Having battled at the confluence of the Po and Tanaro Rivers two weeks prior (see Bassignana, A Battle Report) and with no better offers, the fellas agreed to fight the battle a second time in the regular, weekly Tuesday time slot.
The first encounter ended with a Franco-Spanish victory as Chris led de Gages' Spanish on a romp toward the pontoon bridge over the Po as Bassignana fell. With no sign of Schulenburg's Austrians in sight, victory was declared for the Franco-Spanish alliance.
Since four of the five players in the previous game would return, commands were shuffled up to provide a new challenge to each player. Richard and Chris would switch sides and command the Piedmontese/Austrian armies while Steve would swap the Piedmontese King's sceptre for a French general's command. Phil remained on the Franco-Spanish side but taking overall command as French General Maillebois. Ian, a new recruit for Game #2 took de Gages' Spanish command.
Early consensus suggested the battle may be too tough to allow the Piedmontese to score a victory. I thought the Piedmontese had an opportunity to see success but the defenders may have a learning curve to scale. Richard and Chris took up this challenge. Studying the ground, army dispositions, and victory conditions, a plan was hatched.
Could the lessons learned from Game #1 help to level the playing field or would the challenge or learning curve prove too steep?
As a refresher, the initial army dispositions are:
|Initial battle dispositions|
On to Battle!
|Battlefield looking to the west.|In the first playing, King Emanuele III (KEIII) ordered Liguane's dragoons to ford the Tanaro and apply hard pressure on the French left at the start of battle. The ploy paid off in disrupting the French lines of communication but the effort effectively took Liguane out of the battle at a crucial stage. After scattering a French cavalry regiment, Liguane never affected the battle again. Would the new KEIII (Phil) follow the same path?
|The Spanish ford the Tanaro.|
|The French wade across the Tanaro.|
Senneterre's attack goes in against the defenders of Montecastelle and is bloodily repulsed by well-timed and successfully delivered volleys. Senneterre's two infantry battalions fall back across the Tanaro. With infantry falling back, Senneterre's artillery bombards Montecastelle to cover the retreat and soften up the defenders. On Senneterre's left, de Grammont sends his two infantry battalions in against the defenders of Chiesa de San Germano. The Piedmontese grenadiers of San Germano deliver a withering volley into the face of the attackers. Heavy casualties do not discourage the French from continuing to close.
|Senneterre attacks Montecastelle.|
Maillebois orders both de Grammont and Senneterre's cavalry to cross the Tanaro. De Grammont's two cavalry regiments swing wide left around Chiesa de San Germano. To where did Liguane's cavalry disappear? Chris sent a chat message to me providing orders for Liguane. He asked me to remove the cavalry from the table when out of sight of the enemy and track their progress off table. Chris is a crafty one!
In the close assault at San Germano, de Grammont's attack is stopped short. The lead battalion, already wavering from the volleys, is cut down. De Grammont falls in the attack too. While overseeing the developing attack on Rivarone, Maillebois receives word that de Grammont has fallen. The attack on Chiesa de San Germano has stalled. Maillebois spurs his horse to rush off to shore up the faltering attack against the Piedmontese right.
|Attack against Chiesa de San Germano goes in|
as Senneterre's attack against Montecastelle is repulsed.
(Note that the Piedmontese players are all smiles).
|de Grammont falls in the assault |
upon Chiesa de San Germano.
In the center, de Montal and Arambou converge their energies against the defenders of Rivarone. With only a small brigade, de la Chiesa will have trouble holding the exposed village. Despite support from D'aix' guns on the hill, the pressure is great. In the attacks, de la Chiesa's guns are lost and the regulars are forced back onto the heights. The hapless militia holding the village are overrun by de Montal's Brigade. Rivarone is lost! De la Chiesa's Brigade is broken!
With Rivarone in French hands, Senneterre renews his attack against Montecastelle. Again, Senneterre's attack is repulsed as the Piedmontese right stands firm. Again, Senneterre's artillery covers the withdrawal by bombarding the village. Senneterre's cavalry are sent north into the valley between Montecastelle and Chiesa de San Germano. This is a dangerous maneuver with the high ground lined with the enemy.
|Attacks on Rivarone.|
|Arambou and de Montal move against Rivarone. |
Back on the Spanish right, de Gage forms a bridgehead on the north bank of the Tanaro. Getting too close to Bassignana, one of de Gage's cavalry regiments is dispersed from volleys from the battalion garrisoning the Bassignana fortress. De Gage's infantry fan out to counter enemy light infantry threats to his right while marching on Bassignana directly with the remainder.
|Having crossed the Tanaro,|
the Spanish advance toward Bassignana.
Above the valley north of Montecastelle, the Piedmontese guards pour volley after volley down onto the French cavalry. One formation is dispersed before it can complete its run of the narrow gauntlet. Seeing Senneterre's second attack repulsed at Montecastelle, French artillery concentrate on the castle. Still, the Piedmontese defenders remain steady. Positioned below the defenders on the hill between Rivarone and Bassignana, Arambou's infantry engage in a firefight with the remnants of de la Chiesa's infantry. If Arambou is to succeed, he may have to take the ground by force.
|Into the Valley of Death.|
This is exactly what Arambou does! Supported by de Montal, Arambou climbs the heights and pushes the enemy back. Maillebois sees his army on the heights! On the Spanish front, a firefight erupts with the defenders of Bassignana. The Piedmontese light infantry continues harassing de Gage from the treeline.
|French cavalry receives a whiff of lead from on high.|
|Piedmontese center and left are bending |
as the enemy scales the heights.
While the King saw one brigade wrecked (de la Chiesa), the remainder of the Piedmontese army remained in stable condition. The Franco-Spanish, however, suffered mightily on the attack. Only Arambou's Brigade saw itself with little damage. The other four brigades were all on the verge of breaking. They had literally fought themselves out. With repeated attacks against the Piedmontese strongpoints, the end of battle tally showed Maillebois' army losing six units. Several more were close to dispersing as well.
The Franco-Spanish battle plan, while leading to victory in Game #1, seemed to carry forward to Game #2. Having lost the first battle, the Piedmontese and Austrian armies came up with a different strategy to tackle the problem. That change of strategy worked! Rather than defend the Tanaro River line, the King opted to defend the strongpoints and high ground. The focal point of the defense was not to lose Bassignana. If Bassignana could be defended then having the pontoon bridge cut was an unlikely possibility.
Interestingly, the French attacks against the strongpoints of Chiesa de San Germano and Montecastelle ended in the same manner as before. That is, all attacks were repulsed with heavy casualties. Having the Piedmontese grenadiers and guards defending these positions was key to keeping these objectives firmly in Italian control.
As umpire and figure-pusher, watching these strategies unfold differently from Game #1 was rewarding. Players adapted to lessons learned from the previous game and put those lessons into work to alter the outcome. KEIII did a good job in tipping the seeming imbalance in the historical situation to give his army a fighting chance at victory. A fight for victory that ended in success. The boys are quick studies and the learning curve is not so steep.
Thanks again to the players for an enjoyable outing.