Monday, September 18, 2017

Built Up Area Combat Test Game

After two games based on Ligny I wanted to make sure I was getting the fighting for the villages working well.  To this end I decided to do a careful walkthrough of the process.  The Napoleon's Battle rules I now use are unfortunately a bit of a mix of the 1st, 2nd and 4th Editions as well as some of my own adaptations.

 The are two villages that straddle le ruisseau vert,
on the right Grand Vert (GV) and the left Petit Vert (PV).
In the distance there is la colline très verte which gives these locales their names.

The Prussians, with a division sized force supported by a 12pdr battery are defending.  A unit of landwehr (20PrLW) are deployed in GV while a unit of line infantry (20PrLN) have moved into PV (but not yet deployed).  A further unit of 20PrLN is in reserve, ready to counterattack.

PV has a defensive value of +1 while GV is +2.  Both BUAs represent rough terrain, but also crossing points for the stream.  Elsewhere the stream is considered to represent a 1" width of rough terrain that can only be forded in column.  The idea to incorporate the stream in the BUA came from playing Ukraine 43 and also fitted in well with the Ligny maps I have been working with.

Two small French divisions approach.  The 12th with a brigade of light infantry (16FrLT) and one of line (20FrLN) will head towards GV while the 13th with two brigades of line infantry (16FrLN) will tackle PV. 

It is 1815 and the superior commanders, including Napoleon, are considered to be off table.

The 12th advances to within 2" of GV.

As does the 13th with PV.

At this range they are well within (long range) fire combat, but also able to change formation in order to prepare for close combat.

After the French move the Prussians can fire.  For GV the range is measured from any point on the perimeter (4th Ed).  The 16FrLT is their target and the outcome is 5 -1 (deployed in BUA) to 6 NE (no effect).  The competitive die rolls are the first number in bold.  In PV the Prussians fire with out the -1 deployed penalty.  The outcome is 4 to 6 NE.

The French then return fire.  Against the unit deployed in GV they need to double the opponents die roll (4th Ed).  The 16FrLT get 7 +1 (FrLT fire factor) -2 (target in cover) to 2 which is double and Prussians take one casualty.  The 20FrLN get 7 -2 to 1 which is another double and takes the PrLW to two casualties which disorders the PrLW (whoops - I realise later that being deployed increases the disorder number by 1 in the 4th Ed).

Against the Prussians in PV, where the French just need to score higher in the competitive die roll after subtracting 2 for target in cover, both units fail to score any casualties.

It is now the Prussian turn.  The units in GV and PV are out of command.  This does not stop the garrison of GV from recovering its order.  The unit in PV tries to self order (4th Ed [10.4]), but fails. If they had succeeded they would have a half move which would not be enough to permit a formation change, which is what they need to do to deploy into the BUA from their location.  

I have a house rule for when a unit can move, but does not have enough movement to change formation: 
  • A unit that is not in DISORDER or marked as NO MOVE but does not have enough movement to complete a formation change, may make that formation change, but is then marked as disordered. 
Aside: Remember a unit that recovers from rout reforms in any desired formation and facing, so the same thing could be achieved by voluntarily routing in place (taking 1 loss) and then rallying, which to me means it can be done, but the mechanic, in this case, would be a little perverse.

After the Prussian's move (or don't as in this case), the French fire.  Against GV the FrLT get 4+1-2:1 which is a double and therefore inflicts one casualty.  Amazingly the 20FrLN get 8-2:3 which is another double raising the casualties on the PrLW to 4 and therefore removing a base and disordering them.  As already mentioned, my big mistake is forgetting to increase the PrLW's disorder number by 1 for being deployed in a BUA, which would have made it 3 and therefore the 2 casualties inflicted in one fire phase would not cause disorder.  In marked contrast the fire against the Prussian in PV, a much easier target, has no effect. The return fire inflicts one casualty on the French in front of PV. The PrLW can not fire as they are disordered.

End Turn 1

The FrLT deploy into line and close with the defenders of GV.  The FrLT can do this as they still have 2" of movement after a formation change.  The other French units just deploy into line and move 1".

None of the fire combats are effective.

The close combat is 4 +2 (FrLT in line factor) against 5+1 (PrLW in "line" factor) -3 (for being disordered).  As they are disordered they do not get the +2 defensive benefit for being deployed in GV.  Also note the FrLT had deployed to line to attack, I was not giving them their line factor for attacking at BUA, as changed by the 4th Ed, as my opinion is that attacking in column against anything represents a hasty attack compared to being in line which represents being prepared.  This is all to do with a unit's posture which I attempted to previously articulate in this post back in 2015.

The first French attack on Grand Vert.

The result of the combat, being a delta of 3, meant the PrLW routed.  The FrLT occupy the village which in the case of a BUA it means fully move into the area, but are disordered (normally it is just a 1" advance to "occupy the ground" without disorder).  They take 1 casualty as a winner's loss.

