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"Rules concept: the cavalry phase" Topic


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©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

malcolmmccallum25 Jun 2018 3:13 p.m. PST

Reading through descriptions of various battles, there is a sense that most tabletop rules do not create the real way that cavalry was used in the Napoleonic wars. Generally, it sits back and waits, and then when it goes, it goes for both sides and everything else seems to stand still. I find no examples, for instance, of infantry hitting squares, for example. My current thinking is about trying to make Black Powder more playable, but I am interested in thoughts on the general concept of the cavalry phase.

I want to say that cavalry is not allowed to charge under ordinary circumstances, and cannot even get very close to enemy forces. At any point, at the end of a turn, either side may declare a 'cavalry phase'. During the cavalry phase, the side that declared it can charge with or move any cavalry and then the opposing side can charge with any cavalry (no other moves), both sides get to fire against cavalry, and all cavalry fights are fought until the cavalry is all thrown/bounced back. Also, no cavalry can involve themselves in a fight that infantry are already involved in.

Then we return to infantry and artillery going about the business of fighting. Combined arms seems alien to the Napoleonic battlefield.

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP25 Jun 2018 4:41 p.m. PST

That's an interesting concept.

Jim

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Jun 2018 5:38 p.m. PST

Next thing you'll be wanting players to keep reserves, stay static when ordered to do so, and not letting batteries limber up at the drop of a hat….

John Leahy25 Jun 2018 5:43 p.m. PST

Sorta how Napoleon's Battles worked.

Mike the Analyst25 Jun 2018 7:45 p.m. PST

I use a first phase for cavalry followed by a regular move phase for infantry, artillery and cavalry again. If cav move in both phases they become fatigued.
This way cavalry can disrupt or pursue before the infantry get to move.
Cavalry combat is resolved during movement. Still work in progress

S

Garth in the Park26 Jun 2018 1:55 a.m. PST

Sorta how Napoleon's Battles worked.

No, I think he means the opposite. In NB infantry and cavalry could move together seamlessly and always deliver those perfectly-coordinated and unstoppable 2-1 attacks against enemy infantry who then got the "Minus one zillion" combat penalty for facing both unit types simultaneously.

I think what Malcolm is suggesting is more those old SPI boardgames like Wellington's Victory and Ney vs. Wellington, in which cavalry had its own Cav-only phase, which prevented that sort of coordination. I found those games fun, but any time you add phases to the sequence, you're seriously lengthening the game. Even just an additional five minutes to a turn, when you play 12 turns, is another hour of playing time.

Porthos26 Jun 2018 2:06 a.m. PST

Cavalry has a special tactical task. The lights reconnoitre and hunt down defeated enemy forces after the battle, the heavies ride down infantry in line or force them into squares. Those squares then are blasted away with upcoming (horse) artillery.
"cavalry is not allowed to charge" – Wellington for instance would have loved that, but unfortunately the bloody fools didn't listen ! British cavalry notoriously charged and after that were lost for the battle.

marshalGreg26 Jun 2018 5:00 a.m. PST

If you have rules that have fresh infantry putting a hurt on the cavalry, until infantry get worn which changes this reality, then that would help.
Cavalry is blown after a charge and becomes unless for some time of play, that would help.
Tactical to grand tactical level rules I know that has anything close to these realities is Empire, Carnage and Glory, Napoleon's Command( IIRC), ESR and R&E.
Unfortune thing on the "easy to use" Rules, that most put under "Beer and Prezel", is they do not address many realities of the period and focus on just fighting mechanism.
Black powder period was about the fight but more so on controlling your resources(which falls to the fatigue of your forces and reserves and minimal use of force). Good written rule rewards a commander who does so.

marshalGreg26 Jun 2018 5:04 a.m. PST

A situation where infantry assisted in the destruction of the squares and a reality as to your one inquiry in your post:
link
Scroll through this battle down to Oudinout's Infantry attacks.

David Brown26 Jun 2018 7:49 a.m. PST

MGreg,

Good blog, but is Wertingen more a situation where all three arms fought combined to bring about the defeat of the enemy, rather than all three arms fought together at the same time.

