Saturday, February 9, 2019

Spanish Mini-Campaign 2: Probing the Defences

After minor gains on both sides of the River Ebro in 1812, the French and British forces receive reinforcements at the beginning of the new year. Of most immediate importance are three British strength points arriving in Barcelona, providing Vidal with the incentive to make a play for the major French-controlled port on the Gulf of Lyon, Terragona. This would be quite the prize, if taken, worth four Victory Points. Knowing Vidal would come at me with a Strength-4 Battlegroup, I was fairly confident that, even though I had only a Strength-2 Battlegroup in Terragona, the city's defences would help to balance out the disparity. As it turned out, after the Force Selection process, the forces were moderately small and of fairly equal size.

The Scenario would be a Spirited Defence, in which the objective of the attacker is to capture the defender's Primary Deployment Point. As the attacker, Vidal rolled six support points, giving the French three points as the defenders. Unfortunately for Vidal, I also rolled 6 x 4" breastworks for my defences (Terragona is a "starred" fortress on the map). Vidal purchased a secondary deployment point and a specialist (plus something else... I've forgotten). I made use of the Exploring Officer, as this provides a Secondary Deployment Point and an extra 3 inches of deployment room. Force Morale was rolled for: British - 11; French - 10. After placing my defensive works around the built up area, I placed the French Primary deployment Point in the center rear, covered by the buildings and second line of breastworks (can't be too careful). The secondary French DP went to the immediate rear of the center-left breastworks. Vidal's Primary DP went in the center of the British baseline and he was able to push his secondary DP far up the British right flank to threaten the open flank of the French defences (well, not "open" per se... perhaps "less fortified").

The battlefield with French breastworks deployed to defend the built up area. The British would be attacking from left to right.

Immediately, it was apparent that the blue chips were heavier than the red and were lurking in the bottom of the draw bag. Three turns passed with barely a French chip drawn and Vidal was able to deploy almost his entire force with nary a response from the French. Good thing I was planning to draw him into my nefarious trap anyway (yeah, that's it... really). Get him to come close to the seemingly empty defensive works then pop up and blast 'em! 

British and Spanish cavalry deployed on the British left flank and made to move towards the French breastworks.

This was a interesting development, especially since there seemed little chance of French response. On the British right flank, a Portuguese cacadore group deployed off of the British Secondary Deployment Point and began an end run to threaten the French rear and Primary Deployment Point. 

It seemed at this point, as few French chips were coming out of the bag, that these "fighting cocks" might actually do it. Fortuna, however, is a fickle goddess... French opportunities soon arose. A French light artillery piece deployed to the north of the village with a legere skirmish group and began blasting the approaching British & Spanish cavalry. 

The first artillery salvo was delivered as an Ambuscade (using three command chips) and doubled all shock. Surprised by this development, both cavalry units decided to turn and move away. This only exposed both to enfilade fire and (with a lucky few draws of the chips) the French gun took full advantage.  Shock piled on quickly and both cavalry groups soon routed to the rear. Many rude gestures from the French defences followed after the horsemen. 

Not so much a Learning Moment as a pat on the back for remembering to use the three chips for an Ambuscade. I often find myself in SP2 games waiting for the right moment to launch an Ambuscade... on an enemy flank, at close range, etc. As was proven in this game, simply deploying to the enemy's front (and not at close range) and delivering double shock can have a serious effect.

To counter the threat of the Portuguese on the other flank, I had several options. I could deploy my Young Guard skirmishers, some or all of my legere groups, or even the guard cavalry. Although a glorious charge from Les Dragoons de l'imp√©ratrice would have been...well... glorious, I reined that thought in and decided to keep these regal horsemen as a general reserve (for emergencies only!). I turned to the Young Guard skirmishers who were able to deploy in enfilade on the Portuguese cacadores and quickly turn these fighting cocks into scattered chickens (good thing their trousers were already brown).

Self-Congratulatory Mode: Remembering that groups (in this case, the Young Guard skirmishers) can deploy even to the rear of enemy troops if their deployment distances allow.  It's an occurrence easy to reconcile... hiding in a fold of the ground, etc.

Both flanks thus secure (at least temporarily), I was satisfied... but there were still the stalwarts of the British force to deal with. In the center, Vidal had deployed a 2-group formation of British line, protected by a group of lights. While smaller than every other appearance so far in the campaign, this could still be a potent force. And to make it worse, a group of 95th Rifles also appeared. "Ah!" says I..."Only one group?  I can live with that. At least it's not three groups like last time." While the Rifles contented themselves with sniping at the French gun and lights in the breastworks, the regulars began their inevitable march up the center of the field. They seemed not to be particularly enthusiastic this time and the advance was slow.

When they had advanced close enough to the defences to present a credible threat, I decided to deploy the three-group formation of French legere in front of the breastworks (to gain a better field of fire) and unleash a volley. The French formation commander waved his chapeau exuberantly and the resultant fire staggered the British line. Once again, Fortuna made up for her earlier absence in French affairs and allowed a second volley before the British line could react. Coupled with fire from the Young Guard skirmishers, the British formation was soon in bad shape. Vidal decided to that a Voluntary Withdrawal would be the best course and began moving his units back toward the British base line. Unfortunately for him, the British morale had been seriously degraded after the loss of the cavalry and the cacadores. Continued fire from the French infantry formation soon forced the British Force Morale to zero and a Crushing Victory was achieved!

The British Battlegroup will retreat back northward and we'll then move onto the second half of 1813_Turn 2.

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