Updated January 14, 2021. Home
As unfortunate as it is to have the French cavalry escape, that is a relatively minor roll in the grand scheme of things. The French commitment to the woods South of Nivelles is quite large. What counterattack opportunities will the French decide to give the PAA at Nivelles in order to push their way through? Blucher prepares for a withdraw in the Tilly corridor, looking to preserve some 1-6s for later instead of using them all right now. With this last delay position, his cavalry will still be 7 hexes from the rivers to the north, enabling the PAA 2 turns still on that front. The French have abstained from low odds attacks so far and have been very patient. I hope that continues.
Some of the French units in the "33" file are currently recovering from a spoiling attack delivered by Blucher's forces last turn. The good news is that the French cavalry unit, Domont, which was the focus of the Prussians' ire managed to catch a break when it escaped destruction at the hands of the Prussians; the bad news is that Napoleon's Left Wing is now behind schedule in the west, and that unwelcome development is very likely going to create problems for L'Armee du Nord in other sectors of the battle area as the first day of the campaign moves from afternoon to evening.
Nivelles: Because of an unforced French error, Ney's western detachment is already at least one full tempo behind in its offensive operations against the Allied Right. This probably needn't have been the case, as the origin of this setback: the deployment, on the 1300 game turn, of eleven French factors at Z33 was – at least in my view – a worthwhile gamble, especially considering the fact that, if successful, it would have had the potential to apply real pressure against any Allied units at X35on later game turns. Unfortunately, after planning the move with Division Foy and two cavalry units stationed at AA33 [I was, I should note, acutely aware that there were several Allied 7-4s lurking in the immediate neighborhood], I inexplicably decided (at the last moment, naturally) to move the 6-4 from AA33 to the switch hex at CC33. This was an inexcusable mistake – especially against a player of Richard's caliber – as it allowed my PAA opponent to block the forest corridor southeast of Nivelles with the 3-1 proof Pirch II during his portion of the game turn. And because of this serious French lapse, the presence of an Allied 7-4 at Y35, not only meant that Ney could no longer safely take possession of Z36 – because any units in that hex would be vulnerable to a surrounded attack – but also that any French units moving into Y39 would be seriously exposed because of the absence of a credible French threat on Ney's right flank.
Looking to the present, the current French move is an attempt to salvage something from Ney's botched advance, and to hopefully get the French drive pushing forward again against Nivelles. Since the local Allied units are, at the moment, all pretty much immune to attack (at least at reasonable odds), the best that I can do this turn is to position the majority of the French units in the west in such a way as to make another PAA spoiling attack awkward. I should probably also add that, while I usually eschew low-odds attacks as a means of retrieving a position after I've made a mistake, I did seriously consider attacking Pirch II at either 1-1 or 1-2. And yes, I think that the opportunity to attack a valuable unit like a 7-4, without having to soak-off, is almost always appealing. [I know many players would have at least considered a 2-1, since the units making such an attack would have had a 70% chance of holding Z35 at the end of their combat phase.] The downside of resorting to a low-odds gamble in this instance – at least as I see it – was not the 30% possibility of an A Elim, but the nontrivial possibility of an AB2, which, I was sure, would see a French retreat into Z36, with all of the problems that occupying such an exposed hex would create for Ney's Left Wing on the 1700 game turn.
Quatre Bras: As I expected, Richard decided to reinforce the Prussian line on the Heights, by moving a 6-4 into AA26 last turn: this move, by the way, does nothing to really strengthen the Heights, but it does modestly increase the "opportunity cost" of a French surrounded 1-2 versus Steinmetz. Elsewhere, the units of Napoleon's central reserve continue to cluster together in hexes from which some or most can move, in one bound, against either the Quatre Bras Heights, or against the Gap. And barring some unexpected development, the positions of these reserve units probably shouldn't change much in the short-run. A little farther to the east, the Imp. Gd. Foot Arty continues it's steady one-hex-per-turn advance ever deeper into the Quatre Bras Gap. This advance currently presents virtually no threat to Blucher's defenses in the center and hence, it is pretty much being ignored by the Allied commander for the time being; this current lack of interest on the part of my opponent, however, will almost certainly change in the next few game turns.
