Wednesday, January 20, 2010

First Battle (repost)

Reposted from the Honour forum, just so I can keep all my batreps in one place.
So I had my first game of Lasalle last night. Because we didn't get started until after 7, and had to spend most of our time noodling through the rules, we didn't come to anything like a conclusion, but I think it's safe to say that the game has rekindled my interest in miniature gaming.
I played my French infantry division against a Peninsular British force - Jack borrowed John's counters for this occasion. We both chose to defend, which means a dice-off, and Brits get a bonus to that roll, so they ended up defending. The game has an interesting table setup sequence: you roll one die for odds/evens and another for the straight number, and reference the result to a chart of standard battlefields, which are then modified by additional terrain of the players' choosing. First the defender chooses to add a piece of terrain, then the attacker, then the defender again. No piece can be more than about a foot across.
Then the defender decides whether to pick his starting edge and set up, or let the attacker pick the edge and set up first. Jack chose to set up first, so he could use his hill, and deployed his troops in a thin red line, interspersing attack columns with units in line. His one small battery of guns was on the hill, angled towards the center of the board, along with a couple of battalions as flank security. His heavy cavalry was in reserve, waiting for the right time to turn the tide of battle.
Then I deployed - eight battalions of regular infantry, backed up by artillery, with an organic brigade of four units of light cavalry, with their own artillery as well! I don't know whether it's because I had most of my figures (most of us are using counters for now), or the fact that I start with cavalry on-board instead of reserve, but it looked like a TON of guys, and several people commented to that effect.
My plan was to make an emphatic attack left-of center to the left of the objective, while my artillery massed right of center to wear down his pivot units and discourage reinforcements. I sent my small (2-battalion) infantry brigade to demonstrate on the right, to discourage any attempt at my artillery and to hopefully pin down a couple of battalions there. My thinking was to turn an 8 to 6 advantage in infantry into a 6 to 4 advantage at the point of attack. My cavalry units deployed among and alongside the main force, which was arrayed in attack columns three abreast and two deep. This turned out to be a mistake, as there just isn't enough time to cross the board unless you're in march order.
As a result, the first few turns were pretty uneventful. My artillery deployed about 1/3 of the way from the center line, in plenty of range to the Brits, and opened fire on his lynchpin unit, a large elite infantry battalion. Over time, my fire began to wear this unit down. His artillery, meanwhile, messed around with counterbattery fire and then tried to shoot up some cavalry, with little effect.
I was just about to deploy my attack on the left when his reinforcements arrived: two large units of heavy cavalry, one behind the other, bearing down on the front of my left flank! Fortunately I had judged my spacing correctly and was able to deploy my center unit in line, while the corner battalion stayed in attack column, ready to form square should they be charged. I retreated with a flanking unit of hussars, circling around near a wooded copse to threaten the flank of the British cavalry, while a second unit of my light cavalry moved up to protect the corner battalion.
Jack's charge nevertheless took me somewhat by surprise, as I had thought that the front unit was masking the rear one. However since movement is sequential by unit, his first unit charged my infantry, opening up room for his second to charge my hapless light cavalry! Because of the turn sequence, charges aren't resolved until the opposing player's turn, giving me an opportunity to react. I formed square with my threatened infantry unit, requiring a discipline (morale) check for proximity to the enemy, then fired with the neighboring unit in line, felling some horsemen but hardly blunting the charge. Further left, my light cavalry didn't have space to shake out into a wide line, so just took it on the chin. My reactions complete, we resolved the combat: cavalry have a hard time attacking infantry in square, so they bounced off, but the heavy cavalry rode right over my chasseurs a cheval, rolling twice as many hits as I did so breaking them instantly. The British dragoons' momentum carried them forward, past the corner infantry battalion and in the face of a second-line unit that I'd thrown out further on the flank the turn before.
Meanwhile on the right, my demonstrating brigade was past the marsh and shaken out into line and into attack position. It looked like my feint was about to become the main line of attack! Having anticipated this, I sent a third cavalry unit round the marsh to threaten a flanking attack: a combined-arms infantry-cavalry charge is Very Bad News for a defending infantry unit (they either halve their dice from being attacked by infantry while they are in square, or by cavalry for not being in square). My artillery was still bisecting the battlefield, and rattling the big unit of elite infantry to their front - while you can recover from disruptions, they only come off at most one per turn, and I'd had a couple of lucky rounds of shooting so they were at 4 DISR by the end of the game. When a unit reaches a DISR number equal to its number of stands, it routs. I was ready to smash into them with yet another light cavalry unit (turns out it's great to have lots of onboard cavalry!), supported by a wodge of infantry.
Unfortunately it was not to be. While we were able to resolve a second charge by the British Dragoons (less successful than the first thanks to a timely countercharge to their rear by my valiant Hussars, who had finally gotten turned around), no further units were lost, and we ran out of time. Things were looking pretty bad for the Brits, with three units wavering and a flank hanging in the breeze, but anything can happen in a dice game so the result remained indecisive.
I'm pretty confident that we can finish a battle in 3 hours. The small number of turns (usually around 9 for each player with a random ending turn) feels rushed to me, but that just encourages decisive action rather than dinking around. I thought the rules were pretty easy to understand, and the quick reference sheets (4 of them) well laid out. With any luck I'll have my book soon and the few figures I need to finish my army. I can't wait for next week! :)

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