Saturday, April 20, 2024

Rangers of Shadow Deep - The Bridge Guards

The third scenario from Rangers of Shadow Deep Standard Edition. Played with Martin's hand-drawn 20mm figures and pop-up terrain. 

The Mission

Only hours after you arrived back from destroying the nest of spiders, you received a message from your commanding officer. Contact has been lost with the beacon tower of Tor Varden, and it is presumed to have been overrun. You are commanded to round up what men you can and proceed with all swiftness to Tor Varden to ascertain the truth. If the tower has fallen, learn what enemy forces now occupy it and harass or eliminate them as opportunity presents.

The Scenario

As you make your way towards Tor Varden, the gentle, rolling hills slowly give way to rocky plains, and finally into the boulder-filled maze known locally as ‘the Scree’. It is a barren, unnerving place – a perfect site for an ambush as the large rocks cut lines of sight down to just a few yards in most places. Proceeding cautiously, you eventually hear the Enthel River, which you must cross to reach Tor Varden. As you approach, however, you hear other noises as well, nearly drowned out by the river. Voices, of some inhuman type, a language filled with whines and barks.

Climbing to the top of a large boulder, you get a clear view down to the river. There, standing astride the old stone bridge is a pack of gnolls. Judging by the large cooking pot they have set up over the fire, these gnolls are camped here, likely to guard the bridge. The only other place to cross the Enthel River is a ford, in sight of the bridge, otherwise, it will take a least half a day to reach another crossing. There is nothing for it, the gnolls will have to be eliminated, as quickly and quietly as possible.

Our band of heroes consisted of two Rangers and their Companions:

On the left, Bill & Bull the Warhounds, Ranger Rogon Gosh Shadowstalker and Geoffrey the Archer.

On the right, Ranger Alan De Paladin with his companions Bill Bagskott the Archer and McGregor the Dwarf

The terrain was crowded with large rocks, small trees and shrubs which greatly restricted line-of-sight. The river was deep, fast running, shockingly cold and almost impassable except at a small stone bridge or a narrow ford.

Four gnoll archers patrolled the riverbank while a gnoll sergeant and two gnoll fighters guarded the bridge. Two additional gnoll fighters were in their camp, attending the fire.

The party tried using their sense of direction and stealth but with little result. 

So instead they advanced using the terrain to hide themselves from the patrolling gnolls. They split into two groups, a pincer manoeuvre, with Ranger Alan De Paladin moving to his right and Ranger Shadowstalker to his left.

The party spotted another gnoll fighter, who they had previously missed, appearing as if by magic from behind some shrubbery.

The party continued to creep forward, using the terrain to keep them hidden while the gnolls patrolled in what appeared to be a random and somewhat chaotic pattern.

Another gnoll that the party had not previously spotted appeared very closed to Ranger Shadowstalker and his companions. Shadowstalker, accompanied by Bill the warhound attacked immediately, killing the gnoll.

Alan De Paladin and his companions ganged up on a lone gnoll archer, and made quick work of him.

The gnolls were now alerted to the presence of our heroes. However the gnoll sergeant couldn't coordinate his troops and they moved forward in a haphazard fashion.

Shadowstalker and his companions jumped the nearest gnoll archer. The fight was fierce and Bull the warhound was so seriously cut up that he was out of the fight.

As if to lament the loss of Bull, a heavy rain started to fall which greatly reduced the range of vision and soaked the bowstrings making shooting dificult.

Alan De Paladin and his dwarven companion fought another gnoll.

The gnoll sergeant charged at Shadowstalker, Geoffrey and Bill. It was a hard fight. By the time they had beaten the gnoll, Shadowstalker was seriously wounded and he had to use a healing spell on himself.

At the same time as this fight with the sergeant was ongoing, Alan De Paladin and McGregor the Dwarf charged the gnolls on the bridge.

With a lucky shot, through the pouring rain, a gnoll archer shot Bill Bagskott the Archer. Bill is out of action for this fight, but may survive if given urgent medical attention, but will have a nasty scar for the rest of his life by which to remember this unfortunate encounter.

A giant Vulture was sighted flying high over the battlefield.

Alan De Paladin and McGregor killed the two gnolls guarding the bridge, just as a third gnoll fighter rushed in to attack.

By the ford, Shadowstalker, Geoffrey and Bill killed the last gnoll archer who had been patrolling the river.

