Recommend
17 
 Thumb up
 Hide
8 Posts

Napoleon's Last Gamble» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Crossing the Sambre – an exercise in traffic management. rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Andrew Hobley
United Kingdom
Andover
Hampshire
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
So finally to Belgium and the historic events of June 1815. But not yet to the Grand Campaign or the individual battles, rather to something never yet played - the French crossing of the Sambre and the Prussian rearguard action of the 15th from the expansion kit.

The key parts of the terrain are the Sambre, the road network and where these cross the river. North of the river the key roads are the Nivelles-Namur road running roughly west-east in the upper half of the map, the Brussels-Charleroi road running north, which meets the Nivelles-Namur at Quatre Bras and the old Roman road which runs from north-east from Bavay to Liege, meeting the Brussels-Charleroi a couple of miles south of Frasne and the Nivelles-Namur between Marbais and Somberf. If the French hold the Quatre Bras and Marbais crossroads the Allied armies cannot join. There is also a road from Charleroi to Liege, which meets the Nivelles-Namur road near Ligny. There are lots of other trails, but fast movement is only possible via the roads and speed if what the French need. Beyond the river are big chunks of forest, until more open ground is reached.

So how do the French get onto these roads across the river? One road leads from Thain (off map to the south-east) to cross at Marchlenne au Pont, then heads northish to meet the old Roman road. Two roads lead from Beaumont and join at Charleroi; they cross by one bridge and then diverge to the Brussels or Liege roads. Finally a fourth road from Phillipeville crosses the river at Châtalet and leads to the Liege and Brussels road. Further east there is a trail from the south which crosses at Tergnee; between Charleroi and Châtalet there is a ford and there is another ford south-west of Marchlenne au Pont. And that is it for crossing points. Most of the French units arrive on the roads to Marchlenne and Charleroi so you can see the problem Napoleon has. He does have three bridging trains, but the restrictions on their deployment (not if either end of the bridge would be in a slope hex—unless there is a road or trail in the hex and the 2 extra MP to cross mean you don’t want to deploy if either end is in a marsh or wood) reduce the number of places you can usefully use them.

Oh, and there are some Prussians as well – Ziethen's I Corps is deployed to cover the crossings with a brigade in reserve at Gosselies on the Charleroi-Brussels road plus road blocks (see the updated campaign rules for these). Prussian II and III Corps enter as the day wears on. A couple of Dutch-Belgium units from 2 Netherlands Division lurk around Quatre Bras. Incidentally if playing this game add Perponcher and Bijlandt as reinforcements, entering from Nivelles at 5pm on the 15th. The only French on map at the start are Napoleon with the Young Guard closing on Charleroi and the II Corps heading for Marchlenne. As well as the usual VPs for locations the Prussian also get 1VP per turn for each of the grey VP hexes they hold – essentially those on and just north of the river

Why have I gone on about the geography, before even a die has been thrown? Because like all campaigns the lie of the land determines what armies can and cannot do. And as others have written (see COMSIM) even if the details differ, the basics of various games of the Grand Campaign remain the same as the geography forces history to be similar.

This scenario starts at 11 am on the 15th and ends at 1pm on the 16th, just before Ligny and Quatre Bras historically stated. At the beginning the mode cards pushed the Guard back on, put II Corps into road mode and moved the Prussian Gosselies units off map as a detachment – I assumed they were moving east having been deployed to cover the off map crossings.

Sambre – start positions.

The Young Guard quickly secured Charleroi and pushed forward in the rain, taking Gilly at the point of the bayonet from Landwer. Pajol’s cavalry probed up the Brussels road. Behind the Guard III Corps trailed back down the road. IV Corps arrived from Phillipeville and took the crossing at Châtalet, slowly driving back the 28th Infantry Regiment.

At Marchlenne things were very different. The Prussian 6th Infantry Regiment held the first French attack, fell back across the bridge and reinforced by the 1st Westphalian Landwehr refused to move. It was not until after 2pm that II Corps finally pushed the Prussians out of the village; by then Davout (who Napoleon had called up rather than use the unreliable Ney) had pushed units over the ford in an effort to move things on. Even then the Prussians hung on until at 5pm they were pushed off the road and eventually eliminated at 7pm by concentric French attacks. Despite the ford and a pontoon bridge having been built by nightfall II Corps had just reached the Roman Road.

Sambre – 3pm good progress in the centre, hold up on the left.

Ziethen decided to concentrate his forces at Fleurs, on the road to Liege. The Young Guard continued to lead the advance, although they found the 2nd Westphalian Landwehr fought a good withdrawal, making the French fight for Start Cuplat and even repelling the Guard from the Abbaye Soleilmont! It was not until 7pm that the Landwehr and the 28th Infantry Regiments were finally routed. Night fell, with the French badly falling behind schedule – I and VI Corps were still south of the river; as was half of IV Corps. The Cavalry corps were over the river, but in a mass between Charleroi and Châtalet, having crossed using a pontoon bridge next to the ford.

