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Game Weekend of Dec 20th & 21st

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Re: Game Weekend of Dec 20th & 21st

Post  Mr. Digby on Mon Dec 22, 2014 9:25 pm

From my standpoint, the thing that won it was the concentration of 60 Russian guns, to which were were unable to find an effective reply. Firepower in the end proved more important than ground.
I agree, it was a wargamers (and a general's) dream position; on rising ground, over open grassland and facing an enemy sunken into a bowl of ground and at an angle to the guns. What amazed me was that the French pulled back their right so briskly and gave us this lovely position which I was so concerned we'd have to fight for through those horrible forests.

When we got our 60 guns lined up and blasting away and I could count the disabled French guns and their infantry streaming away I had this rather guilty feeling of gloating evil! I felt like a Bond baddie whose plan to take over the world was succeeding. I lacked only a Persian cat to stroke while I grinned a twisted grin of victory.

I am wondering however if we have made the Russian artillery too powerful. I know it was insanely numerous, but were their gunners this professional? Is the only French counter to this monster to go on the offensive and try capturing them? I'm not a good student of the 1813 campaign but was the Russian artillery this effective at battles like Leipzig?

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Re: Game Weekend of Dec 20th & 21st

Post  Mark87 on Mon Dec 22, 2014 9:37 pm

I can only attest to my end of the field in terms of the effectiveness of the Russian artillery. I came into range of a Russian Battery with my Voltigeurs while I was scouting and lost 44 men in a matter of three shots!

After that baptism of fire I realized that I could not counter Russian artillery- it was pointless. I moved my three batteries onto little knolls which covered the vast majority of my frontage. I moved the entirety of my infantry and cavalry into position on the reverse slope of my ridge. I knew I would have time to deploy because of the numerous fences running parallel to my assigned position. Mccloud's brigade operating on the left was shielded from Russian view by a woodlot, and was thusly deployed forward to my main position.

For the vast majority of the time my division remained in line of battle behind a low swale, with just a battalion of skirmishers in front.

When the incoming Russian attack commenced I moved my infantry forward into a little bowl of ground which prevented them from suffering much in the way of Russian artillery fire.

I tried to take position, when ordered to the support of the 4th division, behind the brow of the hill. I took several hits from Russian fire but nothing catastrophic; this was mostly due to the impetuous nature of my French brigade commanders.

All in all my division suffered severely but retired in good order and was able to fight again
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Re: Game Weekend of Dec 20th & 21st

Post  MJP on Mon Dec 22, 2014 10:05 pm

I am wondering however if we have made the Russian artillery too powerful. I know it was insanely numerous, but were their gunners this professional? Is the only French counter to this monster to go on the offensive and try capturing them? I'm not a good student of the 1813 campaign but was the Russian artillery this effective at battles like Leipzig?


I really can't speak to specific examples at the battle of Leipzig, but looking at Borodino and the fact that the Russians had 644 guns (or something like that) and the French were attacking prepared, elevated redoubts across relatively open ground and the French inflicted far more casualties on the Russians then the Russians did the French, then probably something needs to be done.   Of course a large part of the casualties that the french inflicted were caused because the Russian reserves were positioned too far forward and were essentially standing in formation catching cannon balls as they passed through the main russian lines.  There are several issues here, one of the most glaring being that if you give a wargamer 36 guns he'll be sure that all 36 are firing.   Historically, as was the case at Borodino, large parts of the army's guns were held as reserve batteries in an artillery park.   Gamers don't really do artillery parks.  Smile   Next is that in SOW guns fire at targets that their historic counterparts would never fire at due for example to the proximity of friendly forces, so they are constantly firing.  Based on this there is a need to tone the guns down either by reducing their effectiveness or reducing their number.    

