So here we are, my first proper game of General de Brigade and we start at the start with the battle of Rolica with myself taking on the role of Delaborde and my mate Adam filling Wellesley's famous shoes.
My objective for this scenario was to hold the ridge for as long as possible, whilst Adam's objective was to clear all French close order units from the ridge by the end of turn 10. In addition, I gave myself the personal goal of inflicting more casualties on the British than I suffered, which would exceed that which Delaborde had achieved in the actual battle, as well as promising myself I wouldn't play hard and fast as can sometimes happen with a wargame but as realistically as I could being mindful of losses and preserving my force. If I think my force is in jeopardy and that Delaborde would retreat - then that's exactly what I'll do.
Being firmly on the defensive and outnumbered in both quality and quantity, I gave my deployment a serious amount of thought. Initially I considered simply arranging my battalions in a long line along the ridge but I felt uneasy about doing this as my flanks would be hanging in the wind and I would have no tactical reserve to counter developments. I did briefly flirt with the idea of placing the unreliable swiss conscript battalion in reserve behind a main line but decided they couldn't be trusted with the job. So I plumped with placing Thomieres' Brigade on my left flank with the 1st provisional leger I and 4th Swiss on the ridge covered by Thomieres' skirmishers and the 1st provisional Leger II behind the ridge in reserve. My 6 pounder artillery were deployed in the centre of my line on the ridge, whilst Brennier's Brigade took up position on the right flank with the 70th Line I on the ridge covered by Brennier's skirmishers and the 70th Line II behind the ridge in reserve. Joining them behind the ridge were the 26th Chasseurs, General Delaborde, Thomieres, and Brennier.
Deployment was by sketchmap, Adam revealed his positions - deploying Crauford's Brigade on the right with the Portuguese cavalry, his 9 pounder battery in the centre with Nightingale's ill-fated Brigade to the mid-left and Hill's Brigade on the far left.
Deployment from the British perspective
The British seized the initiative and advanced all along their front with the Portuguese cavalry surging down my left flank making me wonder about the decision to entrust the 4th Swiss conscripts to hold that end of my line! In the centre Nightingale's battalions in column formation were already far too close for comfort to the centre of my line. In response to my threatened left flank the 1st Provisional Leger II started to take position on the crest of the steep slope on my left and the swiss 4th changed into square formation. If the Portuguese cavalry remained in such a threatening position I could forsee the poor conscripts being engaged by British battalions in line....
The British skirmishers opened up a sharp fire on the opposing French voltiguers causing a casualty on both Thomieres and Brennier's skirmishers. The British 9 pounders opened up counterbattery fire with no effect.
In response the French skirmishers engaged their British counterparts inflicting a casualty on Hill's skirmishers and 2 on the 60th Rifles!? Unfortunately there were no additional adverse affects for the double 6!
The French 6 pounders loaded cannister and fired at the 29th Foot of Nightingale's Brigade but only caused 1 casualty on the battalion and their screening skirmishers - not enough by far!
The British maintained the initiative and the 60th Rifles were promptly ordered to charge and clear off Thomieres' skirmishers! Defensive fire had no effect but stung by the earlier crack shooting of the voltiguers the 60th had no stomach for the job and retreated to the rear! (Poor Adam that was a bad time to roll a double 1).
The British continued their advance straight at the ridge and surprisingly the Portuguese cavalry swung round behind the 4th Swiss square towards the slope.
The British cannon changed target to the 1st provisional Leger I causing 2 casualties and a bounce through on the 26th Chasseurs behind them whom I had started to move to the left to counter the Portuguese cavalry thrust. The British skirmishers continued their sniping causing a casualty on the 70th Line I and Brennier's skirmishers respectively, whilst the 95th Rifles killed one of Thomieres skirmishers.
This time the French cannon found their mark causing a massive 4 casualties on the veteran 29th and one on their skirmish screen. The 70th Line I opened up on the other British column in Nightingale's Brigade to no effect....
The 60th Rifles rallied but the 29th Foot Falter in front of the French guns.
Adam attempted to change Brigade Nightingale's assault order to an engage order but the ADC carrying the message got lost. The British moved their skirmishers aside to allow the infantry battalions to engage and charge the French but Hill's Brigade was tripping over itself trying to deploy effectively. The Portuguese cavalry lined up for a charge against the Swiss conscripts..
Meanwhile both French reserve battalions manoeuvred to the top of the slopes on either flank unfortunately blocking the progress of the 26th Chasseurs in their attempt to close with the Portuguese cavalry!
