At Any Cost: Metz 1870 – Session 2, Part III – “Le Bal Commence”

Other May 6, 2019 0
At Any Cost: Metz 1870 – Session 2, Part III – “Le Bal Commence”

By Josef Tham:

“Le Bal Commence” (5 pm)
LeBoeuf’s inability to move last turn (red, HQ degraded because of the Lull) means there’s a chance X Corps (green) and the Prussian cavalry can outflank him before he can extend his line sufficiently through the forest hexes to the west. In that case only an OOC Imperial Guard cavalry unit and Du Barail’s small 1st Reserve Cavalry Division (light green) stand in their way.

Hermann Luttmann

Over at Tronville the French have closed with Alvensleben’s line of fortifications. This turn will probably see major bloodletting! Few of the deadly French mitrailleuses have made it into the frontline but multiple infantry brigades have moved into ideal Chassepot range.

Rezonville is currently empty after the departure of the Reserve Artillery, but Ladmirault’s IV Corps is on its way (and will thus not go to LeBoeuf’s aid) and some OOC Imperial Guard cavalry is standing in Manstein’s way (orange).

The OOC Imperial Guard cavalry pulled back a little, not liking the look of all the Prussians approaching (Cautious OOC chit). The equally OOC Prussian Guard cavalry moved their horse artillery across the stream, hoping to find a good position for flanking fire against the French cavalry (Maneuver OOC chit), while the Guard Dragoons preferred to stay behind the infantry (Frozen OOC chit).

Voigts-Rhetz’s X Corps (green) activated, thinning out its ranks in and around Mars-la-Tour (leaving a brigade and the divisional artillery from Schwartzkoppen’s division in the town) while moving north. X Corps artillery fire remained disappointingly ineffective, again failing to do any damage to the seemingly invulnerable French gunners on the small hill in front of them.

LeBoeuf’s cavalry had a nasty surprise when Kraatz-Koschlau’s division marched straight up to them and unleashed a rifle salvo into their ranks, dropping hundreds of Chasseurs and horses (Casualty Hit), the rapidly marching Prussian brigades and artillery reaching the edge of the forest that LeBoeuf’s infantry had so far failed to occupy (the Prussian CIC chit activated Kraatz-Koschlau’s division a second time). The French cavalrymen declined to Opportunity Charge, knowing they would probably have been massacred.

Image 5 pm X Corps goes North

Kraatz-Koschlau’s division from Voigts-Rhetz’s X Corps (green) is clashing with LeBoeuf’s cavalry (red) on the outskirts of the Bois de Greyère forest (at least I think that is the name). The Prussian Corps Artillery has lost its duel with the powerful III Corps SP 6 horse artillery on the hill north of Mars-la-Tour.

Those same cavalrymen then had a spot of luck, for once. An Upgrade Next Chit FOW Event provided the Prussians with an extra Krupp’s Guns chit, but something must have been wrong with Voigts-Rhetz’s guns this day, as Kraatz-Koschlau’s divisional artillery, with a brigade and a half of French cavalry at point-blank range in the open just in front of them, failed to do more than Shake the already decimated Chasseurs (despite rolling on the SP 16+ column) AND suffered a Low Ammo marker as well!

A temporary respite, it turned out, as a second Krupp’s Guns chit caused a Casualty Hit on the Dragoons.

Du Barail’s cavalry (light green) continued screening Jarny, sending some long-range cannon shots at the lead X Corps brigade but failing to connect.

Forton’s 3rd Reserve Cavalry Division (light blue) reached Doncourt on their way to Jarny, even managing to collect some of their scattered horse artillery (successful Rebuild, so now the whole formation was present again, although all units were Battleworn).

LeBoeuf’s III Corps (red) activated, easily passing the Bazaine’s Malaise roll due to a fully loaded Bazaine’s Leadership track. The glorious horse artillery unit on the hill turned out to be not only invulnerable but once more proved themselves crack shots as well, disrupting the Prussian artillery in the fortified eastern hex of Mars-la-Tour (rolled a double 10, getting a Low Ammo marker), just as French columns were appearing on the Major Road to the east (see below)! The infantrymen from one of Montaudon’s brigades turned out to be marksmen as well, shaking Kraatz-Koschlau’s 39th brigade and divisional artillery with long-range Chassepot fire.