I'm more inclined to agree with the OP, it's very rare indeed, (if at all), where infantry and cavalry work in close coordination, but rather cavalry and artillery can work together, then perhaps followed up by an infantry attack, (or vice versa).

Is the fabled three combined arms more to do with wargamers mythology than historical fact…just suggesting wink

DB

Garth in the Park26 Jun 2018 8:32 a.m. PST

Is the fabled three combined arms more to do with wargamers mythology than historical fact…just suggesting

It all depends upon what the game's "turn" or "phase" is supposed to represent, right? If a single turn or move, or whatever, is only a few minutes, then there's probably no way to coordinate them.

But if a turn is half an hour or longer, or if a turn is a variable or unpredictable amount of time, then anything's possible. What the war-game represents as "two units attacking simultaneously" could really be: "two units attacked, one after the other, separated by half an hour."

David Brown26 Jun 2018 8:36 a.m. PST

Garth,

Yep I get that – you're right.

I was referring more to the game turn that represents about 10 to 20 minutes rather than say when a turns an hour or so. In those more Grand-Tactical simulations it's certainly more feasible.

DB

Aethelflaeda was framed26 Jun 2018 3:49 p.m. PST

In my rules, cav and infantry may not ever contact the same enemy unit as part of an attack. Period. I am having enough difficulty with players wanting to crash into a single battalion a line with three adjacent columns and not leaving room to deploy!

Bandolier26 Jun 2018 7:42 p.m. PST

I used to play in a group that used an end-of-turn charge phase in home-brew rules. This came about to allow cavalry to be used as more of an opportunistic/exploitative threat to attack units that were exposed during the turn.

marshalGreg27 Jun 2018 5:09 a.m. PST

@ David B
I agree 100% and perhaps did not word my reply quite right.

The point was the impact of the infantry coming at the squares forced upon by the presence of the cavalry and the result it produced, even without an actual melee…. that those in the square know they are doomed, in the face of such a situation fled/pulled out.
But yes I agree fully that infantry and cavalry hitting a unit, in short order, was not the case in reality and good rules should reflect that fact! It is a infantry attack or a cavalry and the mechanism in the sequence addresses that or it is a rule in the attack of one or the other but cannot be both. Consensus seems here to be so

malcolmmccallum27 Jun 2018 3:53 p.m. PST

marshalGreg,

A good example of both sides of the argument, really. Yes, as soon as the French tried to combined arms, the battle was won, but it is also true that the arms never did combine and even when they tried doing it, infantry did not get into contact with squares and infantry and cavalry did not actually attack at the same time. They only maneuvered to set up attacks.

I Drink Your Milkshake27 Jun 2018 5:15 p.m. PST

Read a French officer account in 1813 where a line of infantry advanced on their mass(column/square) and fired and advanced and fired again upon them. Meanwhile a regiment of Prussian cavalry cooly advanced to within 50 yards just waiting as the infantry pummeled their formation. Eventually the pressure was too much and the French broke, and the cavalry charged in and completed the slaughter. So basically, the cavalry pinned the French and the line infantry pummeled them with musketry until the position was untenable. Combined arms did happen.

Aethelflaeda was framed27 Jun 2018 6:18 p.m. PST

Milkshake has it right. Semantics remains the problem, regarding time and yhe definition of what combined arms is in terms of the rules. A cav squadron and infantry bn charging into a single unit tat nearly the same time together did not happen, although close approaches may well have occurred. I am not sure what might occur at a troop/wing level, but I suspect that the cavalry would not want to risk friendly fire by getting to close…it has done it's job just by threatening.

My rules give Milkshake's account the possibility of being recreated: the cav forces the enemy battalion into square or it will charge, the infantry takes advantage of the dense targetof the square and fires at close range, neither of which will the infantry being threatened care to see---but they will probably fear the cavalry more then that line of approaching infantry initially and have to remain in square. If they don't, the cav will charge them.

