Wargame Thoughts and Commentary
Final Die Fighting Wargame of 2013

The Last Battle (of 2013)-A Bridge Too Distant

We had our last game of 2013 on Friday the 27th of December at Chez Jones. It was a very different game as the scenario only required a small fraction of my WSS armies, and it wasn’t a stand up battle, but a running engagement involving cavalry, infantry, light guns, and an immense train!

The scenario was that the French train was proceeding to reinforce a siege at Douai which, if it arrived, would probably lead to the fall of the fortifications. The Allies, hearing of the report of the approaching train, dispatched a large mixed raiding force consisting of 5 infantry and 7 horse plus a light gun to intercept and either capture or destroy the train and its reinforcements. The French, aware that an attempt to attack the train was possible, followed standard practice for the era and established an escort for the train of 3 infantry and 5 cavalry with a light gun and a heavy howitzer. Additionally, the besieging forces at Douai dispatched two infantry to head back to reinforce the rain the train. The make up of both forces may be found at the Repiquerules Yahoo site in the A Bridge Too Distant folder.

In an attempt to intercept the train the allied forces were scattered over the countryside. When word came of the train’s location they approached the French forces from three different directions. The area of road that the train was traversing at this time was a hilly, wooded area with a stream running through the area that was running high from recent rains and was uncrossable, except by the designated bridges.

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The Allies could enter from at least two of the three entry points designated A, B or C. They could deploy in any groupings they desired, under the restrictions of the officer command rules. Each entry site had to roll higher than a certain number on a d6 before any units could enter. Point A merely needed to roll higher than 2; Point B higher than 3 and point C higher than 4. The French could deploy the so the leading edge of the Train was 24” into the table on the road. Other troops could deploy on either or both sides of the train, and two units could deploy immediately in front of the train.

The train guard of horse, foot, and guns, all moved as normal, but the train itself would move using suitable corrections for green dice, and could receive yellow dice from the train commander. The train only rolled once per move phase for the entire road group to move and all moved that distance on that turn.

To capture any element of the train, the attackers merely needed to touch it with one of their units.

Set-up conditions:

The French were allowed to deploy the train two feet down the road with two units of the escorting force ahead of the train by 12”. Other members of the escort could line up on either side of the road in any desired formation. The trailing forces would appear as the train moved. The order of march had to be stated for both the train and the escort prior to the game beginning.

Each unit of the train had a different multiplier value for points (dice) if captured with the siege guns being the highest (10X), and the small powder wagons the lowest (4X).

The Allies could designate which forces were attempting to enter at points A,B, or C.

The final pre-game procedure was the selection of officers. Rather than merely rating them, as per the standard rules, we experimented with a new method. Since all my officer stands are now designated and labeled as being a particular historical general of the period, I researched their general traits, skills, and personalities,and assigned them a certain number of Officer dice. Each officer had three numbers; one represented his command on a good day, one on an average day, and one when he was off his game, so to speak. A 1-2-3 officer would get three command dice on a very good day, usually two, and on a bad die decline to only one command die. Some officers could be verity consistent, say a 3-3-3, or, some, such as Marlborough consistently high with a 4-5-5.

Each gamer would draw three cards from a face down four card selection-10-J-Q-K and that would indicate which officer he had for his sub-command. Then he would roll a single d6; 1-2 a poor day, 3-4 and average day, and 5-6 a good day was indicated. Obviously the original selection of four officer cards would indicate that one of the officers would not be present at that battle. Both the allied and the French selection included some good, and not so good potential commanders. As it turned out this would make some difference.

The last new idea involved the placement of small wooden stars painted in one of several national colors. These stars placed on an officer stand would indicate which other nationalities the officer could command, other than the one indicated by his label. (A red labeled British officer could give orders (command dice) to any other British unit with a red label, but no one else, UNLESS he had an orange star for the Dutch, or a yellow star for the Austrians, etc. The same would apply to all officers for both sides. A French officer with Bavarian troops under his command at the battles commencement would have a sky blue star. The commander of the entire force would be indicated by a gold star, as he could command anyone in the army. This enforces some pre game thinking about force organization, and prevented ad hoc changes as circumstances changed on the battlefield.

The pre-game forces, ratings, the officer descriptions, and all other special rules may be found in the “Bridge Too Distant” Folder on the Yahoo! Repiquerules site. Please refer to them as you are reading this report.

The Game

The pre battle officer assignments did not go well for the French, as the British got William Cadogan as the leader of their force and he had excellent command skills, and rolled high so that he was having a good day. The other commanders, Overkirk and Cutts, both rolled high as well. The French, on the other hand, drew Tallard as their over all commander, and he rolled poorly. He would have a mere one die to give, and that only on the roll of a 4-5-6! The other two commanders were somewhat better, with Villeroi being average, and Compte deTesse having a good day.

The game started with the Allies deciding to use three forces with Dutch force under Overkirk and a light artillery entering at “C’. An infantry and Cavalry force under the force commander at “A”, and the strong dragoon force entering under Cutts at “B”.

