After several weeks of schedule conflict, I managed to meet up with my opponent for the latest round of our Maurice campaign, and we got in a game. Of all the games I've played, this one felt like several of the battles I've read about in the SYW, in terms of pacing, events, and manoeuvre.
The game began fairly conventionally. We drew plains for terrain, and with my edge in cavalry (4 to his 3), I won the roll for scouting advantage. Now, ordinarily, I prefer to attack. I tend to be aggressive in games, and prefer to be the one to set the pace of the game. My opponent, AlexM, has Lethal Volleys as one of his national advantages, the sheer destructive potential of which I've come to respect, and had complemented that choice with the equivalent advantage for artillery. The prospect of attacking into the teeth of a hail of lead was sufficiently unappealing that in an uncharacteristic move, I opted to defend.
We rolled for terrain, ended up with 7 pieces, and set things up. I made sure I had a decent defensive position in the form of a town and adjoining wall, while AlexM ensured a clear approach to the position. A forest, field, and marsh defined the sides of the table, and created a bit of a funnel towards my position. I placed the field so that the part of my line unsecured by the town or wall would be able to move up and "trap" any attacking units on the edge of the field, something I ran into a while back in my campaign game against ernieR.
My right was secured by the town and its garrison, plus my artillery, set up to fire across the "funnel" in the middle of the table. I also placed my notable, Cameron von Muller, with the guns. I managed to entirely forget the bonus he gave to shooting for the attached unit, but his instinct, to Bombard, came in rather handy, as it let me deploy my commander to the left, and kept it fairly cheap to activate all three of my main forces.
Although my right wing felt a tad exposed, in order to get to my flank, AlexM would have to negotiate a stretch of difficult ground. If I ended up having to redeploy, I'd have warning. AlexM deployed almost mirror to me, with his cavalry, infantry, and guns facing mine. Importantly, he'd placed a swamp on what became my right flank. It would interfere with his repeated attempts at counter battery fire.
We dealt out cards, and as attacker, AlexM went first. The game broke down into three main stages. For about the first half of the first deck, maybe more, it was basically an artillery game. AlexM attempted to suppress my guns with his own, with indifferent success, while I built up my hand and fired my guns at his infantry line, with about the same degree of effect.
I had no problem playing it slow, as the quicker I ran out the deck, the quicker night would come. The onus in on the attacker in Maurice; as the defender starts in possession of the objective the attacker either needs to take it, or break the defender's army to win. All I had to do was sit tight, and not lose. It was a change of pace from trying to figure out how to build a had and coordinate an attack at the same time.
The second stage of the game opened with AlexM advancing his cavalry towards my left. I moved mine up to just outside charge range, and there was a bit of a stare down until AlexM played the "Confusion" card on me, and advanced one of my units forward. This wasn't a bad play, as it left that unit vulnerable to a combined charge by his horse, and broke up my own cavalry formation into two units.
It wasn't a huge deal, however. Even outnumbered, it's unusual for fresh units to break each other in the first engagement. I had already been thinking about doing something similar (although friendlier to my formation) that would initiate a series of unit trades. I moved up one of the rear units to consolidate the force, and let him come at me.
As I'd expected, my cavalry were beaten, but not destroyed, and his cavalry were now in range of the rest of my units, and a couple had disruptions. At this point, I was willing to sacrifice a unit or two if it meant I ended up winning the cavalry engagement, which is more or less what happened.
The battle on the left proved to be fierce, but not overlong, and I ended up with three viable units, and nothing to oppose them.
AlexM advanced his infantry while I rallied my horse, and then swung them round the field to threaten the flanks and rear of his lines.
This more or less kicked off the third stage of the game. AlexM had his infantry about face, so my cavalry would have to attack them in the front, and sat still, while his guns redirected their attention from my own artillery to the cavalry.
I gave some serious thought to moving up my own infantry, and trying for his rear, but it would take at least two turns to pull off; that was more than enough time for AlexM to about-about-face what was now his rear. I might do some damage, but was unlikely to break his army, so in the ended, opted to sit tight.
AlexM manged to wear down one of my cavalry with his guns, and used a few cards to tempt me into a brief sally on his wing, but when it didn't pan out well, I pulled back.
In the end, we ran out the third run of the deck, and night fell with the French still in possession of the objective and the field.
This felt like n 18th century battle. Contact was limited, but ferocious where it occurred. The battle was more or less decided by manouevre advantage. Once I could threaten his flank, the likelihood of AlexM being able to mount a coordinated attack dropped significantly, he went from attacker to effective defender, and the battle (game) was mine.
I think, though AlexM might disagree, that even after my cavalry came out on top, he still had a chance. He'd have needed to sacrifice a few units to my cavalry, abandon them with no card support, and push on with the rest. By the time the situation arose, however, the game was already well-developed, and he could have ended up running out of time, but with more casualties.
Playing defence made this feel like a different game in some ways. The crushing pressure I associate with attacking was completely absent. I fount myself missing a gentlemanly glass and maybe a cigar or pipe to smoke whilst I ruminated on my options. The defender has a much more relaxed game, at least when they're able to secure a flank ;)
The icing on the cake was in the post-game, where three of my units ended up being promoted to elite status! Next week is Halloween, and I'm home with the kids, but the week after that I should be able to get a game in. In the meantime, I'll try to stay up-to-date with painting posts.