This is basically the same situation as artillery doing the firing from a bit further away…what the assisting infantry probably would not do is charge the square in any case, but just continue to pound away by its superior musketry.

evilgong27 Jun 2018 7:03 p.m. PST

As others have mentioned, examples of foot and cav attacking the same enemy at the same (or near enough) time are rare.

IIRC one example had a mounted unit and foot charge different faces of a square – people with better memories will know the detail – and it's a sample size of 1.

For the OP, if your rules have an interleaved sequence of play, ie player-A moves, then player-b moves, player-A shoots then B etc you can try a system that appeared IIRC in the old 7th-Ed Ancients and similar rules.

The phasing player could move first with his mounted or ask the other guy to move his foot first – which gave cavalry the advantage of when and where to charge foot – when charging is a separate and additional move in the sequence.

DB

Aethelflaeda was framed29 Jun 2018 6:56 a.m. PST

evilgong,

That little anecdote (which I haven't seen) must have occurred with at best a troop or two of cavalry certainly not much more than a single squadron engaged and a just as small force of infantry. It might well be classified as skirmishing.

The small frontage of the square would make anything else quite impossible, unless the whole thing turned into a unformed and disordered melee on a broken square.

I Drink Your Milkshake01 Jul 2018 2:41 p.m. PST

I believe it was a quote in a ruleset, but from a french officer in 1813? But anyhow i took it as a battalion vs a battalion as the Prussians were in line. The officer stated his formation as "mass". I dont remember how much cavalry, but i dont think "skirmishing" is a fair assessment. Would love it if somebody could find the quote.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP01 Jul 2018 3:40 p.m. PST

I find no examples, for instance, of infantry hitting squares, for example.

It happened. For instance, the book on Russian Tactics by Alexander Zhmodikov has some examples.

I want to say that cavalry is not allowed to charge under ordinary circumstances, and cannot even get very close to enemy forces. At any point, at the end of a turn, either side may declare a 'cavalry phase'.

I think this misses some critical aspects of cavalry: The threat. Depending on what you call 'ordinary circumstances' and 'very close to enemy forces', you make infantry and artillery movement very safe during the turn…knowing that cavalry isn't going to do a thing until the end of the turn.

During the cavalry phase, the side that declared it can charge with or move any cavalry and then the opposing side can charge with any cavalry (no other moves), both sides get to fire against cavalry, and all cavalry fights are fought until the cavalry is all thrown/bounced back. Also, no cavalry can involve themselves in a fight that infantry are already involved in.

The issue of timing for cavalry is critical…WHEN they charged made all the difference. Surprise was also a critical factor for cavalry success… One advantage on the battlefield was speed. Again, having the cavalry able to charge at the end of a turn misses a lot. It is sort of like only allowing the infantry or artillery to fire at the start of the turn…no matter what else happens during the turn…

Just my 2 cents.

Darken92 Inactive Member01 Jul 2018 6:53 p.m. PST

It seems to me the issue is not that an infantry square was hit by an infantry unit, or that a combined arms attack occurred. The issue is how often did this happen. As incredibly powerful as it is in most rules, why was it not used as often as players use it (read every time they can).

An occurrence that is very rare, so rare you have to specially search for it, find it only on occasion. Should not be a standard game occurrence, or in same games the standard by which you play.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP02 Jul 2018 8:07 a.m. PST

It seems to me the issue is not that an infantry square was hit by an infantry unit, or that a combined arms attack occurred. The issue is how often did this happen.

Darken92

Perhaps. That is a statistical question: How often? Of course, that would require you to search for such events and then compare how often 'other' events occurred….

Another issue is what you define as a 'square'. Does size count? Moving or stationary?

An occurrence that is very rare, so rare you have to specially search for it, find it only on occasion. Should not be a standard game occurrence, or in same games the standard by which you play.

Well, to use an example from football. If a kickoff run-back for a touchdown is a rare occurrence, [however 'rare' is defined], should that possibility be ignored in a football game design? What would make it a 'standard game occurrence?'

