We ran through our first full scale AOE game last weekend, working out the rules and finding out what not to do! It was a lot of fun and as a WWII gamer up until now I loved the ebb and flow and unpredictability of a Napoleonic era battle.
Forces allocated three divisions to the French (two infantry, one cavalry) and three batteries of artillery. Each infantry division was made up of two line and one light brigade while the cavalry division had a brigade of chausseurs and an over-sized and very powerful brigade of cuirassiers.
The Spanish forces were divided into two divisions, with the army and one division leader embodied in the same leader, giving the larger Spanish force poorer command and control. The right flank and centre division was made up of two line infantry brigades, a light infantry/Swiss foreign infantry brigade and a smaller brigade of élite Walloon Guards, supported by a brigade of dragoons and three batteries of cannon. The second division was composed of a brigade of light infantry/Irish foreign infantry and the grenadiers of all units brigaded separately. A brigade of dragoons and two batteries supported the left flank and all brigades were on the largish size, again trying to reflect some of the unwieldy nature of the Spanish army at this time, although the high proportion of foreign troops and light infantry made this a more effective than usual force.
I built a non-historical 6'X8' table, introducing various terrain so we could get a sense of how that would impact play. Our soldiers were 1/72, having scaled up all the AOE measurements and base sizes by half. We then diced for sides and ends, and Ted won, choosing the French and the attack, which meant the Spanish could deploy anywhere below the stream which cut through the centre of the board. And then it was game on!
(Apologies in advance for the ridiculous number of photos taken. I got carried away seeing all those brightly coloured figures finally deployed on a board!)
The battlefield, picture taken from the Spanish end. The Spanish deployed below the stream, anchoring their right flank at the edge of an impassable escarpment, placing their centre by the bridge on the edge of an orchard and their left utilizing a long stone wall in defence. The stream was fordable throughout its length and all hills were considered rough ground. All buildings were merely decorative but we treated the tall hedge rows as a narrow but LOS blocking dense woods.
The Spanish strung across the battlefield, anchoring its right (top) next to an escarpment and its left behind a long stone wall.
Right flank (top) has a brigade of line with two batteries attached, and the Walloon Guards and dragoons in reserve behind.
Centre guards the bridge with a light/foreign brigade (battery attached) in line in an orchard and a line brigade in reserve in the rough ground of the hill to the rear.
Left flank has a light/foreign brigade defending behind a stone wall with two batteries attached and the grenadier and dragoon brigades in reserve behind.
2. Spanish centre and right flank
The Spanish left spots the French army as it enters the battlefield on a distant ridge.
6. French forces arrayed on field
The French general commits one division to his right (bottom) supported by the chausseurs and the second (top) to the centre, while artillery is brought up between the two. The cuirassiers move towards the Spanish right (off screen, top). The first battery is quickly emplaced to start bringing long range fire on the Spanish left.
The French line exchange skirmish fire over the stream with the Spanish deployed in the orchard. The Spanish fire bolstered by artillery is deadly, quickly whittling down the lead French forces in the uneven exchange.
The Spanish batteries engage in some long distance and ineffective fire against the advancing French.
Meanwhile on the French left the cuirassiers form up to cross the stream.
Now across the stream the cuirassiers threaten to outflank the lead Spanish brigade, which refuses flank in response.
At the top the Spanish move quickly to counter the threat to their right. Battery fire disorders the cuirassiers and the Spanish, taking advantage of this, shift infantry forces left to make room for the dragoons to charge. The cuirassiers countercharge.
In the centre the French and Spanish continue to exchange fire over the stream (to the French's deficit) while on the French right (bottom) the first French forces forge over the stream. The Spanish cavalry charge and force the light brigade on this flank into square, blunting this first move against the Spanish left.
13. Spanish right in trouble
Suddenly the Spanish right is in trouble, with the cuirassiers driving off the dragoons with great loss to the latter before executing a charge into the face of the Spanish artillery (left unprotected by the detaching and moving of the Spanish infantry to their left).
14. Into the teeth of the cannon
Somehow they survive point blank canister with only light losses, close and drive off one battery silenced. On a breakthrough charge they wheel and shatter a Spanish line brigade, routing it completely!
The second countercharge carries them deep into the middle of the Spanish centre.
The Walloon Guards deploy into line and deliver a devastating enfilade fire in concert with the Spanish cannon (now recovered) reducing the cuirassiers to a spent force - but not before they had successfully shattered two Spanish brigades and gutted the Spanish right flank!
The remnants of the Spanish dragoons on the right never recover and eventually rout from the battlefield.
Meanwhile, on the Spanish left, the French close. Charging chausseurs are met by dragoons and the dragoons triumph, driving off the chausseurs with heavy losses to the latter.
