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Subject: For God's Sake be sure you do not risk the cannon! rss

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Mike D
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This session covers my first attempt to tackle Jim Dunnigan's Grenadier. The introductory scenario presents the Duke of Marlborough's successful action to rout the French at Blenheim and will prove to be a good learning experience with the rules. The main differences for the learning scenario seem to be that infantry moves at a crawl (2 hexes per turn) and there are no skirmishers to contend with. It's almost exclusively focused on the cavalry arm but every other facet and odd nuance of the game I believe is put to the test in some way.

This scenario is a pretty simple reduction of the historical, masses of cavalry on either side and an time-based objective to draw the Allies forward. The hook in the scenario victory conditions require the Allies to take and clear the town of Lemot so needs must see a quick and decisive Allied advance. Let's get to it....


Setup and Attack Plans

The Allies are lined up pretty far from their objective. With the infantry only capable of moving 2 hexes per turn there's no time to do a flanking gambit. So they take the center and will march direct, French guns be damned!

In the north go the heavy cavalary and the 6 pounders. Here the idea is to take the village of Duvigneau and position the heavier guns to rake the plain.

In the south we've got Dragoons and then Light Cavalry with a plan to approach towards the woods and then flank the town from the south.

For the French side... Infantry and heavy guns all start in Lemot, the 8 pounder guns are unlimbered in town and ready for action. The French cavalry force screens the town, ready for anything.



Turn 1

A general advance by the Allies begins as planned, they are still out of range of the guns at Lemot. The French counter by throwing screens of Light Cavalry and Dragoons out towards Duvigneau and then deploying their 4 pounders and some Dragoons in the woods.



Turn 2

First action, the Allied Heavy Cavalry charge towards to the French Light and also move a few squadrons north to screen their 6 pounders. General advance continues by the rest of the troops which begin to come under fire from the town.

The move proves to be rash, while the screening French cavalry are easily eliminated the bulk of the French Light and Dragoons perform a counter-charge and wipe out the Allied Heavy Cavalry almost completely. Only the Limbered Guns and a few squadrons of Heavies survive.

In the south the French Dragoons spread out among the trees waiting to break up the Allies advancing towards them as French infantry slowly moves forward to help support their guns.



Turn 3

The Allies occupy Duvigneau with their guns and remaining Heavy Cavalry but do not have time to unlimber. Allied Dragoons charge the disrupted French cavalary from the south and cause some casualties but another French counter-charge from the north of the town coupled with cannon fire from Lemot wipes them out. The French certainly seem to be handling their cavalry better.

Except in the south where the Allied Light Cavalry engage the Dragoons in the woods. Little damage is done but the French are disrupted and pinned and the Allies are many.



Turn 4

The Allied infantry continues slowly forward and breaks into open formation to start bringing musket fire onto the French cavalry. In the south the Allied cavalry has made short work of the French Dragoons hiding in the woods, which leaves still the infantry companies, guns and town as the real problem yet to crack.

Pulling back their tired Dragoons, the French respond by charging all their remaining Light Cavalry at the 6 pounder guns which the Allies have just unlimbered in Duvigneau. It's a bit desperate but pays off well since the melee throws all the Allies into disruption including the only Artillery command in the village. With the Allied GHQ in the center and the only other Artillery commander running around in the south this tactic renders the Allied guns at Duivgneau immobile and unable to rally.



Turn 5

The Allied Cavalry go into action in the south, Light Cavalry charging on Lemot with 4-pounder guns deploying to support while Allied Dragoons also charge the French cannons in the Woods. The French are making good use of terrain and luck is not with the British... despite fair odds, both shock attacks fail miserably.

Fortunately the French can do little to respond except to pepper the approaching Allied infantry with shot which is doing little damage at the long range. Musket fire from Lemot fails to disrupt the Allied 4 pounders and a return blast of cannister does wonders to boost the Allied morale. The remains of the tired French cavalry withdraw to safe distance to rally for another charge.



Turn 6

French cannon fire from the town is close enough to start causing casualties on the advancing Allied infantry. The Allied Dragoons continue to batter unsucessfuly on the French infantry in the woods but the Light Cavalry and 4-pounder do some damage in Lamot. The French GHQ unwisely positioned in the south of Lamot is disrupted and eliminated before it can withdraw.

The French send one company of fresh Light Cavalry and destroy the men servicing the Allied 4-pounder in retribution but the south of the town has already fallen.



