At Any Cost: An After-Action-Report – Part V – Heavy Action in the Center

Other April 18, 2019 0
At Any Cost: An After-Action-Report – Part V – Heavy Action in the Center

Part V

By Josef Tham

The Prussian Aggressive Tactics chit appeared late this turn as well, to no effect against a loaded Prussian Aggressiveness track. DuBarail’s 1st Reserve Cavalry Division (light green) began moving south.

The Prussians had put no chits on the reinforcement track this turn as they didn’t really expect it to make a difference; Rezonville was too well defended and the battle would now be decided around Vionville and Mars-la-Tour, so they needed their chits for their Unique Events.

The French CIC chit again failed to make an appearance for the next turn.

Heavy Action in the Center (4 pm)

The Situation So Far
1) Flavigny is reasonably secure (barring any more Prussian Aggressive Tactics or a Wayward Prussian Unit FOW Events, but those would probably be used against Mars-la-Tour, anyway) due to Frossard’s II Corps being so badly mauled, with one fresh infantry brigade and a fresh divisional artillery unit protecting it and further III Corps (yellow) artillery close by.

2) Vionville is heavily manned by artillery, most notably Alvensleben’s Corps Artillery (yellow), but due to its lack of infantry, it is vulnerable to French assaults. The southern flank is well protected by the artillery in and around Flavigny but Rheinbaben’s cavalry (white) will not be able to prevent Canrobert’s VI Corps (yellow) from outflanking the Vionville position through the woods to the north-west.

Voigts-Rhetz (green) could conceivably send a brigade to relieve Vionville, but for it to remain “In Command” he would have to place his HQ on the road between Vionville and Mars-la-Tour, potentially vulnerable to the French III (red) and IV (green) Corps bearing down on Mars-la-Tour, and also weakening the defense of that vital town.

3) At Mars-la-Tour LeBoeuf (red) had hesitated at the last minute, the Bazaine’s Malaise chit taking effect for the first time! A fresh X Corps brigade (green) just reached the outskirts of the town from the Verdun Road to the west, but the rest of the corps won’t reach the town for another turn. On the other hand, Ladmirault’s IV Corps (green) won’t get into the fight for another couple of hours and LeBoeuf (red) has already taken casualties (a 6-3 brigade battleworn).

4) The Imperial Guard (purple) and Army Reserve Artillery (white) at Rezonville will have several more hours to prepare for the arrival of Prussian reinforcements. I’m feeling tempted to send the reserve horse artillery across the river onto the heights south-east of Flavigny to form a Valley of Death for the arriving VIII (brown) and IX (orange) Corps but have a feeling they’d just get pummeled by the Prussian artillery in Flavigny. That said, I may try to get Frossard’s Corps Artillery (khaki) onto the heights, with some protection from a couple of battleworn infantry brigades against any interference from Wilhelm’s cavalry (dark green).

The last French activation chit, that of Forton’s battered 3rd Reserve Cavalry Division (light blue), went into the cup, as did the Prussian Aggressive Tactics chit and the Prussian Guard Corps (purple) activation chit (although that formation didn’t have an HQ so its units, one measly cavalry unit with attached horse artillery, would remain OOC after the entry turn).

The French Imperial Guard (purple) started by building some more Hasty Works, the Army Reserve Artillery (white) joined them in their new fortifications across the river (behind the II Corps line rather than on the exposed heights), and a couple of chits were placed on the Prussian Aggressiveness and Bazaine’s Leadership tracks. The Prussian CIC chit then allowed Kraatz-Koschlau’s division from X Corps (green) to make up for any previous tardiness by quick-marching into the line east of Mars-la-Tour. The Bazaine’s Malaise chit made a fast appearance and was (again) placed on LeBoeuf’s HQ (red), but it started to look doubtful it’d take effect as chits started piling up on the counter-track.

Kraatz-Koschlau’s division and the Corps Artillery from X Corps (green) have reached Mars-la-Tour and are extending the Prussian line along the road to the east. To the west, they are about to be outflanked by DuBarail’s cavalry (light green).

Alvensleben’s artillery (yellow) was mostly ineffective this turn, but its artillery stack behind Flavigny moved closer to the French lines in order to open up a LOS to more of Canrobert’s VI Corps units (yellow). The general turned out to be a great inspirer, rebuilding no less than two of Buddenbrock’s broken infantry brigades, now in position behind the artillery stack two hexes south of beleaguered Vionville!

The Prussian Aggressive Tactics chit came and went, easily negated.