Nayral’s division, the Corps Artillery and the reduced cavalry were all sent north toward Jarny, while Montaudon’s and Aymard’s divisions mostly stayed on the ridge above the Fond de la Cuve, edging to the west, hoping to get chances to fire on the Prussian formations marching past.

LeBoeuf rallied his cavalry but couldn’t do anything about the horse artillery’s ammunition problems (stacking his HQ on the hill far to the south to enable that seemed foolish, even if it could have been done).

Rheinbaben’s 5th Cavalry Division limbered up their guns and rode north, his squadrons weaving in and out between columns of X Corps infantry and OOC Guard cavalry. Despite the temptation to stay in position a while to fire on the pesky French gunners on the hill, it was clear to Rheinbaben that their annoyingly accurate fire was slackening, guessing correctly that they must be low on shells and could thus be seen as a lesser problem at the moment.

Image 5 pm LeBoeuf Goes North

LeBoeuf, now well aware of the threat to his flank, is pulling his cavalry back through the forest, Nayral’s division and the Corps Artillery from his III Corps (red) also making haste toward Jarny. Forton has managed to Rebuild his 3rd Cav (light blue) and is heading the same way, but all his units are SP 1 or C (cadre strength). Further south, it looks like Canrobert’s VI Corps (yellow) is coming up along the Mars-la-Tour road from the east/left, about to challenge Schwartzkoppen’s division for possession of the town.

The Imperial Guard (purple) unleashed a hail of bullets and shells, shaking the nearest Prussian defenders in their Hasty Works, then continued their outflanking move toward the Prussian right, also clearing the lines of fire for Frossard’s artillery (khaki).

Canrobert’s VI Corps (yellow) sent a barrage of bullets at Alvensleben’s men but the Prussian morale and fortifications stood strong. The only damage was done by the artillery stack (consisting of the divisional artillery of d’Villier and Bisson) outside Vionville, shaking the Prussians in the northernmost position. The canny French marshal then took note of the Prussian X Corps seemingly evacuating Mars-la-Tour and immediately sent several brigades down the road; if the town turned out to be strongly defended he could just turn south and surround Alvensleben instead… or even try to rush Puxieux, currently defended by nothing but a thin screen of cavalry from Wilhelm’s 6th Cavalry Division (which would probably not reach the fight for Jarny in any case, due to the previous Lull, and so might as well stay where they were).

Canu deployed his heavy field artillery unit with the decimated horse artillery, opposite Tronville, rallying the disrupted units.

Alvensleben, when his III Corps (yellow) was activated late in the turn, was forced to operate in Aggressive Posture due to a French Command Initiative chit and thus couldn’t replenish ammo or rally his Shaken men, nor build more Hasty Works. Clearly, the III Corps support echelon had been disrupted by the hails of French lead.

Prussian guns managed to put a few Morale Hits on the Army Reserve Artillery (white) and VI Corps (yellow) artillery stacks, but the French infantry was mostly unscathed (Levassor-Sorval suffered a Shaken marker on one brigade and lost his already battleworn horse artillery). Yet another Prussian brigade got a Low Ammo marker. The III Corps cavalry tried to interpose itself between the advancing Imperial Guard infantry and Alvensleben’s right flank.

Frossard (khaki), with two decent II Corps artillery stacks of his own, proceeded to force the southernmost Prussian brigade from its Hasty Works, reduced, disrupted and Broken (had to retreat two hexes after its Break Test). His infantry spent a lot of ammunition trying but failing to do the same to the deadly Prussian artillery stack next to it. In Defensive Posture, Frossard quickly saw to the replenishment of his men’s ammo pouches. Next turn, he might consider going into Aggressive Posture… The II Corps cavalry guarding Flavigny stayed where it was, nervously eyeing the Prussian columns on the Gorze Road.

Image 5 pm Tronville

At the Tronville Line, both Alvensleben’s III Corps (yellow) and Frossard’s II Corps (khaki) have taken losses. The French have managed to assemble several powerful stacks of artillery for Combined Fire against the Prussian Hasty Works, managing to force the defenders of the southernmost position out of their rifle pits. Meanwhile, both Canrobert’s VI Corps (yellow) and the Imperial Guard (purple) continue their moves to envelop the Prussian line. Canrobert now also finds his attention divided, faced with the opportunity to threaten both Tronville and Mars-la-Tour.

