Last Battles of Napoleon - Ligny Replay

Last Battles of Napoleon - Ligny Replay

This is a solo replay of the NLB Ligny scenario, using the latest version of my variant rules, this time with the new optional disruption effects similar to the NES Dresden game and the all new optional artillery support rules.

In this game, I did something different than in the earlier replay. I decided to immediately give Gerard's IV Corps attack orders and see what would happen. (Unlike Napoleon, the French player knows d'Erlon is not going to be around to outflank the Prussians so there is need for haste.) I roll an 11 for the command dieroll, which means IV Corps is going to move this turn already.

The battle begins at 14:00 with Vandamme's attacks against St Amand. The attack against the east end of St Amand goes in smoothly and the Prussians are thrown back without much effort. At the western end, Lagarde's brigade suffers some heavy losses in the initial assault, but the 1st WL is evicted after stiff resistance in which they themselves suffered casualties. In the center, Gerard immediately moves to the attack. Rome's brigade, supported by Baltus' corps artillery, is repulsed in its attempt to get into the western half of Ligny, but Hulot's brigade defeats the 1st Elbe Landwehr and pushes into the SE part of the town. It is almost immediately pushed out again by a counterattack of the 9th and 21st Line.

The battle has now been running for an hour. (In the command phase, Napoleon decides the situation in the center looks promising and ordered the Guard towards Ligny, so they will be able to attack around 17:00.)

Status at turn end. The gray markers are the command markers that would normally only be used if playing without written orders. However, I wanted to see how they look on the map and they are also helpful as reminders when playing a game solo over multiple days (at the time I only had about 20 minutes a day available for play, which is barely enough for a turn when taking notes).

At 15:00, Ziethen attempts a major counterattack against St Amand, with four regiments standing ready. Howevre, Billiard's brigade, supported by Dogereau's III Corps artillery, repulses the attacks. As the Prussians briefly reel back in confusion, Billiard sends his troops in a counterattack across the brook. The brigade crashes into the 3 WL regiment, removing it from the battle, while also disrupting the 29th line regiment. However, the fire of the 29th causes heavy losses to the brigade, it falls back and is itself disrupted, taking refuge behind Dogereau's guns. While Ziethen is thus kept busy in the south, further north, Vandamme has been pushing from St Amand in the direction of St Amand de la Haye. Wagnelee is taken almost with no resistance. Vandamme's major attack, with four more brigades of III Corps, sends the 4 WL regiment running to the rear and the 19th Line is forced to give ground. [21→16(8;3):7(7;1)R]

(This is where I started keeping notes of the combat outcomes. Note that combat involves each side firing at the other to cause losses, thus there are two separate dierolls, plus possibly a morale test if one side decides to make a stand (which is rare). Gray is the Prussian fire resolution, blue that of the French. The way to read the combat description [AS→T(D;H):DS(D;H)] is a French stack attacking a Prussian one where:
AS...attacker strength (if there's a small superscript, that's the artillery support strength, if the superscript is bold, the support resulted in disruption)
DS...defender strength
→T...strength after terrain/disruption modifiers (only if any apply)
H...hits scored on the other side
'R' means that side retreated. Note: retreats normally halve the hits applied.)

In the center, Gerard scrabbles to gain a larger foothold in Ligny before Pirch I can reinforce it, but a renewed attack by Rome (with IV Corps artillery in support) is repulsed by the 26th Line. [10→8(7;1):4(8;1)]

Gerard's larger attack is the one against the SE part of Ligny and it forces the 9th Line to retreat across the brook with heavy losses. [16→12(7;2):4(6;0)R] Desprez' and Schoeffer's brigade are now ensconced in the SE part of Ligny.

Ziethen immediately reacts with another massive counterattack, supported by Rohl's artillery, and Schoeffer's brigade is virtually ground down to nothing in the heavy street fighting, but Desprez' men cling on grimly. [277→15(6;2):8→4(6;0)] They are rallied by Gerard while the Prussians regroup for a renewed assault. (End of turn phase :-)

It is now 16:00, and Pirch renews the counterattack in Ligny, including an "almost flank attack by the 3rd Elbe LW which has crossed the brook in the woods to attack the town from the east. However, incredibly, the French resist, fighting savagely, and eventually the Prussians break and retreat in confusion! [277→15(3;0)R:4(12;3)] (This was an involuntary retreat that does not reduce losses, and it left the Prussian artillery exposed on the other side of the stream because it can't follow an involuntary retreat.) The 3rd Elbe LW retreats eastwards away from the town and for the moment remains in the open south of the Ligny brook.

While all this is going on, the battle in the west continues. Vandamme keeps pushing towards Brye from three directions, although the intensity of the fight seems to be dying down a little. The eastern attack sees little activity, the center one gains ground, the northernmost one is repulsed with losses. [10(4;0):7(4;0)] [11(9;3):4(7;1)R] [10→5(6;0)R:8(9;2)] In the south, the battle has long moved out of St. Amand onto the slope beyond and has reached Lehmann's massive artillery position that guards the link between Ziethen's and Pirch's troops. From there Ziethen lunges out with a counterattack that sees both sides disrupted by artillery fire and forces the French to retreat. [209(5;2):105(5;1)R]

Gerard can finally exploit the Prussian confusion in Ligny, occupies the southwest part of the town, and pushes north. [22→17(9;4):6→3(6;0)R] The 5 WL is eliminated, which again exposes Rohl's artillery in the center. Now everything depends on whether Ziethen will be able to move his reserves in in time.

