Hugo d'Estomac, Marquis du Scarberri, Chevallier des Fraises, groaned as his second boot came off, and then leaned back with a sigh. The heat of the evening clung to the walls of his tent, and even the glass of burgundy beside him did little to wash the tang of sweat from his mouth. He leaned back, raising his leg on the saddle in front of him, and began to collect his thoughts.
We got in a second game of Might and Reason last night, my French in a rematch against marke's Anglo-Hanoverians. We ended up playing a fairly short game which ended due to nightfall, but decided to use the mechanics in the rules to set up a second day's battle. I'm claiming a moral victory for the first day.
Set up was the same modified version as last game, due to temporal constraints. I arrived first, set up terrain, and marke had choice of table side. I had the scouting advantage (thank you, Dragoons) so he set up first. He anchored one flank on the copse of woods you can see below, and concentrated his cavalry on his left. I went for a more balanced deployment, and this time, distributed my artillery across my front.
There was the potential he'd try something iffy through or around the woods, so I left one infantry force there to cover, and tried to position my reserve with the option to respond there as well. In the centre, I'd massed two gun batteries, my best infantry force, and cavalry in support.
On my right, I had cavalry and infantry, with a unit of guns up on the small steep hill.
His deployment was primarily in FF, except for the mass of troops on his left. It looked pretty good ;)
My overall plan for this game, to be honest, had more to do with learning to use my army than winning. There were three or four things I wanted to try and do. First, I've been reading up on how people use the French national advantage, which is essentially an enhanced ability to recover from damage, both in and post-game. I wanted to practise some of the line-relief manoeuvres people had described. Second, I wanted to get a handle on how to use the different formations. I'd found out how limiting fighting formation can be last game, and so wanted to get a sense of when and how to switch from one formation to another. Third, I wanted to get some practise using my cavalry and infantry together, the former to screen the latter, and let them stay in march formation (and hence, stay manoeuvrable) longer. Finally, I wanted to get a sense of the role played by artillery, since last game they never got to fire a shot.
Turn one, I advanced my cavalry on the right, and he responded in kind. We both moved up in march onto the high ground that dominated that side of the field. My idea was to throw out a cavalry screen behind which my infantry could advance, or at minimum, force some of his units to switch into fighting formation, and bunch them up. In the second pulse of the turn, he won initiative, switched his cavalry to FF, and then rolled an attack status for the infantry that formed the "hinge" between his massed left and the rest of his army. A couple of good plugs of snuff later, and an entire infantry force went haring off after my cavalry.
This left a hell of a gap in his lines, and I got quite excited. If I could coordinate an attack, it might be possible to flank him and turn his line. That in turn would let me pin down the bulk of his army on my right, and concentrate on the units isolate on the left.
It didn't quite work out that way, but I tried ;) This was the perspective from my left at the beginning of the next turn. I had units in place that could advance, but there was a fair bit of ground to cover. What I really needed was to get my heavy cavalry in the centre out and pressure his exposed flank. Then my infantry could advance in support.
On the right, our cavalry exchanged pleasantries. I charged, with inconclusive results, and fell back behind my dragoons. He charged, and my dragoons evaded, so he carried through into my heavies, and fell back with inconclusive results.
My heavies moved out, and positioned themselves to change formation in the next turn. I managed to bring forward my lights on the left as well. Meanwhile on the right, my infantry command went to attack orders. The front unit moved up on its own, while the two rear units changed into fighting formation. That lone unit out in front? I'm going to have a chat with it's commander.
Meanwhile, up on the hill, I'd remembered to leave a firing lane, and my guns kept pounding the advancing British infantry. To negligible effect.
I'm not convinced I've got a handle on what artillery is supposed to do in this game. I had a chance to fire something on almost every turn, and while I may have taken off 3-4 SPs over the game, it seems a limited return on investment, at least in terms of troop killing ability. I think I'll ask on the forums, and see what people think.
In the next pulse, he charged with two fresh cavalry units, against my right again. I evaded, pulling back my own somewhat mauled heavies, at which point, he carried through with one, and wheeled the other to contact the now exposed infantry unit on the flank.
Two high SP cavalry units double-teaming French infantry with the advantage of flank contact had predictable results, and we had our first broken unit of the game. In the centre, I now ran into something of a problem. Although his infantry had turned their flanks toward me, they were close enough to support one another. My heavy cavalry could engage, but not in a way to take advantage of the flank. My light and irregular dragoons and hussars COULD flank at least one unit, but even with that would be a disadvantage in the combat. I'd also failed to activate the lights (assigned two extra command dice, rolling 4 in a bid to activate the, and rolled 3 ones and a 2!) on a critical pulse, which meant marke had an opportunity to dress his lines a little, and bring up some support. In the end, I opted for discretion. The opportunity, if it had existed, had passed, and so I pulled my cavalry back behind the infantry, who began their advance.
On the right, the news was mixed. That big mob behind the hill were in a traffic jam for several pulses, as infantry to the fore blocked the progress of units behind him.
In the meantime, at the point of contact, marke was having his own troubles activating his cavalry, and my infantry were taking advantage, slowly whittling them down with musketry.
Behind the shelter of the infantry, my right flank cavalry were taking advantage of the French ability to recover damage. I was a little concerned that if the cavalry managed to coordinate, there was a chance they'd break through, so I began to swung my centre infantry force to cover the hill. It proved unnecessary, however, as when the cavalry did charge, my infantry won, and they went bouncing back into their own lines.
On the left, things were shaping up into a recognizable battle. Our lines had closed to musket range on the edge of the woods, and the prospects for contact were good.
At that point, however, night fell. At the start of the game, we'd randomly determined that the battle began in the afternoon, and we ended up both rolling under the turn number on 2d6. Day over. We actually went through the end of day procedure this game, both choosing to stay and fight, and followed the recovery process. I ended up with the one unit broken, and three cavalry down one SP. While none of his units were broken, he had several across the army which had been mauled. When we play again, we'll keep the same commanders, forces, and unit status(i?, es?). I'm looking forward to day 2.
My developing impression of M&R is that it's fun and challenging, but not really a two hour club night game. This game was short, and ended just as things were heating up. A full game, with multiple days of combat if necessary, could easily take an afternoon (and evening), barring flukes. Put it this way - in three hours, I lost one unit. My French need to lose nine before they even begin to worry about breaking.
There's also some real depth to the rules. I'm getting the impression that a Prussian army would be scary as hell. The biggest problem I have is getting my troops to do what I want - and that's with generally good command dice rolls to date. Prussians, on the other had, with their good command options, can likely do pretty much what they want. They also aren't limited by the option to move OR change formation, which more or less killed my chances of taking advantage of that exposed flank this game.
I'm starting to get a feel for how to use cavalry and infantry together, though there's still plenty to learn. Artillery, I'm not so sure of. We'll play this again, no doubt, but it'll be a few weeks. I've got some family stuff coming up, and marke has work. Blog posts for the next while will mostly be painting related, but never feel, day 2 of the Battle of Ghettin Beihtir will be along.
It had been a hard afternoon, with what looked like a hard morning to come. The Marquis dipped a quill into the fountain on his travelling desk, and began to draft the next day's orders.