Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Fording Onward - General d'Armee AAR

With Historicon coming up in a couple weekends, Ted invited us over to help refresh his General d'Armee knowledge with his go-to convention scenario, the Battle of Gilly. 

You may recall that this isn't the first time I've refought this battle; Ted ran this game at a previous SJGA meeting.

The original battle took place in June 1815, at the start of Napoleon's Waterloo campaign, with a Prussian rearguard force hoping to delay the advancing French. The bridge at Gilly offered one of the only clear methods of crossing the Sambre River.

Chip, one of the Prussian commanders, was allocated two swamps to place alongside the river that cut the battlefield in half. These swamps were impassible for infantry, cavalry, and artillery, while skirmishers could cut through. 

As a French commander, I was given a ford to make crossing easier (as the only way the cavalry could cross the river at all, apart from the bridge in the town, was over the ford). I placed it on the opposite side of the town to the two swamps. 

Chip and Steve elected to put one of their infantry brigades in the town to defend it.

Steve commanded a brigade of Landwehr reservists and cavalry on one flank. 

And Chip took command of the other two infantry brigades (including the one that was guarding Gilly. 

Ted had control of an infantry brigade and a cavalry brigade.

And I commanded the other two French infantry brigades. 

The scenario's goals for the French were to cause two Sauve Qui Peut results on the Brigade Command table, or three Retreats on the same table. The Prussians had to hold out for 10 turns. However, if the French managed to land a Sauve Qui Peut result, the game's turn limit would be increased!

The game started rather inauspiciously for the French when a Prussian artillery salvo sent two regiments of the far-left infantry brigade retreating back to safety. 

Everywhere else, the French advanced in their classic attack columns. 

As soon as I could, I launched an assault on the town. After the first round of combat resulted in a draw (despite 2:1 odds against the Prussians!) I gambled on three units being able to displace the defenders. The bet paid off and the French controlled Gilly for the rest of the game. 

On the other side of the town, Ted was launching his first assault across the river, in the face of multiple Prussian regiments and artillery. 

With the Prussians temporarily pushed back from the outskirts of Gilly, I was able to move an infantry regiment out into the open. 

I could tell you that this was a masterfully planned move to bait Steve's cavalry into charging the infantry and end up in range of my artillery units, but that would be a lie. 

I also messed up and moved my infantry into lines far too early, before they had even crossed the river. The meant I had to spend several turns slogging across the river, instead of moving at a brisker pace in column formation. 

With the Prussians moving forward to bottleneck the town, I started to swing my infantry regiments around the outskirts. I figured it would be faster to move through the Sambre than it would be to try and force the Prussians back with sporadic fire from the town's defenders. 

Meanwhile, Chip had set up a well-defended position to contest Ted's river crossings. As the cavalry could only cross at the ford, a traffic jam was quickly forming. It didn't help that any cavalry unit that tried to move across the ford ended up being fired upon by multiple infantry regiments and supporting cannons.

As my infantry brigade slowly made its way across the Sambre, I had to fend off repeated cavalry attacks from the Prussians. The charges themselves didn't hurt much, but they forced my infantry regiments to form square which made them perfect targets for Prussian return fire.

Ted had again mustered his troops for an advance across the river. In an astonishing example of how fickle the dice can be, one of his cavalry charges against a line of Prussian infantry - having failed to get into square before the cavalry were upon them - was rebuffed! The French cavalry were forced back once again as the infantry soldiered on. 

By this point, it wasn't looking good for the French. Bottlenecked in Gilly and stymied on both sides of the river, it didn't seem like they would have enough time to cause the needed numbers of Sauve Qui Peut or Retreat results before the end of the game. 

And then, a lucky break (or unlucky, depending on which side of the table you were on)! In the previous turn, a French artillery barrage had sent one of Steve's cavalry regiments fleeing, which meant he had to roll again on the Brigade Command table. He rolled a Retreat and decided to use an attached ADC to try and get his soldiers back in order. 

And then - sacre bleu! - a dreaded Sauve Qui Peut was the result instead!

While we didn't get a chance to finished the game, the extra time allotted to the French gave Ted and I the chance to get into a more advantageous position. It was unlikely that Steve's Landwehr were going to last long in the face of a full French infantry brigade, and Chip was too busy fighting off Ted's troops to assist. 

We decided to call it after around three-and-a-half hours of game time with an expected French victory. 

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