The Tilly Corridor: Grouchy's contingent (the French Right Wing) remains stalled – much as it has been for the last couple of turns – at the southern end of the Tilly Corridor. Only this time around, instead of doling out a delay unit, the PAA commander has deployed a delay unit along with his two local 6-4s, in hopes of picking up a French soak-off unit on the cheap. This is a ploy used by some seasoned Allied commanders which, when sprung on some French players, will occasionally work. In my case, not so much. To be fair, I will admit that, if the Allied Tilly force were considerably stronger than it currently is, then I might consider risking a French 3-6 to a 1-4 soak-off; as things stand in this game, however, rather than risk the soak-off, I have instead decided to offer Richard a surrounded attack on one of the units in X19. If I were in Richard's shoes, I wouldn't risk such an attack; we will soon see if my opponent sees things the same way that I do.
The woods south of Nivelles can be tricky. I decided to try a counterattack to attempt to spoil the French progress here. It will be interesting to see if the French devote any forces to the west edge of the board, near the road to Braine le Comte. This would spread the PAA thin but would take away from the attack south of Nivelles. In the center, I feel the French may be getting frisky with a 1:2 or a 2:1, so I decided to make it more expensive for him to take that gamble. We are running out of delay units in the Tilly corridor. The French are pressing us hard and it is no longer possible to avoid contact along most of the board. How hard will the French push for objectives over the next 3 turns? Uxbridge's cavalry corps is needed soon.
Joe is being more cautious than I expected. I am tempted to counterattack but I await a better opportunity to go all in. For now I will have to keep reserve counterattack force positioned in the right spot and wait. The PAA is at it's weakest on the front right now, as the French are fully developed but the PAA reinforcements have only started to trickle in.
Wellington's afternoon briefing, Genappe Headquarters
Nivelles: Based on Allied dispositions, it is here that I am convinced my opponent will make a major effort to inflict early damage on the French army. The roughly forty Prussian factors currently within striking distance of the Nivelles battle area, combined with the steadily increasing combat power of the local Anglo-Allied contingent, will provide him with an impressive "first strike" capability when Ney's Left Wing finally begins its advance into the forest corridors south of the town. Which, I should note, is why I often commit eighty + French factors to this front: Ney's force has to be able to absorb a couple of PAA attacks, and still be strong enough to strongly punch back. The good news for the French, such as it is, is that the PAA "Non-cooperation" rule makes coordination between the two Allied forces awkward, and once the PAA commander commits his units to battle, the Prussian "2" value units will be easy (and obvious) targets for the French.
My approach to French operations in the Nivelles sector on the 16 Jun 1300 game turn will vary depending on just how large the Prussian commitment is to this front. When faced with a smaller Prussian contingent (e.g., less than thirty + factors), I will usually push the newly-arriving units of the IInd Corps immediately into the forest gaps to occupy hexes Y39 (two 3-6s and a 2-6), Z38 (one 5-4), Z36 (one 6-4 and a 2-6), and Z35 (one 6-4). Against this many Prussians, however, such an advance is a bit too audacious for my taste, especially as my opponent would then be able to easily (and inexpensively) attack both of the eastern 6-4s at 3-1, or probably more likely, one 6-4 at 5-1, with a single Anglo-Allied soak-off (from Y37) relieving the Allied player of having to use one of his precious Prussian 1-6s. That said, I have opted to form the French battle line one hex row farther to the south. This line can still be attacked at reasonable odds by the Allied player, but at least those attackers will then be exposed to a powerful French riposte. I should also probably note that Desnouettes (on hex Z39) has been deployed in this exposed position so that the Allied commander cannot move a single PAA "1" into Y39, which would be a very economical way of stalling the French advance in this sector for another game turn. The reason that the 3-6 has been chosen is that it requires the attacker to commit fifteen factors for a 5-1, and twenty-one factors for an AV; and usually the PAA player will have better things to do with his units.
Quatre Bras: Napoleon's central force has been deployed so as to prevent Steinmetz from vacating AA27, while also applying pressure in the Quatre Bras Gap. I usually power the French push into the Gap with the Imp. Gd. Foot Arty because this unit can only be attacked at 3-1, from two hexes, and it is also awkward for the Prussians to attack and to exchange against.
