Monday, September 30, 2013

AAR: A Romantic Visit Cut Short

A Song of Drums and Shakos Battle Report



Introduction

As promised here are yet another After Action Report of Song of Drums and Shakos (SDS), a Napoleonic skirmish game from Ganesha Games by Sergio Laliscia. An introduction to the game can be found in our first AAR, found here.

For this game we used one of the scenarios in the supplement rule book: ”Reinforcements”. The original scenario sees the attackers trying to take and hold a redoubt as reinforcements arrive trying to help out the defenders in the redoubt. 

For our game we used a different setting. It is 1813 and vast armies maneuver close to each other as the French advance towards Berlin is stalling. A Prussian officer, taking a few soldiers with him, is visiting a certain local "lady" as a French reconnaissance force arrive on the scene. As shots start to fly Swedish troops nearby are alerted and race to help their assaulted Prussian allies.

The scenario stipulates a small starting force of Prussians deployed in the redoubt (or in our case: the enclosed yard). The attacking French deploy on any one table edge. The Swedish soldiers arrive randomly - both regarding numbers and entry point. The French win if at any time the yard is without defenders and at least a single Frenchman is within the walls. Apart from that normal victory conditions apply.

We played the game with 28mm miniatures (all but a few bits being from Perry Miniatures) on a 120x120cm (48x48”) board using the measurements intended for 40mm miniatures.


The opposing forces


The Prussian Defenders 

1 Line Infantry Officer
1 Drummer
5 Line Infantry Musketeers

The Swedish Reinforcements

1 Line Infantry NCO
6 Line Infantrymen
1 Hussar NCO
2 Hussars


The Prussian defenders (to the left) with the Swedish reinforcements (to the right)

The French Reconnaissance Force

1 Line Infantry Officer
1 Drummer
2 Line Infantry NCOs (Grenadier and Voltiguer respectively)
1 Sapper

3 Line Infantry (Grenadiers)
6 Line Infantry (Voltiguers)
6 Veteran Line Infantry (Voltiguers)

The French Reconnaissance Force

The initial set up
A 4x4 table

The deployment

The initial deployment zones. The defender's reinforcements will later arrive from
a random table edge numbered 1-4 or, on a roll of 5 or 6, on a table edge of the defender's choice. 

The game


It was an early morning after a late night…

As the morning mist started to lift the lone Prussian sentry spotted the shakos of a french reconnaissance party among the trees. The Prussians sounded the alarm and scrambled from their nights rest to get in order. Moments later their officer appeared from the house, pulling his pants up and his uniform jacket still unbuttoned.

The Prussian officer, his romantic visit cut short.

The French approached from two directions. Two groups of voltiguers - with an officer, NCO and drummer - came from the forested hill. A group of experienced veterans led the attack while the rest prepared to open fire.

At the same time a group of French grenadiers - with a NCO and sapper - attacked from another direction, towards a small opening in the stone wall enclosing the yard.


French grenadiers and a sapper approach the Prussian right...

...while one of the groups of voltiguers on the Prussian left open fire.
The first shots rang out as the voltiguers in the tree line fired. The Prussians kept their heads down, taking cover behind a wagon parked in the yard, while the veteran voltigures ran across the open ground towards the wall. Their NCO, Sergeant le Coq, however, apparently suffering from a bad hangover dragged his feet and did not manage to keep up with his men.

The leading group of voltiguers arrive at the wall,
outrunning both their NCO and the other voltiguers still in the tree line.
The voltiguer veterans now in a good position by the wall started to pour fire at close range at the Prussians covering behind the wagon. Meanwhile the french grenadiers was also closing in, arriving at the opening in the wall, in the flank of the hard pressed Prussians. Even though the Prussians - with a lot of luck – so far had managed to avoid heavy casualties their position was now very dire indeed.

The French grenadiers come to join the party.
Luckily for the Prussians their Swedish allies had sentries nearby. Responding already to the first shots being fired they started to arrive on the scene, behind the French grenadiers.

