Got in my second game of Maurice last night, and while it was a bit more cagey than the first, has had me chewing over things ever since. Pretty sure I dreamed about troop deployment last night ;)
I've found my reaction to the game has radically shifted since last night. I keep realizing more things I could / should have done differently. Definitely one for the "Lessons from Losing" files.
I ran a slightly modified list, upgrading my Dragoons to trained, and taking Depot Battalions, Oblique, and Cavaliers for my national advantages. Otherwise, the list was the same as the one I ran last week.
As per usual, the game started by drawing a terrain card. As it happens, I'd been discussing with the guys playing at the next table whether or not to pull the urban card from the deck (we were playing intro games with two new players, and towns add a level of complexity), but forgot to do so. Guess which card was pulled?
As it turned out, it was a non-issue. No one deployed in a town the whole game ;) Next, we pulled our notables. I got this fine old fellow:
And spent the rest of the game enjoying his name immensely. Seriously, try it with me "Aug-ooostoos Vfon Tees-LING! It's just fun. As it turns out, the guy is actually pretty handy, though I don't think I made the best use of him.
My esteemed opponent, marke, pulled this one:
He promptly attached him to one of his better infantry units, which already were buffed with the national advantages Steady Lads and Lethal Volleys. Huzzah.
Marke won the scouting roll, and elected to defend. The objective was placed on a central hill, and I opted for an extra cavalry unit. Deployment was fairly straightforward. I'd managed to keep the majority of the towns on my side, and deployed infantry and guns in depth in the centre, cavalry on the wings, with the greater share on my left in column for rapid movement. I had initially thought about refusing the left and massing cavalry on the right, but the town you can see in the top right of the picture had be a bit worried. Regular cavalry can attack towns, and the prospect of being bottled up between the town and board edge, and then shot up by infantry had me a tad worried.
The opening stages of the game were fairly straightforward. I began with a general advance in the centre, trying to leave my guns with a clear line of fire. Artillery is still something I'm getting used to using in this game. In both of the games I've played, they've really only had a couple of opportunities to fire, partly because doing so at range is a separate activation, partly because of where I deployed them. When to use them, I think, is still a bit of an open question, especially on attack, but where to put them I think I'm getting a handle on.
On attack, I think artillery needs to be a "hinge" between your "holding" units and your attacking units. That way, their lines of fire remain open, and whenever you need to pause and build up some cards, you can toss out bombards.
My next move was to push the cavalry in column forward on the left.
Marke responded by moving his infantry up to threaten them, and I shifted into massed formation. He got in a partial volley on the next phase, doing some minor disruption to my dragoons.
We fussed about a bit, and then I pushed the cavalry back around the woods.
Still not sure if this was a mistake. Despite marke playing a captured intelligence card (which lets him steal one of my), I had two clear instruction cards in my hand, which let me activate a force at any distance. I ended up using them to push the cavalry around and behind the woods. Instead, I probably should have just gone straight through. I would have taken disruption, but with Augustus attached, I could have rallied, and would have thrown his entire flank into disarray.
It was at this point that things started to come apart a little. I was short on cards, so couldn't really push my "end run" on the left. I was taking damage from volleys, and though my counter-fire was beating the odds, my forces weren't as cohesive as marke's, which made frontal assaults chancy. I did manage a good play with the Heat of Battle card, pulling one of marke's infantry into a two on one that destroyed it.
When I had a chance, I tried to hammer in my infantry . . .
. . . using a "For the King" card to offset my disruptions.
Marke countered with an attack falters, causing one of my units not to charge. This, combined with iffy attack rolls, combined with marke's use of his "Steady lads" reroll (IIRC), made the combat far less decisive than I'd hoped.
Instead of wiping him out, my units recoiled, interpenetrated, and with the accumulated disruptions, wiped each other out.
At this point, things hadn't gone the way I'd hoped, but the game was far from over. Marke began to push forward on my right, in a bid to wrap around my flank and (I assume) pour some fire into me.
I used my mobility (hooray for oblique) to shift my lines a little. In retrospect, I should have dressed them a little more, or even pulled back a bit. Even though I was able to keep real gaps from opening up, my infantry was still too dispersed to act as a single force.
