Sunday, May 6, 2018

BatRep: Combat at Foz de Arouce, 15MAR1811

As night falls, Ney withdraws
After setting the table and preparing the scenario (see Scenario: Combat at Foz de Arouce), time to refight the battle.  On game day, two participants, each taking the role of either Wellington or Ney, volunteered for command.  With Kevin forever the Francophile, little question as to who would command the French in this rear-guard action.  Jake took command of the Anglo-Portuguese forces (hereafter referred to as "British").  To remind one of the victory conditions and victory point objectives, the two photos below illustrate the situation.  Essentially, the Anglo-Portuguese forces are attempting to push the French across the swollen Ceira River (to the bottom of the photo) while inflicting a disproportionate share of casualties. 
Objectives
Initial troop concentrations
Caught unprepared for a British attack so late in the day, many of the French were back-footed by Wellington's attack.  Although the British got off to a slow start due to miscommunication, the initial advantage in initiative remained with the British throughout most of the battle.  Details of the action are summarized in the captions of each photo.  
Marchand responds to British advances by pushing
his legere forward to defend Poisao
French legere throw out heavy skirmishing screen to disrupt
Craufurd's division moving up through the gully.
Picton gets his troops moving and quickly closes
 on French positions defending in the wooded hills
Mermet launches a counterattack from the woods
 to disrupt the British advance.
Wellington orders his guns to the high ground
overlooking Poisao.
With volleys increasing on the British right, some of Mermet's
 formations become disorganized as they fall back
through the woods.
On the French right, Marchand's two battalions of legere
punish the lead element of British foot.
  Nearly destroyed in a lopsided, close range firefight,
 the British battalion falls back through its support.
Portuguese gain a foothold on the heights on the
 British right as Mermet's brigade gives ground.
Due to effective incoming cannon fire from the heights
 above Paisao, Marchand's battery limbers and evacuates the village.
Pressure mounts against Mermet and the French left.
His brigade is slowly pushed back through the woods.
Suffering moderate losses, Mermet abandons the high ground on the left.
Paisao is vigorously defended by the French while Marchand
 pulls back the remainder of his brigade.
British press French against the river.
With Marchand's troops beginning to flee across the bridge,
 Mermet is backed into a corner with little means of escape.
Will he be able to cut his way through?
Much of Marchand's brigade flees the field and makes
 good its escape.
Mermet may soon be trapped.
Having abandoned Paisao, Ney now worries about
having his escape route cut by the British
before Mermet's brigade can intercede.
Marchand leaves Paisao to the British as he fights a delaying
 action to allow his brigade to pass over the bridge to safety.
The problem for Ney is that Mermet could be trapped if
the British reach the bridge ahead of Mermet.
Paisao in British hands
In an attempt to stabilize the situation and gain time for
Mermet, French cavalry charge with infantry support.
The combined arms force the British infantry to fall back
through supports, disorganized. Weakened and blown
by this effort, the cavalry pull up.
Situation is tight for Mermet.  Already two battalions have
 routed into the raging river and have been swept away.
Craufurd cuts Mermet's escape as the bridge falls into British hands.
Mermet surrenders.
That was an interesting game and a challenge for both but more so for the French.  One challenge for the French is keeping the bridge open long enough to allow Mermet to escape if needed.  In this game and historically, Craufurd and the British Light Division beat Mermet to the bridge.  Unlike his historical counterpart, today's Ney could not retake the bridge and open a path for Mermet.  Cutoff, Mermet's remaining option was surrender.

In the early stages of battle, Marchand's legere man-handled the first British battalion it faced.  Craufurd risked having his attack stall almost before it started.  Rather than keeping pressure on Craufurd, Marchand fell back.  In doing so, he uncovered Paisao to British attack.  Once Marchand began his retrograde, the French position was compromised and casualties mounted quickly.  Craufurd had a shorter path to the bridge than did Mermet.  While Merment fought valiantly to extricate himself from his unfortunate position, he could not.  Surrender was his only option.  The result was an Anglo-Portuguese victory.

With the puzzle that this presents to the French player, I plan to give this action another try.  Perhaps a solo refight is in order to evaluate the situation? Perhaps another outing with active participants is the way forward.  Whichever path is taken, I have a few notions on what could be attempted and maybe improved upon.  Perhaps Massena was right to be irritated with Ney for taking such a position on the wrong side of a swollen river against his orders.  It was very good to see the 28mm Napoleonics out on the gaming table and in action after a long hiatus.

41 comments:

  1. Looks good. Inspiring too, plus reminds me that I'm dawdling on my Napoleonic projects.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! Pleased to provide some inspiration to get your own collection out on the gaming table.

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  2. A good looking and challenging game, and you managed to get your new church terrain piece into the game.