With the support of cannon and their strong position behind the stone wall the Spanish left holds firm.
The French in the centre ford the stream and assault the light/foreign brigade deployed here, now bolstered by a Spanish line brigade that has moved up in support.
The French are driven off with heavy casualties, with both line brigades in this division now spent and one retiring completely from the remainder of the battle.
24. Mid battle overview
Top right has the cuirassiers charging recklessly into enfilade on a breakthrough while around the bridge the Spanish hold firm, with only a large légere brigade and a spent line brigade left to oppose them.
At the bottom the Spanish left holds firm at their wall and all seems to be going not too badly for the Spanish, despite the loss of two brigades on their right.
But in a renewed assault on his left the Spanish general suddenly learns the bitter lesson of an exposed flank. The Spanish grenadiers are driven back with losses, exposing those Spanish defending the wall to a flank attack in a breakthrough charge. The Spanish light/foreign brigade is swept away in a disastrous melee, loosing half their force and both cannon!
With the Spanish routed, the French now seize the wall.
Hard on the heels of this loss the Spanish centre, so firm, is suddenly in trouble. Spanish redeployment exposes their supporting line infantry to attack from the légere which completely destroy this brigade in close combat.
28. Spanish light infantry driven from orchard
In a breakthrough charge the triumphant légere wheel and drive the remaining Spanish from the orchard, inflicting heavy losses. This brigade, retreating along the stream, never recovers.
On the left the French can be seen moving up to consolidate their gains while the Spanish retreat in disarray. Far top left the French chausseurs, a spent brigade, have finally rallied and are returning to the battle.
On the hill in the centre the cuirassiers, spent and blown from their devastating charge into enfilade, remain wavering on the top of the hill despite their leader attaching himself to this brigade in an attempt to get them re-engaged.
On the right things are heating up as the French light infantry, after a second successful charge against the Spanish light/foreign, continue in a breakthrough charge into the teeth of the Spanish cannon.
The breakthrough charge leaves them short of their target and facing canister shot from the cannons.
The Walloons detach from their artillery and wheel around to bring the French into enfilade. One Spanish battery is damaged by French artillery but the second and the Walloons open fire, managing no more than a disorder despite massive fire points!
The French charge the Spanish battery and this one, too, is driven off disordered, with the Spanish general learning for the second time that he really shouldn't leave his batteries unattached when confronted with a determined enemy.
With the Spanish cannon sent packing the victorious French wheel and charge the Walloon Guards who are also outflanked by the remnants of one of the French line brigades. The Spanish corps (and division) leader has attached himself to the Walloons in the hope of steeling their defence, but all for naught. The Walloons are destroyed and the Spanish general taken captive.
With the Walloon Guard destroyed the French turn their attention to the now rallied but disordered Spanish batteries and finish them off in quick succession. With the only remaining Spanish force on this flank spent and wavering far off on the flank, the Spanish right and centre are now totally decimated.
Meanwhile, on the Spanish left, unaware of the disaster that has struck the right flank and the loss of their corps commander, the Spanish have retreated to reform their line in the face of the advancing French.
The chasseurs finally return to the fray for the final round of fighting, as do the cuirassiers.
The French form up for their final assault on the Spanish left, moving their cannon forward and trying to get their cavalry into play. The Spanish, seeing this, take the initiative, charging with their grenadiers into the middle of the French line and after locked combat driving them back. The dragoons charge the light infantry, forcing them into square but get driven back while the remnants of the Spanish light/foreign brigade retreat, bleeding away more infantry in desertion.
41. Game end, Spanish left flank
The Spanish grenadiers are destroyed to the last man in a concentrated French assault, and as the cuirassiers finally charge in, the Spanish, with only a disordered dragoon brigade and a spent light/foreign brigade on this flank, throw in the towel.
On the Spanish right it's as equally conclusive, with only a spent brigade left, (now losing stands to cannon fire upper left) while the infantry dispatch the Spanish cannon (right). Even the French line brigade that had routed early on returns in triumphant march formation over the bridge while the sheep are happy to have their hill back.
Being one of our first Napoleonic games and certainly our first serious AOE game, we learned a few lessons the hard way:
1. Watch your flanks! Being outflanked has very serious repercussions!
2. It's not a good idea to leave unattached batteries within striking distance of enemy brigades.
3. Not much you can do about it, but over zealous breakthrough charges can lead to a world of difficulties.
4. It's also not such a bright idea to attach your division leader to a brigade if that brigade has even a chance of loosing Bayonet and Sabre.
5. Roll better. I've never seen so many uneven close combat rolls and the results were often the complete evaporation of a brigade - sometimes without having fired a shot. Your fortune can turn on a dime.