Hard to believe, I know, but I actually got in a for-real game, on the table-top last night, after something like a month's absence. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and the miserable old bugger keeps me from gaming.
The game in question was a non-campaign Maurice game against a newish club member, Vonplutz. The sheer magnificence of Maurice in 6mm seems to have overwhelmed him, and thanks to the kindness of strangers (i.e., a blogger secret Santa thing), he's decided to jump into our campaign, subbing for a player who's dropped out. While he's due to play his first campaign game next week, we decided to get in a practice game / run-through of the rules, which wouldn't count towards the campaign results, a decision for which I'm profoundly grateful; you'll see why as the game progresses.
Vonplutz drew Plains for terrain, and with a slight advantage in cavalry I ended up with the scouting advantage. As this was Vonplutz's first game, I opted to attack. We diced for terrain (I got double ones!), and ended up with 5 pieces. The table was fairly open, with two towns, a small hill and woods on my right, and a marsh on my left. VP deployed in a single line (!!), and I deployed in double, with my cavalry opposing his.
I placed the Marquis on the right, between the infantry and my cavalry wing. This left my guns waaaaaay off at the other end of the line, but my notable (Cameron von Muller) allows me to activate to bombard on a minimal discard, so there were no worries on that score.
I started the battle with my usual tactics; bombard the opponent to build up a hand, then try to overwhelm a flank with my cavalry. Two factors were to interfere with this (generally, moderately) successful approach. First, his cavalry were fairly tightly packed between the edge of the world and a hill, limiting the mobility advantage I usually have with Oblique, and he had a unit of irregulars up on the hill.
These quickly began to pepper any cavalry that came into range with musketry. This put me off my pace, a little, as I meant my sacrificial lamb (the unit I push forward to sucker in an opponent's charge) was a little more vulnerable than usual.
The shooting from the hill went from annoying to something a little more when Vonplutz started rolling like this ;)
Hot dice wiped out my sacrificial lambs, and then VP added insult to injury by playing Death of a Hero, and removing the card from the game.
I managed to get off an inconclusive charge, but despite a two on one advantage, wasn't able to double him. VP started to swing more infantry towards my cavalry, so I pulled them back (using a Retrograde card), began advancing my infantry, and rethought my options.
VP then played the "That's not on the map!" card, aka, the "card that FMB hates, yet which is played against him EVERY SINGLE GAME!!!". He stuck a marsh dead centre in front of my advancing infantry.
While this isn't the end of the world, it delayed and disrupted my lines and advance. It meant my infantry was broken up into multiple forces, and that coordinating an attack would be both more costly (in terms of cards) and more difficult (as I'd be emerging to contact with multiple disruptions. In order to buy myself some time, I sent the cavalry back in, this time splitting them between the infantry in my centre and his cavalry on my left.
Both charges won, but recoiled. I figured I'd lose a few units, but at least I'd be screened long enough to consolidate the infantry.
This is more or less what happened. He poured musketry into my cavalry, while I advanced and dressed my lines. On my right, the cavalry battle stalled with the units in close proximity; neither of us would move our cavalry again in the battle.
I got a little revenge when I played "The Heat of Battle", forcing a disrupted unit of his infantry to charge one-on-two against my elites.
This had fairly predictable results, and along with a few other successful charges, I broke through his line and began to flank him.
While this is obviously a good position, taking advantage of a flank is harder than is sounds, especially in their end. While flank charges are often decisive, getting them with lined infantry is tricky, and even a retrograde wheel is often enough to deny the bonus. As it was, while I could bring multiple units to bear, I wasn't in a position to get behind VP's line and roll him up. At the same time, I was sweating morale, having rolled high on several of my broken units. At this stage in the game, I think I was at five morale to VP's 6.
I sent my guards to flush out the irregulars on the hill (which took them several turns longer than anticipated, as I relied on musketry to do the job), while the rest of my infantry pushed to the left. I was grinding him down slowly, but taking losses of my own as he redressed his lines and fired / fought back. On what had been my left, my trained infantry came into contact with multiple units, one of them elite; the results were predictable.
At this point, the game hung by a thread. I'd broken open his lines; his gun batteries were wide open. On the other hand, I was bleeding, my lines were in disarray, and his best units were getting into the fight. In doubt I generally attack, and figured my best bet was to push forward, and hope to break him before he did me. I managed to take out one of his gun batteries (with musket fire!), and lined up another charge on one of his infantry, which recoiled. I had two morale, he had one!
On my turn, I ordered a volley phase. I'm not sure, still, if this was a mistake or not. With first fire, I figure I had the advantage, but the net effect was to cost me a unit, two morale, and the game.
Man, what a nail biter. VP's decision to deploy in a single line gave me a shot (I suspect he won't do it again), but once again, it's been brought home to me what a grind it is to attack in this game. I also noticed I was more than a little out of practice, especially with my cavalry. Irregulars impressed me. Most of us haven't been taking them, I think because they're viewed as a distraction, but in defense, in terrain, they're a pain. VP made some solid moves as well; the Not on the Map card remains a source of visceral hatred for me. Without it, I might have been able to hammer through faster and pull off a win.
I'm going to try and get the Ayyubid unit finished for the weekend update. As things stand, it looks like we're going to push back the Basic Impetus day a few months, which takes a little pressure off, and gives me the chance to paint a few of the things I've been peppering to try. Next week we've got a Warmahordes free-for-all lined up, and after that, hopefully a Maurice campaign game.