Once again the British cannon fired at the 1st provisional Leger I causing yet more casualties and killing another unfortunate Chasseur with bounce through. Nightingale's skirmishers fired at the French cannon to no effect but Hill's skirmishers continued to whittle down Brennier's skirmishers. On the French left flank the 1st Provisional Leger II levelled their muskets at the distant Portuguese cavalry and fired a devastating volley causing 2 casualties. The Swiss conscript square spat flames and another Portuguese cavalryman fell causing the units morale to waver. The 70th Line I held their fire awaiting the inevitable assault next turn.
The Portuguese cavalry turned tail and fled back through their British allie's lines disordering the entire British right flank!
The French seized the initiative and the 4th Swiss marched in square formation down the back of the ridge pulling back from the British line in order to change formation. Buoyed by their success the 1st provisional Leger II marched down the slope becoming unformed in the process.
The British 60th Rifles rejoined the fray and the 82nd Foot of Nightingale's Brigade charged up the ridge towards the awaiting ranks of the 70th Line I... A devastating volley halted the charge in its tracks causing the 82nd to falter. The French cannon raked the 29th with yet more cannister.
The British cannon once again pummelled the 1st provisional Leger I.
On the French right Brennier's skirmishers were doing an amazing job of holding up Hill's line battalions and I marvelled that Adam was attempting to blast them away with musketry rather than charging them? Though after the battle we realised skirmishers automatically fall back from enemy close order units so the British could simply have moved up and forced them out of the way!? (confirmation of this and how it works would be great from anyone in the know!).
The French continued with the initiative, the swiss conscripts still couldn't figure out how to change from square into line, blocking the 1st provisional Leger II from wheeling sufficiently and in turn blocking the 26th Chasseurs behind them!?
French cannister swept through the diminishing ranks of the 29th once more inflicting heavy casualties. The rest of the French line fired but to little effect. The British line similarly fluffed most of their shots although the 29th did manage a casualty on the French cannon. After this brief fillip, the 29ths morale finally crumbled and the battalion retreated.
Wellesley was furiously sending orders to Nightingale to end his doomed attack on the ridge but Nightingale was either nor receiving the orders or ignoring them. The brave 82nd charged up the ridge once more only to be met by another devastating volley, which routed and dispersed the battalion!
Frustrated by his canon's lack of bite so far, Wellesley ordered the pieces to be manhandled forward in an attempt to get into cannister range. On the British right flank Crauford's Brigade shook out to engage. Hill's Brigade starting to extricate themselves from the tangle volleyed into the 70th Line I causing 4 casualties.
Over on the left flank the swiss conscripts still thought enemy cavalry were lurking even though the Portuguese cavalry had long since quit the battlefield and flatly refused to leave their square much to my dismay! The Provisional Leger II and Chasseurs behind them still manoeuvring ponderously to get into the fight.
Though bloodied, the British deployment into a firing line was nearly complete. The cannon continued to advance and fire further thinning the 1st provisional Leger I and the 26th Chasseurs behind! The 45th Foot and 95th Rifles poured fire into the 1st provisional Leger I causing 2 casualties. Unfortunately the 5th and 9th of Hill's Brigade faltered at the sight of the 82nd dispersing.
Having dealt with Nightingale's Brigade the French cannon set their sight on the 45th Foot to their left and started the cannister flying once more causing 3 casualties. Thomieres' skirmishers engaged the 95th Rifles - the Voltiguers must be expert marksmen for they gained another double 6 just as they had against the 60th Rifles!? One marksman wounded Crauford causing him to become poor! Adam then duly rolled a double 1 and the 95th faltered!?
The only good news for Wellesley was that the rallied 29th formed up back into line.
The French seized the initiative and finally the left flank got itself sorted out and the Swiss and 1st provisional Leger II backed up by the 26th Chasseurs advanced towards the ridge and the British right. Brennier's skirmishers were perilously close to 50% losses so they pulled back behind the ridge whilst the 70th Line II finally managed to occupy the top of the slope on the right after much wheeling!?
The French cannon raked the 45th Foot causing 4 casualties and the 1st provisional Leger added a volley into them that caused a further 3 but the 45th held their nerve and dropped another 2 in reply to the weakening 1st provisional Leger I.
Nightingale finally understood his orders and the British line reformed ready to fight once more.
Time was running out for Wellesley, if the British were to achieve anything from this battle now was the time! The British duly took the initiative and all line units advanced into close range of the French. The British line erupted with fire, smoke billowing accross the battlefield. Bloody holes were smashed in the French lines atop the ridge! Reeling from such heavy fire with dead littering the ridge the French reply was measly. The 70th Line I retreated pushing their way through their comrade's ranks and unformed the 70th Line II and Brennier's skirmishers! Suddenly the entire French right flank was in chaos and confusion!
