The Napoleonic Wars, Lasalle, 28mm
This week’s game report is brought to you by Bill Gilchrist, as Angus was laid low by an eye infection. Unable to read, write, wargame, watch war films or paint, he was reduced to listening to an audio book from Edinburgh Library instead of coming out to play. At least it was adapted from a book written by wargamer Iain Gale… Anyway, on to Bill’s report, and his trying out of a new set of Napoleonic rules.This game at the SESWC was something new for us; a 28mm Peninsular war game using the Lasalle rules by Sam Mustapha. Dave Paterson who is an inveterate buyer of new rules has had a copy of Lasalle for over a year, but had never tried a game. We decided to give them a test outing. I put together a scenario using the “army builder” section of the rules, which gave a French Division the task of attacking a British Division, with each side supported by a cavalry brigade of two regiments and a horse artillery battery. I gave the attacking French a dragoon regiment and a hussar regiment, which are superior to the light dragoons fielded by the British.The French objective was to take an enclosure in the British deployment area. In Lasalle you need to specify an objective for the attacking side. The French deployed with cavalry on their left, veteran Swiss infantry in the centre, and French conscripts on their right. The British who deployed second faced the French cavalry with their own, the centre of their line was held by their “elite” battalion, and the horse artillery battery supported by a line battalion made up the reserve, while a brigade of three line battalions held the enclosure at formed the centre of their left, although the defensive line extended a little beyond it. We diced as per the rules for the vigour of the sub commanders. The British cavalry sub commander was poor (no surprises there), while the infantry sub commander was good (ditto). The French veterans had a good sub commander, and the conscripts a poor one.On the French left the dragoons charged the British light dragoons who counter-charged, and were given supporting fire from the horse artillery battery. Surprisingly the British drove back the French dragoons, and in their next turn they followed up their success with a charge. This time it was the French dragoons who drove them back, and which enjoyed the support of their own horse artillery battery. The French guns peppered the British 2nd light dragoons and disrupted them. The poor British cavalry commander supported by his Commander in Chief completely failed in his attempt to remove any of the disruption points on the light dragoons. That left them exposed and vulnerable to the French cavalry, who were preparing to launch another charge.When the charge came, both players were surprised when the melee turned out to be a draw. The French Hussars hung back supporting the horse artillery battery, and took no real part in the action. However, by the end of the battle the other three cavalry units (two British and one French) were all exhausted, and could no longer charge – they all had three disruptions. This left the French hussars the masters of that corner of the battlefield. In the centre two of the Swiss veteran battalion-sized columns closed and charged the elite British battalion deployed in line in front of them. The Swiss had already taken disruptions from musketry as they advanced, and although they charged home they both bounced off the British line, with one of the columns breaking and fleeing. The British followed up by charging the recoiled Swiss unit, which somehow managed to drive back the larger British battalion! The third Swiss battalion moving up to support was duly broken by the fire of the British horse artillery battery.Now it was up to the French conscripts to save the day. They attacked the British line battalion holding the enclosure with two battalion columns, while another two battalion columns supported by the French divisional battery engaged the two British battalions holding their far left flank. The British battalion holding the enclosure drove back both of its attackers without much difficulty, while their comrades on the flank shot up the other two columns of French conscripts. The superior quality of the British units, their better skirmish ratings and their good quality sub commander all meant that they outshot their French opponents, and recovered their few disruptions. By contrast the poor quality French conscripts led by a poor sub commander just became increasingly disrupted, until they were unable to press home their attack.
One notable feature of the game was that no attacker ever won a close combat. They were all won by the defender, or were draws (which also count as defender wins). This meant the hand to hand combats were relatively indecisive, as only an attacker winning decisively automatically breaks an opponent. Apart from that the rules worked well, and we both enjoyed the game. The mechanisms are relatively simple, and very well explained in the rules. Every section of the four page Quick Reference Sheet refers to the relevant page number in the rules, which really speeded things up during this trial game. The command mechanisms are also every simple, but quite effective. The quality of the troops, and their ability to recover from disruption is the key to the game. One of my next projects it to write a review of Lasalle and try to compare it with Black Powder, which I use a lot.Note from Angus: Certainly Lasalle have had several good reviews. In an survey of Napoleonic rules published in Miniature Wargames it came out ahead of other newish Napoleonic sets, particularly Napoleon and Republic to Empire, both of which had a bit of a roasting. However, Lasalle has also been criticised for making all armies a bit homogenous. While I much prefer the In the Grand Manner and General de Brigade approach to Napoleonic wargaming, I’m keen to give Lasalle a try. Almost every Napoleonic rules set (with the probably exception of Napoleon) has something to offer, and it’s only by trying them out that their qualities will come to the fore.