The Vulture flew slowly and majestically down the centre of the battlefield, ignoring the carnage going on below.

The party rushed over the bridge, reaching the gnolls' camp and shot dead the last remaining gnoll.

In the gnolls' camp the party found a set of keys which were recognized as the keys to Tor Vardenx.

They also found a stash of gold and gemstones that will be given to the king to aid the war effort.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Quatre Bras (16 June 1815)

This scenario is a refight of the Battle of Quatre Bras (16 June 1815) during the Hundred Days. It was played using the Commands & Colors Napolionic rules but on hex terrain from Kallistra, buildings from Total Battle Miniatures, trees mostly from Timecast and using 6mm figures from Baccus instead of blocks. 

The History

Napoleon Bonaparte’s surprise march placed his army squarely between Blucher’s Prussians at Ligny and Wellington’s Anglo-Allied army assembling around Brussels. Napoleon concentrated most of his strength against Blucher, but ordered Ney and the II Corps to capture the vital crossroads of Quatre Bras to deny Wellington the chance to reinforce Blucher. Ney procrastinated and his attack did not get underway until two in the afternoon. The delay allowed Wellington to bring fresh allied troops to support the Dutch-Belgians and the Nassau Brigade that were thinly deployed south of the crossroads.

The initial French advance was greeted with musket volleys, but the outnumbered Allied troops were forced back. The Allied units in the wood, however, managed to hold. Facing three infantry divisions and a cavalry brigade, the Allied situation was fast becoming desperate, but additional troops kept arriving and Wellington, now in command, directed them to key positions on the battlefield.

Ney realized that the numerical balance was shifting in favour of the Anglo-Allies and that he could only capture and hold Quatre Bras by a desperate move. He ordered General Kellermann to lead his cuirassier brigades forward and break through Wellington’s line. The cuirassiers managed to reach the crossroads, but were driven back by close range artillery and musket fire. The arrival of the British Guards Division late in the day gave Wellington sufficient strength to launch a counter-attack that forced the French to give up all of their hard fought territorial gains.

This scenario (available here) is an alternative to the original Quatre Bras 014 scenario. It was inspired by William Barnes Wollen's painting of the battle "Black Watch at Bay" which shows the Black Watch Highlanders surrounded by French lancers. However the original scenario had neither the Black Watch nor any lancers. This scenario adds a unit of French lancers and upgrades one of Picton's British Line Infantry units to "Grenadier" to represent the Highlanders. Kellermann's Cuirassiers and Cooke's Foot Guards are no longer available at the start of the battle, they arrive on the marked hexes when a unit crosses the stream.

The Refight

Instead of advancing, the French held their positions and opened fire on the Allies. This caused artillery casualties on their left (in the Bossu Wood) and infantry casualties on their right (on the hill). However the artillery fire in the centre had no noticeable effect.

The Allies send out a coordinated set of orders, the infantry in the centre under the command of the Prince of Orange was to withdraw behind the hill out of the French artillery's field of fire.

At the same time, the artillery on both Allied flanks, opened up with a intense but ineffective fire.

Seeing the Dutch-Belgian infantry retreating from the ridgeline, Marshal Ney ordered two units of line infantry to probe forwards and start crossing the stream.

Seeing the French start probing the centre, General Perponcher on the Allied right, decided to start skirmishing with his Nassau light infantry in the hope of distracting the French commander, Fire from the Nassauers caused casualties in the opposing French light infantry.

Ignoring the annoying Nassau skirmishers on his left, Marshal Ney ordered the infantry columns in the centre to perform a bayonet charge and take the opposing ridge.

The two French columns on the left of the ridge, wiped out the defending Brunswick infantry with only slight losses to themselves and advanced up onto the ridge.

The two French columns on the right of the ridge, attacked the two Dutch-Belgian infantry units under the command of the Prince of Orange. The first Dutch-Belgian infantry lost most of its effective strength and retreated through the village of Quatre Bras and reformed in safety behind it. The second Dutch-Belgian infantry, with the Prince of Orange at its head was wiped out. The Prince had a lucky escape and fled to the Dutch Hussars who were waiting in reserve.

At this time Marshal Ney was pleased to be informed that the Cuirassiers of General Kellermann could be seen entering the battlefield. However he could even see a dust cloud on the road leading north from Quatre Bras, a sign the Cooke's British Guards would soon be in action.