Cavalry on Maneuvers
Forton’s cavalry (light blue), what remained of it, attempted two very different courses of action. The cadre-strength heavy unit (In Command) began a long ride to get around III and IV Corps without getting in their way on the roads, aiming to get all the way around to the Verdun Road, while the cadre-strength (and still disrupted) OOC medium unit made a quick dash at some Prussians (Advance!) and was sent retreating. DuBarail’s cavalry (light green) had its aim set on the Verdun Road exit hex, where some Prussian Guard cavalry soon turned up, deciding for the moment to stay there while discussing what to do next (OOC for the rest of the session due to having no HQ).

Ladmirault (green) was now getting seriously concerned about the road-situation up ahead, seeing the III Corps units (red) ahead still clogging up the road across the Fond de la Cuve ravine. Meanwhile, Lorencez’s division back east was just reaching the Major Road through Moulin.

Rheinbaben’s horse artillery (white) in Vionville broke Tixier’s divisional artillery and shook one brigade, and rallied the other battleworn horse artillery unit but failed to rebuild a broken heavy cavalry unit.

Frossard’s II Corps (khaki), even blessed with an Enhance Next Chit FOW Event, managed to do little but build some Hasty Works for one if its stacks but at least took an aggressive stance in putting its Corps Artillery on the aforementioned hill. The Prussian cavalry in the valley below started looking nervous, suddenly no longer hidden anymore.

The Fall of Brave Vionville

Canrobert’s VI Corps (yellow), the most effective French formation in the battle so far, continued its excellent work, practically wiping out the defending artillery in Vionville (rolled another double 10) while spending a lot of cartridges (two brigades ending up with Low Ammo), leaving only a disrupted battleworn horse artillery unit from Rheinbaben’s division (white). Prussian light cavalry Opportunity Charged a French brigade closing in for a flank assault but was sent retreating (rolled a 1). Faced with no less than three French brigades the stunned and deafened gunners were comprehensively defeated and broken, not even able to shoot back at the advancing Frenchmen (SP “0” so no Defensive Fire). One of the brigades was Shaken by flanking fire from the other horse artillery unit but that was the only price paid by the French (apart from many reduced ammo pouches). The triumphant French now owned Vionville!

Canrobert’s VI Corps (yellow) has lost most of its artillery in duels with Prussian batteries but there is nothing wrong with the quality of its infantry, first breaking a Prussian cavalry charge, then shooting their way into Vionville, claiming the important town for France.

Hectic Times at Mars-la-Tour
Over at Mars-la-Tour Voigts-Rhetz’s X Corps (green) had a field day with the advancing French III Corps (red), casualty reducing Montaudon’s divisional artillery (aided by a Battlefield Conditions chit) and disrupting both cavalry and horse artillery. A Cloud of Skirmishers sadly failed to put the nail in the coffin of the horse artillery. The Prussian infantry now occupied the town in great strength.

LeBoeuf’s III Corps (red), its activation chit the last to be pulled, of course, was able to ignore Bazaine’s Malaise (needed a 1-9 roll on the Bazaine’s Leadership track). His main concern now was getting the heck off the road! His rifle fire was ineffective but his whole corps deployed (apart from the Corps Artillery, stuck on a bridge) in the field before Mars-la-Tour, leaving the road to Ladmirault’s IV Corps (green) next turn.

Meanwhile, Metman’s division back in the east finally finished its long lunch and got back on the road (OOC Maneuver chit).

LeBoeuf’s III Corps (red) has now deployed in earnest, most of it advancing toward the exposed Prussians on the road to Gravelotte. His Corps Artillery is still at the rear, though, leaving him with insufficient support. Behind him, Ladmirault’s IV Corps (green) will soon start crossing the Fond de la Cuve ravine.

Goeben’s small corps (brown) would turn up on schedule next turn, having improved its march rate, not at all. The French CIC chit remained absent.

A view of the whole battlefield at the end of the 4 pm turn. To the east two late French divisions, Metman and Lorencez, are taking wildly divergent paths to reach the action. To the west, the leaderless Prussian Guard cavalry has arrived on the Verdun Road (incidentally taking possession of the Control Marker there).


Broken units at the end of the 4 pm turn. Notable is the large loss of French artillery units.

Alvensleben Hesitates And LeBoeuf Strikes (5 pm)

Yet More Analysis
So… the brave defenders of Vionville finally defeated by overwhelming French might (that Canrobert fellow is doing really well in my games!) but Mars-la-Tour has been heavily reinforced (helped by my only successful roll on the Prussian Reinforcements track at 10 am). It looks unlikely that Alvensleben’s recently rebuilt weak brigades (yellow) will be able to take Vionville back. Marshal Bazaine has really stepped up, unlike historically, failing only a single Bazaine’s Malaise roll so far!

What can the French do now? Mars-la-Tour could well be too tough a nut to crack, so maybe they’ll try to force the Prussians to spread themselves thin and then try to punch through to Puxieux for a Major Victory? Even getting as far as Tronville would almost guarantee a Minor French Victory.

