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La Patrie en Danger 1814» Forums » Sessions

Subject: La Rothière - two games with differing outcomes rss

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Andrew Hobley
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The second of the battles of 1814 in La Patrie en Danger sees Napoleon preparing to march away to the north-west, but being surprised by Blücher’s attack. The Young Guard is under orders to march off, La Rothière and Chaumesnil are held by II Corps with the Guard cavalry filling the gap between and V Cavalry in reserve. Marmont and VI Corps are around Morvillers to the east with I Cavalry to the north.

To the south Blücher and Sacken have the Austrian III Corps on their left, Russian VI, IX, XI Infantry Corps and the Cavalry Corps in the centre, the Württembergers on their right and Wrede’s Bavarians and Frimont’s Austrians arriving from the east. Off map to the south lurk the Russian Grenadier and Guard Corps, and two Cavalry corps - all possible reinforcements kept back by Schwarzenberg (who for political reasons did not want Blücher to achieve a decisive defeat of Napoleon).

What stops the French just running away making a controlled retreat is that the locations to be held to get VPs are La Rothière and Dienville - on the front line - and if one side declares a general retreat they cannot get more VPs for units exited than they get for enemy units destroyed. So a ‘hold and then retreat’ strategy is in order for the French.

Most of Blücher’s forces start crammed into the space between the river and the woods and it takes a couple of turns to move forward and sort themselves out. And between then Blücher and Sacken can only put three of their initial six Corps into control.

As before with Brienne both games were solo, the second using the optional cards and both were the Day of Battle scenario. These were my third and fourth ‘Library of Napoleonic Battles’ games, so the rule errors were fewer (I think). And as before for the photos I revealed both sides.

For the first game as the Allies slowly moved Napoleon stopped the Young Guard leaving and pulled them to cover his right. I Cavalry was moved south towards Chaumesnil.

The Coalition steamroller rolling forward.

By 3pm (the battle starts at 1pm) the Allied attack on La Rothière had started. Initially the town fell to Scherbatov’s 7th Division and the rest of VI Corps drove back II Corps artillery and Nansouty’s Grenadier Guard Cavalry. 18th Division attacked the light Guard cavalry and for a time a ferocious battle raged, although reinforced by V Cavalry units the valiant Russian infantry drove back the French (shock combat result with both sides reducing a unit and staying in place, followed by a French attack with an Attacker Retreat result). But part of the 1st Voltigeurs of the Young Guard drove back an Austrian battery to the south of La Rothière and more Voltigeurs and the II Corps units counter-attacked La Rothière, destroying the Russian 7th Division.

Darkness came around 4pm as cloud reduced visibility - and the night combat rules kicked in early making coordinated movement difficulty. For the first game I played it that if a unit in a stack passed then the whole stack moved. The correct interpretation (after a discussion on the games COMSIM Forum) is that command is checked as normal but every unit that wishes to move, even if stacked together or with a leader, must pass an initiative check. And as the rule is roll, move unit A, roll, move unit B, you do not know if an attack is going in with six brigades or one until movement ends.

On the east the Bavarians now arrived. Their initial attack was thrown back from the VI Corps improvised position north of the Chaumesnil road. The Württembergers attacked Chaumesnil, the village changed hand several times before the Bavarians joined in to help secure the site. Marmont began to move IV Corps back across the Froideau stream, being helped on their way by Bavarian attacks.

In the centre Scherbatov led 9th Division into another attack on La Rothière, supported by the Austrians and IX Corps. The Allies succeeded in catching the French II Corps defenders as they were driven from the town, breaking them (DR into EZOC). Although a Young Guard counter-attack inflicted casualties on the Russian defenders it ultimately failed at some cost (Exchange result) and Austrian pressure on the west inflicted more losses, demoralising the Marie Louise’s of the Young Guard.

La Rothière taken and the French centre pierced

As the French centre fell back Napoleon ordered the supply trains to move north from Brienne, pulled back the Young Guard and Reserve and then declared a general retreat, covered by a cavalry screen. Counting up the VPs the Allied had secured a strategic victory - when the news reached Paris the stock market plummeted and there was unrest in the streets.

For Blücher the day is won.

For my second game I used the optional cards. At start Blücher had all his units in command, Napoleon had the Young Guard in Road Mode and so somewhat scattered. Blücher had a plan - avoid the towns and villages by penetrating the French centre with the XI and VI Corps, with IX in reserve, while screening the flanks with the other Corps. At 3pm the attack went in - La Rothière fell but the other attacks failed and the French counter-attack destroyed the Russians in the town. Further Allied attacks made little progress in the early dusk. On the right there was some success as Wrede drove Marmont’s Corps over the stream and from Chaumesnil. As night came on La Rothière saw two more Russian attacks, the first took the town and was again driven out, the last attack at 11pm was driven back. With no French units destroyed and no objectives taken the result was a French Strategic Victory. The armies of Bohemia and Silesia fall back towards their separate supply sources and Napoleon carries the war to the Rhine.

Napoleon triumphant as the French line holds.

So two completely different results, probably because my interpretation of the night move rules in the first game allowed more coordinated Allied attacks. I am still not entirely happy with the way the night move rules work. In this scenario by the time they have moved up the Allies have one turn of guaranteed (command allowing) attacks, after that it is down to chance. The French are less affected as they just have to sit there. And of course this affects the other scenarios as well, if using the historical weather 9 mornings and 10 afternoons out of 14 are cloudy. I need to sit down and work out what is actually happening in the hex and why say the reserve brigade manages to move into contact when the two lead brigades just sit there watching them go by. Should having a leader in the hex be of benefit, so a divisional stack with a leader gets to move as the leaders ADCs make sure the brigades all move, while a less close control means units dithers and get lost in the dark?

As for the actual scenario two different results make me feel it is worth playing again - although next time round it will be as part of the Campaign game.
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Kevin Zucker
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>Should having a leader in the hex be of benefit, so a divisional stack with a leader gets to move as the leaders ADCs make sure the brigades all move, while a less close control means units dithers and get lost in the dark?

No; you should roll for the officer if you want the stack to move under the officer... Very good photos. La Rothiere can have those extreme kinds of swings. It is an all or nothing battle.
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Andrew Hobley
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So check for in/out of command; then if stacked with an officer who passes movement initiative test the whole stack moves, if stacked without an officer roll for each unit.

Makes more sense.
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