Sunday, May 18, 2014

Defend The Hill: Lasalle AAR

After being directed to a post on columns verses lines in Lasalle, I made a suggestion for what I believe was a more constructive approach to dealing with the situation as opposed to some of the suggestions listed on the post. This was not the first time I had run across the issue, as it creeps into all Napoleonic rules to one degree or another. Although I do not recognize this to the level as a problem, I do see an historical point of view that was never addressed for point blank volley fire into deep formations. So, the rule used in this scenario as an experiment is:

An experienced infantry battalion in line, firing into an enemy unit in attack column or waves formation, may double shooting dice if within 2BW.

The latest store battle using Lasalle. This was a six player game with the French having a fair numerical advantage but the Anglo-Portuguese having a better position with concealment, if needed. It was a classic slug fest biding for supremacy of the field. Here we see the Portuguese contingent on the Allied right flank and in the background, the French left wing. The Allies had a numerical advantage on this flank.

I commanded the Allied center, which was to turn out to be the only part of the line that held. I'm certain this was due to the more aggressive nature of the French commanders on the flanks than my commanding.

This is the Allied left flank. Opposing them is an entire division of French dragoons and a brigade of infantry. This was to be the flank that decided the entire battle and would see the fiercest fighting.

Early in the battle the French dragoons were quite impulsive and made some rash charges which largely worked. The British square here manages to push back the dragoons but only for a moment. The French artillery is managing to soften up the defenders along the ridge which will be important later on during combat.

This will be the last image of the Scots Greys in the center. They were subsequently charged and routed off the field in one really decisive combat. Some more exchanges of cannons fire back and forth and little effect for either side.

On the Allied right, the Portuguese units with a Brunswicker battalion mixed in for fun, stand awaiting the rapidly approaching French. The French player on this particular wing seemed to be aggressive in wanting to engage but uncertain as to what formation to use. As it will turn out, multiple units will repeatedly change formation.

Back to the Allied left flank, the front British battalion was unable to pass a discipline test to form a hasty square and was promptly swept from the field. The rear battalion did manage to form square as normal and repulse the dragoons. Attempting to plug the gap, some British light dragoons came from the far left to try and cover the breech from the Scots Greys. The Royal Horse Artillery battery chose to stand its ground and fire into the chargers and take its chances in the melee. Clearly, that was a gamble.

With the artillery slaughtered (no surprise there), the square was a bit isolated and quickly going to be facing multiple cavalry units unless things change. The French artillery on this sector was now silenced due to the inability to have a clear path to any target. From this point on, this flank only managed to turn into a series of melees as the cavalry show no fear of the British battalions who were too spread out to support each other.

On the Allied right flank, the French move the artillery up close and canister the far flanking Cacadore unit. Over a few turns of longshot and canister, it was blown away. The series of melees here should have been in the Allied favor if for no other reason than sheer numbers. Due to the disadvantageous attack column the Allied player chose for a defensive formation, the fire power was reduced. This formation did allow more numbers to be brought to bear on a reduced frontage, however it did not provide and reserve to plug holes. It also could not return fire with as much power.

The French player on this wing was using a tactic used more frequently by the Prussians in 1813-1814. Cavalry come up, force the infantry into square while artillery and infantry take advantage of the situation. Here the Allied commander was facing odds not in his favor and can be excused for not being able to repulse everything thrown at him.

Here we see my opposite moving his forces toward the flank rather than smack dab into the center lines. My artillery played against these columns, but not enough to slow any of the approaching battalions down. Perhaps the Portuguese were seen as the weaker link.

My hussars had been shifted to cover the collapsing Allied left flank and as they arrived, two more British battalions routed. The light dragoons also were beaten off the hill and the great turning movement was made by the French. Both of my hussar units are lining up to charge the victorious French dragoons who moved up too far forward when consolidating their position.

Here in the center, my artillery fired canister until charged. Managing to limber up, they evaded contact with the opposing French battalion and moved to the rear. I then moved them off to try to slow the French tide on my left. My far right battalion (69th Foot) was charged by both the 1er and 2ème battalions of the 4ème Légère. The 69th did some good shooting and only suffered a minor push back from the combat. Here the shooting rule did allow me to easily inflict one casualty on each battalion.

Alas, the Allied right was outflanked to match the other flank. The dead pile on the upper right is quite lopsided when seen to the French dead pile of only one battalion on the upper left of the picture. Even if the break point for the army had not been reached at this point, the Allied player here had clearly a confused defensive strategy. The French may have changed from march column to attack column to line, but the Allied general here couldn't be bothered with dynamic tactics. Not pictured, but on the opposite flank my hussars managed to route the French dragoon unit opposed to it and that act concluded the battle.

In review, the adjusted rule for opposing columns was not as well used here as it could have been. Primarily, the Allied right was never able to exercise it and the center was only able to use it near the end of the battle. Ironically enough, the French managed to use it more effectively against the uninspired Allied right that remained in attack column. This explains why the French here formed into line and did put it to good use. The adjustment is not a game changer by any stretch of the imagination, however it is a bit more formidable than as written currently in the rule book. I believe for the mean time, I will retain it until something changes my mind.


  1. Well done, great looking pictures and units!

  2. Ditto to Phil's comment, a really interesting read and lovely photos.
    That sort of rule for column vs line seems more sensible than an unsubstantiated improvement in British fire factors.

    1. Thanks James. My thinking on the increased in firepower limited it to a specific situation and at near point blank range. This adjustment guarantees nothing but does permit the defender a little chance to inflict more damage. The attacker now has to consider that whether he wins the combat or not, he will incur damage.

      The only other adjustment I could think of was to leave the firepower completely as is and then any attack column or cavalry unit in waves formation would be required to take a discipline test and fall back if failed or continue onward if passed. I'll end up playing it with the modification for another couple of games just to see how it goes.

  3. great report, many aks for the excellent descriptions and supporting pictures.