As I've only played twice, i'm not really qualified to fully comment however.   Are the guns always that powerful or was the position so good, the guns so numerous, and the enemy so exposed that what happened was statistically "noise" last battle and isn't the norm?   Or does that happen every game?   I'm not sure what settings there are that can be tweaked, but to me the professionalism of the Russian artillery crews should be less than that of the French.  In 1813 the quality should probably be lower than in 1812 given the horrific losses that each army took in Russia and the need to rebuild.  

Based on my limited experience in Nappy HITS and extensive experience in SOW GCM, there is just no way i allow my infantry to sit under the guns and always try to deploy them out of sight of enemy artillery until such time as they simply have to fight.   In GCM the fire can be effective and units will take casualties and lose morale, particularly from flank fire.   In HITS it's on another level entirely and counter battery fire is extremely effective and units can really be devastated.  

But really i'd have to play more games to see how they go in this regard.
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Re: Game Weekend of Dec 20th & 21st

Post  Mr. Digby on Mon Dec 22, 2014 10:43 pm

Good points. I do not think we have ever lined up 60 guns almost axle to axle and concentrated fire on so small a sector of the line before. It could thus be an anomalous result. The KS group has only played about 5 or 6 Russo-French Nap games I think, maybe a couple more but not more than that. I think this may have been only our second adversarial game. We probably need a bigger pile of stats before making any changes.

I know the Russian reserve artillery park at Borodino did nothing all day when its commander was killed early on, but had he not been, would those guns have been brought out of reserve? Would then the casualty ratios of the two sides been more even? Who can say? If players are going to protect their men on reverse slopes a la Wellington, maybe we should make artillery more effective, not less, since in reality many generals didn't hide their men from fire but preferred to have their men stand and face incoming death thinking it prepared them for the close quarters fighting to come. Perhaps our Russian infantry musketry skills should be lower - they were not great advocates of the firing line after all and AFAIK their musketry drill was almost non-existent.

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"Any hussar who has not got himself killed by the age of 30 is a jackass." - Antoine Charles Louis Lasalle, commander of Napoleon's light cavalry, killed in battle at Wagram 6 July 1809, aged 34.

"I had forgotten there was an objective." - Generallieutenant Mikhail Borozdin I
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Re: Game Weekend of Dec 20th & 21st

Post  Uncle Billy on Tue Dec 23, 2014 1:22 am

Historically, artillery was responsible for ~50% of the casualties in a typical battle.  In our last game, the Russian guns contributed ~43%.  The French guns did 23%.  So historically, nothing is amiss.  The French numbers are low, but that is likely due to the wooded terrain.  On the other hand, the Russian guns had a clear line of fire.  As Martin pointed out, a grand battery of 60 guns is a first in our games.  I'm sorry I didn't witness it.  I am not surprised the French could not stand against the pounding it delivered.  It would also be almost impossible to approach in a frontal attack.  I'd say this battle is an example of why Boney was such a devotee of massed artillery, it was highly effective.

With regard to experience levels, the French arty had an average experience of 5.6 while the Russian arty had an average of 5.2.  The French infantry's average experience was 5.9 and the Russian's was 5.4  The French cavalry's was 6 and the Russian cavalry's was 4.8.  Overall, the Russians had 5% more men than the French., However, the overall quality favored the French, 5.9 vs 5.3 for the Russians.  

When I put this scenario together, I thought the Russians would have a very hard time of it.  Having only a minimal advantage in men with a significant handicap in experience, I gave them 3 extra batteries, (36 guns).  The French held a very strong position if the Russians decided on a frontal assault.  The ground greatly favored the French in that situation.  I also extended the French line well to the SE, so any kind of Russian attack in the center or to the NE would allow Dessaix's division to sweep down on the Russian left.  However no scenario is played as anticipated.  Martin found the key to the position and attacked the French right which I did not think a likely course given the wooded terrain.  To counter that, I think the only possibility was to have the Vistula Legion attack across the Alcantarilla road and cut off the Russian line of communication.  The Russians had to protect that.  It would have resulted in the lines rotating 90 degrees and given the Russians a headache.  Hindsight is such a wonderful thing. cheers

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Re: Game Weekend of Dec 20th & 21st

Post  Guest on Tue Dec 23, 2014 2:20 pm

Digby wrote:I am sorry and need to apologize to Morsey as I got pretty cross with him and his slow advance. I guess you're not yet used to commanding a division Mike! Your AI inf brigade commanders (especially that idiot Savrioni) kept wanting to attack the enemy and twice went forwards past my position only get get badly mauled by the French guns.

