Got in not one, but two games of Maurice at last night's THMG club night (at the Dueling Grounds), my French vs. ernieR's Rastenburg army. I used a slightly different list this time, for a couple of reasons. First, I've been meaning to try out the national advantage "a la baionette" (which gives infantry a re-roll when attacking) and because I wanted to try conscripts. We're about to start a "succession wars" campaign (the mechanics are included in Maurice), and given the tendency of units to be mauled in this game, I know I'd need to get a sense of how they played.
The first game was over pretty quick. It was something of a crash course in what not to do against the Lethal Volleys national advantage. We started by drawing notables. ernieR drew the wild Carpathian:
I initially drew the duel card, but as we were playing testing games, we agreed that I'd discard it in favour of another (the rationale being we wanted to see as many notables in the game as possible). On my second draw, I got the colonial bushwhacker:
Both notables gave some advantage in rough ground, which was good, since we for terrain we drew forest:
I had the advantage in scouting units, won the roll for scouting advantage, and elected to defend. We generated 6 pieces of terrain, and I made a point of putting a town in my end - I knew this would be where the objective went, and I figured I might as well dig in. I put conscripts in my front line and in the town, my better infantry in the second line, and cavalry in columns on the wings. I also put one unit of infantry in column, partly as a reserve, and partly in case he came in on the flank (probably a mistake, but not a huge one).
Finally, I remembered to put my guns where they were less likely to interfere with my lines.
ernieR deployed his infantry in column, and cavalry massed on the left wing.
My initial game plan was to sit tight with the infantry, and hopefully loop around with my cavalry on a wing, maybe threaten his flank, i.e., more or less my usual default plan. As per usual, however, it all fell apart rather quickly.
ernieR drove his infantry columns forward, rather aggressively. This opened up an opportunity for me, if I could engage him before he redeployed into line. I moved up to meet him:
And on his next turn, played the firefight card to "steal" a round of shooting.
I did some damage, though not as much as I'd hoped. ernieR redeployed into line, and on my turn, I charged in. This is where conscripts started to show their effect. They don't fight as well as trained, and are more likely to take disruptions from shooting. After a round of combat, and I believe some more shooting, the table looked like this:
Despite being able to take advantage of his being in column, although his lines were somewhat disrupted, I'd lost two units to his one. I brought up my second line to charge, and took out another of his units:
This took out another of his units, but left me disrupted and exposed.
Another round of shooting, and he'd torn my lines open. A couple of bad morale rolls clinched it, and my army broke.
So, lesson learned. Lethal volleys basically means you have to break them in combat, which means you have to pick your fights. If you get into a battle of attrition, they will win, so don't.
This game was over quickly, so we decided to fast track another. We kept terrain as is, but drew new notables and re-rolled for scouting advantage. This time, I ended up with the same wild Carpathian ernieR had last game, while he got scouting advantage (opting to attack again) and:
Temperamentally, this guy is probably my favorite in the deck. Any distance charge activation with a plus one on the attack role? Yes please! I was jealous ;)
Deployment was more or less the same, though this time I pushed my cavalry out a little farther to the right (and looking at the picture, I think I may have forgotten to deploy one infantry unit?) ernieR decided to try something a little different, and began by advancing his cavalry on the wing:
I changed my cavalry from column to massed, and moved to meet him on the flank. This is where oblique really shines, as it gives you real options for how units can be placed in relation to each other:
Having his cavalry in a massed column really bunched ernieR up, and gave me a succession of two on one fights. The combat on the flank unfolded over several turns, but the advantage obique gave me meant I could react to his efforts to dress his lines, and keep at least a 2:1 combat advantage.
In the end, although I'd lost one unit and the other two were chewed up, his cavalry were gone. He'd also rolled rather poorly on his morale (much as I had the previous game), and was looking a little fragile.
The rest of the game was fairly straightforward. ernieR advanced his infantry, closed to 4BW, and started shooting. I played Death of a Hero to rob him of another morale point, rallied my cavalry, and swung them around the flank to get behind him. He did some damage, and then charged, I think losing a unit in the process. My cavalry charged in, taking out one unit, but recoiling from the other (he rolled a 6, the bounder, as anything else would have destroyed the second unit). End game came on my next turn, when I charged my lines in to his torn up units, and broke two. This was enough to reduce him to zero, and his army broke.
Both of these were fun, tough games. There's been some talk on the forums (and on the club) about Lethal Volleys being over-powered. While I agree it is a powerful card, I don't think it's broken or unbeatable. Like I said, the first game I played was pretty much an object lesson in what not to do. The second gave me ideas on what to do. Although ernieR did me a few favours (advancing his cavalry to contact, and then bunching them up), I think the counter to Lethal Volleys is pretty much to not fight on the opponents' terms. That means a few things:
1. Fight somewhere else. Fight cavalry duels, or use what mobility advantage you have to fight his infantry on unequal terms. Hit part of his line with all of yours, don't turn it into a straight, even, attrition duel.
2. Don't let him shoot, and if you do, make it hard for him. Hide in terrain, use cover, hid behind terrain so he has to come through it and can't shoot you until he does.
The second is harder if you are attacking, but then I think it's a question of fighting smart. I do know that I'm going to avoid a straight up line clash against LV from now on, and we'll see how it works out.
Before we packed things in for the night, we organized sides and fights for the succession wars campaign. I ended up teamed with ernieR's Rastenburgers vs. a Germanic alliance of Prussians, Austrians, and Hanoverian=Hessians. Gallic flair will, I'm sure, carry the day. For my starting notable, I drew this fellow:
Much as I'd like to attach him to conscript infantry, and cause my opponent all manner of headaches, his status means I'll most likely end up attaching him to cavalry. A cheap long-distance rally is nothing to sneeze at, especially given my tendency to be adventurous with cavalry, and the defensive bonus could come in handy. My first game should be next week against the (less than) dreaded Austrians. For those of you active on the Honour forums, that would be Nick the Lemming's Austrians, and yes gentlemen, it is a grudge match.
I've got a little time to tweak my army, but I'm at the point where I'm starving for points. I know I'll take both oblique and depot battalions, but after that, I'm stymied in terms of national advantages. There are three main cards I'm looking at. The attacking re-roll advantages (Cavaliers and a la Baionette) are appealing, but have been underwhelming in-game. I can certainly see where they'd matter, but really decisive combat outcomes seem to depend more on the opponent's roll than my own (if they roll well, you won't double them in anything close to an even fight), so I'm not sure if they're really worth it. I'm also torn on which to choose (if I do choose one). Having the edge in cavalry suits me temperamentally, but in every game I've played, the decisive combat has been a clash of infantry lines. Maison du roi is appealing, for durability issues as much as anything else, but feels a bit of a cop-out (I'd be taking it to preserve my elites, not for "historical" reasons). I'm not sure why that should matter, since I'm playing against imagination armies, but it's there. In terms of game play, there's some advantage. Knowing my elites will come back as elites means I'm more likely to use them aggressively, which I frankly enjoy. I'm also toying with the very useful card Great Captain, but I'm a little put off by the cost.
No doubt I'll spend a chunk of the next week crunching lists. I should have a painting post for Sunday, and a game next week. After that, things are a little vague, but no doubt, the universe will unfold as it should. Until then . . .