The Tilly Corridor: As is Richard's usual practice, the Allied presence in the Tilly Corridor is a little weaker than in most games. I know that my opponent wants to retain as much Prussian combat power on the main Nivelles-Quatre Bras Fronts, but the failure to include even a single 4-4 with the Allied contingent – in my view, at least – diminishes the counterattacking possibilities of the Prussian Tilly force dramatically. In any case, since there is very little else for them to do just yet, I have mobbed the entrance to the Corridor with a force of thirty-six factors. The key to this move, I should note, is not the stack of French infantry at Y19, but the fact that there are currently twenty-one factors of cavalry clustered close to the southern end of the Corridor so that my opponent will have to screen his two 6-4s from attack, at least for a turn.
The French clearly are setting up to come through the woods southeast of Nivelles. On the eastern flank, the French are being cautious so far. Delay cavalry in the Quatre Bras gap is buying the Prussia counterattack force some time to check the French advance on Nivelles. It is a critical turn for the PAA. After the next PAA move the British forces on the board will be consolidated around Nivelles and can concentrate for counterattacks. It is unclear how much force the French will send down the Tilly corridor, but we certainly don't want to allow the French cavalry in that sector too much freedom of manoeuvre just yet.
On the whole, the game is developing along fairly conventional lines.
Nivelles: My opponent has, as expected shifted more of the Prussian Army west to support the outnumbered Anglo-Allies around Nivelles. The one irritant is that Richard has had the foresight to deploy two Prussian 2-6s in Z38 which has prevented me from moving Desnouettes into AA38. That being the case, the early arriving French cavalry have to content themselves with occupying AA36 while they await the immanent arrival of the first wave of French infantry coming from the south. In addition, elements from the French forces in the center have shifted west into the "33 hex file," so as to put pressure on any Allied units attempting to block the forest corridor southeast of Nivelles. Ultimately, I will probably commit 80 plus French factors to the Nivelles front, as I consider it vitally important for Ney's Left Wing to win this fight and for that force to clear the forest corridors south of the town early enough for Ney to batter his way into Nivelles by the end of the 16th. I don't expect much to happen on the PAA portion of the 1100 turn, but things could well "heat up" on the 1300 turn.
Quatre Bras: Richard has stripped off – temporarily, I expect – some of the Prussian infantry that were previously defending the Quatre Bras Heights. So long as the Prussians scattered along the primary road, from V34 to W31, remain within one turn's march of AA27, then this is not as risky as it might initially appear. However, if it looks like the Allied player is going to commit his central reserve to the Nivelles sector, then I will shift one of the Imperial Guard 6-4s currently in Quatre Bras Gap to EE21, so that it can be within a single march of BB26, and hence could help power a 1-2 (Surrounded) against Steinmetz. I should also note that one of the problems that I have with the PAA commander removing the Prussian 5-4 prior to play, is that this tends to improve the defensive power – when exposed to attack from only one hex – of the French 5-4s, especially those 5-4s assigned to the Gap: arranging Prussian stacks of fifteen factors simply becomes both awkward and risky.
The Tilly Corridor: I confess that – at least for the moment – the Allied dispositions in the Tilly
Corridor mystify me. The PAA 0900 move gives every indication that my opponent
intends to divert some of his Tilly combat power back to the center. The
dispositions of the Prussian II Corps Hrs. Arty and Merlin, I find especially
perplexing. I will say that – in my view, at least – there is a critical mass
of combat power that the Allied player should commit to the Tilly sector; if he
does not, then he leave himself especially vulnerable to surprise French
low-odds attrition attacks.
Generally the PAA wants to keep the French as far South as they can afford to early on. Some tough choices this turn, I will very soon not be able to quickly transfer troops between the Tilly corridor and the Quatre Bras heights. I typically don't put out 2 soak offs on the Quatre Bras front every turn. However the French center is aiming at the woodline southeast of Nivelles, and I'm sure it is no accident that Foy (6-4) and some horse artillery (3x 2-6) are exactly close enough to the French side of that woodline this turn. The Prussians have to be ready for some fighting in these woods and we can't have the French advancing too quickly on the other flank while the Prussians are fighting there.
Richard's 0700 move is pretty much what I anticipated.