The sky was growing dark and soon Wellesley would have to call a halt to his attack but time still remained to throw the French from the ridge and gain a victory! Wellesley threw his left flank forward into the gap in the French line whilst his right moved to blast the 1st provisional Leger from the ridge.
In desperation, the 1st provisional Leger II marched straight up the ridge and readied themselves for the coming onslaught.
The British left blasted the 70th Line II causing huge casualties. On the British right the gallant 45th and 95th Rifles poured volleys into the French line causing the 1st provisional Leger I to retreat! Suddenly the entire French army was in danger of collapse! But the 1st provisional Leger II planted their feet and refused to falter holding the ridge and gaining victory for Delaborde!
So our first battle was fought! Time to pick over the bones! The first thing I should say is that I really enjoyed the game! Even with dodgy terrain, alot of unpainted miniatures, a scenario that didn't require me to do an awful lot tactically and the game literally lasting from 10am till 4pm! It was an awesome game and I loved every second of it!
I was very impressed with the General de Brigade Rules, as it was our first game we were looking up everything all the time and the quick reference guide was a godsend but by the end of the game we were rattling through the turns very quickly and not having to consult the rules every five seconds which bodes well for future games.
We inevitably played some things wrong but that's part of learning!
The main things to say about the rules is that they make sense both in game terms, historically and from an enjoyment perspective. One of the most enjoyable things about General de Brigade is that the rules help build a narrative so instead of being solely concerned about what you and your opponent are doing you are also watching this wonderful story and spectacle unfold with all its drama!
One thing I really like is the fact you can't do whatever you want whenever you want to do it. Orders aren't always followed, units don't always do exactly what you want them to do! Units would falter when you'd rather they charge or retreat and it all just feels very right.
There are alot of tactical decisions and sometimes the decision is to do nothing! I could go on but to sum up General de Brigade is an excellent set of rules and I'm very happy we're using them. I think we need to get used to the pace of General de Brigade, unlike other wargames the pace of battle is much slower it takes time to form up or reform, attacks will develop over many turns whereas we're used to barrelling headlong into the enemy because if you don't you won't be around long enough to get there!
The next thing I need to say is well done to Adam he had alot of abysmal luck all the way through the game until the last two turns when his dice decided to be less spiteful! I've never seen so many low dice rolls!? It got to a stage where a lesser person would have thrown in the towel but he kept gamely battling on and in the end nearly turned disaster into victory!
So what of the game itself? From my point of view things went much better than I could have hoped. Deploying my cannon in the centre on the ridge probably won me the game as the cannister was often lethal causing alot of morale checks on the British I was also very happy with my decision to hold two battalions back as a tactical reserve although this worked better on my left than on my right. Other than this all I had to do was hold position and choose my targets carefully. I was especially happy holding fire with the 70th Line I before the 82nd charged it made their defensive fire much more effective when the charge came and dispersed the enemy unit!
I did learn manoeuvring is difficult especially in line and I really fouled up my left flank for alot of turns and I didn't use my cavalry very well so I'm going to have to get better at that.
From Adam's perspective I think he was too aggressive with his cavalry when he could of kept them within threat range of the conscripts forcing them to stay in square whilst shooting them with battalions in line I doubt I would have.had an answer to that
Also I thought he could have tried to outflank me a bit more and try and get several battalions against one of mine but hindsight is a wonderful thing and he had similiar difficulties to me in manoeuvring his units and he had alot more manoeuvring to do!
I think us not realising you can push back skirmishers also hindered Adam as Brennier's skirmishers effectively blocked Hill's Brigade for several turns although they probably should have charged them.
Even though the British had a torrid time of it when they did get their act together and I rolled bad the entire battle changed with the French crumbling at the end so it ended a close run thing which is testament to Adam's tenacity!
I couldn't be more happy with achieving my objective of holding the ridge and doing what Delaborde couldn't in giving the British a very bloody nose! Who knows if Delaborde had done the same he could well have ended Wellesley's career on the ridge at Rolica before it had even begun and history would could have been very different....
I can't wait for our next game and my motivation couldn't be any greater to get on with some work on this project! One thing I definately need to do is rebase all those individually based models onto 6 model bases moving them was a pain in the backside (hence why the 70th Line II suddenly became old guard grenadiers!? Adam had the patience of a saint moving his battalions! And yes I know I was forwarned!).
Next time Vimiero and it'll be the French attacking a hill!