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Time, Space and the Chaos of Combat
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Author:  Bill Peters [ Mon Aug 13, 2018 9:06 am ]
Post subject:  Time, Space and the Chaos of Combat

If I can ever impart any teaching to new gamers of the series its the importance of time, space and understanding the chaos of combat.

Unlike the ACW or EAW series, the Nap series is very complex. Cavalry plays a huge role in combat. By the ACW the cavalry was diminished due to the lethal firearms of the time. The increased accuracy of the rifled musket over the old smoothbores meant that the cavalry could be engaged with firearms at a longer range making any kind of charge almost pure folly.

In the Napoleonic era, however, the firearm was primarily the smoothbore musket. The artillery played a part as well but mainly to disrupt the cavalry formations. Cavalry did attack artillery by timing the firing of the cannon attacking them after they had shot but before they could reload.

For this discussion I want to turn the attention to the concepts of time and space. New players should take advantage of the Terrain Effects Charts that I started adding into the titles with Campaign Leipzig but which usually can apply to the earlier titles such as Jena or Austerlitz (with some exception). Get to know the MP rates and costs so that you are not attacked outside of square formation by cavalry. Usually infantry can move 4 hexes during their movement but cavalry can move 5 hexes. Some players forget that .....

Keeping some cavalry handy is good but as there is no counter-charge rule in the game the main defense is to put out a square to stop the cavalry. Keeping both infantry and cavalry formations in reserve is smart. As in combat so in our games the player with the last reserve usually wins.

If you are vastly outnumbered know when to fall back. Don't wait until your command is swamped by the enemy. Tip: know that cavalry can follow up 2 hexes during a charge thus keep your second line 4 hexes back from the main line (or three intervening hexes between those forces). That way the advancing cavalry, during followup movement, cannot strike units like guns, wagons, leaders or units facing the wrong way. It doesn't hurt to put an infantry unit in the second line in square if the distance between the units is 3 hexes (2 intervening hexes thus within the followup distance).

Lets take Marengo for an example: in the early going the French have to watch not only their flanks but the bridge at Marengo. That creek serves as an excellent barrier to the Austrian advance. However, by about turn 18 the Austrians will have built up enough strength to start to overpower the French if the latter do not look to pull back. It is better to fall back on reinforcements if vastly outnumbered than to think that they can arrive in time to save the day. If reinforcements will take 8 turns to arrive to join up with the front line troops then if the latter fall back for 3 turns (of movement to the rear) you have just reduced the time to 5 turns to where both unite.

Get an idea of "fall back" locations. Sometimes you can buy time for the reinforcements to arrive by going forward with a small detachment to cause a "choke-point" at a key location. Unfortunately for the French the bridge crossing area at Alessandria is already held in force by the Austrians but there are other places in the vineyard area where an infantry ZOC can slow down the advance of the formed infantry. Always allow for a retreat path in such locations other than the main road. Expect the enemy to win the melees - leave yourself an out.

Time and space should always be factored in during games. During your pre-game "recon" look over the situation and get some idea where you will make your stand. The series usually favors the offensive players but a good defense coupled with a counter attack force can really stymie even the best players.

:thumbsup:

The chaos of combat: many times in the past I have found my lines penetrated by the attacker and total chaos can reign. How do you turn a poor situation into something you can salvage? Well sometimes you can't. A key rout may disorder your well placed cavalry force. Even if you use max stacking a routing unit may brush by your cavalry causing morale checks, etc. Sometimes its just plain bad luck.

However, if you get to know the values of your units and place leaders with the weaker units you can save yourself a lot of trouble. Also remember that Corps, Wing and Army leaders can give a +1 bonus just by being adjacent to a unit(s). Putting Ney or Bagration next to a stack of units could save them from routing. Just make sure to have the leader stacked with a combat unit (not just a wagon).

So what do you do if your lines fall apart. See if you can fall back without getting run over. Find terrain that is obstructed and will disorder cavalry. Bring up some reinforcements if possible to build a fall back line. Get your guns out as soon as possible. Build a new line of guns that have a LOS on the enemy.

