At Any Cost: Metz 1870 – Session 2, Part VI – Darkness Descends

Other May 3, 2019 0
At Any Cost: Metz 1870 – Session 2, Part VI – Darkness Descends

By Josef Tham: 

Darkness Descends (Dusk, 9 pm)
Another amazing come-back from that Prussian stalwart, Kraatz-Koschlau! That man’s division is solid heroism and determination!

Puxieux looks safe, with a fresh (although Shaken) brigade and some horse artillery in the town. Mars-la-Tour continues to be a problem due to the irresponsibility of its irrational defenders, but it should manage one more turn, barring anything too outrageous.

Rezonville and probably also Flavigny are safely in French hands, but the same cannot yet be said of Jarny! It all comes down to which chits are pulled first and then a lucky roll or two will determine the town’s ownership. I can just see the victorious commander of whatever unit remains, doing a Charlton Heston, battered and bloody, lifting his sword in both hands and calling out “To whom does Jarny belong?”

This session has been absolutely glorious and I’m almost sad it’ll soon be over.

To summarize the Dusk Turn rules –

1) LOS is reduced to one hex, meaning fire can be only conducted at adjacent units;

2) movement costs one MP extra per hex except along roads;

3) TCRs are reduced by 1.

Rezonville/Flavigny
Goeben’s battleworn brigade (dark brown) Disrupted the Chasseurs in front of it with close-range fire, then assaulted and Broke them, moving up right next to Flavigny, currently defended by nothing more than some II Corps Dragoons (khaki). A timely Auftragstaktik chit could now mean an opportunity to assault the town, though taking it against a fresh enemy unit before Grenier’s 1st brigade relieved it would be another matter…

Manstein’s Hessians took some shots in the dark at the French cavalry, to no effect.

Ladmirault’s IV Corps activation (green) saw Flavigny secured by a French brigade and another brigade assaulting and finishing off Manstein’s artillery.

Image 9 pm Gorze

Manstein’s IX Corps (orange) takes another loss from Ladmirault’s IV Corps (green), losing its artillery. Goeben manages to push his weary brigade (dark brown) to the very gates of Flavigny but sees the town secured by Grenier’s 1st brigade.

Tronville/Puxieux
Dusk saw Frossard, the old engineer general commanding II Corps (khaki), suddenly clutch his chest and sink to the ground. A Prussian bullet or his heart? (Leadership Casualty FOW Event.) His men in the frontline, not even aware of what was happening behind them, continued attacking. Bataille’s and Lapasset’s brigades scattered the last III Corps horse artillery gunners (yellow) with bullets and bayonets, then advanced to the very walls of Tronville, but this day would not see them storm those walls…

The French Imperial Guard’s activation saw an assault on Puxieux and the surrounding 6th Cav that left the proud Guard and its opponents in tatters. Deligny’s 1st Voltigeurs was Broken, the remaining three brigades Battleworn (two of them also Disrupted). The defending 12th brigade was also Battleworn and the cuirassiers of the 6th Cav Broken. Puxieux remained in Prussian hands.

The closest Guard Grenadier brigade was later chased off even further by Wilhelm’s horse artillery, Breaking the grenadiers (although they passed their Break Test with only a retreat result).

Alvensleben’s III Corps (yellow) saw the defenders of Tronville finally hitting the pesky French VI Corps brigade (yellow) that had been camping outside for so long, causing a Casualty Hit. Was the Curse broken at last?

Image 9 pm Puxieux and Tronville Close-Up

The French Imperial Guard is shattered trying to take Puxieux, taking a heavy toll on the defenders but failing to capture the town. At Tronville, Frossard’s II Corps (khaki) assaulted their way to the outskirts of the town, but it would remain in Prussian hands as darkness descended.

Mars-la-Tour
The OOC X Corps Prussian garrison (green) in Mars-la-Tour pulled a Frozen OOC chit and stayed put. Apparently sitting still for too long was something the 38th brigade commander could not abide, and yet again he ventured out to fight some Frenchies… this time his brigade was Broken and scattered by Defensive Fire before it even got to assault. Suddenly the gunners in Mars-la-Tour looked very lonely without their covering infantry!

The French CIC chit saw one of d’Villier’s fresh brigades move closer to Mars-la-Tour, waiting for Canrobert’s VI Corps Activation Chit to appear…

…which alas it never really did, negated by a poor roll on the Bazaine’s Leadership chart, a victim of Bazaine’s Malaise. Mars-la-Tour would remain Prussian!

Image 9 pm Mars-la-Tour Close-Up

The 38th brigade commander finally pays the ultimate price, his brigade Broken in a third futile assault on Canrobert’s men, the victim of the session’s last Prussian Aggressive Tactics chit. Alas, Canrobert suffered his second case of Bazaine’s Malaise for the evening and couldn’t profit from the fool’s deathwish.