Nivelles: Fifteen Prussian factors are already marching west to support the Anglo-Allies; however, I fully expect – assuming that neither of us gets adventuresome in the center – that this contingent will ultimately be reinforced to thirty or more factors. Interestingly, Perponcher has stayed on the primary road (which is my own approach), and this means that, if necessary, this unit can quickly move (in one bound) to occupy the useful switch position at V41.
Quatre Bras: My opponent pretty much always takes the early defense of the heights very seriously, which is why Richard has deployed both a 1-6 and a 6-4 at Z27. With these dispositions, the Allied player – if Napoleon gambles on an early 1-2 versus Steinmetz and rolls a DB2 (D Elim) – can immediately, and without exposing any of his units to an undoubled attack, still mount a 3-1 counterattack against any lucky French unit which has declined to advance into AA27 after combat, but has, instead, elected to remain on BB26. Farther to the east, the Allied player has economically delayed the French advance with a single 1-6, and backed up his blocker with Prussian infantry at BB20 (the 7-4) and AA20 (two 6-4s). For those who are curious, the 7-4 is required in this instance because the French dispositions are such that a 6-4 in BB20 can be attacked (with a soak-off) at 3-1.
Hi Joe. I appreciate your kindness in viewing my oversight as a gambit. I do think that a long battle in the center with little maneuver on the flanks favors the PAA, it would have been interesting. I have looked at strategies involving the PAA not blocking the road and they aren't bad. I did not intend to do so this time but would not have been too sad to play that version.
As it stands I feel I should be a good sport and at least offer 1 unit to attack safely this turn, to thank him for his pacifist 7am French move.
The French are cautiously advancing. Blucher appreciates all the breathing room afforded to him near Ligny, and has 2 Dutch-Belgian cavalry brigades come over for delay purposes to preserve the valuable Prussian soak offs. The 7 factors of French cavalry from Goseillesare clearly making their way to the woods Southeast of Nivelles. We will need to have some Prussians ready to counterattack if they pressurethe woods gap too quickly. We are happy to give the French their choice of 2:1s in tactically safe situations on the main front.
I haven't seen this high risk/high reward PAA gambit in quite a while; as memory serves, it was popular in some circles until the WBC rules changes (and delayed PAA reinforcements) began to see wide use. I confess that, under some circumstances – e.g., if I was in a hurry to finish our match, one way or the other – I might take you up on your invitation, as this gambit (if taken by the French) invariably produces an exciting and usually decisive contest, with an early resolution that often comes on the 16th. The downside for Napoleon, in this situation, is that almost all of the critical action revolves around a bloody multi-round fight for control the Quatre Bras Heights, and this means that most of the French units that would normally power the Nivelles and Tilly drives tend to get sucked into an early massive attrition battle in the center. The French can win, but both the constricted terrain and the enemy's interior lines tend – barring unfavorable dice – to favor the Allies in a protracted fight. In any case, this particular French player is not in a hurry, so I will decline your kind offer for an early fight for the Heights, and instead proceed with my original plan of campaign.
I wanted to add my thoughts about Richard's choice of unit removals. Although I am sure that the majority of players would probably agree with the logic of his decision to remove a Prussian 5-4 and 4-4 to satisfy his nine factor bid, I personally consider this choice to be problematic. In a nutshell, my main problem with these removals is that – because the PAA commander starts the game with only one Prussian 5-4 – it's removal actually disadvantages the Allies when it comes to combat stacking. Now that the WBC "PAA Non-cooperation" rules are in effect, it turns out that it is actually surprisingly difficult for the Allied player to arrange "perfect" stacks of fifteen factors when he sets out to organize his units for combat. All those Prussian 6-4s are formidable on defense, but their signal disadvantage is that unlike the French 5-4s, they are really awkward when it comes to arranging them in stacks of fifteen, and also unlike L'Armee du Nord (which has six handy 3-6s), there are no Prussian 3-6s that might be used to top off a pair of 6-4s. Hence, if I win command of the PAA with a bid of "9," then my strong preference is always to remove a Prussian 6-4 and 2-4, and an Anglo-Allied 1-4; these removals are not quite as economical as Richard's, but they do help to preserve Allied early and middle game combat stacking.