After the second battle (link) and the destruction of the bridge by French engineers, I felt that Capitaine Forchette's fortunes were, if not exactly rebounding, at least recovering. The loss of the bridge meant that the British, under Captain Kentmere would need to spend an entire campaign turn (Turn 3) negotiating passage of the river and rebuilding the bridge. The next battle north of the bridge would thus take place in Turn 4. This afforded the French some breathing room during which they could recover most (if not all) of their wounded.
And so, Capitaine Forchette would field four groups of infantry (all somewhat depleted), two groups of skirmishers and a group of engineers. The latter would be of doubtful value, as these would be needed if a battle were to be fought at the next river crossing. This French force was small but, I thought, good enough to inflict some damage on the British. I was under no illusions that I could hold out and win this battle. My hope was to inflict maximum damage and then scurry away north to the next river crossing, where I could delay and harass as I had done in Turn 2.
The British force had lost one group of infantry but had been bolstered by the addition of the Spanish guerrilleros. An artillery Big Man had also joined Captain Kentmere's command. Vidal rolled up 12 support points and chose to add a light gun and crew and an extra 8-figure group of infantry (effectively replacing the group lost earlier). With only half of Vidal's support points for the battle, I chose 8 inches of breastworks, a secondary deployment point, a physic, and a holy man.
I chose to spend points on the breastworks because I thought they would be a counter to the considerable firepower of the British line infantry (not to mention the damned rifle units!). While it's true that fortifications can mitigate the effect of incoming fire.... it's equally true that they anchor your own forces and make them relatively immobile. In other words, they become sitting ducks!
As Capitaine Forchette was shaking off the morning cob-webs and seeing that his men were prepared for battle, his aide cautiously informed him that an entire group of infantry had, during the night, deserted to the enemy! In the immediate context, this meant the French force, already depleted, would now be down to three under-strength line infantry groups for the upcoming battle. In a broader context, this 6-figure group of French line infantry now permanently joins the British force, albeit with all characteristics removed and designated as Weedy Coves (perhaps a Légion étrangère?).
Campaign Note: This situation was caused by Vidal's chance card draw and a die roll of 6 (of course)...
1: One group of troops deserts to the enemy (roll to see which). On a further roll of 6, an attached Leader will accompany them. They immediately (and permanently) join the enemy basic force as Weedy Coves. All other unit characteristics are removed.
2-3: as 1 above, plus… the remainder of your force sees the defection. Reduce your Force Morale by 2.
4-6: A group of enemy troops have deserted and permanently join your basic force as Weedy Coves. On a further roll of 6, an attached Leader will accompany them. All other unit characteristics are removed. Increase your Force Morale by 1.
Force Morale was rolled for and Forchette's woes continued: British 11 v French 8.... sigh.
Vidal chose the Flank Attack scenario and promptly placed his Primary Deployment Point halfway up the table edge. This is an extremely valuable option and I struggle to imagine a scenario where the attacker would not choose the option of the Flank Attack. For the French, I chose to have the Primary DP fairly central to the village and within easy distance of the breastworks. The secondary DP was placed to allow a rapid deployment to the left flank, if necessary.
In retrospect (the best view, of course), I should have reversed these DP placements. The Primary DP could have been buried further from the British DP and the French secondary DP placed near the breastworks. The same deployments can be made from either. Thus the Primary DP could have been better protected and the option to deploy into or near the breastworks preserved.
With no delay, French voltigeurs deploy into the breastworks. And thus, the slippery slope rears its ugly head! This would not be the last French unit drawn to the breastworks.
Damn!! 95th Rifles deploy in full view of the voltigeurs but out of their musket range. Of course, the French aren't out of range of the infernal rifles!
Guerrilleros deploy in the yard of the central house. They would prove to play little part in the battle besides the not inconsiderable role of looking damned pretty!
Before the French could deploy more troops into the breastworks, the British sledgehammer appeared and promptly loosed a volley at the lone voltigeur group. Two kills and a shock... against skirmishers in hard cover! And Sous-Lieutenant Jean-Francois Sébile wounded. French Force Morale dropped by one point to 7. Another Sharp Practice volley, courtesy of two command flags, caused two more kills and forced the voltigeurs to scuttle away to the rear. Were there any blue chips in that bag at all? The only good news was that the British column had masked the potential fire of the British artillery and rifles. This would prove to be of small consolation, however.
Capitaine Forchette finally deploys his three groups with the last voltiguer group as a screen and moves toward the breastworks. The plan here was to have the three infantry groups fan out into line behind the cover of the redoubt and loose a couple of volleys on the British.
A terrain bottleneck that is identified as a potential problem for the enemy can equally be a problem for one's own forces. I had recognized the closeness of the terrain in the village as a potential ally in mitigating some of the awesome firepower of the British infantry. But that would have required me to let them come through the bottleneck instead of me trying to rush through it myself in a foolish attempt to occupy the breastworks.
The British shake out into line to maximize their firepower, present arms and deliver a directed volley. Followed by another Sharp Practice-induced volley.
Of course they did....
The French column, not even having reached the breastworks and having received two volleys, decides it wasn't liking what it was seeing and began to fall back.
and continued to retreat...
Capitaine Forchette managed to cobble together some semblance of order. The French infantry lined the hedges behind the village, awaiting the British onslaught.
The British Rifles began a sweeping move around the village (at the top of the photo). They would soon be in a position to fire indiscriminately at the remains of the French infantry (off-screen at the bottom right). Also at the top left of this photo can be seen the Légion étrangère.... disloyal bastards, all of 'em! It was at this moment that Forchette saw the futility of continuing and chose to retreat off the table. Thus, the battle, if that is what we could call it, was over.
Post Mortem: We found that, after calculating casualties etc, moving forward the French would be down to one group of line infantry, two groups of voltigeurs, and a group of engineers. The British, on the other hand, retained their extra group of infantry and the gun & crew. The Brits now had more than a 2:1 advantage in manpower (not to mention the differences in armament and troop quality). We decided on the spot that further resistance on the part of the French would be useless. Even with the scanty resources that the French force might acquire in further battles, the games themselves would be too overwhelmingly lop-sided to afford any enjoyment. I don't mind playing out-numbered Forlorn Hope rear-guard scenarios but here was a situation where I could graciously concede defeat and we could move onto a new iteration of the campaign system.
So, even though a Major Victory for Perfidious Albion, I had enormous fun in these three campaign battles. Campaigns, as always throw up different challenges versus one-off scenarios. I quite like the in-game interplay between tactical and campaign decisions.
Congratulations to Vidal and his Brits and and thanks to him for hosting the games in the Cambridge Gaming Emporium!