command issues, and securing some position for the artillery to support an attack., the impatient Prussian players based on their observation of past Prussian tactical superiority in troop quality and tactical prowess( use of the Zug formation) launched an immediate attack on the right of their line. Withe the appearance of another Infantry action card, The Prussian troops swept out across the plain toward the waiting French with their superior Chassepot and Mitrailleuse! The crack of the French rifles and the staccato stutter of the Mitraillese raked the Prussian attack.

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The Action was quite closely, and quickly, decided, but the Prussians ultimately were thrown back from the French Line and sent reeling back into the woods. At this time, the seemingly unlimited Prussian red dice in Gruenwiller's command were exhausted and the Prussians accepted defeat. They would try to regroup and attack on the morrow. The French were quite pleased with their tactical victory!

Tactical Notes

This outcome was a result of MANY Prussian misjudgments, and some savvy French tactical planning.

The French had maximized their strength with the placement of their troops to sweep the ground to their front with Chassepot and Mittraileuse fire and by placing their units at exactly maximum Chassepot range from the forest. This left the Prussians with the choice of either staying in the woods, or an all out charge to close. The inferiority of the Needlegun, especially in range,was accented by the French deployment. The French had also reckoned that the artiillery could be brought under concentrated fire if it tried to deploy outside the wood, and before it could fire.

The Prussians made a whole range of errors. They did not distribute any of Moltke's command dice prior to play, which they could have done freely, and could have used to bolster their eventual attack. They chose to attack before they received further dice on a 4R card in the turn of the attack. They failed to use the Command Brilliance card to advance their commanders which led to a short supply of command dice at the critical point. Instead they called it an artillery action card, which, while advancing the guns which had been tardy to the action, was of little use in the terrain of the battle. They could have used the officer dice from a nearby commander, especially Moltke! Finally, they let impatience destroy their plans. By attacking prior to figuring out a way to adequately deploy their superior artillery, and failing to get commanders forward or distribute Moltke's cache of command dice, they would have needed some extraordinary die rolls to win the action on the right. They didn't get them. To lose a battle with superior commanders, superior troops, and Krupps guns requires more than a few mistakes, and a French Commander that uses his force very well! This reminded me of the attack by the Prussian Guards at Gravelotte-St. Privat, or the Mance ravine!

Game and Scenario Notes

I have been trying to tweak this scenario over two playing sessions now, and will try a third go soon. I will remove a few of the woods on the first river line, as it proved a much too rugged barrier. I will also move the village back another foot from the bridgehead. Other than that, I think it is getting close to being well structured scenario. One more test will confirm this, I hope.

The experience of the game also led me to conclude that the Proximity Rule should be slightly amended for simplicity and game play. Instead of three zones, Over 20"-10-20"-under 10", I will be amending it to two zones-Over 20" being no red dice required and a straight substitution of green dice, and under 20" being as in normal rules requiring 1-2 red dice.

I also noted that the added Green die rule and extra initial rolls for a somewhat longer game, worked just fine.

I am also toying with an optional "extended" game rule that will allow an army to continue when a command goes "empty", but, of course, none of their actions will have any red dice added, as there are none available. (Duh!) The units in their command will be disorganized until a 4R card allows new dice to be generated or transferred from the CinC. Upon new dice being acquired any units in the command that are disorganized from dice loss will automatically become ordered, as opposed to those units that are disorganized from combat, that is, those that have a black die. The commander of any command that has lost all dice in their bucket will lose 1 command die for the remainder of the game.

All of this will be formalized in a new update emailing to customers to be sent this week.

All in all, a good game with a clean finish. As the Prussian Commander I was very embarrassed by my mistakes. I guess I just don't have a German temperament! The French Commander, Greg Rold, has been given a small chateau on the Loire for his efforts. Louis Napoleon refers to Rold as "Monsieur Je-sais tout!"