No need to apologize, I was slow getting to the battle.  The last time i commanded 12000+ with you guys it was on flatter terrain and I did quite well.  I got tangled in the terrain, but that wont happen again.  Needless to say I learned a lot that game.  Although I was wondering what size shoe you were wearing, my personal physician is trying to decide a course of action for the huge hole in my bake side and that nasty infection I got from the horse crap on the end of your boots. Laughing

Finally I got to my assigned area and the guns went nutts!!


Note to self TC your Brigade Commanders.

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Re: Game Weekend of Dec 20th & 21st

Post  Mark87 on Tue Dec 23, 2014 4:03 pm

Mccloud noticed and I confirmed that the Russian right flank was "in the air," however, it was far too late to shift positions and my division alone could not have the required success in time.
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Re: Game Weekend of Dec 20th & 21st

Post  Martin on Tue Dec 23, 2014 5:44 pm

MJP wrote:

Historically, as was the case at Borodino, large parts of the army's guns were held as reserve batteries in an artillery park.   Gamers don't really do artillery parks.  Smile   Next is that in SOW guns fire at targets that their historic counterparts would never fire at due for example to the proximity of friendly forces, so they are constantly firing.  Based on this there is a need to tone the guns down either by reducing their effectiveness or reducing their number.  


I think this is an excellent summation of the issues........  

Massed batteries were really only used by the French, and even they kept lots of additional guns in reserve as well.  At Waterloo the French had just over 50% of their guns in reserve, even *after* the deployment of the ‘grand battery’.  16 out of 31 batteries were still in reserve at that point.  Wellington was heavily outgunned at Waterloo, but even so he initially kept 50% of his batteries in reserve.  [The source for all this is Adkin, who has detailed maps showing where each battery was deployed, and also information on when and where the reserve batteries were later committed.]

I think they operated in this way because working a battery was exhausting work and the gunners could only keep going for so long.  You needed to rotate batteries if you were to maintain fire-support.  But, as Matt says, what wargamer is going to do that?

I also agree re the proximity issue.  Part of the time on Saturday we were under infantry attack, backed by a line of guns which were still firing on us.  I think there are penalties for units firing through those in front, but they may be insufficient.  And of course the batteries do no damage to friendly troops.  Hopefully that will be addressed in the new Waterloo game, but at the moment that’s just the way the game works.  Of course it’s less black and white than that. I’m sure that the French batteries were firing through our infantry too.  And, due to terrain, some of the guns were sometimes firing over the heads of friendly infantry, which you could say is fair enough.

I think the key issue for us is to make sure that our games are as historical as possible, whilst still remaining fun & challenging to both sides.  Now the Russkies have hit on a winning formula, surely we will all aim to use it in future?  Yet this was not how most battles were fought, even by the French.  More pertinently, the risk is that this tactic will make games one-sided, and/or boring for both sides.  Saturday was really good, partly because of the novelty value.  And the Russians deserved their victory.  But if many games were like that, I’m not sure how much fun it would be – for either side.

All that said, Uncle Billy’s stats on the casualties caused by artillery look reasonable & historical to me.  So this is not a case of just reducing artillery stats.  It was a more powerful arm in this period than it was in the ACW, and we need to reflect that.