The Guard starts to form up for its attack a mile south of Ligny. Situation at the end of the turn..

At 17:00, Napoleon sends attack orders to Exelmans' IIC Corps in the east (He will only get the order next turn; might be a bit late.) He also gets a Coordinated Attack chit, the first in the game and at the right moment. And the chit is pulled first!

The Imperial Guard swarms past IV Corps on both sides. (Situation before the attack). Gerard's troops overrun Rohl's battery in the center (the last ditch defense fire is 7→4(5;0), without a hit there's no chance to cause the attackers to recoil). Rome and Toussaint's brigades, supported by Gerard's artillery, attack the III corps reserves behind Ligny across the brook in the west. [14→8(3;0):4(4;0)] The Guard W of Ligny launches an extremely bloody assault across the stream, supported by most of the Guard artillery against II Corps' flank guard and horse artillery that eliminates the 7th line and forces the horse artillery to retreat, but at a high cost to the attackers as a Guard brigade is now hors de combat. [1710→13(9;3):73(11;3)R]

East of Ligny, the Young Guard catches the 23rd Line out in the open and forces it to retire into the woods north of the stream. [96(6;1):2→1(6;0)R] Situation after the attacks.

On his flank, Ziethen falls back to a more defensible line, but in the center he launches a counterattack against Toussaint, supported by Lehmann's artillery. Toussaint suffers heavy losses and is pushed back across the stream. [13→97(9;2):4(9;1)]

Vandamme, with only four undamaged infantry brigades, decides not to run a risk and only attack once, against St Amand de la Haye, and the Prussians are thrown back, with losses to the 28th Line. [16→8(8;2):9(6;1)R]

Pirch I decides on a last, desperate counterattack to throw Gerard back on the southern side of the brook before the Guard swarms around Ligny and makes things hopeless. Both sides are getting tired, but the Prussians get the better of it. However, Gerard decides to make a stand (especially since they have no retreat route open). The French put up desperate resistance, but in vain! They fail the morale check and have to retreat, losing another step. Desprez makes it back to the southern side for the second time, but Capitaine's brigade does not. This means that IV Corps is demoralized. [193→14(5;1):8(3;0)R]Situation at end of turn.

Prussian demoralization: I Corps 17/20, II Corps 11/20, total 28/40/60.
French demoralization: IV Corps 13/12, Guard 7/20, total losses 20/35

At 18:00, Exelmans receives his new orders and manages to correctly decipher Soult's scrawl, swinging into action without delay. (Column 6, DR 8, means instant compliance.)

Gerard does not give up yet, he sends another desperate attack into the northern half of Ligny. In the east not much happens [6→3(3;0):7(4;0)], but in the west, quite a desperate fight breaks out occurs. Both sides decide to make a stand, but the Prussians have to retreat on a DR 3 with morale 2 (reduced for artillery fire and step loss). [105→5(7;1):4→2(9;1)R] That means Lehmann's artillery now has no good retreat route since the 26th Line has retreated behind it, and also Rome's (albeit damaged) brigade exerts a ZOC. However, Rome cannot advance across the brook since he'd leave the corps artillery unprotected on the opposite side of Pirch's Prussians that still hold the northern side of the river.

Ziethen decides to withdraw Lehmann, so that his line is now a mere kilometer from Bluecher's HQ at Brye, and Pirch removes the weakened and disrupted 26th Line to the rear. That Rome did not advance and the Guard has not moved gives him yet again the chance to reoccupy the northwestern part of Ligny.

Vandamme decides the time has come to face the artillery. A diversionary attack goes in in the west and if it worked, would enable the French to fire at the artillery's retreat path, but it fails anyway. [6→3(3;0):5→3(6;0)] The main attack [215→16(9;4):149(6;2)] eliminates the 12th Line and leaves everybody disrupted, but Vandamme decides to advance nonetheless. The 12th Line does manage to cover the artillery's retreat.

Ironically, Gerard's continued presence in Ligny means that the Guard cannot come to grips with the Prussians on the west side of town, but it attacks into the woods on the eastern side. The Prussians fall back; although the Young Guard is now in a dangerously exposed position, it has reached the outskirts of Sombreffe. [116→6(8;1):5→2(10;1)R] [8→6(8;1):53(7;1)R]

Now Thielemann's III Corps counterattacks, but to little effect. [156→11(4;0):5(3;0)] Situation at end of turn.

Prussian demoralization: I Corps 22/20, II Corps 11/20, total 33/40/60.
French demoralization: IV Corps 13/12, Guard 7/20, total losses 20/35

Bluecher better move his HQ now...

It is 19:00. Bluecher seems to have heard since he orders his HQ to move to Tilly. He will stay behind and retreat with the troops. Napoleon briefly considers an attack order to Pajol's IC Corps but they will not be able to achieve anything before darkness.

