The first volleys of British musketfire has rolled across the field, and the first wave of French columns have crashed home! Time for Part Three of my 10mm Napoleonic Playtest!
As we saw in Part Two, three French brigades have attacked. The farthest from the combat, under Colonel Lafleur, has stormed into the woods in an attempt to attack the British center. The center column, the Guard under Colonel Ducot have stormed up the hill and down the road to attack the British lines waiting them. On the far flank, the French under their dashing Colonel Lerout have pressed on and down the hill, bringing their bayonets to the British!
The redcoats have faced some troubles. Their Allied Colonel, Kryzeski, delayed his advance over and over, despite his Division Commander insisting he bring his men up immediately. Colonel Sharpe, on the British left flank, has held valiently against the French attack, but in the center Colonel Smith has found his men overrun by both the Imperial Guard columns and under threat from the blue-coated infantrymen coming through the woods... could they possibly hold them all off!
The turn opened as all the brigade commanders moved their men as ordered. On the British side, Colonel Smith and Colonel Sharpe largely just ordered their men to continue the fight, either with the bayonet or with the musket. Colonel Kryzeski ran his men forward. The French did much the same, as they pressed towards the British, not stopping to fire in the hope that they could overwhelm the two British brigades before the Allied brigade could make it to the fight, thus leaving them facing a single enemy brigade from high ground!
The fight on the British left was vicious, as Colonel Sharpe had his men plunge in from all directions! The two French battalions (including the Converged Grenadier Battalion) were in trouble, with their two fellow battalions already either routed or unsteady and beaten far back. However, the French fought hard, and with some miraculous luck BOTH French battalions managed to hold off twice their number of flanking British and Scottish soldiers... thank goodness for Colonel Lerout and his absolute command of his men!
In the center the British were in danger of falling apart. The two leftmost battalions were routed by the Guard columns cresting the hill, while the two rightmost managed to hold the Guard back... in fact, the British column in the woods, personally commanded by Colonel Smith, managed to see off the massive, bearskinned attackers! The Guard battalion came flooding back out of the woods, momentary panic causing the veterans to cast down their muskets and packs, their officers screaming at them to stop. But despite this small victory Colonel Lafleur's unblooded brigade was marching through the woods, prepared to continue the attack on the British center!
The next turn saw the continued collapse of the French attack on the British left. Colonel Sharpe's men, including his two battalions of Scots, did not falter as the routed British from the center ran past them, and they pushed back the French in front of them. The French, many lying dead and wounded among the crushed grass and wheat, almost beaten, gathered for a final stand around Colonel Lerout...
The remnants of Colonel Smith's British brigade (half of which was fleeing through the wheat fields behind them, all willingness to fight gone) tried to hold the Old Guard back. The fight on the road was vicious, and one battalion of Guard actually broke and ran, but the second crashed into the British infantry, slaughtering many redcoats and sending them back, reeling... the only thing keeping them on the field was the arrival of Colonel Smith among them, who galloped over from the fight in the woods to urge his men to fight! The victorious British battalion in the woods turned and faced the advance battalions of Colonel Lafleur... they had held off a battalion of Guard, but now they had a fresh French brigade to deal with!
The turn also FINALLY saw the British Allied brigade rush up to the second of the two hills in the British center! One more turn and they could deploy on the hilltop, ready to meet the attacking French... could the British actually pull it off?!
Marshal Ney, Divisional Commander of the French, had seen half of his Guard rout, and his brigade under Colonel Lerout was near collapse... and yet, victory seemed within his grasp! As he urged a fleeing battalion of Guard to stop, to turn and fight, he saw Sir Picton on the hilltop beyond the British lines, urging his own men forward... who would win this savage clash!?
And then the French crested the hill in the center. The French columns rolled over the hilltop and into the Allied troops in front of them. One Allied battalion managed a volley, but the nervous men, shooting uphill, shot mostly high, and once again it was bayonet against bayonet all across the hilltop. Men beat each other over the heads with the butts of their weapons, stabbed each other with swords and bayonets, even kicked and bit and punched. Both sides knew that the fate of the battle was in their hands, and neither side gave an inch... although in the "Stand!" tests the rearmost ranks of a few of the Allied battalions began to edge backwards...
At the start of the next turn, on the British left, Colonel Lerout's men were just about done. While the British had taken casualties, and indeed a pair of battalions were near the breaking point, the French were losing. The British enveloped the Frenchmen, who stood back to back among hundreds of dead and dying men in blue, and fought knowing this was their last fight. The Highlanders were screaming, claymores chopping up and down, and Colonel Sharpe pushed his men on. The Converged Grenadier Battalion finally collapsed under the pressure and routed. Only a single French battalion was left standing, and it was with this group of men that the French Colonel would make his last stand, gathered beneath the golden eagle given to the regiment by the Emperor himself.
Meanwhile, in the center, with Colonel Smith's brigade having lost three battalions and the Colonel himself leading his last battalion in the woods on the far side of the road, Colonel Ducot paused, realizing that he had no enemies within range. Using this moment of relative quiet (and peace from "Stand!" tests) Ducot brought his reformed and recovered Guard battalions together, trying to organize them and get them ready for the last push. But would they push towards the British flank, or attack the center?
As the next turn began Ducot brought the Guard over the hill in the center, ready to turn in either direction... either towards Colonel Sharpe on the British left, or towards the center, where the Allied brigade now fought... it was just a matter of where he was ordered, although it seemed to Ducot that he would be needed on the flank, because even as his battalions came into line he saw the French flank fall.
Assailed on three sides by many times their number, the last battalion in Colonel Lerout's brigade fought bravely but could not stand. Taking massive casualties at the hands of the vengeful British, the last brigade finally collapsed and routed, the Colonel himself fleeing on horseback, trying to get his men to move quickly, trying to save what he could of his brigade. Colonel Sharpe's brigade paused as the last enemy fled, and they gave out a great cheer even as one of their own battalions, battered beyond their ability to stand and having taken hundreds of casualties, finally fled towards the rear.
Meanwhile in the center both sides smashed at each other. The French battalion at the top of the hill decided against plunging down at the Allies beneath them, realizing that doing so would expose not only their own flanks to attack, but the flanks of two other battalions in their brigade. Instead the battalion fired down at the Allied battalions beneath them. The Allies, hit by the wilting fire of the muskets, tried to return fire but could not inflict enough damage. The other battalions, engaged in fierce hand to hand combat, threw each other back and forth, but still neither side would give... until the "Stand!" tests, that is. Several of the Allied battalions at the bottom of the hill, having already seen their rear ranks begin to splinter and panicked by the French fire coming down the hill at them, turned and fled. Sir Thomas Picton began to scream at the men running past him to come back as two battalions fled... but still, as the French came on, their men tired from the long march and the uphill attack through the trees and into the Allied brigade, the attack began to falter, and amazingly every single French battalion in Colonel Lafleur's brigade failed their "Stand!" test! While none had fled yet, the French attack was shaken at a crucial moment...
Tomorrow we'll wrap this up! Please come by and read the exciting conclusion to see who will emerge victorious!