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Subject: The Battle of Coutras, 1587 (solitaire) rss

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Eric Stubbs
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All right, I played the last battle in the game over the weekend, so here's the session report!

The setup for the battle is below. Note that I used the setup configuration that makes the Huguenot cavalry slower but gives them more firepower (due to musketeers riding double with the curiassiers). Each side's objective is to score more VPs by eliminating enemy units, nothing fancy here.

Starting setup:


On Turn 1, Lavardin opens the battle for the Royal side with a spirited attack on the Huguenot center, but despite the poor marksmanship of their cavalry, the attempt goes rather poorly. Still, Navarre’s men are disrupted by the assault, which would set them up for Joyeuse’s powerful center to hit them hard. Thus Navarre reacts with vigor, pushing back Lavardin and spurring forward his cavalry in general. His artillery is ineffective, at least so far. Navarre’s efforts are rewarded with the destruction of some Royal gendarmes, but one unit of curiassiers is left dangerously exposed. Joyeuse counterattacks enthusiastically, destroying the vulnerable (and foolish) curiassiers, but the rest of his cavalry attack, and the infantry assault on his right don’t go particularly well, thanks to Protestant shooting. Castlenau’s militia, fairly well protected in and around a village, keep up a vicious fire on the Royal infantry opposing them, and send some into flight. On the opposite end of the field, Valiros urges his men to be calm, stand fast, and shoot true as needed.

End of Turn 1:


On Turn 2, Lavardin calls upon his men to reform, which many do. On the Huguenot side, Navarre does likewise, though the guns commanded by Sully wreak chaos in the ranks of the Royal gendarmes. Joyeuse also tries to recover the spirits of his men, as does Castlenau, while Valiros continues to hold position. Shattered Royal cavalry flee the field.

End of Turn 2:


On Turn 3, Valiros does nothing, because his men are still in a good defensive position and moving would only expose them to trouble. Lavardin’s troops remain in a general rally posture, though his troops still attack the Protestant curiassiers immediately in front of them, which ends up breaking both cavalry units! Navarre continues to rally as well, but his men shoot and hack down enemy gendarmes. Joyeuse tries to get his men to reform, with little luck (the infantry attack on Castlenau has by now fallen apart completely) and Castelnau regroups his musketeers. Lavardin’s gendarmes ride off the field, their commander only narrowly managing not to be carried off with them.

End of Turn 3:


On Turn 4, Valiros continues to hold firm. Joyeuse wants to shift back to the attack but his men are content to rally instead, with some success. Navarre also desires his men to charge, but for now they lack his verve, and his fleeing curiassiers fail to rally. Lavardin tries to get his men to recover, and Castelnau shifts slightly into a better defensive posture.

End of Turn 4:


On Turn 5, Castlenau hardens his position further and Valiros continues to stand his ground. Joyeuse begins to advance again, closing in on Navarre, who is in a bad spot. Rather than being cautious, though, Navarre gives an order to charge, and his men drive all before them in a ferocious charge that leaves them worn, but the enemy in a shambles. Lavardin cannot get his remaining troops to move at all.

End of Turn 5:


On Turn 6, Navarre shifts to recovery, while Joyeuse charges his flank in an effort to pull off an unexpected victory. He does not succeed. Castlenau and Valiros do nothing, and Lavardin ends the battle with a whimper by failing to get his men in motion to do anything at all. Some of Joyeuse’s men flee entirely, and although the baron has some infantry left, and a few cavalry under Lavardin, his own horsemen have been gutted and the day is not his. He must retreat before the situation gets any worse. Navarre has not been beaten, but he has been bruised enough that he will not be able to capitalize fully on his victory.

End of Turn 6:


Final VPs: Huguenot 7, Royal 4

Casualties:



Thoughts: This was a quick battle, and for me, probably the least interesting of the three of Avec Infini Regret. It was largely an initial charge followed by a few turns of not much, followed by a final countercharge, with an exciting moment or two in between. However, it still produced a good narrative, and I enjoyed playing it. I think I didn’t handle Joyeuse all that well: he has a very large group of units to command and the command rules make it hard to have his infantry wings attack the Protestant infantry wings (the infantry end up out of command and due to the rules of the system, once they’re out of command, all they can do is move to get back into command), and the only infantry attack that did go through was a disaster anyway. It’s probably better to use them more in the center, to at least threaten Huguenot cavalry. I made mistakes with the Huguenots as well, mostly being too aggressive early on.

The system is fun and as I indicated, produces a good narrative, which I value highly, as a primarily solo player. Some of the rules are fuzzy (though clarified by the designers, which is appreciated), and others I don’t entirely agree with: the out of command rules in particular are odd. Overall, though, I can certainly recommend the game, and treatments of battles from the French Wars of Religion aren’t exactly common, so the unusual topic is welcomed.
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David Ekberg
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Good job. In my opinion penalties for being out of command has to be severe, otherwise players would take advantage of it, to a level that makes the game part from history.
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Eric Stubbs
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That's a very fair point and one I absolutely agree with in overall terms. I think my reservations are more focused on the very specific requirement to move to get back into command, which doesn't feel quite right to me. A couple of points that occurred to me:

1. How do they know where their commander is?
2. If there are enemy troops right in front of them or engaged with them, would the out of command units turn around and head back towards their commander, leaving themselves vulnerable? Maybe they would, but maybe they'd just hold position, or maybe they'd attack. Perhaps a die roll to determine what they do, with modifiers depending on certain unit factors. A wider range of possibilities, which would still be to the general detriment of the out-of-command units, since their actions are no longer at the player's discretion. Certainly would add to the rules overhead, though.

I checked the Musket and Pike rules and I see this issue is handled the same way there, with some nuances about getting back into command and then being able to act from that point. I'll be interested to see how it works there when I get into the series.

Anyway, I'm not a student of the era, so the designer(s) would know better what actually happened on the fields at the time and come up with a way to handle it that provides good simulation value without getting too crazy about the rules.

Besides, as I admitted myself, the troops wouldn't have gotten out of command so easily if I'd handled them and the commander better.
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David Ekberg
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In Musket and Pike I think a unit that is out of command and adjacent to an enemy unit MAY move back into command, otherwise they must. So the two systems have some differences.

Commanders of the period, both overall and colonels of units, were obsessed with keeping formation. They went to great lengths to stay in touch with neighbouring units.
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Eric Stubbs
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Whoops, you're right, the M&P rules say "Unless adjacent to an enemy unit" it must move back into command. If it's adjacent, it may move back into command.

Thanks for the historical insight, too, that's helpful!
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Matthew Baumgartner
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Great replay! Just a quick note- they would know where the commander was by the location of his standard, which would generally be carried by a mounted man, thus being visible for quite a distance. The level of smoke on the field could, of course, dramatically effect that visibility, but that is the theory, at least. Thanks again for the replay!
 
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Steve Carey
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Antigonos wrote:
[b]This was a quick battle, and for me, probably the least interesting of the three of Avec Infini Regret. It was largely an initial charge followed by a few turns of not much, followed by a final countercharge, with an exciting moment or two in between. However, it still produced a good narrative, and I enjoyed playing it.

A scenario that's a good introduction to the system, it's on my table now (using the Avec Infini Regret II updated rules and charts).

Having a much better time with this system than the burdensome (and too fiddly) MPBS. Kudos!
 
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