Jarny
X Corps (green) activated early. 37th brigade weathered Defensive Fire, taking a Morale Hit to come up next to the 39th in support. The assault on Jarny saw a bad roll and the 39th also took a Morale Hit (so now both 37th and 39th were Shaken, and unable to do any Breakthrough Movement) while the defending French infantry saw themselves Battleworn (already Disrupted and then took another hit on a D1(A1) result).

An Auftragstaktik chit saw another assault of the 39th, this time Breaking the remaining defenders (the Corps Artillery removed, Nayral’s 2nd brigade retreated), emptying Jarny of living Frenchmen. But the 39th was Shaken and unable to perform Breakthrough Movement…

…enter the Prussian CIC chit! Kraatz-Koschlau’s division was activated for the last and final time! The glorious 39th, worthy successors of the much-lamented 40th, entered and occupied Jarny, shrugging off French Defensive Fire from Nayral’s divisional artillery in the adjacent hex to the south (two Disrupted and Battleworn French brigades behind the town had SP 0 and couldn’t fire).

Jarny had been taken by X Corps, against all odds! Finally, everything had come together in exactly the right way for the poor unlucky Prussians!

Rheinbaben’s cuirassiers vented some fury on Forton’s men (light blue), Breaking their French counterparts and driving the Dragoons back. Forton, on his own activation, failed to retaliate, his horse artillery missing. Du Barail (light green), with only a single Battleworn SP 1 cavalry brigade, did nothing.
Another Auftragstaktik chit saw the 37th put a Shaken marker on Nayral’s artillery.

And for some last-minute excitement Montaudon’s 1st brigade, LeBoeuf’s strongest at SP 6, closed with the 39th in Jarny. Preparatory fire from Nayral’s divisional artillery failed to hit anything, as did Defensive Fire from both 39th and 37th (despite even the use of a Prussian Battlefield Conditions chit and rallying the 39th first with an Inspirational Leadership chit). Montaudon proceeded to roll a Tough Fight (those were common indeed in this session!), and the poor 39th then rolled horribly and suffered the worst possible effects, ending up both Battleworn and Shaken!

The Hanoverian and Westphalian infantrymen of the 39th were young and fit, and had so far been led to unimaginable glory and success by their equally young and motivated officers who were trained to take the initiative and exploit every opportunity given… but in the end they were only conscripts, and the men they faced were mostly older professionals, seasoned veterans of Crimea and Italy, men who knew every trick in the book when it came to bayonet fighting, and filled with a fine French fighting fury!

Still, even that display of French fighting spirit was not enough… the last chit pulled was the French Planned Event, an Inspirational Leadership chit. Again the 1st assaulted, filled with the Furia Francese! Even with good odds and a column shift they rolled only a D1 result, Disrupting the already Shaken defenders. And so Jarny remained in X Corps hands!

Image 9 pm Jarny

Jarny finally falls to the hard-working Kraatz-Koschlau! Even the worst the French could throw at him (in the shape of LeBoeuf’s strongest brigade, assaulting twice, the second time aided by an Inspirational Leadership chit which was used for a Furia Francese Event) failed to rob the 39th brigade of its prize! (Comment: The 39th is shown as only Shaken when they should be Disrupted, because I hadn’t yet applied the results of that final Furia Francese Event when taking the picture.)

 

Final Results
And so the battle ended in a Major Prussian Victory, with the Prussians having not only held on to Mars-la-Tour and Puxieux (their Mandatory Hexes) but also taken Jarny (a French Mandatory Hex), thus putting a definite end to any French continued retreat to Verdun.

If the French had managed to hold on to Jarny they would have won a Minor French Victory, holding Bruville, Vionville, and Flavigny, three Minor Victory Hexes compared to the Prussians’ two (Verdun Road and Tronville).

Image 9 pm End  

The brilliant Alvensleben, his III Corps (yellow) beaten to a pulp, holds both Tronville and Puxieux as night arrived.                                                                                                                            The even more splendid Voigts-Rhetz, the victor at Jarny, saw his men plow through hordes of French cavalry to take a well-defended vital town. The French, despite fighting magnificently, in the end simply couldn’t gain those extra few yards to finally defeat the stubborn Prussians. They can’t even be said to have been defeated by the defeatism of their own commander, as Bazaine’s Malaise chits were frequently negated, displaying stunning determination and aggressiveness throughout. But the path to Verdun was now closed, and nothing remained but to limp back to Metz… (Comment: The 39th is shown as only Shaken when they should be Disrupted because I hadn’t yet applied the results of that final Furia Francese Event when taking the picture.)

Image 9 pm Casualties

Now, this is a casualty pile I can recognize from my earlier session! The last few turns were a bit of a bloodbath…

Comparison to Historical and Previous Session Outcomes
Historical Outcome
In the historical battle, the French had reached both Vionville and Flavigny first, just like in my session, but had then held them only weakly, allowing the Prussians to take possession of both towns. The battle on that flank was then dominated by the Prussian artillery on the heights, but even so, it required some desperate use of the Prussian cavalry to delay and discourage the French until dark (the famous “von Bredow’s Deathride” against Canrobert’s gunline).