Gorze Road/Rezonville
The OOC Imperial Guard cavalry pulled back toward Rezonville, trying to use the bends in the road to stay out of LOS of the approaching Prussians (Cautious OOC chit). Manstein’s formation was right on their heels. The French cuirassiers’ Opportunity Charged his lead brigade but were forced to retreat.
Nevertheless, the nervous guardsmen were soon relieved by the sight of Ladmirault’s IV Corps (green) coming down the road, its lead brigade and some artillery entering Rezonville, its Hussars sweeping around to interpose themselves between the Prussians and Flavigny (currently occupied only by some of Frossard’s cavalry).

Barnekow’s weak division from Goeben’s VIII Corps (brown) appeared, almost catching up to Manstein. His interest, too, had been caught by the weakly defended French rear at Flavigny. Suddenly, both Rezonville and Flavigny found themselves threatened, though neither Prussian formation was very strong.

Image 5 pm Gorze

Both Manstein’s IX Corps (orange) and Goeben’s VIII Corps (dark brown), small and weary but potentially deadly, find their way blocked by Ladmirault’s IV Corps (green) as they race up the Gorze Road. The French columns have become somewhat strung out along the long road from Verneville, but the lead units are strong enough to defend Rezonville.

The very last use of a chit this turn was a Prussian Inspirational Leadership chit used to rally the disrupted X Corps artillery in Mars-la-Tour, a brave officer restoring the fighting spirit of his men by commenting on what excellent targets the approaching French columns from Canrobert’s VI Corps made, all lined up on the road like that!

The Prussian Aggressive Tactics chit had shown up so late I decided to use it on the French Offensive Spirit track rather than roll against a fully loaded Prussian Aggressiveness track and was rewarded with the French CIC chit making an appearance next turn after a prolonged absence!

Image 5 pm End

The race for Jarny continues, but Voigts-Rhetz (green) may soon find himself overextended, forced to leave his garrison at Mars-la-Tour OOC. Alvensleben (yellow) is growing increasingly concerned with his flanks, forced to rely on the weak 6th Cav (dark green) and his own corps cavalry to delay the French in their attempts to envelop and/or by-pass his position. At least Ladmirault’s IV Corps (green) will be too busy fending off Manstein (orange) and Goeben (dark brown) to join the attack on Tronville.

Desperate Measures For Desperate Times (6 pm)
Things are really heating up! If Alvensleben’s III Corps collapses (yellow) there is no way Wilhelm’s 6th Cavalry Division can do much of anything but pray for darkness to protect Puxieux. And what’s up with Canrobert!? That guy is just a super-aggressive powerhouse in my games! Will his VI Corps (yellow) now threaten Prussian possession of Mars-la-Tour as well? Will I have to send poor Wilhelm toward the road to slow Canrobert down?

I may be forced to leave Schwarzkoppen’s men in the town OOC to allow X Corps (green) to continue toward Jarny, which now looks to become a very tough nut for the Prussians to crack, with Nayral’s division from LeBoeuf’s III Corps (red) racing them toward the town and a second French reserve cavalry division (Forton) soon available to act as a speed bump to slow the Prussians down.

Rezonville is probably safe from Manstein (orange), but Ladmirault’s IV Corps (green) will now also have to protect a poorly garrisoned Flavigny as well! At the same time, I can’t let Manstein slip past Ladmirault to the east either, so Gravelotte will also have to be protected!

That the Prussians will be stretched thin was expected; that the French would feel the same way was not! This is such a cool scenario and such a cool game!

The OOC Imperial Guard cavalry unit did nothing (Frozen OOC chit). The Prussian Guard cavalry, also OOC, did something much braver, interposing itself between the advancing X Corps (green) and LeBoeuf’s men (red), although its horse artillery did nothing (Maneuver and Frozen OOC chits).

The French CIC chit arrived early and saw Nayral’s division from III Corps (red) enter the forest which separated them from the advancing Prussians, somewhat hindered by their own cavalry which was occupying the forest road. (The Bazaine’s Malaise chit had also arrived early and been put on LeBoeuf’s HQ so chances were Nayral wouldn’t otherwise have been allowed to move.)