The first Swedish soldiers arrive on the scene.
As the Swedish infantrymen advanced on the French the grenadiers cooly turned and fired, killing the leading Swedish soldiers.

But the Prussian luck continued as a patrol of Swedish Mörner Hussars that was returning to their  lines from a night scouting mission now came galloping down the road towards the farm house.

 Swedish Mörner Hussars comes to the Prussians' aid.
The tables now had turned as more Swedish infantry poured on to the field while the Swedish hussars closed in. The French grenadiers was now in a very bad spot – some had already emptied their muskets at the approaching Swedish infantrymen while others had charged into the yard at the Prussians. The remaining grenadiers were in the open as the hussars was almost upon them. A frightening prospect for any infantry soldier.

The French grenadiers, quite surprisingly, proved to be more than a match for the hussars. Even though they were caught in the open by charging cavalry they managed to slow the Swedes down. Instead of being wiped out at an instant it all turned into a swirling melee by the corner of the stone wall where the Mörner hussars hacked down with their sabres at the French grenadiers at their feet with little or no result.

The French grenadiers proving to be hard as nails!
The Swedish hussars fail to break the French left flank.
In a final effort to clear the yard of Prussians the French intensified their efforts and the voltiguers begun to jump over the wall, attacking the Prussians with their bayonets.

The Swedish reinforcements were not far behind however and followed the French example, resulting in a large hand to hand combat in the yard. The French sapper distinguished himself as he again and again held his own against multiple enemies before he was finally brought down.

The grizzled French sapper fight against the Swedes.
Casualties started to mount on both sides. The French grenadiers were fighting a losing battle against the Swedish hussars but in a heroic effort managed to drag one of the horsemen to the ground.

In the yard both sides lost men. The allied superiority in numbers within the walls started to make a difference and it looked liked it might go bad for the French. The group of French voltiguers, the first to open fire, was only all to slowly advancing towards the farm - much needed further forward.

The second group of French voltiguers finally advance on the farm. But is it too little to late?

Fierce hand to hand combat in the yard.

Just when it looked like the French were going to be able to get more men into hand to hand combat the last of the grenadiers holding the French left flank against the Swedish hussars fell. The Swedish Mörner hussars saw the French officer exposed and spurred their horses forward.

All was not lost for the French officer however as he had one of his trusted NCO:s close at hand. With some quick thinking Sergeant le Coq could lead the French to intercept the threat against their officer. Sadly,  the sergeant continued his poor performance from earlier, and did nothing. This lack of action caught the rest of the French flat footed and gave the Swedish hussars the lone French officer served on a plate.

This time around the Swedish hussars showed what they can do to infantry in the open. They unceremoniously cut the French officer down, killing him.

The French officer is ridden down while Sergeant le Coq is looking the other way...
With their numbers running low and their officer killed many of the French turned and fled. Sergeant le Coq running faster than every one else... The yard was firmly in the hands of the Allies. The Prussian officer would now be able to make a less hasty and more worthy exit (if there is such a thing) from his lady.

The Allies - Prussian and Swedes - had won!


Conclusion

It was a fun game with some unexpected results and turnovers along the way.

The Allies had some real luck with the timing of their reinforcements. The infantry did not only arrive early but all of them also came from the best (closest!) table edge. Had that not happened it would have been a different game entirely. The Swedish cavalry also arrived at the worst possible moment for the French, a moment where they were spread out over the battlefield with some entering the yard and others still quite a long way from the farm. That left a only a handful of French grenadiers to try to hold the Swedish Mörner hussars.

As a result of us being somewhat rusty on the rules we made a mistake in the ensuing cavalry vs infantry combat giving the grenadiers a far better chance of survival than they were supposed to have. Well, as it turned out it gave us a more balanced game over all... When it was time for the French officer to fight the cavalry we used the rules properly - much to the dismay of a certain French officer who quickly found himself very dead!

As an end note, the French were bound to lose regardless as they had the NCO, Sergeant le Coq on their side. He cost the French numerous turnovers and failed to do anything properly - apart from running away at the end that is.