The Field of Sorauren
At Hobocon a couple of weeks ago, the Soldier of Destiny and I played Sorauren from the new Command & Colours expansion using the new tactics deck. The blurb from the scenario.
"Marshal Soult re-entered Spain to defeat Wellington’s army in detail and rescue the besieged garrisons of Pamplona and San Sebastien. The plan relied on speed. Soult with the main force hustled Cole’s ineptly placed division out of Roncesvalles Pass with minimal fighting. Cole, along with Picton, retreated much further than Wellington desired, but Wellington was far away and communications were bad. When Cole did stop, he redeemed himself by picking excellent defensive terrain opposite the village of Sorauren. Soult had the numbers to win, but ironically, by funneling too many troops into narrow valleys with poor roads, he lost the speed needed to win the campaign, and his advance slowed to a crawl. On the 27th, Soult’s vanguard made contact with the British at Sorauren.
With only Clausel’s Corps on hand (Rielle’s corps was strung out for miles on the bad roads), Soult made no attack. The veteran of Albuera had calculated the numbers needed to drive the British off the Oricain Heights and knew he did not have enough that afternoon. Next day, after a violent night’s thunderstorm, Rielle’s corps was up, and Soult had the numbers needed to fight and win the day before, but the British had gotten reinforcements too. The French attacked first on the right. One of Clausel’s divisions under Conroux advanced to gain the flank of the British on the heights, but was caught in a three-way crossfire between the troops on the heights and reinforcements from Pack’s arriving division. Conroux’ battered division was forced back to Sorauren. Clausel’s other divisions assaulted the British and Portuguese on the Oricain Heights with enough initial success to break through in places. Wellington, aware of the deteriorating situation, ordered Stubbs and Lambert to counterattack. Their onslaught sent the disorganized French columns reeling back down the slopes. The battle continued on the French left with Rielle’s attacks.
The stage is set. The battle lines are drawn and you are in command. Can you change history?"
French bayonets storm forward on the left
I lost the toss and was obliged to play the dastardly Bonapartists. I decided my best plan was going to be to concentrate my forces on the weaker Portuguese troops. This would allow me to take the hill, which was worth a victory point and would make it more difficult for the Soldier of Destiny to come back at me.
Hurrah! We have taken the hill for Bonaparte.
This was the first game we'd played with the new decks of Command and Tactics cards that came in Expansion 5. These replace the 60 card deck of cards that came with the original game and essentially split them in two. The Command deck contains the standard cards that allow players to move and activate troops, while the Tactics deck includes cards that allow an attacked player to attack first, battlefield smoke cards that limit the effectiveness of musketry and so on.
The "specials" in the Tactics deck are generally less powerful than their old equivalents, but there are more of them - the effect is to make the game a little bit more predictable in some ways and lessen the effect of the really rare cards. On the whole I think I like it.
Lights skirmishing in the centre
Having taken the hills, I decided that it was time to put pressure on the centre.
The Hussars force the Portugese into square
But contrary to expectations the Portuguese counter attacked and managed to make a dent in my line, so I was obliged to commit my cavalry.
A field of grief
The quick back and forth that resulted was horrific, I didn't take pictures of the whole clash, but the Portuguese earned their salt. They took several units from me in what was a close range and brutal fight, taking losses in their turn, but unfortunately they had numbers on their side.
The result was that I kept the hill, but that I didn't have the strength to develop anything from it and had to content myself with holding on to it.
We press forward in the centre
With my bolt well and truly shot on the left, I decided to press forward in the centre. I managed to drive the 4th Foot back, but took punishing volleys of British musketry in return.
The 4ieme Ligne die where they stand
Meanwhile the Portuguese counterattacked on my left and took my threadbare battalion to pieces.
The hussars do for a (somewhat out of place) General Picton
With both sides on the ropes, the 62ieme Ligne stormed forward to come to grips with the enemy. They drove off the second battalion Enniskillings.
Before falling prey to the Kings Royal Halberdiers.
All in all, a tightly fought game and one I didn't mind losing too much. It certainly established that the Portuguese are no pushovers. The new decks were interesting and the Tactics cards saw a lot of play without feeling gimmicky. One thing I did like was that while each player began with a hand of these cards, once they were spent, they were harder to come by - so that the amount of unusual events was interesting, but not overpowering. One thing that I did really like it that there is a card there for breaking squares. It's rare, but it exists and squares are no longer the citadels they were when the game was first published.
On the whole, if you like Command & Colours Napoleonics, Expansion 5 just makes it better. The added complexity doesn't appreciably slow gameplay, though you will have to make more decisions on your turn. What it does do is add layers of nuance that will keep experienced players interested and ensure that there is plenty to discover in this game for many years to come.