Marcus Brutus02 Jul 2018 8:59 a.m. PST

In football game design one would definitely want to include the kick-off run-back. Problem is that a lot of Napoleonic games allow a kind of combined arms that makes the "run-back" occur far too often. We played Napoleon's Battles until we broke the game with combined arms. One club who played NB actually separated cavalry movement from infantry movement in an attempt to make combined arms more difficult. We never adopted that approach but maybe we should have.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP02 Jul 2018 9:56 a.m. PST

Marcus:

Well, it is still an issue of 'how often' it should occur. How often did it occur and how much of that is simply a battle event and how much is the skill of the command/Tactics?

If someone has played the game until they know how to repeatedly create combined arms attacks, is that a problem with the game system or the level of skill of the players?

What makes combined arms attacks so 'difficult' that they don't occur 'that often?' I kinda feel we are counting the angels on the head of a pin here.

David Brown02 Jul 2018 10:19 a.m. PST

B,

Re:

What makes combined arms attacks so 'difficult' that they don't occur 'that often?'

To address that directly I feel it's simply a matter of communication.

Wargamers have no problem communicating with their combined arms; they simply grab the constituent combatants and place them where they wish them to go i.e. attacking the unfortunate square.

In reality, how would an infantry brigadier communicate with the cavalry commander what his intentions were, and more importantly the timing of his attack? (More often than not they were in different brigades, or even in different divisions but no such problems for the wargamer, where the lines of command rarely exist!)

Just as importantly, how would the cavalry commander communicate with the artillery battery so they don't fire as the cavalry are moving forward?

That's why each arm operated independently, the other arms might "support" and as you say present a threat, but that's about it. They wait until one arm has completed its attack and then they might attack themselves.

That's why the "wargame" use of low level tactical combined arms is common but in reality virtually non-existent, IMHO.

DB

malcolmmccallum02 Jul 2018 11:22 a.m. PST

I think that the difficulty in combining arms in the way that it so easily happens on the tabletop (in many rule sets), is in the different ways that the arms use space. Cavalry on the tabletop charges into space with fractions of inches to spare on every side, but in reality, I suspect that a cavalry commander had to think about where they would need to maneouver if the attack failed. My sense is that infantry attacks could be forward and back, but cavalry regiments and brigades needed space.
Contrariwise, what most rule sets call assault is,more often than not, 'threats' to assault. The threat of assault by combined arms might be quite common.
I am still torn. I do know that rule sets (like NB and Black Powder) that make combined arms entirely perfect are broken in that respect.For NB, we created a house rule that if cavalry wishes to impact infantry not in square, it has to go in first. They cannot wait until infantry pins it.

Mike the Analyst02 Jul 2018 12:38 p.m. PST

Would you consider the charge of the Union brigade to be combined arms operation?

I also consider that cavalry should often operate in column to approach the area of combat only deploying into line at a late stage. This also allows the cavalry commander to launch an attack by squadrons in succession.

Cavalry in column of half squadron should be able to pass through infantry brigades and batteries of artillery, admittedly not at the gallop – see Waterloo letters and the unpublished ones by Glover describing the actions of Vivian's brigade late in the day.

malcolmmccallum02 Jul 2018 1:34 p.m. PST

The Union Brigade was combined arms, but not in the way that it is often reflected in games. French infantry attacked and British and Dutch-Belgian infantry defended until the cavalry attacked through them. There was no coordination between the two arms, and, in a tabletop sense, the infantry and the cavalry were not moving in the same phase.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP02 Jul 2018 1:48 p.m. PST

Yes. What constitutes 'combined arms'? If cavalry forces infantry to form square and horse artillery pound them… is that combined arms? That didn't happen very often?

Or infantry forcing infantry to remain in line to receive their attack and cavalry taking them in flank? Combined arms?

Infantry masking artillery batteries until the last moment?

Infantry facing cavalry so that they are not prepared to receive a cavalry charge from the flank.

Is Marchant's move through infantry at Salamanca to hit the French infantry combined arms?

How do folks know that combined arms didn't happen very often? How often is 'not very'?

Communication can certainly be one of the difficulties of combined arms coordination. Who would have a better chance at combined arms, the French with divisions of cavalry separate from the other two arms, or Allied brigades which had infantry and squadrons of cavalry attached?

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