The French had set up their order of march as follows:

1. The cavalry in column of route to the left of the road, between the low hill and the train. Villeroi leading.
2. The Infantry in Column of route to the right of the road. De Tesse Leading.
3. Both the Light Gun and the Howitzer led the train at the head of the column Tallard Leading train and guns.
4. The train ran from the most valuable near the head of the Column (Pontoon Train, Siege Guns, Wine Wagon) followed by Powder wagons and Supply Wagon.

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There were no objective markers in the game as the objective was not to gain ground but either get the train off the two exit roads, if French, opt stoop them, if British. It is a pretty straight forward scenario.

The Unfolding of Events

The French had a number of things transpire against them from the very beginning. First was the very poor quailty of their commander, which was compounded by giving him the train. He provided little help to anyone, including no ability to help the train increase its movement much. The French had also stacked their train and guns with the guns on the road ahead of the train, which meant if the Train movement card came up before the guns, the Train could not move on that turn. It did and the Train lost one whole move! (They would have been better served to have the guns off the road-to either side, but still in the lead.) Traffic management of trains is an uncharted country!
Lastly, the Allies opted for deployment in all three locations, and rolled their entry number on the first roll! This was particularly harsh when the Dutch appeared near the alternate bridge route!

The Allies entered in column and flung themselves to the task of intercepting the train.

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The main force was a good distance away, but a force of Dragoons at “B” (upper left of photo)was cutting thorough the Class III woods to occupy the village on the main route and so deny passage to the French.

Seeing this, the French galloped their dragoons forward to contest the woods, and moved the guns to secure the alternate route by opening fire on the Dutch on the far side of the swollen stream.

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But the Allies were simply too well commanded, and the Dragoons under Cutts got through the Class III woods with great alacrity and swept out around the French forces intended to drive them out of the woods and away from the village.


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At this point a French force sent from the distant siege at Douai, made up of the Picardie and Dauphin regiments appeared, rushing forward to drive the Dutch from the bridge area near the chateau. This gave the French some hope of opening the alternative route.

But then disaster struck in every area! The Allied Dragoons, led by Hays Dragoons, broke out of the woods and took the village, denying the route to the French without extensive fighting. The Dutch troops with an attached British battery, then dealt a further 1-2 punch, first firing on the French relief force, and halting it in its tracks with several losses, and then wheeling the light battery and knocking out the French light gun that was attempting to re-position itself into better range.

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At this point, the French had both routes blocked, they had lost a gun battery, and the Allies were not only getting the best of it, but the route of escape back up the road was threatened. Even Tallard perceived that a retreat was their only option. The game was ended with the further loss of a supply wagon and a powder wagon in addition to the gun. When the relief force returned to tell the tale, the siege was lifted and the Allied forces in Douai cheered lustily at the retreating French.

The engagement had lasted exactly 2 1/2 hours of playing time, and a good time was had by all. The game day was ended with a couple of bottles of Chandon champagne shared between the victors and the chastened French.

Conclusions:

1. The French deployment was faulty and the bad traffic management caused by the guns delaying the column cost them a full move, and a better chance at getting to the village and securing it.

2. The French needed a mixed force on both sides of the road, not pure cavalry or Infantry as they chose to do. The cavalry side had no reply to the British and Austrian foot. The Infantry side had small chance of getting to the alternate road bridge before the Dutch without the speed of cavalry.

3. The advantage that the Allies had in command showed clearly as the game wore on, they were simply the firstest with the mostest at every point. The French were particularly disadvantaged drawing Tallard and then rolling poorly, while the Allies got Cadogan and he was having a very good day! I do very much like the way the command issues are developing. The leaders make a good difference, but the engagement was lost by other decisions more than the command issue. This system actually makes commanders “units” of value, and reinforces the historical nature of period personalities. There is still much to develop, but it looks very promising.

4. The French needed better focus in their plan. They needed to race ahead with cavalry to secure the village and the bridge as a first priority. The needed to clear the road in front of the train so that it got every move without delay. It is just too slow to allow any loss of movement to be made up.

Game Considerations

1. The black die system worked like a charm. I will post the “Final” (?) rules this week.

2. As I said above, the officer characterization is here to stay. I look forward to developing it for other periods as well.

3. I might set the entry rolls for the Allies even higher. I think they were set to low, and along with the command issues, made the game too tough for the French. I think I would set the Two British at 5 or 6, and Overkirk’d Dutch at 6 only to enter. The scenario needs some honing and tweaking.

4. The British Battery, and the Dutch Commander (Overkirk-John Mumby) deserve full battle honors and promotion.

All that said, I think it was great fun in the playing. The next game is February 22, 2014 and the Allied Commander will have the services of the “General’s Carriage” in lieu of this victory. I just completed this kit which is a Blue Moon kit, but customized with draperies, a mounted trumpeter/herald, and, as usual, full harness! Note the whip on the Driver’s left. I’m very proud of this addition to my forces.



General's Carriage

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