Sambre – 10pm nightfall.

The Prussians had lost 20 SP, the French 2. But the Prussians scored highly for VP locations held, ending the day on 34 VP compared to the French 5.

Over night the French could not move; those units with march orders were mostly blocked by those troops who had been in combat. Next morning Napoleon was up early, as reports came in of Prussian troops deploying ahead. and Ligny. Ziethen deployed the remains of I Corps around St Amand while II Corps came as quickly as it could in to line around Ligny. Napoleon began to deploy his forces, but the delays crossing the river and driving the Prussians off meant it would not be until late afternoon he would be ready to attack.

To the west II Corps pushed on towards Quatre Bras. At 11 am the French deployed and threw back Saxe-Weimar. As French cavalry threatened both the Dutch and Brunswick flanks Saxe-Weimar’s men were routed from the farmhouse at Gémioncourt and Perponcher and Brunswick’s men formed a thin grey-green line in front of the crossroads.

Sambre – game end Ligny
Sambre – game end Quatre Bras.

Game end. Adding everything up the Allies had done well to hold Napoleon up for so long, and with 2:25 VP it was a Coalition Strategic Victory. If I had played on I suspect Quatra Bras may have fallen. What would have happened at Ligny is unclear, both sides were frantically pushing their forces towards the battlefield, but the French, who had to attack, were still not ready for a serious fight.

You may feel reading this there was a lot of marching and not much fighting – and you would be right. But unless you get your forces where you want when you want them the big decisive battle won’t happen. Others have written more eloquently about this - see Chris Moeller’s article in Wargames Design III/8.http://www.napoleongames.com/wargame-design-magazine.html

When I play the Grand Campaign the first thing I will do is sit down and work out which of ‘road mode and fast’ or ‘stacked and slow’ will be the better options for each side. Sounds dull? Maybe, but then remember Napoleon going over his maps with his dividers – great generalship is more than just a battlefield performance.

And some may ask why I did not carry on with this game – well, there was a Dreadnought Jutland centenary replay coming up I needed my game table for. But I shall return to Belgium soon.

27 
 Thumb up
2.75
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
United States
Florida
flag msg tools
designer
"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Another fine article.

thumbsup
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew Hobley
United Kingdom
Andover
Hampshire
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Pete - Thank you - and for your other feedback.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
christopher moeller
United States
Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great replay, Andrew, not boring in the least! These unusual scenarios are some of my favorites. Malojaroslavets for example. They're tricky little puzzles that give you insight into how those historical situations developed as they did.

I enjoyed your assessment of the map and road net. I'd love to try this as the French (in our game, I just watched from Quatre Bras and cheered on my Prussian comrades). I feel like I don't have a good sense of the possibilities for the river crossings and the best way to march on the 15th.

-Chris
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew Hobley
United Kingdom
Andover
Hampshire
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I am very tempted to try the option of the French deciding their own march order, to see if I can do better. Having more light cavalry forward may have been helpful and moving an infantry corps to the eastern bridge could ease up the Charleroi congestion. How to cross the river does need some serious thought - after all as the French you can effectively lose the whole campaign on day 1 by bad decisions that come back to haunt you several days later. And for the first few turns all the Allies can do (other than the rear guard) is stand and watch.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
christopher moeller
United States
Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
It strikes me it's probably a good solo scenario. Just run the French.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
philippe muller
France
anetz
Unspecified
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Tomorrow I will take command of Armee du Nord for two days in a french convention
I never played the grand campaign
Have some vital advice to give before loosing the battle the first day ?
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Björn Engqvist
Sweden
Goteborg
Unspecified
flag msg tools
phimul wrote:
Tomorrow I will take command of Armee du Nord for two days in a french convention
I never played the grand campaign
Have some vital advice to give before loosing the battle the first day ?


Andrew, great AAR.

I am not sure yet if I think the French order of march is that delicate that it can doom their cause in the grand campaign (remember, it is four days!). Granted, gaining a head start for the 16th is important, but then the coalition would have to adapt to that, it is the beauty of the system.

So the French grabbed Quatre Bras before the Dutch could get there and the Prussians did not have time to form up at Sombref? Okay, you will lose the 16th as the coalition but just choose another battlefield instead. Nothing is fixed here.

Philippe, some advice that you will figure out anyway.

1. Choose your march order destinations carefully (you can direct formations behind current enemy lines).

2. Do not allow your formations to become spread out. Keep them together.

3. Have a partner when playing France. A lot of mp bookkeeping and passing brigades forward.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.