With the campaign's initiative swinging to the Austrians, Scheittekatte has spotted an opportunity to drive the French away from Gross Lardsdorf to the fringes of a nearby spa resort. Spurred on by rumours of a delightful tea-room and sauna, Scheittekatte is in the mood to hand out another drubbing. After a strong start, Volte-Face's forces are on the defensive. As luck would have it, we rolled up the "defence in depth" scenario which seemed perfect.
The French were allowed to deploy in two lines. The first (advanced/secondary deployment point) was placed in the centre of the board, just to the south of the track running across the battlefield. The main deployment point was placed at the back of the board, between a derelict farmhouse and a copse of trees. It's game over if the Austrians capture the main deployment point or if either side's morale collapses to zero. The French started with a slightly higher morale, perhaps boosted by the return of their trusty artillery piece.
The French Voltiguers deployed first but as you can see the entire Austrian force deployed rapidly afterwards. The plucky Austrian Fusiliers entered on the road, enhancing their potential to move fast, accompanied by the Grenadiers. The Grenzer took off from the other side of the board. Whilst this showed his hand, Scheittekatte wanted to push on and hopefully get through the first deployment zone before the French had time to respond. It also meant that the French could not concentrate their forces on one point and simply stand behind cover and blast away.
Into turn/phase 3 already. Volte-Face deployed his larger Fusiliers unit in the centre where it became snarled up on terrain and walls. Bad decision! The larger unit would have been better held further back in reserve. The Grenzer were already half way down the battlefield and threatening to scoot quickly onto their main objective. Well, scoot may be pushing it a bit far. Faced with crossing a big hedge, Longabuscu delivered a rousing eastern European "huzza" and charged on, only to find his Grenzer lollygagging behind the aforementioned shrubbery. They had rolled a mighty 4 on 3D6 - in fact they alternated between lung-bursting sprints of over 15 inches and pretty much standing still for the rest of the game. Ah, the delights of random movement!
As the Austrian Fusiliers trotted gallantly down the road to join the fray, Blase's Voltiguers seemed caught in two minds. They leapt the hedges to close the distance, then shimmied back into cover, before sniping at the Austrians from the safety of the hedgerow. In SP2 you just never know what might happen. Last time out the Voltiguers could barely hit a barndoor with a very big barn-door hitting stick-thing. This time it was different. You might just be able to see that pretty much every shot hit and caused either shock or a casualty.
Disaster! Calamity! Schiettekatte was hit ... it looked like being the shortest game in history. After the usual blundering around the rule book, we discovered he's been knocked out (no doubt dreaming of fluffy meringues) and would hobble around on a gammy leg for the rest of the game (owing to the gout). This left his Fusiliers already badly mauled and hanging in the breeze within range of the fearsome Italian cannon.
Whilst Scheittekatte slept gently behind his soldiers, the battle then ebbed towards the centre-ground. Here, Volte-Face's larger unit had split - he sent off Sergeant L'Excraimont and an 8-man group to harass the Grenzer whilst the remaining two groups formed up to deliver a volley at the cocksure Hungarian Grenadiers led by Kapitan Hamsarni. Volte-Face's formation definitely came off the worst.
Scheittekatte groaned as he came to and limped back into action. In a fit of derring-do he steadied the Fusiliers who surprised everyone by nearly annihilating the left-hand Voltiguer group (above, bottom right). Nearby, Flatulento gesticulated wildly and finally brought his cannon around to point at the Austrian Fusiliers. Scheittekatte held his breath as his Fusiliers were pounded by two successive rounds of canister split by the tiffin chip, which gouged holes in each flank and piled on shock. Ooof. All three Fusilier groups wavered and withdrew, causing a dip in the Force Morale. Alas, three flags came out in a row and poor Flatulento realised that he had been supplied with damp powder. No amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth could alter the fact. This meant that all future firing from the cannon was halved. This undoubtedly saved the Fusiliers and probably swung the match back towards Austria.
Hamsarni's Grenadiers continued to cause mayhem amidst Volte-Face's once proud ranks of conscripts. Meanwhile, Scheittekatte launched into a courageous speech about the homeland (and its range of exquisite puddings), consolidating his decimated formation into two full groups. The shared shock was considerable but it gave him a fighting chance to withdraw in order and rally the troops out of range of the canister.
With the battle grinding to a halt on the French right, the focus switched flanks (above). Over on the French left flank, the Grenzer had galloped their way past some sniping Fusiliers. Well, perhaps they stumbled their way there. Longabuscu was heading towards the plucky Cliche and the French rearguard, who had swung over to halt the pesky Transylvanian skirmishers. After a brief firefight which rather mauled Cliche's formation, Longabuscu's chip came out again and he elected to charge the hapless French. Cue drumroll and ... the sauntering skirmishers ended up two inches short of making contact. How Volte-Face laughed.
Next: a fourth Red Flag was pulled out of the bag: Longabuscu claimed the bonus round and this time made no mistake. How quickly the tears of joy can switch to tears of pain and frustration! It was a rather one-sided contest as the French had already suffered significant shock and casualties. 7 brave Frenchmen died and they were heavily defeated, driven back nearly off the board. Cliche had challenged Longabuscu to a duel but he came off second best. There he is running away in the picture below, mumbling something about a date with a local girl. The remnants of his unit hid in the trees, attempting to convene with nature in an effort to overcome the shock and shame of their dismal failure. The French morale plummeted but the game was still in the balance, especially with the cannon aiming once again at the Austrian Fusiliers who could easily snap.
The game careened towards a conclusion. On the French left, the Grenzer were hit by accurate shooting from Blase's Voltiguers. Longabscu was forced to consolidate his troops and shock into one group and retreat back around the farmhouse, out of range. But he still had his eyes on the primary deployment point.
Then the coup de grace. Longabuscu spent 2 turns leaping wildly over hedges and urging his Grenzer to seize the deployment point. With a reluctant air of bemusement, his troops continued to move erratically but they finally seized the objective with a mighty cheer. The French were defeated!
Volte-Face (still trying to get his troops to stop firing, even though the battle ended yesterday and the enemy had left the field):
Bon sange! Another close-run battle. I honestly did not expect the Grenzer to be able to reach the objective, both given the distance and the likelihood of halting the main Austrian advance. My Fusiliers should have deployed at the back of the board and therefore switched places, but I don't think I'd do too much different if the scenario came up again. The cannon caused a lot of damage again and I honestly feel that the game would have ended in a relatively quick French win if the dreaded damp powder roll had not happened. Cliche, of course, was abysmal. I mean, he barely moved, failed to do much damage on a first-fire at close range, managed to get most of his men slaughtered in fisticuffs, lost a duel and then ran away. That pretty much accounted for the entire army's loss in Force Morale!
Scheittekatte (supping on a sneaky aperitif from his knapsack):
Ha, my boy! What a show! We gave the crapauds a darn good thrashing with a lesson in grand strategy, sound tactics and linear formations. You disagree? Preposterous. Here, help yourself to a garlic croissant whilst I explain. Yes, the Grenzer were able to claim the victory objective, but my regulars laid the platform for their success. They tied up the cannon and the majority of the French force, allowing the nimble Grenzer to do their thing down the flank. Yes, yes, we are thankful for the Grenzer success in fisticuffs but any old fool can charge and defeat Cliche these days (and the charge very nearly failed, had it not been for my masterful use of 4 flags - all part of the grand strategy). The honour and glory should go to the Grenadiers and I will write as much in the dispatch. Now, hand me that weisswurst and go book me a place in a local spa where I can recount the battle in the company of a few local delicacies.