The Prussians can probably do little apart from holding on to what they have and hope for a Minor Victory, as Rezonville will be VERY heavily defended by the time Goeben and Manstein get there.

An Opportunity Lost?
The Enhance Next Chit FOW Event came up first and was pretty much wasted on the French Imperial Guard (purple) as they continued building Hasty Works. Frossard’s II Corps (khaki) was next, his Corps Artillery shaking Wilhelm’s horse artillery, but his battleworn infantry brigades failed to build proper Hasty Works. The OOC Prussian Guard cavalry pulled a Maneuver chit but declined to move.

Alvensleben’s III Corps (yellow) declined to assault Vionville as a cavalry unit blocked LOS for most of his artillery, preferring instead to await the CIC chit before sending Buddenbrock’s battleworn brigades forward. He did manage to put a Morale Hit on the French defenders and casualty reduced a different brigade in the open with a clear LOS.

Canrobert’s VI Corps (yellow) took good advantage of this delay, rallying and replenishing ammo, putting an extra battleworn brigade in with a strong (SP 6) fresh one in Vionville, their fire shaking both Rheinbaben’s horse artillery (white) and Alvensleben’s artillery stack. With a total of 8 SPs with full ammo pouches and no Morale Hits on them in Vionville, it looked like any Prussian opportunity had been lost. (I even refrained from using Command Initiative on Canrobert to put him into Aggressive Posture, not wanting him to block the path to Vionville for the Prussians by Engaging but allowing him to do too much useful rallying instead… probably a mistake!)

By this time, many French Event chits had been drawn and the Bazaine’s Leadership track was fully loaded, while the Prussian Aggressiveness track was still not fully populated. (I even declined to use an Auftragstaktik chit just so I could put it on that track, because taking French Defensive Fire would have been too risky at the time.)

An opportunity lost for the Prussians during the 5 pm turn? Alvensleben (yellow) declined to assault Vionville because his artillery didn’t have a LOS to properly suppress the French defenders from Canrobert’s VI Corps (also yellow) before the assault. Sadly he didn’t get the CIC chit before Canrobert rallied his men, and after that, an assault would have been madness.

The heavy field artillery of the Army Reserve (white) was slowly working its way to finding an Imperial Guard unit to team up with but was still stymied by the congestion in and around Rezonville. Goeben’s lone brigade and battleworn artillery from VIII Corps (brown) had finally shown up and what a sorry sight they were in comparison to the fortress that Rezonville was turning into!

Rheinbaben (white) pulled back his cavalry to the vicinity of Tronville, not seeing anything more to do around Vionville. Wilhelm’s heroic horse artillery (dark green) badly disrupted Frossard’s Corps Artillery and accompanying infantry (khaki) but his cavalry was starting to look to the west…

The French Attack at Mars-la-Tour!
Over at Mars-la-Tour Voigts-Rhetz’s X Corps again wreaked havoc with their artillery, casualty reducing yet another divisional artillery unit and breaking an already battleworn III Corps brigade (red), although not rolling as well as they could have. Not even the CIC chit (put on Kraatz-Koschlau’s division because there was nothing Buddenbrock could do at Vionville) put much of an extra dent into the French. The French response was terrifying, the Bazaine’s Malaise roll easily passed! In Aggressive Posture (courtesy of a Command Initiative chit, in order to prevent rallying) and with a Battlefield Conditions chit on hand they casualty reduced both the Prussian Corps artillery and one of Kraatz-Koschlau’s brigades (2 CH result), then added a few Morale Hits for good measure (somewhat ameliorated by a Prussian Inspirational Leadership chit).

Suddenly X Corps’ right flank looked a little thin… will the French be able to break through toward Tronville and Puxieux?

In the east Metman’s division (red) almost withdrew in confusion when Metman started to doubt his map-reading skills.

A view of the battlefield at the end of the 5 pm turn. From the south, Goeben’s small VIII Corps formation (brown) has arrived, pondering whether to engage Frossard or pick a fight with the Imperial Guard. To the west, DuBarail’s cavalry (light green) is about to challenge the Prussian Guard cavalry (purple) for possession of the Verdun Road exit hex.

Ladmirault (green) had continued to march his IV Corps toward the sound of the guns, now actually reaching the Fond de la Cuve ravine, but Lorencez’s division (green) dawdled back east, asking the citizens of Moulin for directions. The French cavalry divisions have continued their flanking marches. Oh yeah, and the Prussian Aggressive Tactics showed up, again to no effect. And once again, the French CIC chit would not appear next turn!

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Game Resources: 

At Any Cost: Metz 1870 BGG Page 

At Any Cost: Metz 1870 GMT Home Page

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