Thursday, 12 March 2009

The Crunch

One disappointment in our recent refight of Action! was the absence of any attempt by cavalry to charge infantry in line. As long-term users of the Charge ruleset, we have in the past always written off such an event as inevitably resulting in nothing but woe for the cavalry. The Grantian rules include mechanisms which penalise infantry drawn up in only 2 deep line, and so I was keen to explore whether cavalry might - with these rules at least - expect a more fortunate outcome. The details of the rules I am thinking of are given on page 77 of 'The Wargame'.

Such a test does not require a proper battle and so I chose to lay out the necessary figures and try out the rules by myself. The starting position was a full regiment of dragoons drawn up facing an infantry battalion, also at full strength, deployed in line. I assumed that the infantry had not fired in the previous turn, being content to reserve their fire until just before the moment of impact. I decided, however, not to allow them their first fire bonus.

Starting Position

The Grant rules give the infantry a 50-50 chance of firing at close or medium range, giving -2 or -3 on the dice of each firing group for effect. If this were the sole factor determining losses then casualties would be likely to be heavy at either range, with 8 firing groups resulting in 13 or 8 casualties given average dice rolls. However, in practice there is considerable scope here for multiple hits on the same trooper: each firing group of 6 infantry is only firing at 3 cavalry (note 1). In my refight I scored only 4 casualties firing at medium range (and would have scored 8 casualties if firing at close).

I assumed that front rank losses amongst the cavalry could be filled in from the rear. Thus 12 cavalry charged home. I assumed the average number of breakthroughs (ie. 6) merely throwing for their position. I chose to allow a cavalryman who achieved a breakthrough to remain where he was if he was still in contact with at least one of the enemy (note 2).

After Firing And Breakthroughs

I was now at a moment where the strength of the Grant rules was in evidence: not only had the infantry already suffered casualties that would not have occurred under the Charge! rules, but their formation was sufficiently broken to allow the cavalrymen a far better chance in the subsequent melee. Almost every fight was at 2:1 in the cavalry's favour. In Charge! the cavalry would be facing an unbroken array of bayonets with many more 1:1 combats. This showed in the result, with eight more infantry falling as opposed to only one dragoon.

After The Melee

At the end of the melee, 14 infantry had fallen while the dragoons had lost 5 (or 9). With -3 on their morale due to the number of breakthroughs, as well as a further penalty due to the number of their losses the infantry would have a fair chance of failing their morale throw. Whether the dragoons were in a position to take advantage of this would also be a matter of some doubt: their chances of making a morale throw depending on whether they took losses due to close or medium range musketry.

I have to admit that all of this relies on a very shaky knowledge of the Grant rules. But I do like the mechanisms involved. The importance of steady infantry holding their fire until close range, and the 'feel' of the breakthrough rules seemed to give a flavour of the British infantry's desperate fight against the flower of the French cavalry at Minden.

Note 1: This is based on a very hazy understanding of 'target groups' given the musketry rules given on pages 33-37.

Note 2: In this case I decided the rear rank infantryman would still fall back - he'd probably be more inclined to think of his wife and children at this moment than wish to seek revenge for his fallen comrade.


Bluebear Jeff said...

Interesting . . . when I feel better, I'll dig out my Grant and follow this with more mental clarity. Thanks for the page reference.

-- Jeff

Stokes Schwartz said...

Hi Andy,

Well, understanding of the rules, or not, your "experiment" provides a lovely old school vignette over which we can drool -- figuratively speaking, of course!

Best Regards,


tidders said...

I've modified the ruleset I use to give the infantry a 50% chance of firing at 'long range' (or ineffective volley) when charged by cavalry. This gives the cavalry a chance to close, without being splattered.

-- Allan

johnpreece said...

Very interesting, the photographs make it all very clear as well as recalling the illustrations in Charge.

Both excellent rule sets, though I think I have had argument over interpretation with The Wargame but never with Charge.

One of the problems is that modern figures demand differing base sizes for cavalry and infantry. The old plastic Spencer Smiths were semi flat and both fitted happily on an half inch frontage. (also a reason why they could cope with so many big batalions. Try doing Lobowitz with Front Ranks without hiring a village hall !)

Anyway we have introduced an amendment with Charge that the number of infantry figures taking part in a melee can never exceed the number of cavalry. So far it seems to work.

Not that I am trying to bring you ack to Charge. I understand that its probably just a phase and you will return to the one great set in time.