Friday, July 10, 2015

Campaign Post Operations Report #1 - French Planning and Orders

In the build-up for the Campaign there were planning sessions for the French team, Mike in UK was nominally Bonaparte, James in Australia took on Ney and I in Canada did duty as MacDonald.

Here is the first notes I shared of my Campaign thoughts:


Looking to start action for the main game by Friday 15 February 2013.

I am requesting the location of the main supply depot (see below for
details) by no later than 11 February - I will have similar demands for the
other Allied armies) this will be used to give the Allied commanders an
'operating area' for the French Grande Armee, likewise there will be some
similar details coming back for you from the Allied commanders by the same
deadline (so news by the 12th).

Overall objective:

France: break up the working coalition of Russia, Prussia, Austria and
Sweden via destruction of field forces in central Europe, while maintaining
a sufficient force east of the Rhine.

     Personal for Bonaparte: eliminate Bernadotte (traitor to France and
now 'Crown Prince' in Sweden)

How to *break* coalition?

Sweden = eliminate a significant %age of their field force.
(how much?  I will not say just yet, suffice to say that 30% will not be
Capturing Bernadotte is a total Bonapartist coup!

Austria = win field battles early and often.  After at least 14 days the
coalition will start to trust Austria more ... early losses will hurt that
trust.  A big early loss may knock them out for some time or totally.
(again specific numbers I cannot say, but a triple 50% loss in three
consecutive field battles will go a LONG WAY to making the coalition
mistrust Austria)

Prussia = occupy Berlin, for as long as possible.  The nationalist
sentiments will not long permit the capitol to be so occupied without

Russia = get them to mistrust the others by messing with the coalition.
 If Austria cannot meet its obligations then supply will be upset and
Russia will have to fall back.  If Prussia is preoccupied relieving Berlin
then Russia will have to help them and may abandon the Austrians to do so.
 If Sweden proves to be untrustworthy then the supplies from the east and
replacement troops will be diverted to cover the north flank of Silesia and
west Posen, this may make it impossible to keep Army of Silesia or Bohemia
supplied or force them to spread out too thin.

*Sufficient force* east of the Rhine?
(it will be a comparison to the remaining Allied forces, keep losses down
and you will stay in the same 'ratio' - if losses mount to fast you will
know about it soon enough)
Davout must maintain the Rhine bridgehead at Hamburg, if the Allies can
cross the Rhine then what is going on to the east of the river will be
Davout's forces are available and could take some actions to support Army
of Berlin (under Oudinot & historically Ney), however if the Allies cross
the Rhine at Hamburg or can bring the fortress under siege, then unless
France is doing well to the east the supply lines will have to shift to
support Hamburg and strategic consumption will restrict actions of the
Grande Armee to 14 days.

SUPPLY WILL BE THE FRENCH CHALLENGE (mostly hidden to the Allies)

Specifically you will have to 'trace' a supply line from the west edge of
the map (one of the half blue, half white circles) to your chosen supply
depot.  You may go with Dresden (as Bonaparte did) or any other location on
the map in the French deployment zone - it does not need to be a
fortification, though it must be on a MAJOR road (with 8 division movement).

Here are your limitations: once you choose your supply depot you may not
move it without a full five (5) day advance notice *AND* you will not be
able to move ANY TROOPS AT ALL along the route chosen to move your supply
depot, it moves at artillery speed and covers 3 full hexes of road (yes a
train 18 miles long).

Supply is part of the headache here for France, these young troops do not
do well when they get hungry - the Guard will do alright - the new ones ...
not so well.

Troops within 5 hexes of the supply depot are ALWAYS in supply (no matter
about the enemy movement unless totally surrounded), outside of that range
troops are only 'in supply' if ON or in the hex NEXT to any road.  If
deployed 'with friendly troops' that are next to the road, then the supply
line counts and extends along the continuous line of troops.  Therefore do
not send troops out off-road very far as they will either automatically
fall-back into supply (slowing or halting movement) or may be degraded in
combat effectiveness (at least the same as a 'spent' condition).

Troops outside of the 5 hexes from supply depot are also vulnerable to
becoming isolated from supply, any enemy cavalry is counted as having a ZoC
(Zone of Control) for supply purposes of 1 hex around it. So only three
cavalry units may cut off a full hex of troops if they can get all around
it.  Once cut off the troops will have two days of
supply/rations/ammunition to break out - or they will become degraded
suffering further penalty until supply is restored.

ONLY GUARD has exception to this, if the guard cavalry are present, then
the ZoC is cancelled (so it takes 6 units to surround them - or at least 3
to cut supply (unless it can be traced on other nearby roads).  Also the
Guard units may operate for up to 5 days without supply (thus moving well
off-road if so desired) without penalty.  After 5 days the 'degrade'
factors will come into play, though they will also be enacted more slowly.

For your forces mixture.
Please use the troops as listed on:

Your special unit THE IMPERIAL GUARD, may be marched as a single "Corps"
of [5] division strength.  Yes I know that they are more men and more
powerful, they are also veterans and well trained to do things better than
just about any other force in the campaign.  This comes at a price.  NO
present (in command range), this means that the Guard units count as
'using' the road move unless countermanded by Bonaparte in command range.
 The GUARD will take precedence over all other forces, only the Emperor
could countermand this.

Other Guard functions are the ability to 'split' into divisions/corps
under separate commanders - I am still working out all the specifics for
this suffice to say that you could break the Guard into as many as 8
division sized 'pieces' if so desired.

Bonaparte:  (3 hex range unless 'in command of of troops in contact to
enemy, then only 2 hex range)  To keep the 'wide range' Bonaparte must
stand off from contact with the enemy - the battlefield action takes up too
much of his time and the wider range gets cut off due to his need to focus
more locally.