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    1. Yes! The new church came off the workbench and straight into battle! This is a scenario worthy of another try.

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  3. A lovely looking game...
    And an excellent scenario...

    All the best. Aly

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  4. Lovely looking game, good to see the 28s out for a spin, the church looks great. I quite fancy Spanish and Portuguese but they'll have to wait in line after French and Austrian!
    Best Iain

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    1. Thank you, Iain! Getting the 28mm Napoleonics out on the table has been a long time coming. Hopefully, next time will not be so long. Well, I know it will not be long since the table is still set up with a planned replay.

      One reason I went with the Peninsular War with 28s is that the number of combatants and quantity of figures needed would be limited vis-a-vis the Main Theater of Operations.

      Good luck getting your French and Austrians game-ready.

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  5. That is a really nice action with the escape route bringing such an important dimension to the game. Certainly worth a replay. And agree, the church model is too nice to have saved for another day :-)

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    1. Yes, the scenario does provide some challenges especially to the French. Watching the battle unfold with my buddies in command, I am motivated to try my hand at improving the French situation.

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  6. A very interesting battle, Jon.

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  7. Excellent summary Jon, and a well laid out scenario. I agree that the French have the much more interesting puzzle for this game. The decisive action appears to be the struggle for Poisao. Crauford has the ability to shut down the French retreat which flips the fight around as he becomes the defender. Once Wellington forced the seam between the two Divisions, 1/2 the French Army is in a Fight or Die position. The critical decision for the French commander is when to begin falling back on the Bridge.

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    1. Thanks! I was very happy to have you participate and lend your skill and insight into the game. It was a fun match.

      While the game is still on the table, we should give it at least one more try.

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    2. Agreed, I am looking forward to a re-fight. This month looks good for it.

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  8. Oh, and I think Massena had it right. Opting to defend from the wrong side of a river in flood, with your main force so far out of position to withdraw seems a recipe for disaster. Did Ney know his ford was unusable?

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    1. Hubris. Ney did not like Massena. Perhaps that history influenced his decision? Having Lamotte's cavalry in a position to defend the ford, I expect Ney knew of it. Did he know the infantry could not cross during high water? We may need to assemble a thorough inquiry.

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  9. Nice AAR and I think the scenario is very interesting as I said before. Interesting scenarios are always a little harder to get right but are a LOT more fun! Plus big bonus points for it being based on actual history.

    Game looked great and good fun.

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    1. Thank you! For certain periods, historical scenarios are my preference since it lends purpose and a backstory to the battle.

      Appreciate your comments, Stew!

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  10. Massena was correct as Jake said. Any other commander would have court martialed.

    A few things went bad at the wrong time and the inability to gain the initiative really hurt the French. I think that Mermet needs to withdraw earlier and consolidate earlier.

    We should play again soon. I would obviously play the French.

    Kevin

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    1. Kevin, thanks for your comment!

      Mermet needs to reconsider his options. I, too, think he ought to pull back earlier if only to allow his battery to come into play once the Anglo-Portuguese crest the ridge.

      With both you and Jake willing to tackle this battle again, we should make space on our calendars. It is a very good sign that both commanders in the Game 1 want to have a rematch.

      Thanks again for participating in the game.

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  11. Challenging position for the French, to say the least. Nicely rendered battle report brings out interest. Lovely seeing your splendid 28mm napoleonics on the march.

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    1. Yep. A challenge for the French but both sides want to try again in a rematch. We are interested in seeing if the Latter-Day Ney can improve his standing in a second game.

      Splendid, indeed, to get the figures out onto the gaming table.

      Thanks, Ed!

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  12. Fantastic action and commentary. Thanks for bringing it to us.

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    1. You are welcome! I am glad you enjoyed the battle account.

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  13. A fun report to read. I never tire of seeing 28mm Napoleonic figures in action.

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    1. Thanks, Lawrence!

      I never tire of seeing the Napoleonics in action either. My dilemma is that I have so many collections and not enough time.

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  14. echoing others others I never tire of seeing Napoleonics in action 🙂 a nicely set up battle but a hard scenario to get balanced.

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    1. Thanks, Matt! Was the outcome of Game 1 due to imbalance, tactics, or luck? Luck played a role in the French defeat but a different French approach may counter any perceived imbalances. Remember, historically, the French did not maintain the south bank of the Ceira. The French really need to win on "points" since crushing the Anglo-Portuguese may not be possible.

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  15. Interesting and beautiful battle...not so easy for Marchand!

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  16. A beautiful table and troops, an engaging scenario with replay value, and a fine narrative! What more can one want from our hobby?

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    1. Peter, the guys are anxious for a refight of the battle. That is one more desirable trait of a good game.

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  17. This looks like a great little battle for a wargame scenario Jonathan - nice pics and figures too!

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