Turn 7

The Allied Artillery commander at Duvigneau, having reported to GHQ and given a stiff drink before returning, now orders his limbered artillery forward with some heavy cavalry as protection. The Allied infantry continues its slow advance under fire as Light Cavalry swarm around the south of Lemot.

The French respond by sending whatever they can against the still limbered Allied guns. The 4 pounders to the south of Lemot are rendered unserviceable but the Heavy Cavalry screening the 6-pounders does it's duty.



Turn 8

Final shots from the French guns begin to thin the ranks of the approaching Allied infantry now coming under cross-fire from the woods. Thickets of Allied Light Cavalry close around Lamot to give the French gunners something else to worry about. They can't do much damage to the French infantry in town but the French Dragoons are destroyed in retribution for the 4-pounders. The long-running melee in the Lamot woods also comes to a close as Allied Dragoons finally disrupt the infantry and gunners.

At this point the French are left reeling and have almost nothing left except to try and survive.



Turn 9

Allied Dragoons finish off the Infantry and gunners in the woods and deploy their 6-pounders to the north of town. Remnants of French Dragoons and Infantry from Lamot manage to eliminate more of the approaching Allies but return fire and some well placed cannister leaves them in poor state. The center of Lamot remains in a stalemate awaiting the arrival of the Allied infantry.



Turn 10

Cannister and shot from the north finish off all the French on the outskirts of the town, only the town center holds and the Allied assault is minutes away.



Turn 11

The Allied assault comes in, shattering the remaining defenders.



Turn 12

It requires the final turn of the game to surround the town completely and chase out and eliminate all the remaining French command elements. Lemot has fallen and Marlborough is victorious! Must tell Queen Anne!



Conclusions

Some very exciting and interesting mechanics here and the Blenheim scenario works well as an easy learning exercise to thrash out most of the finer points of the rules. Grenadier has been described as a game where luck is minimal so a chess-like deployment and execution is key. While I agree I also think the luck factor is in no way negligible, and the results of long range "fire for disruption" is important to determining when an attack can go in, or if it can be countered in time. I'll need to play more scenarios but this really hits a sweet spot in design with low wristage and exciting pace, and plays solo all the better for it (something I just did not expect from a game with a low luck factor).

There are some difficulties and nuances to overcome, the primary clunker being the status of disrupted units, a problem also seen in earlier games in the Tac series. The issue is that disrupted units need to stack with an appropriate leader for a complete turn before they may be rallied, so it's a considerable memory effort to try and remember exactly when they're eligible to return to duty. I worked from memory on Blenheim but, since units might rally just before a fire or melee phase, the precise detail is pretty important. Must fix my Vassal mod to assist with the next scenario.

Apart from that mental juggling, the rest is reasonably smooth. Proper positioning of units in stacks can feel a little cumbersome, especially with artillery but it's also an important aspect of the play. Rules on leaders are not completely covered but errata helps to clarify that they do not pin or melee offensively. I also treated leaders as cavalry for purposes of unpinning and terrain movement costs, although this is not mentioned in the rules. Having artillery limbers as separate pieces is a bit clunky and some commonsense needed here, helped by errata (when unlimbered I place caissons on bottom of stack and ignore them).

The one aspect that felt somewhat unsatisfying in the session was the old "fight to the last man" thing. I went the full 12 rounds when really the game was over by about turn 8. The victory conditions do make you feel the need to play on to the last man (large stack of leaders in my case) for that decisive result when a concession ruling would probably make for a more satisfying play.

To conclude, Grenadier was a hole in my SPI Tac collection that I'd been after for some time (thanks to Heath Avery for letting go his rather battered copy). It's really not much to look at, and doesn't seem to get a lot of love but there's a few well-respected grogs that laud it very highly (I recommend the posts on Joe's MapAndCounters blog as the best review and analysis to be found). Honestly I agree - it does fail on drabness and the record-keeping turn-off but these can be fixed. Otherwise the mechanics are different and clever, and it has depth that I think will develop nicely through further play. Dunnigan is great at choosing situations and developing scenarios to present different types of problems and Grenadier has sixteen of them. The fact that they don't take hours to play and the whole solos unexpectedly well, just makes me want to run through them all.
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Russell King
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Wow. Very impressed at this. Congratulations on such a good report of an interesting game.
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