WING Commanders: functioning as we did in the play test

(any other suggestions for WING?)

5 ADC's: functioning as we did in the play test, with the following to
choose from (I have named some on the board - you may choose differently &
attach other the other ADC's directly to forces - if ADC is 'taken out' in
combat then an 'alternate' from the list will be available to take his
place - the French just had that level of depth in their command structure)

Général de division Duke of Plaisance Lebrun
Général de division Count de Lobau
Général de division Count Hogendorp
Colonel of Engineers Barnard
Général de division Count Gueheneuc
Général de division Baron Corbineau
Général de division Flahault
Général de division Baron Dejean
Général de division Baron Drouot

to be deployed at your discretion
(any other ADC suggestions?)

Finally the 'messengers' - I have still not come to any final decision
about numbers of these ... there are just so many variables.
The 'go with it' Idea I have so far is:  1 'messenger' per 'hex' of
distance in command.  So Bonaparte gets 3, WINGs get 2 and the ADC's have 1

(any suggestions?)

I am still working out the response/rating for Division commanders in
'solo' situations - what they will do when confronted with enemy going in
the way of their 'orders'.  (I plan to have that put onto the blog for all
to see)

Other than the Guard 'splitting up' I would prefer if you kept all other
formations together (or within a hex of each other, like you did at the
start of the play test Mike) - though you may 'deploy' as you wish - save
for Davout.  His force must be in Hamburg or deploy area in the north,
lower Rhine.

I shall attach a map with the 'pieces' for your force just lined up, you
may deploy as you please.


A later follow-up email spoke of more detailed thinking:

The usual challenges are present here.

1 - the strategy of Central position is key - if the French are pushed out from the center they are beat.  If the three allied armies can converge the French are beat.  If the Army of Silesia and Bohemia can converge it may be impossible to defeat them combined.

2 - The geographic weaknesses of the Allies are:
 i) BERLIN - the Prussian capitol is vital to their continuing in the coalition.
 ii) river crossings - Allied armies are larger and more cumbersome, if they can be coaxed into crossing partly then they can be cut apart and defeated in detail.
 iii) Bohemian mountains - these delay the Austrian moves and make their exit points easy to concentrate against.

Geographic strengths (at start) for French:
 i) the Bohemian passes are nominally under French control to start.  So long as that can be exploited then the advantage of mobility and time remains with the French.

3 - The Austrians cannot accept battle on anything other than terms favorable to them ... therefore we do best by permitting them battle at first on good terms for them, with delay action after delay action.

4 - Blucher is headstrong and once his crazy Hussar tendencies are going it may be possible to lure him into battle after battle.  This is something that I always thought was a possibility for the French, to get Blucher to commit early into the campaign and hammer him HARD.  Possibly cutting his army apart, while pursuit is out of the question, it may be possible to get 1/2 or more of his army out of action in a few days of maneuver & battle.  With the Austrians held up then there exists this real potential.

5 - Sweden, almost a wild-card in all of this is how to overcome the Swedes.  Again the potential for luring out the Army of the North across the Spree and getting the Swedes either pinned down in battle or flanking them to access Berlin - either way if the Swedes advance there is benefit.  Would commitment of a couple of Divisions under Davout be all that it takes to really mess with the Army of the North and keep them stuck on the north side of the Spree?  A covering force could do the job of keeping them bottled up at least - perhaps enough time to get Blucher?

6 - OPPORTUNITY.  Something that the French army was also excellent at - especially with Bonaparte.  The problem here is that you are left 'waiting' to see what the Allies are going to do before deciding to hit them.  The advantage is in having at least somewhat capable sub-commanders here that could hold their own for a day or two while the main body and Guard arrive to get in the killing blow.

For my own part I have always thought that Dresden magazine was the Achilles heel of the overall strategy.  Torgeau or Wittenberg work just as well for the French purposes, both are also Fortresses, both are on main roads in the campaign action area.  The only weakness is that they are on the more northerly flank and that may make them susceptible to attack from Army of the North.

In the end the general strategy of 'masking' Bohemia and North and having a major force ready to act against Blucher in Silesia is really the best overall.  If the forces for Blucher could manage to get him to commit then into battle between the Bobr and the Oder, possibly with a strategic flank maneuver?

The problem comes if the Austrians seize on the potential to strike out north via Librec and attempt to link the Bohemia-Silesia armies.

So to counter this the Opportunity plan comes into action, be deployed more east of Dresden, so that Blucher takes the bait and if the Austrians are sleepy then a major victory could be won.

Strategic reserves is the critical choice, IV Cav Corps and VII Corps are my first thoughts for 'hold backs' as something of a Strategic Reserve possibly near Torgau - with an ADC to move them quickly should the need arise.

Two Corps could be strong enough in the north to mask the Berlin sector, three Corps are going to be needed in the south to cover the passes out from Bohemia, that leaves the rest as hit and counter-punch (or opportunity) forces for Blucher.


Odd strategy.

The French could also go totally asymmetrical, take Wittenburg as the supply base, concentrate against Bernadotte and hammer into Berlin - break the coalition by force of arms.  Do delay actions only for as long as possible against Silesia and Bohemia.  Leave them champing at the bit as it were and fend them off at each zone that can be delayed.  This means holding the Bobr line for as long as possible and the Bohemian mountain passes - possibly two weeks?  In that time Berlin is secured and a new 'central position' is prepared - as Blucher will have to move north along the Bobr to reach help into Berlin, so the two armies of Bohemia and Silesia could still be kept apart.


That is the bulk of my thoughts.

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