Sunday, January 9, 2011

Anniversary refight of the Battle of New Orleans, Napoleon's War

Young General and Old Warrior took a break from BattleLore action on a snowy January afternoon to refight a battle that also took place on a January some 196 years ago, although there's no evidence the ground was snowy in the least.

The second "Battle Pack" for the Napoleon's War system features four battles from America's "Napoleonic" war, the War of 1812. Now this is familiar ground for Worthington Games, as this topic had previously been done as part of For Honor & Glory. In the case of the New Orleans battle, the new version takes advantage of the dedicated maps to render a somewhat more faithful representation of the battlefield, which was kind of sketchy in the earlier game's somewhat more generic treatment.

It still appears to be a tough row to hoe for the British, however, as they're forced into a brutal frontal assault across open ground against a fortified enemy who had superior numbers of guns. The only advantage the British have is the superior quality of their infantry: Two +2 Elites, two +1 elites and three regular four figure infantry for a total of 34 MP. In contrast the more numerous American forces have just two four figure regulars and nine 2-figure militia for only 26 MP. Both sides have a 2 figure cavalry unit which is of minimal use because of the special rules for the America's War battle pack that prohibit them from using shock combat. Basically they're a speedy but very weak combat unit.

Where the US had a big edge is in guns -- three units compared to just one British. The British also have a rocket unit which is weaker (just 2 dice of fire) but has the advantage of being able to fire over obstacles and units. One important special rule for this scenario is that all the artillery and rockets have an extended range of six hexes, hitting on a 6. Instead of the standard rule which allows the guns to hit on a 5 or 6 out to 2 hexes, in this scenario a 5 is only a hit when adjacent. The Americans also had a slight edge in leaders, a pair of +2 (Jackson and Coffee) while the Brits had a +2 (Packenham, who deployed on the right) and a +1 (Gibbs, left). The British had a slight edge in CAP (4 of 3) but given that the American force was strictly on he defensive this seemed even.

If were an open field fight the American edge in guns wouldn't be so important given the poor quality of their troops, but it's not an open field fight. While the British have some redoubts and trenches to shelter it, the burden of attack is on them. They have to scope 6 VP in 20 turns or less. While there is a 2 VP objective hex behind the US line, I see little chance the British can get there. No, they need to kill US units and while the 2-MP militia are pretty easy to make go away, there is the problem of that line of entrenchments -- behind a canal!

The British advance is further constricted by a large Cypress swamp on their right flank which forces any advance to stay within US artillery range.

Naturally Old Warrior took the British side. The plan was to advance on the right and carry the works on that side, which seemed somewhat more doable than the left. The British would make some demonstration on that side as well, looking for a chance to rush in if artillery fire created a weak spot.

The good news was the the advance on the Right was able to make it to the wall and get across, eliminating all three militia units there. The bad news was that it was enormously costly, with the +2 elite reduced to a single MP and the +1 elite to 2 MP. This force was too weak to try rolling up the US line in the face of the guns and troops in the center. While this had been going on a West Indian infantry unit that had ventured forth on the left was gunned down in a single turn by those sharpshooting pirate gunners. It appeared the British were going to have to try their luck on the left after all. The presence of a road on the left flank promised a possibility of developing an attack quickly and minimizing the time under the US guns, but even has the British started to form up they started taking noticeable losses and the 4-figure regular British unit in the center barely made it across the line of departure before getting wiped out.

The first wave of British attackers to make it to the wall included the +1 elite and the surviving West Indian unit. The elites were wiped out in fierce close-quarter fighting with the US regulars and gunners but the West Indian unit was finally able to force the US troops back. A counterattack wiped out the West Indian regiment and it was up to the British cavalry and the last elite and Gibbs to carry the day. They came within 1 die roll of making it, as a volley from the elites finished off the US regulars and left just one gun standing -- the score was 5-all.

It wasn't meant to be, however, as that surviving gun was able to wipe out the horsemen for the 6th US VP and a shot from the other US regular felled Gibbs for the 7th and winning VP.

Compared to the actual event, of course, this was a closer affair, but it still ended up a British defeat. There were very few British figures left on the board -- a total of nine spread between five units. Young General resisted the impulse to be aggressive despite some taunting and made full use of his powerful defensive position to emerge victorious. Darn it.

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