Monday, May 18, 2009

Hold the Line session report

Continuing my series of prospective strategy discussions followed by post-game session reporting, is a look at the Hold The Line scenario Louisbourg.

This situation is kind of like an Eighteenth Century Omaha Beach. A British force lands on the beach in the teeth of a fortified defensive line and has to fight its way inland.

As always, any discussion of strategy starts with a look at the Objective, what the victory conditions require. As is usual in the Wars for America system, victory is achieved by accumulating victory points, with the most common source being eliminated enemy units, at one VP each.

For the French, victory is achieved by getting 7 victory points or avoiding the British victory conditions.

For the British the goal is also 7 VPs, but they only have 18 turns to do it, which makes this one of the shorter scenarios in the game system. It also clearly puts the burden of attack on the British. In addition to VPs for eliminating enemy units, the British have four victory points of objective hexes deep behind the French lines.


The left two-hex deep edge of the map is the ocean, from which the British invaders will come.

There's one hex of hill on the beach, but otherwise the French have a clear line of fire at the disembarking British. The main French position is made up of a five-hex long line of entrenchments, which provide protection from fire and morale benefits. Behind the French line the rest of the battlefield is made up of clear terrain with scattered woods hexes providing some cover but far enough apart to provide plenty of movement paths.

Order of battle:

The French are heavily outnumbered. They have a single leader, five regular infantry, an artillery unit and one band of Indians. The VP value of the entire force is 8, so the British victory condition is, essentially, to wipe out the French force. The VP hexes mean the French cannot simply run away, they will have to fight.

The British host comprises 22 pieces. There are two leaders, two Elite infantry, two light infanty, a unit of American rangers and 10 regular infantry. They also have five boats to carry them ashore. The first wave of British comprises the rangers, both elites and both light infantry, along with one leader.


My objective as the French is to take advantage of the fortified line to achieve a positive kill ratio against the British. I expect British numbers to tell, eventually, and be forced to fall back either because of British flankers or because the British have penetrated the line.

Three of the French regulars will man the line, along with the cannon and fire at will against British troops within range. A fourth regular will pull back slightly and be used to guard the line against any short flanking moves. The Indians will be used to guard against any infiltrating rangers or light infantry. The last regular and leader Saint Julien will form the general reserve, either assisting the Indians if the British try an infiltration strategy or helping guard the flanks of the entrenched line.

My British plan aims to stretch the French by posing multiple threats and then exploit the weakest point in the line that develops. This could mean infiltrating rangers or light infantry past the flanks, taking the entrenchments in the flank or pushing directly into the French main line of resistance.

The British only have enough boats to carry one third of their force at a time, so the invaders are naturally broken down into three waves. The first wave is set by the scenario setup and comprises the rangers, both elite infantry and the two lights, along with 2/1 leader Wolfe. As this wave comes ashore it will pressure the French left flank by threatening to outflank the line with the light infantry. Wolfe and the elites with him will shelter on the hill while waiting for the second wave to arrive. The other Elite will endeavor to occupy the attention of the cannon in order to spare the rangers, who will lie low in the early going.

The priority for commands will be to empty the boats as soon as possible and bring on the second wave at the earliest opportunity. This wave will comprise leader Amherst and five of the regulars, who will join Wolf for the main assault on the French line. Once the French are fully committed the rangers will make a break for the VP hexes. I don't necessarily expect them to make it, but the threat may be enough to provide a critical edge in the main fight by drawing off French units and commands.

The third wave will be loaded and brought on if extra commands allow, but I don't think they can arrive in time to have a real impact.

The Battles:

I started with the French side in my game with Mark K. Frankly things went precisely according to plan for the first half of the game and I was feeling pretty good about the overall situation. Mark was trying to win pretty much with the initial wave, spending nearly all his action points moving and fighting those troops, with just a few spared to bring on a trickle of second wave forces.

And this plan wasn't working all that well. His elite troops and the few regulars on the beach were making no headway against the main French line, and I was even able to wipe out the rangers on the beach with cannon and musket fire.

About the only worrisome aspect of the situation was on the French left flank, where the British light infantry was able to slide past the French flank and threaten the rear VP hexes, although one of those light infantry was reduced to just 1 morale point. As per the plan I had the Indian band and a leader-led regular unit detailed to deal with that threat.

While this should have been sufficient force, it wasn't. The first sign of trouble appeared when I got a little too feisty with the Indians and let them stray within long-range of the lights, who promptly eliminated them with a single volley! Now it was up to St. Julien and his regulars to hold off the lights, a task they failed at miserably. Because the British lights could just sweep up the VP markers without stopping it seemed necessary to park the regulars on one of the markers to force the lights into range if they wanted to claim the points. They accepted the challenge and moved up on both sides of the regulars to set up a flanking attack.

Here I blundered. There was still a lot going on elsewhere and I was loathe to spend my limited stock of command points on just this one threat, so I spent the one AP to fire at the weaker light infantry (in order to break up the flanking bonus) and promptly missed. In retrospect I think I should have spent the 3AP needed to make a leader-led close combat against that weak light infantry because it was critical that it be taken out.

On the following turn the two British lights fired with flanking bonus and wiped out the French regulars, although St. Julien escaped. The way was clear for them to sweep up the four VP markers and they did, suddenly putting the British way ahead in VPs with several turns left to get the last one they needed. The British had 4 VPs for objective markers, 1 for the Indian and 1 for the French regular, so the two British light infantry were responsible for all of the British success! The French tried falling back but the British were able to pick off the last VP they needed for a 7-1 win.

On the flip side, I tried executing my British plan, spending the majority of my action points to bring on the first two waves of British. The created a scenario that really did resemble Omaha Beach, and not in a good way. Mark insisted the dice were about average and they probably were, but it sure seemed like the French fire was exceptionally effective and British casualties mounted. Even though I tried rotating damaged units out of the line to rally them it did no good as the casualties came too fast to keep up.

I was able to spring the rangers into the French rear by covering their advance with regular troops. The Indians weren't able to stop the rangers from picking up all four VP markers, but as it turned out that was a Pyrrhic victory. On the beach the French were closing in on their 7 VP and bringing in parts of the third wave just seemed to add more targets.

The final score was 7-4 for the French.

Mark's approach was probably better, I think the first British wave needs to be active enough that it creates space for the second wave to come ashore. I ended up just giving the French more folks to shoot at.

Interestingly, in neither game was it possible to stop the British from infiltrating someone through to pick up the 4 VPs in the rear. Mark was better able to absorb this loss because he didn't pull any regulars away from the main fight on the beach. My French lost no units on the beach, but also were not able to inflict any permanent losses on the British. Mark's French concentrated on pummeling the beach landing and let the Indians try to protect the rear area unsupported. This proved to be the better solution.

Despite the fact my French lost, I do think my approach could also have worked, but for some mistakes on my part, so I would consider the French side slightly favored in this scenario.

No comments:

Post a Comment