Forton’s cadre-strength Dragoons rode through the streets of Jarny, his depleted horse artillery only slightly slower, the equally depleted Cuirassiers some way behind them, still barely out of Doncourt.

When LeBoeuf activated, it was late and the Bazaine’s Leadership track was (again!) fully loaded. The rapidly marching Nayral occupied Jarny with his 1st brigade, the 2nd on its heels, the artillery still on the forest road behind them. To the south-west of Jarny, a solid wall of horsemen from four different formations (1st and 3rd Reserve Cavalry, III Corps and the Imperial Guard) screened the vital town. The troops and guns remaining on the Fond de la Cuve ridge and the small hill failed to do any significant damage (and the horse artillery on the hill would be OOC next turn) but effectively protected the road to Bruville.

With so many Frenchmen blocking the way it would now require a miracle for Voigts-Rhetz to break through to Jarny…

Voigts-Rhetz swore and ordered the advance! Shrugging off Defensive Fire from Du Barail’s horse artillery, Kraatz-Koschlau’s whole division plowed into the crowd of horsemen, their path taking them deep into the French formations (helped by the Imperial Guard Dragoons’ failure to Opportunity Charge despite needing only 8 or less). The French horse artillery gunners were hurled back, decimated. The remaining French cavalry chose not to Opportunity Charge as it would not have saved the horse artillery, and a coordinated charge later would be more effective. The X Corps cavalry and Schwartzkoppen’s 37th brigade was on Kraatz-Koschlau’s heels, while the slow battleworn Corps Artillery was sent into the western hex of Mars-la-Tour, taking the place of the 38th brigade which moved in alongside the artillery in the Hasty Works in the eastern town hex. The Mars-la-Tour garrison would now be OOC but hopefully not do anything too stupid; all they needed to do was hold in place.

Barely had Voigts-Rhetz voiced that thought when 38th brigade stormed out of the protective works, straight into the arms (and rifle muzzles) of the French brigade before it. Shaken by Defensive Fire it was then pushed back into the western hex of the town (A2 result), leaving the important eastern hex without infantry support!

The Prussian Aggressive Tactics chit was drawn quite late, but at that time only a single (!) Prussian Event chit had been drawn (and invested) apart from the negated Bazaine’s Malaise chit, so a roll of 1-2 on the Prussian Aggressiveness track was needed and promptly failed.

The French brigade that was assaulted had also just been completely missed by the Prussian guns inside Mars-la-Tour! Not only were Prussian Krupp cannon all faulty; even the chit draw was conspiring against them!

The situation at Mars-la-Tour was then thankfully remedied by the Prussian CIC chit, activating Schwartzkoppen’s units in the town (meaning the errant 38th brigade and divisional artillery; the 37th brigade was way off to the north-west), putting 38th brigade back with its artillery and rallying both units. I’d rather have used it on Kraatz-Koschlau to beat a path to Jarny, but losing Mars-la-Tour would have meant an almost certain Major Prussian Defeat or at best a Draw if they managed to take Jarny despite the odds.

As an added bonus, after so much ineffective cannon fire, the divisional artillery finally lucked out and put a Casualty Hit on that lead French brigade, vengeance for running off 38th brigade earlier!

Du Barail (light green) moved his Chasseurs out of contact with X Corps, thickening the cavalry line on the approaches south-west of Jarny. His depleted horse artillery fired ineffectively at 40th brigade.

Rheinbaben’s 5th Cavalry Division (white) activated last. For a while, I hesitated… send them on a long ride north against Jarny’s flank, with only two more turns of daylight? Or a shorter road east to help Schwartzkoppen’s OOC division in Mars-la-Tour?

In the end, I went with helping X Corps, going for broke, no matter the cost! North it was! Death or glory! It will cost what it will!

Image 6 pm Jarny

Nayral’s division from LeBoeuf’s III Corps (red) and the remains of Forton’s 3rd Cav (light blue) reached Jarny ahead of X Corps (green). A veritable wall of French cavalry now separates Kraatz-Koschlau’s division from Jarny! Voigts-Rhetz has been forced to leave his Corps Artillery and most of Schwartzkoppen’s division OOC at Mars-la-Tour.