The turn begins with a final burst of Prussian activity. Pirch I decides against the risk of a counterattack in Ligny and instead sends two brigades against the Young Guard in the woods east of Ligny, but is repulsed. [8→4(3;0)R:5→3(9;1)] Ziethen counterattacks Vandamme's approaching troops, and manages to eliminate Dupyroux's brigade (it has to retreat into a ZOC which costs its second step). [17→15(7;2):11→9(7;1)R] Finally, Thielmann tries a concentrated attack on the Young Guard column west of Sombreffe and forces it, disrupted, to withdraw into the woods to the protection of the other brigade that just repulsed Pirch's troops, Thielmann's massed artillery making the difference. [156→12(7;2):5(11;2→1)R] (This was a funny situation where all the Prussian chits came out in sequence.)

Now it is the turn of the French. IV Corps remnants, still holding on to the south of Ligny, exhaust themselves in a last, useless attack that costs Toussaint's brigade. Western half of Ligny: [85→4(6;0)R:8(6;1)] Eastern half of Ligny: [6→3(8;0)R:73(11;3)]. But the Prussian respite is short as Exelman's cavalry launch two attacks on I and III Corps troops in the west of Sombreffe. The Landwehr brigade in Sombreffe takes losses but is not budged. [4→3(9;1):2(8;0)] [2(3;0):2(4;0)]

Meanwhile, the Guard can finally get fully into the fray after Gerard's troops are out of the way. The Grenadiers manage to bring their artillery across the stream to attack the northwest part of Ligny, and summarily eject the defenders, eliminating the 25th Line. [196→14(8;3):8(6;1)R] In the northeastern part, the remaining Chasseurs, supported by Guyot's cavalry and the horse artillery, win the artillery duel, walk over the 21st Line and force the I Corps horse artillery to retreat. [196→14(10;4):73(7;1)R] The French finally and irreversibly take control of the town, dropping the Prussian demoralization limit to 34.

In the west Vandamme has reopened the offensive. Although by now he also has only a few undamaged brigades left, he still has a lot of damaged ones that are keeping up with the battle and he feels this is the moment to bring them into the fray. A major assault against the foremost position of II Corps sees heavy losses on both sides, but both sides stand their ground (the area is so congested that no one could safely retreat). [225→14(8;2):73(7;1)] The 29 line is eliminated although the defending hex is still held by the II Corps horse artillery, and on the French side the Corsin brigade is lost. A minor repulse is achieved in a fight in the woods along the stream southwest of Brye that sees both sides utilizing their cavalry because they are running low on infantry. [6→3(9;1)R:5→3(4;0)] (It turns out that perhaps adding the damaged brigades was not such a good idea since the French now are within 1 strength point of the loss limit that will preclude a win. It will be interesting to see if it's possible to limit the French to attacks that do not result in any losses.) Situation at end of turn (Closeup).

The French have failed to reach Brye on this turn, so as the final move of the turn (and as the concession of the approaching defeat), Bluecher's HQ gets going on the route to Tilly.

Prussian demoralization: I Corps 26/20, II Corps 25/20, total 51/34/54.
French demoralization: III Corps 10/14, IV Corps 17/12, Guard 7/20, total losses 34/35

It is 20:00 and there is about an hour of fighting time left. Gerard finally decides (4 on the confidence check) that his corps has had enough and pulls its wreckage out of the battle. He has 2 damaged brigades, the artillery and cavalry left. However, what is more important is that Pirch's demoralized I Corps also retreats out of the battle (he rolled a 6 on the confidence check), finally opening a huge gap in the center that its tenacious defense of Ligny has so long denied the French. Amazingly, some Prussian units still have managed to rally from disruption despite the accumulated weight of the modifiers against them (for disruption and demoralization). And Bluecher gets a Coordinated Action chit. It does not make a difference though.

The Prussians choose to fall back with I and II Corps, and hope that a counterattack by III Corps against the weakened Young Guard unit in the woods SW of Sombreffe will by a miracle produce the additional loss point for the French. It does not happen. The French nip at the retreating Prussians' heels in four places, but no losses occur on either side. Final situation.

I then played the turn again, sacrificing two stacks of II Corps units to attack one-step French units, but they both failed (the strength 13→9 attack rolled a 4, and the other attack failed to get the 10 it needed on the dieroll). The French counterattack (strength 18 vs 13) brought a roll of 6 (2 hits) on the French side, sufficient to eliminate the 6th Line and bring the Prussians to 55 if the French and Prussians did not retreat, while the Prussians rolled a 9 (3 hits) that would have eliminated Billiard's attacking brigade first. However, as the non-phasing player is assumed to be demoralized first, the Prussians (with 55) would still have lost against the French (with 39 losses). Situation before the French counterattack.

Overall, going in with the earlier attack was still not a rousing success, presumably mostly because of the tough Prussian resistance in Ligny, and several situations where the French were so bunched up that they could not retreat and had to take a loss. Attacking early is fine, but the French have the strength to do it anyway. Careful selection of the attacks is the key.

Both sides had 10 uncounted strength losses "hidden" in flipped units.