The Bois de Tronville (the large forest north-west of Vionville) saw heavy fighting as the French tried to outflank the Prussian defense.

In the west, Ladmirault reached the outskirts of Mars-la-Tour but didn’t assault it, despite the fact that the town was emptied of Prussians at the time. In game terms that would have been a lot of use of Bazaine’s Malaise and/or Command Initiative chits preventing the French from closing, both there and in the east.

Prussian Aggressive Tactics would also have seen some use, at the Fond de la Cuve (where the gung-ho 38th historically met its doom) and along the Gorze Road (where Goeben and Manstein were bloodily repulsed).

A large cavalry clash took place late in the day on the Prussian far left flank but the Verdun Road was secure in Prussian hands.

So in game terms, the historical battle ended in a Minor Prussian Victory, with the French holding only the Minor Victory Hex of Bruville and both sides in possession of their Mandatory Hexes. Bazaine’s obsession with imagined threats to his left flank (and to his line of retreat back to Metz rather than his line of retreat on to Verdun) contributed strongly to the French defeat.

Previous Session Outcome
In my first session, I activated Ladmirault’s IV Corps (green) as the first French formation, in order to get it to Mars-la-Tour to help LeBoeuf (red) as quickly as possible. So far just like in real history, but that meant the very aggressive Prussian cavalry got to both Vionville and Flavigny first, holding heroically against mounting French pressure until Alvensleben arrived.

French determination was strong throughout the day, with their resolve failing only toward the end when some Bazaine’s Malaise, Command Initiative and Degrade Next Chit events saw them faltering in their attempts to take Mars-la-Tour and Flavigny.

Prussian reinforcements were tardy in their arrival through most of the session, and poor Alvensleben’s III Corps (yellow) and Manstein’s IX Corps (orange) saw their brigades fed piecemeal into the grinder that was Flavigny. Canrobert, unlike his historical self, was a powerhouse throughout, his VI Corps (yellow) taking Vionville and bashing many Prussian units to pieces, toward the end almost managing an attack on Flavigny as well.

Voigts-Rhetz’s X Corps (green) got to Mars-la-Tour first and then held it against both LeBoeuf (red) and Ladmirault (green).

Losses were absolutely massive in my session, the French artillery suffering particularly heavy losses to the Prussian Krupp guns.

In the end it was an OOC chit (Withdraw!) and my tardiness in transferring the Prussian cavalry to the left that saw the French 1st Reserve Cavalry Division (light green) taking the Verdun Road, thus counting three Minor Victory Hexes (Verdun Road, Bruville and Vionville) to the Prussians’ two, winning a Minor Victory. Apart from that, French resolve and the hideous casualties that resulted, the session was reasonably close to what happened historically, mostly because I modeled most of both sides’ strategies on what had happened historically.

This Session

In this new session, the whole battle took a very different turn! An early French II Corps activation (khaki) saw both Flavigny strongly occupied and fortified. Frossard then also quickly took Vionville, with Canrobert (yellow) quickly moving up in support. Alvensleben (yellow) took one look at this situation and decided not to attempt to assault his III Corps into the teeth of two French corps, instead of pulling back to defend Tronville.

Rather than being sent far to the west, Ladmirault’s IV Corps (green) was activated later and went south, arriving in time to meet Manstein and Goeben late in the day. This freed up three entire French corps (II Corps, VI Corps, and the Imperial Guard, plus the Army Reserve Artillery) to put some serious pressure on Alvensleben (yellow) and Wilhelm (6th Cav, dark green), pushing right to the outskirts of Tronville, Puxieux and Mars-la-Tour from the east.

In the west, Voigts-Rhetz’s X Corps (green) and Rheinbaben’s 5th Cav (white) threw all caution to the wind, taking the fight to LeBoeuf (III Corps, red) and Du Barail (1st Cav, light green), pushing for Jarny in the far north-west. Despite horrible odds and unexpectedly quick responses from the French, Kraatz-Koschlau’s division (with repeated help from the Prussian CIC chit) carved its way through hordes of French cavalry and then pushed the French infantry and Corps Artillery out of the town.

Unlike in my first session, Prussian Reinforcement rolls were uniformly successful, without which this outcome could not have been possible. Delays were caused more often by Lull in the Battle FOW Events than from other causes, with the same for the French.

Also unlike in both my first session and historically, the Prussian guns did not dominate the battlefield, generally rolling so poorly I began to think of it as The Curse of the Krupp guns. Casualties didn’t really start piling up until late in the game, because this was very much a battle of maneuver, unlike the mostly static slaughter of my first session.

In the end, a Major Victory for the Prussians, comprehensively cutting off all roads to Verdun. In this case, no one would have blamed Bazaine for pulling back to Metz!

Hope you have enjoyed this AAR!

Game Resources: 

At Any Cost: Metz 1870 – BGG Page

At Any Cost: Metz 1870 – GMT Home Page         

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