You could take the view that if the artillery cause approximately historical casualties then isn’t that good enough?  But if the process by which that occurs is artificial, then the risk is that we end up with unhistorical and ultimately unsatisfying games.  With that in mind, here are some suggestions, which are intended to provoke a conversation, rather than represent ‘the answer’:

1. To address player behaviour.  Increase artillery fatigue in combat.  If we say that a battery could historically keep going for an hour (a complete guess), then in game terms that probably translates to say 30 minutes.  At which point they need to retire.  You can use them again later in the battle, but they need quite a long time to recover first.  That should both encourage players to keep some in reserve, and also discourage long-range firing, which will still tire the artillerymen, but provide less bang for the buck.

2. To address the proximity issue.  Give the order for batteries to cease fire once friendlies move between them and the target.  This one is more difficult I think because terrain factors might sometimes legitimately permit firing.  At any rate I don’t think we should allow the use of canister if there are friendly troops between battery the target, as this was just so indiscriminate.

3. To address the consequences of 1. and 2.  We may actually need to make artillery fire *more* effective in some circumstances.

Thoughts anyone?

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Re: Game Weekend of Dec 20th & 21st

Post  Mark87 on Tue Dec 23, 2014 7:01 pm

I am not sure that artillery ever caused 50% percent casualties in many battles in the Napoleonic period, I know for sure they didn't in the U.S. Civil War.

I will look at some source material in the coming days over the holiday.

Personally, I thought it was the quantity of guns that the Russians brought to bear as well as their advantage of position. I feel that, though I was a late comer to the battle on the right, that we (the French) could have substantially decreased our casualty count if we had deployed our infantry in the swale of ground behind the crest, rather than on and forward of the crest.

I was able to deploy a brigade just behind the crest of the hill which did fine work until its AI commander drove back the allies and moved to the crest-where severe casualties were sustained.

I think if you give any army 36 extra field pieces and open ground with the enemy formed in a salient, they are going to completely churn up any resistance. I don't see that as a problem.

I find our failure to respond as the reason for losing the battle. We gave up the key wooded terrain perhaps a bit too easily. Maybe, to save time, We all should have shifted right?

Who knows, the possibilities are endless. The truth of the matter is that our army was send packing.
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Re: Game Weekend of Dec 20th & 21st

Post  Mr. Digby on Tue Dec 23, 2014 7:09 pm

In Saturday's game French troops stood on the forward slope of a hill at ranges probably under 500~600 yards for 30 minutes. For most of that time only 36 guns were firing at them, Morsey's 24 took longer to come up, but they probably added effective fire for 10 minutes. That the French got clobbered so badly is, as Mark says, hardly a surprise.

I agree there was some occluding of Morsey's guns by his over enthusiastic AI brigade commanders but I think the gunners had plenty of targets a little more distant that would not necessitate them shooting through their own troops. Given how hard it is to even see that problems of this kind are occurring from a HITS eye-level I don't see the value in making a house rule to forbid firing guns through your own troops. The one time it does become obvious and annoying is when an infantry line is mixed right in with a gun line and the guns are blasting magic canister right through their own soldiers backs.

Since we've become aware of the game's limitations in this area I know most players have made real efforts to no longer mix a gun line with an infantry line and we now place infantry to the flanks of batteries or well to the rear. Playing on big open maps like the 10 mile helps a lot with this as its often an overcrowding of division frontages that causes such problems.


Last edited by Mr. Digby on Tue Dec 23, 2014 8:32 pm; edited 1 time in total

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"Any hussar who has not got himself killed by the age of 30 is a jackass." - Antoine Charles Louis Lasalle, commander of Napoleon's light cavalry, killed in battle at Wagram 6 July 1809, aged 34.

"I had forgotten there was an objective." - Generallieutenant Mikhail Borozdin I
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Re: Game Weekend of Dec 20th & 21st

Post  henridecat on Tue Dec 23, 2014 7:52 pm

I'm not sure how you can enforce doctrinal orthodoxy in the game. This is most definitely a two pipe problem, eh Watson!

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