On the left, I activated my cavalry, pushing two units around the woods, and bringing the dragoons down to threaten Marke's flank. He used a card (Confusion)to make my dragoons march out of position, buying himself time to redress his lines and cover his flank.
In the centre and on the right, things stagnated into a musketry duel. Outnumbered and outgunned, I knew I'd lose this over time, but hoped I could hold out long enough to change the balance with my cavalry. You can see them in the top left, having cleared the woods, and facing down marke's.
It was at this point I made an inexcusable error. Marke played the "That's not on the map" card, which let him place a small piece of rough ground anywhere not occupied by a unit. He put it right between our cavalry forces. I knew that moving through it would case disruption, but I forgot about the hefty penalty regular units take in combat when fighting in rough ground. This shifted a combat that I should have won (even with a few disruptions), and might win decisively with a bit of luck, into one that pretty much shattered me.
My cavalry had now taken disruption from moving through the difficult ground, from combat, and from moving through the ground again with the involuntary fall back move. I managed to rally some of the damage, but things were looking grim.
Because my cavalry were so far away, it took a few turns for them to pull out, rally again, and redeploy. I moved one to the outside, hoping to bypass marke's cavalry, while the other charged down, into the rear of his infantry. That charge should have gutted him, but again, his steady lads reroll came into play, I rolled poorly, and my dragoons recoiled. Marke turned his infantry around, and when I chanced another charge, he bounced and destroyed by poor dragoons.
I lost another unit to musketry, and that was the game.
At the time, I was pretty flummoxed. Other than forgetting the rough ground penalty, it didn't seem like I had made any glaring mistakes. Marke had used his cards well, slowing or blocking key charges, and relying on his musketry to to the work. Dice were mixed. Although my volley rolls had been above average, I'd had poor rolls on key attacks, and mediocre to poor rolls on key rallies.
Despite this, half my army was destroyed (in a campaign game, my army quality would be drastically reduced), but there was nothing I could point to to explain what had gone wrong (even the rough going charge wasn't a game-breaker. With a little distance, however, I'm seeing things a bit differently.
So, lessons from losing:
1) Don't limit your own opportunities. Some of what went wrong was self-inflicted, mind games. For whatever reason, it never occurred to me to just drive my cavalry through the woods on the left. While there's no guarantee that would work, it would have placed three cavalry units, one elite, in the middle of his flank, and would certainly have shaken up his ability to coordinate. With a bit of luck, I might have gotten in some flank charges.
2) Be aggressive, not desperate. When the game ended (i.e., when my morale broke), we still had a full deck to go through (i.e., about a third of the game to play). I could have been more measured and coordinated in my attack. I find I build up a real sense of urgency, especially once I close to 4 base widths, the distance in which musketry occurs and infantry can charge. I get to feeling like if I don't do something now, my army will be shot apart piecemeal. While there's a little bit of truth to that, in retrospect, there's nothing wrong with hanging back, and using rally or bombard actions to build up a hand slowly, looking for the right cards to coordinate an attack.
3) Coordinate means consolidate. Being able to efficiently rally troops means actually maintaining a coherent force. This is important in defence, but critical in the attack. Splitting my infantry to leave fire lanes for the artillery was a mistake, especially since I never ended up firing my guns (there always seemed to be something more important to do). Putting them off to the side, on one flank or another, would give them a chance to fire when the opportunity arose, leaving my infantry able to act more cohesively.
4) There's more than one way to win / worry about winning, not losing. The last real mistake I can see, in retrospect, was attacking with my cavalry once he'd placed his patch of rough going. Aside from the obvious (avoid fighting in the rough with regulars), what I should have done is bypassed his cavalry force, and made a run for the objective. He could certainly have turned around and chased, but he couldn't catch me until I had control of it. Once I did, he'd be in the position of having to try and attack me, which in the worst case, would have compromised his ability to hold off my infantry, and thrown his lines into confusion. I got so caught up in the pressure on my own morale (seeing the game as a race to break him before he broke me) that I lost track of the alternate way to win, i.e., take and hold the objective.
Lessons learned. Not sure what I'm doing next week. There was some talk of an introductory game of blood bowl, but tbh, this game got my dander up, and I'd like another shot at Maurice. I should have a painting post for Sunday. See you then.