Seeing the French had captured the ridge, the British Guards followed by their artillery battery, attacked immediately. Their withering fire caused a French column to retreat back off the ridge having taken 50% casualties.

Marshal Ney sent a scout to General Kellermann, ordering him to bring up half of his Cuirassiers to counter the treat posed by the British Guards.

In order to give the Guards time to advance and deploy for the fight, the Prince of Orange ordered a cavalry charge. With himself at the head of the Dutch hussars, and accompanied by the Brunswick Hussars they charged at the French columns on the hill.

The French infantry formed squares as they saw the advancing cavalry. The Brunswick hussars charge failed and they retired into Quatre Bras. The Dutch hussars, with the Prince of Orange at their head caused light casualties on the French square which held firm.

Marshel Ney ordered Kellermann and his Cuirassiers forward in support of the square and restrict the Allied cavalry while ordering the infantry unit which had be shot up by the British Guards to retire.

On their left flank, the French infantry had started to occupy the Bossu wood. On their right flank, the infantry had advanced to the stream under the covering fire of their artillery battery which wiped out the Dutch-Belgian infantry that was on the front slope of the hill opposite.

The British ordered forward Picton's division to support their allies and Cooke's Guards to continue their attack on the ridge. The Guards firepower decimated the French square on the hill. At the same time, the Brunswick infantry in the Bossu wood opened fire on the French infantry that were already retiring away from the Guards.

The situation on the ridge was looking dire for the French, so Marshal Ney ordered a cavalry charge. Kellermann with his Cuirassiers was to charge over the hill and drive off the Dutch hussars who were still threatening the French infantry in square. The other French cavalry was to advance so as to be in support later.

Advancing at a trot over the hill, the armoured Cuirassiers crashed into the flank of the Dutch Hussars and annihilated them. The Prince of Orange was forced to flee to the safety of The Brunswick Hussars in Quatre Bras.

Without slowing at all, Kellermann and his Cuirassiers continued their attack and fell upon Picton's unsuspecting artillery, even they were wiped out.

The Alies held their position and opened fire which eliminated the French squares on the ridge,

The French centre renewed the assault. 

On the left the Cuirassiers attacked the Dutch-Belgian artillery on the hill. The artillery was destroyed and the Cuirassiers advanced down the rear slope but stopped before attacking Picton and his British Line Infantry.

On the left the French Hussars and Lancers attacked the British Guard infantry. The Guards were confident and didn't form square. They were hit first by the lancers and then by the hussars. This combined attack was so successful, that it destroyed the Guards with loss.

Through a gap between the Bossu wood and the other Guard unit, the Hussars saw an artillery battery. Leaving the lancers behind to mop up the infantry, the Hussars charged. The artillery took minor casualties but the Hussars took heavy casualties from short range canister shot and were forced to retreat.

At the head of the Brunswick Hussars, the Prince of Orange attacked the retreating French Hussars and eliminated them.

Marshal Ney ordered a final assault in the centre. The Cuirassiers attacked the Brunswick Hussars, The Lancers occupied the Quatre Bras crossroads. Two units of line infantry retook the ridge.

The lancers decided that it was best to secure the Quatre Bras village and crossroads, and thus making reinforcing Blucher difficult for Wellington, rather then attacking the understrength Dutch-Belgian infantry who could be troublesome if they formed square.

Both the French infantry units open fire on the British Guards, and both caused casualties.

The Cuirassiers had artillery support when they charged into the Prince of Orange and his Brunswick Hussars. The hussars were wiped out. Having had a third unit wiped out with him at their head, the Prince of Orange was captured by the Cuirassiers.

The Cuirassiers continued their advance, but were brought to a halt when the British Guards formed square. The cuirassiers couldn't break the square, and the Guards' musket balls just bounced of the Cuirassiers' armour.

As darkness fell, Wellington withdrew his troops northwards, towards Genappe and then the field of Waterloo.

The Prince of Orange had survived, despite having had one brigade of infantry and two of cavalry wiped out with him at their head. That evening, Marshal Ney celebrated his victory and the capture of the Prince of Orange by inviting him to dine at the Gémioncourt farm just south of Quatre Bras. 

That same evening, the Duke of Wellington celebrated the capture of the Prince of Orange, knowing that Colonel Ompteda and his KGL Line Infantry would not be annihilated in two days' time at La Haye Sainte farm.

The Outcome 

French Victory:   French 9  -  Anglo-Allies 4