In the Prussian turn the PrLW succeed at a self rally (4th Ed [10.3]).  The unit in PV is still out of command, but is also now pinned by the French and unable to change formation,  The PrLN that was in reserve counterattacks GV.  The Prussian commander moves to put the other infantry units in command after positioning the battery to support the counterattack.

Only the French facing PV can fire and they have no effect.  The Prussian fire is more effective and a casualty is scored against the troops in GV by the attacking PrLN and against one of the units by the Prussians in PV.  The artillery, despite its better factors, did not score a hit: 1+2 (Pr12# artillery fire factor) -2 (target in cover) to 9.  Note that even though the FrLT are disordered they still get the fire combat benefits from being deployed in a BUA (they definitely count as a target in cover, but I am not sure they should count as deployed).

Aside: If a unit wins a combat against an enemy deployed in a BUA, do they count as deployed when they occupy the area?  I have been playing that they do.  The alternative is that they move into the BUA in their formation and disordered.  In the absence of enemy action the next turn they would recover their order and the following turn, assuming they are in command, be able to deploy. I am now thinking that they should occupy the BUA changing to column formation if not already and be marked as disordered.  This occupation should be "thorough", by that I mean the unit should not be able to lurk over an 1" from the BUA perimeter to avoid subsequent enemy artillery fire.  Of course if that was what was wanted, they could be pulled back in their next movement phase, if in command, rather than being left to recover their order.  The change to column and the disorder represents the outcome of the extenuated advance to clear the BUA of deployed enemy.  When they are able to change formation they can then deploy, noting that I require the unit to be wholly in the BUA to deploy rather than the "deploying forward" mechanic of 4th Ed [4.2.3].

Prussian counter attack against Grand Vert.

The close combat was 10 -1 (PrLN in column factor) to 8 +2 (FrLT in line factor) -3 (disorder).  The FrLT suffer 2 casualties and as they are disordered they must withdraw.  The outcome is 1 +6 (FrLT response number) -3 (disordered) to 4 +6 (PrLN response number).  The delta is over the FrLT's rout number and in addition to their 2 combat casualties and previous fire combat losses takes them over their dispersal number.  This is a good outcome for the PrLN as it means they don't take a winner's loss, although some argue that they should, the 4th Ed rules are specific, page 49: "No matter what happens to the unit attempting to withdraw, the opposing unit does not take a winner loss." Personally I have never cared for the Withdrawal rule.  It was optional in the 1st Ed but then became basic in the 2nd Ed and subsequent editions. I would prefer to see it as an extension of the combat procedure so that casualties are capped at the rout number.  However further consideration, and research to see if there was any commentary about it by the original authors, will have to wait.

Now things get interesting.  The FrLT doesn't of course just disappear.  I reckon it needs to make a notional rout move (there is still a decent sized body of troops fleeing the enemy as most dispersals occur around the 50% level of losses).  A deployed unit making rout or a withdrawal move out of a BUA does so in column.  The first inch of such a move must be directly back away from the attacker. It would also be from the centre of the BUA perimeter.  In this game it meant going straight back into the supporting FrLN brigade, disordering it.

The PrLN occupy GV becoming disordered.

The Prussians have recaptured Grand Vert.

End Turn 2

Now the French 13th Division attacks PV, sending in both brigades.  The fire from the Prussian defenders is ineffective.  The return fire from the French however disorders the Prussians (remember these Prussians are not deployed, so a double will inflict two casualties and that is just what the French got with their second brigades fire: 8 -2 (target in cover) to 3.)

The close combat at PV is 9 +2 (FrLN in line) to 5 -1 (PrLN in column) -3 (disordered).  The delta is capped at 4, the PrLN's rout number.  The French take a winner's loss and just advance an inch to occupy the ground, not the BUA.

In the Prussian turn the troops in GV recover their order.  The PrLW are sent to confront the French in PV.  However, even though they are in cover the French score well (9 -2 to 3) and the PrLW disperse. At GV the fire combat is ineffective.

The Prussians have lost Petit Vert.
Their general is now trying to rally the evicted troops.

End Turn 3

The FrLN in PV advance so that the unit is within the BUA's foot print.  Even though in this scenario the BUA counts as rough terrain, it doesn't have any prohibitions on units in line.  The other brigade of the 13th uses another of my house rules to change formation and orientation so that it can advance on GV.

My house rule for formation change is: 
  • A unit that is to change formation picks one of its bases, turns it to which ever direction is desired and then forms the formation around that.  This can include maintaining the current formation, but changing the facing (such as turning to the flank).  
Aside: I came up with this when working on my Waterloo scenario and found it essential for the Prussians advancing in march column.  It is similar to how formation changes are done in Fire and Fury (roughly same scale and troop quality).  I do realise that the change to facing is in direct contraction to 4th Ed, page 42, but also note that changing from square or coming out of being deployed in a BUA (which is a formation change) allows a change in facing, as does recovering from rout.

