It is often said that generals fight the last war.
Well today I found myself fighting the next.
Having spent the bus journey to the club writing out an army list for my French Napoleonics I arrived to be presented with an alternative set up. Instead of having two infantry brigades, commanded by a divisional general, I was to fight with a reinforced brigade comprising 5 infantry battalions, a battalion of light infantry and two battalion guns. The cavalry brigade was pretty much as I had already laid out.
The scenario was that the French were to advance on a fortified positon and spike the Spanish siege guns. In additon my force would come on in three groups.
This presented two challenges - one tactical and one psychological.
The tactical challenge was that although I outnumbered the enemy by 3-1, because I was coming onto the table piecemeal, I wanted to establish a strong position from which to launch the assualt, without the infantry getting too strung out.
The psychological challenge was that I had prepared myself to fight an entirely different style of battle. One in which the two brigades could support each other by way of a methodical advance.
In the event I failed in both challenges.
The leading elements of the infanty entered the field and advanced on the fortified hill. The Legere formed up to protect the two infantry battalions in mixed formation from the riflemen in the woods on the right. They made reasonable progress but it was obvious after the first outbreak of shooting that they were not going to drive off the artillery with musketry. And as the siege guns opened up on the leading elements it became equally clear that they were in a very parlous place.
It soon became clear that the General de Brigade would have his work cut out to keep his command together, as units began to take casualties and morale began to waiver. Disorder was also a big issue, effectively pinning units.
One hopeful sign was when one of the battalion guns enfiladed a Spanish militia battalion and routed them. But in general the French were pinned and in confusion.
It should be pointed out that there was an opportunity for the Legere and the Swiss to assault the guns. But I choose to form a line and try and drive the enemy off with musket fire.
I realise that this is not very French, and the part of the reasoning behind it was due to my not fully understanding the rules. As at the time I was more concerned with trying to ensure that I had a chance to issue a rally order. The units in question could have used their iniative to launch the assault. But then there was a lot I could and should have done in hindsight, had I not got tied up in trying to hold the ground for a co ordinated assault - like given Brigade orders instead of trying to micromanage the situation, and used attack columns instead of mixed formations to take advantage of the free move.
Indeed this line of cautious thinking became worse when the commander got swept away trying to rally a shaken unit and the new commander had an even worse command rating.
Oh and my folly was compounded when I allowed myself to become drawn into a fight with some riflemen in a wood. Instead of the cavalry being used to save the infantry by attacking the guns in a glorious charge, they got drawn out the to right flank, fought a brief and bloody skirmish with the British cavalry before the Hussars were destroyed by enfilading fire, and the cavalry were beaten off when they blundered into the riflemen - being destroyed by rifle fire before they made contact.
The game ended with the French in retreat and the Spanish siege guns firmly in place.
And so to the opening statement.
Because what made this game so interesting for me was that the French performed pretty much like the Spanish army I am in the process of planning and building. Which in a perverse sort of way made me rather excited about the project.
Obviously I should have taken the bull by the horns, formed up in column and charged. And perhaps it is a lesson that one should ensure that when visualising how you want your force to perform that one should not become too fixated on the visualisation at the expense of the situation on the table.
Still we live and learn.