The Battle of Morlaix: This is a brief outline of our second play through this battle. The first two turns on the French left wing are covered in detail to show how the ‘move to contact’ mechanism could work (although this is not the final version of this rule).
The French left:
On the first turn the English hold the initiative. They move forward from their starting point (in their approach areas) to the middle in all battles. All the troops are now in ‘bad going’ – representing ditches and pits. In their turn, the French move their two foot units forward to their approach area. The two knight units move into contact with the English in the middle area (remembering we have agreed that they could not charge into bad going). The leader plods forward with the foot units (want to be sure that they can move forward next turn and not be dependent on command cards). A ‘move to contact’ marker is put in the middle area.
As a result of the ‘move to contact’ marker, the English longbow units attack the French knights. Taking into account the +1 modifier because of the long range bonus, the longbowmen have five attacks needing a 1-3 to hit (based on a 3/1-2 and 3/1-1 unit) and four attacks needing a 1-2 to hit (the 2/1-3 unit). In total, four hits are achieved. Two are assigned to each knight unit. Both must now make disengagement checks. The 3-3 knight rolls a 2 and 6, so disengages back to the approach area. The 3-5 knight rolls a 2 and 5, so stands firm with two cohesion hits. As it has not charged, the knight does not now get to attack.
On the second turn, the English keep the initiative. Three English units are able to attack the French 3-5 knight (the one opposite and the two adjacent). The English leader is committed. This means that the longbowmen now have a melee ability of two, whilst the men-at-arms has a melee ability of three. The first attack inflicts two hits on the knight and the second one. This means the number of hits equals its cohesion (which is currently three due to the two cohesion hits inflicted last turn) so it immediately routs – going into the routed box with no cohesion hits on it. The third English unit does not get to attack. In the French turn, the leader moves forward from the approach area to the middle area. None can attack (the attack phase has already passed). So three French units now face off against four English units in the middle area. It will be close. Although the English have more units in the area it is going to be a straight melee contest. Here the French are stronger, especially given that their units will benefit from the clash of arms table. Like the English, the French now have a leader in the area (not yet committed, but in position to be so).
Initiative on the third turn will be crucial. Whoever gets it will have first strike at their opponents. The French roll a 3, the English also roll a 3 – the French gain the initiative and so attack first. Although hits are inflicted on the English forces, they stand firm (the adjustment to their cohesion due to the terrain being the key factor). This was the start of a close and bitter fight in this area. In the end, it was the returning 3-5 knight (rallied in turn 3) that swung the battle in favour of the French. The English line buckled and at games end they were holding on desperately with rallied troops in their rear area.
The French Right:
On the first turn the English move forward to the ‘bad going’ in the middle area. The French hold in place, but do send a 1-3 billmen unit into the flanking area. On turn two the two forces face each other across the field, with the flanking unit moving into the middle area, ready to attack. On turn three the 1-3 billmen flanking unit successfully attacked into the English in the middle, inflicting one hit on a longbow unit. This unit then stays in the middle zone, meaning the units in it are now engaged. Taking advantage of the distraction caused by this unit, three of the French forces move forward one area in a controlled advance (the billmen are left behind in case the bill unit in the middle disengages and ends up carrying away other units – remembering the rule about retreating into an area with four units already in it). As it happens, the French bill unit is routed (not surprising as it is alone in an area full of English units with a leader who chooses to commit). Once again initiative will be a key issue. On turn four the French keep the initiative (somewhat fortuitously) and are able to move their units into the bad going without the English archers getting in a shot (the flank attack had worked as planned). As on the French left, a bloody fight ensues, with the French coming out on top. At games end, the situation is as on the French left, in this case one rallied unit waiting for the inevitable!
Given French success on their left and right, a French victory is surely inevitable. Well… In the centre, the English moved forward to the ‘bad going’ on turn 1. The French hold position. On turn two the two sides watch each other without moving. On turn three, the French still hold the line in their rear area (nervous of moving in range of the strong English longbow unit and obviously unwilling to want to move onto the ‘bad going’ where the English will hold a real advantage). However, the English move forward into the French approach area. There is a real chance that the English will gain the initiative on turn four and carry the fight into the French rear area, even if this would mean the French getting in the first attack.
As it happens, the French keep the initiative on turn four. Wanting to avoid risking the fight in their last area, they move forward to the approach area and contact with the English. Battle is joined.
The English gain the initiative and attack first on turn five. As in the other sections of the battlefield, a vicious fight ensues. However, two pieces of poor fortune affect the French. The first is the loss of the leader (always the risk when they are committed). The second is lousy cards. At a crucial stage, the French hold and draw no command cards (the loss of their best leader meant they were only drawing one a turn). Troops could not be rallied and (more crucially) those in the reserve could not get onto the battlefield. The surviving leaders on the right and left were too far forward to get back to the reserves in one go, although the leader on the right did (belatedly) start to move back to solve this issue.
Finally, the French line buckled. Three English units (two damaged) faced off against two damaged French units. Both the French were routed. The final English unit had not attacked. Using a ‘charge’ card, this men-at-arms unit moved forward and got first strike at a French bill unit in the rear area, inflicting one hit. In the French turn, this unit failed the disengagement check – leaving the English in control of the French rear centre. Decisive English victory.
Note that the French still did not draw a command card, so could not have moved a unit from the reserves onto the battlefield)
In many ways this was like the first Battle of Morlaix that we played. The French won on the left and right, with the English gaining the advantage in the centre. On this occasion, however, the French centre cracked and the English won. Whilst the loss of the leader and unfortunate card drawing certainly did not help the French, mistakes were made. In retrospect the returning French 3-5 knight should have gone into the centre and not onto their left (it came back on turn four). So eager were the French to force the issue in the outer areas they neglected the centre. At the end the battle could easily have gone either way. The French had troops in the reserve, they just couldn’t get them onto the field. In another turn (two at most) they would have won the left and right zones. Maybe one of the other two leaders should have been sent back earlier in order to ensure that the reserve supply kept coming. Also, the French could have chosen to rally fewer units and save some of the command cards (hindsight is a wonderful thing).
One comment about the way we play the game. We do tend to be a bit gung-ho with the leaders. If there is a fight going on, they are always in there. Leader losses in our games have been high. Need to be a bit more careful with them.
My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
Given French success on their left and right, a French victory is surely inevitable.
Ferdinand Foch wrote:
Mon centre cède, ma droite recule, situation excellente, j'attaque.