Thursday, December 5, 2013

Square Combat

This is a little reenactment of an odd combat situation that reoccurred in the last Napoleon's Battles game.  I say reoccurred as it in a game back in June 2011.  I had posted to the Yahoo Group for advice and got a good response, but not a memorable response.  Both Richard and I had forgotten it.

On with the reenactment.

In the Prussian Maneuver Phase they advance their horse artillery into range of the French column and put their cavalry on react, the commander moving so he can keep both units in command.

The Prussian horse artillery kept out of the fire range of the French column, but failed to see the supporting French heavy battery.  The French fire first and double the dice roll of the Prussians and thereby put one hit and disorder the Prussian battery (the +2 fire modifier for French artillery can be deadly).  The disorder means the Prussian battery can't fire so that is the end of the Fire Phase.

In the French Maneuver Phase they send in their column to close assault the Prussian battery.  The French battery is careful to make sure it is not blocked by their infantry so it still has a target - if it gets another hit that is the end of the Prussian battery.  The French have committed their commander to the fight, troops in column need all the modifiers they can get in close combat.  As the Prussian battery is disordered it cannot evade.

The Prussian cavalry react and attach themselves to the battery in order to protect it.  The French column forms emergency square.  Using the second edition rules states "no formation change may be made if touching or within one inch of an unrouted and undisordered enemy combat unit (EXCEPTION: see 6.4.4)"  The exception is of course emergency squares.  It states that an attempt to form "square formation :must be made unless such an infantry unit is already touching or within one inch of an unrouted enemy infantry unit."  The change in the rules to limiting pinning units to only infantry was one of the major changes between the first and second editions.

The combat is marked.  The cavalry will be the modifying unit on the Prussian side.  However there is fire combat first.  Prussians fire first, but their battery is disordered and so it is over to the French.  The enemy battery does not block the French artillery fire which scores a double hit on the Prussian cavalry.  Ouch!  That disorders them, but they were already facing a losing combat against a square so it won't really effect that combat outcome.  The French square gets to to fire, unlike the artillery which has a plus two fire modifier, it has a minus one (would have been minus two if they had not formed square).  The dice are rolled and it beats the Prussian score by one, inflicting one more casualty.  This takes the cumulative casualties in the Fire phase to three which is the Prussian cavalry's rout number ... 

The Prussian cavalry rout leaving the battery to fight on alone.  The expected outcome was that the cavalry would have bounced out, taking one causality but only being disordered, not routed. The attached artillery unit would have remained attached and bounced out as well ( does not place any limitations if the attached unit is already disordered).  If the cavalry had been routed by combat the artillery unit would also have routed, but the rout was caused by fire.

The resulting combat was square versus battery.  In our game this was where our confusion arose - what factor does the square use?  The rules say to "use the current formation modifier".  We settled on "versus other", which gave a minus four modifier.  It got plus three for mass and plus one for the general.  The battery was at minus three for unlimbered and minus three for disordered.  A roll of four or higher by the French would eliminate the battery.  The Prussians would need an eight or better and the French rolling a one, two or a three too survive, noting that a tie would also eliminate the battery.

The Prussian cavalry could have tried to contact the French in such away as to keep clear of the French battery and the risk of getting serious damage.

Maybe units that are in contact should not be able to form emergency square.  It comes down to the interpretation of "or"  in 6.4.4.  From previous discussion on the Yahoo Group in June 2011 I didn't draw a consensus on the issue, but my feeling now is that being in contact with any type of enemy unit stops the unit form forming emergency square.  

Contact only occurs in one of two ways:
  • Either the unit goes into contact and will therefore be too busy doing its thing to have a chance of forming square (noting that any contact with a routed unit is a moving combat and doesn't trigger react; or
  • The unit has been contacted by the enemy and has therefore already had its chance to form emergency square if applicable.  Batteries, routed units, disordered units and wagons cannot initiate contact.

I am glad I have got that off my chest.


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