The remaining brigade of the 12th Division attacked GV.  Prussian fire inflicted one casualty on it. All other firing was ineffective.  The combat was 1 +2 to 10 +2 +2.  The French loss is capped at 4 and the Prussians take a winner's loss.  The French rout to their general and hope to rally, keeping within 3" (the movement for FrLN in line) so they can attack again.

In the Prussian turn their routed unit rallies, forming line ready to counterattack PV.

The French have no targets in range or arc to fire at.  The Prussians in GV fire at the routed French unit: 2 -1 (deployed unit firing) +2 (target is routed) to 2.  The difference is just enough to cause a casualty.  Which means the unit must make a rout move and therefore lose another casualty.  The attached general stays with it.

End Turn 4

The routed French brigade fails to rally, but the brigades of the 13th Division deploy, one to occupy PV the other to form line in preparation to attack GV.

In the fire phase the French score 1 casualty on the defenders of GV.

Then the Prussians start to advance.  In the subsequent fire phase no casualties are caused.

End Turn 5

The French rally and start to advance on GV.

At GV the fire is ineffective, but at PV the Prussians score a hit which reduces the French defenders to three bases.

In the Prussian turn they attack PV.  Again the fire is to no effect for both sides.  The combat is 3 +2 (PrLN in line) to 5 +2 (FrLN in line) +1 (PV defence value).  The difference is 3 which disorders but does not rout the Prussians.  They must withdraw and do so successfully (10 +6 -3 to 2 +6).

End Turn 6

The French attack GV.  The Prussian artillery score one hit on the defenders of PV (I am not worrying about the rules for BUA reduction or starting fires) and the garrison of GV score a hit on the French attacking them.  The French return fire is ineffective.

The combat for GV is 7 +2 to 7 +2 +2 which is 9 to 10 (modified die rolls a capped at 10 and also can't go below 1).  The French suffer one casualty.  No one is disordered so there is a second round: 6 +2 to 6 +2 +2 which produces 2 casualties and disorders the French.  They withdraw without further casualties.

The Prussians do not move.  None of the subsequent firing causes any casualties.

End Turn 7

The French launch another attack on GV.  The firing is insubstantial, although a casualty is caused to the French garrison of PV.

The combat is short and sweet 1 +2 to 8 +2 +2.  The French brigade loses 4 and disperses.

Jeu terminé, homme

There is nothing for it but to try this little test encounter again.


  1. interesting study. I like the idea of incorporating a BUA into the waterway.

    1. Thanks. As I mentioned I got the idea from playing the Ukraine 43 boardgame. All I have to do now is revisit the Ligny map and work out which villages it best applies to.

  2. "Quel massacre! Et sans resultat!" But I quite like that: a prolonged to and fro fight in which towns and villages change hands several times. The sort of thing I'd like to report from time to time in my own battles.

    1. That is the result I'm trying to get. My observation is that once a unit is deployed it is hard work to get out, but that otherwise there should be plenty of to and fro provided there is the reserves ready to counterattack.

      For my next test I will make it harder to deploy by having the advance after combat into a BUA not count as occupation. That would give the opponent two turns to counterattack before the BUA gets properly occupied with all its attendant benefits.

      The other trick is getting the BUA sized correctly. I'm currently using bases that are bigger than what I've used previously. This is to get over the problem that if they are too small some brigades can't fit. There are optional rules for detachments, but I've not used them (and it requires a bit of record keeping).

  3. Many villages and towns are bifurcated by a waterway, my own included. Resolving close combat in BUA is often complicated in games. Fighting in a BUA with a waterway is even more difficult. I must have missed how you combined the effect of BUA with the stream running through it. From my very vague recollections of NB1, didn't it take one turn to "properly" deploy into a BUA? That is, the victorious attackers would be vulnerable to counterattack in the enemy's next player phase. Of course, I could be thinking of a different ruleset all together.

    Fun exercise!

    1. Thanks.

      Your recollections are correct except that the unit that successfully attacked a BUA would only advance an inch. It would then have to move into the BUA and deploy on a second or third turn. Now, with 4th Edition, the advance is into the BUA, but the unit is marked as disordered, so there is still a window of opportunity for a counterattack.

      I think the whole question of BUAs, and possibly terrain in general, is really part of the scenario design, if, like me, you are trying to recreate historical battles.

      In this test game I had the stream's bifurcation make the BUA rough terrain.

      Further testing will occur on Wednesday night.

    2. I, too, prefer fighting historical battles. Looking forward to your Wednesday action.

  4. Thanks Son of York.

    I'm afraid it's given me a headache.

    Should we try version 4 of NB?? Just saying....

    1. Sorry about that. The rules basically are 4th Ed, the challenge is with the scenario design.