Control The River - Scenario 2
Updated: Jun 17, 2022
My friend Steve Johnson has already posted a link to our recent game which used scenario 2 in the rule book. I wanted to add a few of my own photos for your enjoyment, and also discuss one or two issues which the game raised.
The photo below shows the game ready to go.
The first thing to mention is that we were using Steve's 10mm MDF figures from Commision Figurines. These are generic Horse and Musket figures which Steve uses for both Seven Years War and Napoleonic games, and which will doubtless soon be used for other periods. This is a nifty idea which lowers the barrier to entry for new periods and rule sets - provided you're not too fussy about correct uniforms and such. In our game (set in 1809), the attacking forces were French (under my control), the defenders Austrian.
The photo shows a close up of a 'Blue' artillery battery.
For a further look at the figures, below we can see the 'Red' forces set up in Town A at game start.
Finally, here are two units of light cavalry in close combat during the game.
A second important point is that the table was 4' x 3'. It was great to see a decent sized game of SotE, with five brigades plus artillery on each side, laid out on such a relatively small surface. This confirmed what I had always intended - that by using smaller size figures (10mm and below) games of SotE can be set up on modest tables, once again lowering the barrier to entry. Plus you can play from your chair, which can be really relaxing, especially for gamers of a certain age! I brought along my 25-30mm playsheets and could use them with ease, just reading 'centimetres' instead of 'inches'.
A couple of further shots of the game in progress are given below. The first shows Town A under assault towards the end of the game:
The second shows an overview of the game at about the mid-point:
As can be seen in the photos, neither of us used skirmish screens in the game. This raises the point as to whether using skirmish screens has a real benefit, and also whether players in general find that the rules for skirmish screens just get in the way.
Certainly, when learning the rules, starting by saying "let's not bother with skirmish screens for the moment" can be worthwhile until you get used to all the other rules. But I put in the skirmish screen rules specifically to add some real Napoleonic flavour to games of SotE, preferring not to have skirmishing 'factored in' in some way without actually deploying figures. The rule amendments that can be found in the File Share section increased the usefulness of skirmish screens even more.
When advancing rapidly in column, skirmish screens are especially useful - the effect of enemy fire on your columns is reduced, and you can fire back with 2 dice rather than 1. In the game we played, the French columns advancing towards the northern ford should have deployed skirmish screens, and could have saved themselves some hits, especially from Austrian flanking fire. As the French player, I have to admit I didn't deploy them because I hadn't played for a while and simply forgot how useful they were!
Employing the skirmish screen rules will quickly teach players their benefits and how best to use them. I think players will also find that their games will feel even more 'Napoleonic'. Sometimes you might feel that you are only using skirmish screens because your opponent is doing so - but such was the reality of Napoleonic warfare. Skirmish screens were often there to cancel out the effect of the other side's skirmishers, because if you didn't, your troops would suffer. Using the 'light battalions' rule rather than individual unit skirmish screens can be an alternative - for example using a whole light battalion to screen a brigade. Trying out the various rules during your games is the best way to get a feel for how the dynamics work.
As for the scenario itself, we both agreed that it was a tough gig for the attacker, who is impeded by the central woods and steep hill and has to get across the fords and bridges to access the northern half of the table. If you feel the attacker is unfairly disadvantaged, I would make the following suggestions:
Remove the defender's reserves arriving via road 1.
Extend the delay for reserves - for example, 1,2 arrive turn 3; 3,4 arrive turn 4; 5,6 arrive turn 5.
Add more artillery for the attackers. For example, adding a horse battery to create a horse artillery brigade of two batteries, or adding a foot artillery brigade of two batteries.
You can obviously mix and match these three posible solutions. Certainly the third suggestion is one I would recommend if players don't want to actually weaken the defender. It would give the attackers the firepower they need to reach across the river and engage the enemy prior to crossing it.
Normally, formation changes within 100 yards of the enemy are not allowed (see the notes to the movement table on p.19). However, we found a couple of occasions in the game where a formation change might be justified within this range. In the first situation, a light battalion lining the edge of a wood was engaged in a short range firefight with a formed line unit that was within 100 yards. The light battalion was in skirmish formation, but wanted to change formation to formed in order to get the full 4 firing dice. In the second example, an artillery battery was being harassed in flank by some light infantry at close range, but also wanted to continue to engage a target to its front. The required solution was to fire one die at each target, but once again this would technically have required a formation change within 100 yards of the enemy.
In both cases we allowed the unit in question to take an ability roll to make the formation change, in a similar way to an emergency formation change when being charged. This seemed to satisfy honour on both sides. Therefore I would offer this as an optional rule where players agree that a formation change within 100 yards of the enemy might be justified by the circumstances. The unit would of course count as having made a significant move when firing in that turn. If the unit ended up being charged in the same turn, it couldn't counter-charge, and I would suggest a -1 in close combat to represent it being somewhat disordered.
I hope the above has been of some interest. Don't forget to look in at Steve's blog for a blow-by-blow account of the battle - which I lost! But then winning has never been an important part of my gaming. The game flowed well and there was plenty of action throughout, which satified us both.