Saturday, 25 January 2014

Hills in Wargames

Battle of Clerval

The current campaign includes a lot of fighting in hilly terrain, and in particular this weeks wargame which was the battle of Clerval in eastern France.   One half of the table included a ground of hills, and it was difficult to move in this area without using them.

This highlighted a problem which has been bothering me for some time, and that is how to handle movement and fighting on hills.   Our rules reduce movement by 50%, and artillery can only fire on troops lining the edge of the hill.   This encourages the tactic of grouping large bodies of troops just back from the crest, making them very difficult to attack.

Wellington was famous for positioning his infantry on the reverse slope to shelter them from French artillery.  He would then move them forward at the critical moment and volley fire on the French as they neared the crest.   I have not read any account of any other nation using this tactic, but I can see no reason why they should not.

I did not want to restrict this tactic to Wellington and the British alone.  But I did want to discourage all nations from using it too much.

I allowed artillery to fire on defenders within 4” of the crest.   This is also skirmish range, and it would at least stop them from firing on an approaching column at close range.   But it was not sufficient to discourage the practice.

I raised the subject on TMP.   As always much of the response was of a general nature, without any practical suggestion to discourage it.  But then one suggestion to test morale for defenders who first sight the enemy  at close range, or within 4” in my rules.

In keeping with the rest of the rules, I decided on a simple dice throw to decide the outcome.

Total 1 – defenders rout
Total 2 – defenders shaken
Total 3 – defenders disorganised
Total 4 – no effect
Total 5 – no effect
Total 6 – no effect.

British or elite infantry will get plus 1.  
Conscript or poor infantry will get minus 1

Clerval was the first battle to use it.   The whole of 3rd Bavarian corps was deployed on the reverse slope.   6th and 16th French corps attacked the hill.    The four Bavarian infantry brigades tested their morale when the French were first sighted.   Three passed, the fourth was shaken.   Despite this the Bavarians won the firefight.  

It seemed to work well,  but we shall play test it for four or five games before changing the wargame rules.

1 comment:

MurdocK said...

as a 'nation' certainly the British excelled in the use of terrain.

There are individual generals that did make such similar use of terrain, most certainly Soult, after being so schooled by Wellington.

Most of the defensive minded Prussian and Austrian officers (many of the Austrians were turfed out in the 1790's due to their failures) were also skilled in the use of terrain, as they were constantly on defensive operations in the foothills of the Alps.