Bourbaki tumbled out of the saddle, badly wounded, courtesy of a Leader Casualty FOW Event. The Imperial Guard (purple) went into Aggressive Posture, but Bourbaki’s absence meant the Command Rating was only 1 and a Guard artillery unit in the rear went OOC.

The French guardsmen lashed out with a great deal of rifle fire but failed to impress Alvensleben’s men. Even the mighty Guard horse artillery stack failed to do any damage despite a prodigious expenditure of shells (gaining a Low Ammo marker). With the enemy gunners unsuppressed the guardsmen declined to close with them and instead continued their movement across the Prussian right flank.

One of Picard’s grenadier brigades closed with the Prussian Dragoons who chose to withdraw. The guardsmen elected not to pursue, as this would have put them OOC.

Canrobert’s VI Corps (yellow) stormed forward, the marshal shouting “Le bal commence, messieurs!” as his men unleashed well-aimed salvoes, breaking the already battleworn and disrupted 9th brigade from Stulpnagel’s division, and suppressing the Prussians manning the Hasty Works just north of Tronville. They then assaulted, driving Buddenbrock’s outflanked 12th brigade and the III Corps horse artillery out of their works at the point of the bayonet, back to hide behind the Tronville town hex. One of the assaulting French brigades had been Shaken by Defensive Fire but that was a small price to pay for getting adjacent to Tronville.

The infantry brigade closest to Mars-la-Tour Shook the Prussian gunners with well-aimed Chassepot fire, but didn’t feel like facing Defensive Fire on the 10-11 CRT column and then assaulting a fortified town hex (though strictly speaking only the Hasty Works would benefit a lonely artillery unit, missing the “Infantry in Town” column shift). There would be plenty of time to soften the foe before assaulting in strength. (As it turned out, that hex was manned again later due to the Prussian CIC chit; see above.)

Canu’s artillery, even battered as it was, managed to disrupt Stulpnagel’s remaining brigade, still caught in the open after not getting a proper chance to build any Hasty Works during the previous few turns.

Poor Alvensleben had his work cut out for him when his III Corps (yellow) activated, beset from every direction and weighed down with Morale Hits and Low Ammo markers. To add to that, his infantry and artillery in Tronville failed to hit the French brigade next to the town, despite the point-blank range and plunging fire.

Seeing that the artillery stack south-east of Tronville would soon be overrun without the covering infantry, Alvensleben withdrew it to a position behind Tronville to prevent any further outflanking with its fire. Stulpnagel’s 10th brigade took its place in the Hasty Works facing the Imperial Guard while Buddenbrock’s 12th brigade, just ousted from the works outside Tronville, went into a reverse-slope position on the corps extreme right flank, protected from the fire of the Imperial Guard by the ridge, with the corps’ cavalry next to it. The horse artillery, though still Disrupted, would try to provide some Defensive Fire against any attempts on Tronville from the front.

New ammunition was provided for the artillery (but not the infantry), the 10th brigade was rallied and 12th brigade somewhat steadied (still Shaken).

Wilhelm’s 6th Cavalry Division (dark green) formed up some distance away from the III Corps cavalry (yellow), providing a bulwark of horseflesh between Puxieux and Canrobert’s leading brigades.

Frossard’s II Corps activated (khaki), going into Aggressive Posture, but its fire failed to properly suppress Stulpnagel’s 10th brigade in its Hasty Works, and the attempted assault by Verge’s 1st brigade foundered in a hail of Dreyse needle-gun fire (despite 10th being both Shaken and Low Ammo). Even the disrupted horse artillery nearby managed to send a few loads of canister into the poor Frenchmen, leaving the brigade disrupted and reduced.

Image 6 pm Tronville and Mars-la-Tour

Alvensleben’s III Corps (yellow) is taking a battering, his perimeter steadily shrinking. He has been forced to divert Buddenbrock’s 12th brigade to hold off the Imperial Guard (purple) outflanking movement and pull his artillery back behind Tronville. Wilhelm’s 6th Cav (dark green) is trying to screen Puxieux against any ambitious moves from Canrobert’s VI Corps (yellow). Schwartzkoppen’s division from Voigts-Rhetz’s X Corps, despite being OOC, is holding hard at Mars-la-Tour.

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