The chaos of combat is often hard to sort out even for the attacker. Remember that your opponent can have his forces get tangled up too. See if you can get a low rated morale unit to rout and possibly disorder your opponent's forces.

Know that the chaos of combat happens to even the best players. Its how you handle the situation that will mark you as either a great player or one that doesn't have a clue. Anything from a Ney to a Mack.

I hope this has helped. Don't panic during your games. Losses happen. Learn from your mistakes and sometimes its best not to reinforce disaster. Knowing when to move up forces or fall back is a delicate business and takes practice.

Author:  Geoff McCarty [ Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Time, Space and the Chaos of Combat

Cavalry modelling has always been the problem child for Napoleonic wargaming. Even in a realtime system like 'Austerlitz: Napoleon's Greatest Victory' the player had to babysit them to get maneuver advantage. Cavalry strength VPs are enough to make me very considerate of commiting them in NB. In my initial games I hope to lose well. When you can recover your forces from a defeat you learn alot more tactically than if you manage a successful assault.

Author:  Bill Peters [ Thu Aug 30, 2018 7:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Time, Space and the Chaos of Combat

The really really good players usually commit their cavalry in areas where the guns are not going to rip them apart AND where they have a reasonable chance of recovering them too.

The rest of us just pull the grenade pin, yell out "fire in the hole" and plunge in with sabers held high above head!

:frenchlol:

The cavalry charge aspect of this series is what makes it SO much harder than the ACW or EAW series of games. So much uncertainty involved.

Author:  Geoff McCarty [ Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Time, Space and the Chaos of Combat

If the preferred optional rules were OMR and MCM off than I think the Murat's would be alot more hesitant too kick up dust. No OMR would mean wilder melees which cavalry can't abide due too potential for the assault to get wasted. MCM off of course would change the game paradagim denying the attacker diruptive followed by assaulting charges. It would also severely restrict cavalry's charge through potential.
I'm satisfied with the current preferred rules though. Realistically hussars and curraisiers were the deciding factor for most battles. Those later year massive French charges must have been awesome to witness.

Author:  Bill Peters [ Fri Aug 31, 2018 10:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Time, Space and the Chaos of Combat

MCM was a must - early on we would see one infantry unit in Line formation stop an entire division of cavalry from exploiting an attack. So the unit after it got trashed in the first melee might only have 120 men left but it would hold up something like 3,000 cavalry troopers.

On the other hand some like to use a House Rule that says that if Infantry attacks Infantry first then Cavalry cannot attack the same Infantry unit in a subsequent melee that turn. So cavalry could attack the infantry multiple times .. but not the combined arms type attacks where Infantry attacks to disorder to unit and then cavalry attacks to finish them off.

Author:  Christian Hecht [ Fri Aug 31, 2018 10:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Time, Space and the Chaos of Combat

Bill Peters wrote:
On the other hand some like to use a House Rule that says that if Infantry attacks Infantry first then Cavalry cannot attack the same Infantry unit in a subsequent melee that turn. So cavalry could attack the infantry multiple times .. but not the combined arms type attacks where Infantry attacks to disorder to unit and then cavalry attacks to finish them off.

Wonder if such perfect example of combined arms was ever achieved, one can imagine an infantry unit gets thrown back by an infantry charge into the path of a cavalry force but how likely was it to happen?

Author:  Geoff McCarty [ Sat Sep 01, 2018 5:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Time, Space and the Chaos of Combat

I figure cavalry needed alot of room to play in. They'd want to stay away from infantry engaging each other because that's the perfect storm of getting shot from all sides. Cavalry spearheading assaults against battle lines would be ridiculous because the forward squadron's would be murdered. Regiments had to line their squadron's up over 500m frontage with more in depth to succesfully break an infantry brigade battle line. So, with MCM off I think it can be justified that within 10 minutes charging cav aren't going to line up for charge, walk forward, gallop, than be able to break through a double line of thousands of men.
That said MCM on makes cavalry alot more scary which adds to game play. Having to retreat disordered cavalry squadrons for additional turns of charging from the regiment can get seriously frustrating. Also, the rest of the game's values are balanced for MCM (like overrated artillery) which would require significant changes to reverse.

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