Saturday, November 03, 2012

Rear Guard action - SHAKO at Dak-Kon

The other game I ran at Dak-Kon in October was on Sunday, a SHAKO 'pickup' game format with the action taking place somewhere in Russia in 1812.  A French flank guard/rear guard force having to slow down or stop a Russian advance force.

Layout at the start - from behind French left
The troops were all ' fast conversion' from the Fast Play Grand Armee the day before.  I simply pulled them off the 3" square bases and put them onto the correct 2" squares for cavalry and 1 1/2" by 2" infantry rectangles.  I really like how fast I can 'switch' from one system to another - the change over only took 30 minutes, during which time the table was laid out using the 'dice' to establish the ground for battle.  We ended up with a woods, two hills and a large (6 sector) town.

The French-Italian forces consisted of two brigades of Infantry, the French with one Battalion of Grenadiers and two of line, the Italian brigade with three Battalions of line and one of Grenadiers (Irish Legion serving as "Italians") and a brigade of Cavalry with two Hussar Squadrons and one of Dragoons.

The Russian attackers had two brigades of infantry, each with three battalions of line (one each of Jagers with detached skirmish formations - the French having no Voltigeurs at all) a brigade of Dragoons with two squadrons and full artillery battery and a brigade of Cossacks.

Deployment as seen from behind the French left
The French took up defensive position with woods on the left, a large hill sheltering the French brigade and most of the cavalry and on the right the Italians were massed with the other hill, ready to move to either dominate the hilltop or use the hill to shelter from enemy guns.

The Russians deployed in one long line, with orders for the right wing brigade to take the large hill, the left brigade to advance to artillery range and hold and the Dragoons to press in immediately.  The Cossacks were held back for exploitation or flank action.  The effect was to keep the French guessing about the possibility of the Cossacks appearing on the flank.

The first turn was movement to range with artillery exchanges, not much to write about.

Turn two saw the Russian Dragoons race into the center of the field, an odd decision for sure as none of the French or Italian forces were yet disordered, the French Dragoons responded and sent the Russians reeling back.

First cavalry engagement
The Russians had two Dragoon formations in the brigade and now they countered the French Dragoons who in turn were also thrown back.

Russian Dragoons counter-attack

The end of the turn also saw a brigade fail its moral check as Russian artillery was starting to take effect, one Battalion of line was routed (having suffered 4 casualties) and the brigade rolled a morale check die getting a "1"!
French brigade morale fails and they flee to the edge of the board...
The collapse of the French left could have been catastrophic, however the French light cavalry was still available to 'plug the gap' until the men could recover.

Meanwhile on the Russian left the Cossacks had arrived, they were following the battle plan to drive up the line behind the Dragoons and smash into the French center.  Certainly the inexperience of this Russian player was telling in his choice of action for the lightly armed Cossacks!

Cossacks arrive in the Russian left wing
Two turns of further artillery exchanges and another series of charge and counter-charge from the Russian and French Dragoons, left the French with the Chasseurs damaged and the Russians with one less Dragoon squadron.

all alone in the center, Eugene holds on until French brigade can recover
Those Russian Dragoons had to fall back from battle, directly in the mouths of Italian horse guns...

Russian Dragoons facing Italian horse guns
Turn 6 saw the end of the Russian Dragoon brigade, they were destroyed in an instant by concentrated artillery fire at close range by the Italian horse battery and longer range by French horse guns.  As they fled so did the full battery of Russian horse artillery attached to the brigade, now the weight of guns was closer to equal.

The Cossacks advanced behind a screen of Russian infantry, the battalion of Jagers suffered in turn 7 from massed French and Italian artillery fire.  The French brigade that had fallen back in turn 2 was now recovered and back into position.  Just in time to blast the remnants of the Jagers from the field.  Then the Cossacks charged, into steady French Grenadiers.  It was not even a close match ... the Cossacks were blasted to bits.  Then came a "1" brigade morale roll for the Cossacks, who fled to the edge of the field.

In turn 8 the Cossacks recovered and still the artillery was dealing out death blows, this time another Russian Battalion fled the field (with 4 casualties), while the jubilant French Grenadiers were wounded and disordered by concentrated Russian artillery.

Start of turn 8 from Russian left
Seeing that victory would only come from breaking the will of the French brigade opposite him one Russian commander decides to press forward after one last blast from his guns.

Brigade command choosing to drive forward to victory
Only two more French units breaking would complete the win for the Russians, three more were needed for the French....

the paths of glory lead but to the grave
Then French and Italian artillery got that next Russian unit, now only two each were needed for victory.

The weakest French unit were the Chasseurs a Cheval, though they were posted to a reserve role.

Chasseur a Cheval in reserve, though wounded still a capable unit
French and Italian line, though bloodied was now back into position
The Russians had moved into squares on their right, due to the French light horse that had filled the gap of the infantry brigade, now those slow moving Russians were going to be unable to press on their advantage, for the French brigade had recovered and now was back into position to hold them off.

The French fired on the advancing Battalions, taking out another one and certainly causing a morale check on the central Russian brigade, though this would come at the end of the turn, they were in no condition to continue fighting, and the French guns were certain to score more hits that could not be sustained (the remaining Battalion had 3 hits already).

Russian right formed defensive squares
Russian right wing brigade had taken the hill
A critical decision time had come for the vanguard commander ... how to score one more casualty on the French forces?

Fateful moment, Russian command must get one more casualty to win
The decision was made to send in the Cossacks to achieve the victory.

measurement being made to send in the Cossacks
The Cossacks charged at the wounded Grenadiers ... who went to form square - and - failed! (rolled a "6")

Now a desperate fight would result, with the Cossacks having bonus and dice roll total score of 8 and the wounded Grenadiers coming up with NO bonus (having failed to form square and casualties and no support they were at a "0").  As the Grenadiers already had two hits they could only sustain two more, three hits and they would flee the field, causing the brigade to have more than 1/2 casualties and likely having to flee totally - giving the Russians the clear victory, so they would have to roll a "6" in order to even stay on the field and give the rest of the French a fighting chance.

The Grenadiers rolled a "6"!

They fell back with casualties, yet the brigade would remain.

The Cossacks charged ahead and totally destroyed the French foot battery that had dealt out great volumes of death all day.

The problem was that the Russians had lost another Battalion in the turn, the French had reached their victory total.  Final score French: 6 :: Russian: 4.

Clearly the field was not going to stay in French hands long, though the battle was a French 'victory' it was a Pyrrhic one for the Russians were certain to recover faster than the French ... the greater part of the army would march away and the French retreat would continue ...

Many thanks to MIKE for playing as the Russian in this contest at Dak-Kon 17 in Courtenay.

1 comment:

David Cooke said...

Enjoyable AAR thanks.