Keen to get his revenge for my win last time, Neil suggested a re-match, but with him playing the Prussians this time.
The situation was fairly similar: von Neil's troops holding a ridge that ran down the centre of the table, with my French aiming to knock them of it. I outnumbered him about 2:1, but Prussian reinforcements were expected, and would arrive at a time determined by a roll of the dice.
Looking at the Prussian line, I noticed that all their artillery was in the centre, and that the Prussian right wing was hanging. His left was hanging a little, being sort of anchored on a farmhouse, but it was his right that looked vulnerable.
I therefore set up in a long line parallel to the ridge, but with a column of four battalions of zouaves (nasty, fighting, little buggers) supported by a mitrailleuse and a battalion of chasseur sharpshooters as an attack column on my left flank. My aim was to advance forward, give the Prussian line an unanswerable volley due to the superior range of my Chassepots, and then slam in my attack column. Once I had a foothold on the ridge, the attack column would roll him up as my line kept hammering in the fire. Tres simple but hopefully tres effective!
My commanders were obviously having a good day, as on the first turn my entire army moved forward into rifle range. I took some artillery fire from the Prussian centre battery, but because of its positioning, my densely-packed attack column remained untouched.
On my next turn (the Prussians remaining stationary and relying on their guns) I let loose a volley with the entire line that proved satisfyingly effective, with many Prussian units taking significant casualties. More importantly, the Prussian right flank brigade was disordered, mainly due to some brilliant shooting by the Chasseurs. The mitrailleuse jammed, of course!
Note also that the Prussian left flank brigade was also disordered, leading me to think that there might be something I could do here as well...but more on that later.
My four-battalion column of zouaves charged up the hill and hit the end of the Prussian line. The lead battalion had been disordered by the fire coming at them as they charged in, so failed to simply smash the Prussians from the ridge, and fierce hand-to-hand combat broke out. Weight of numbers quickly began to tell, however, and the first brigade of Prussian infantry evaporated.
Over to Neil and his next turn: the next brigade of Prussians along attempted to punish the zouaves with fire from their Dreyse needle guns, but someone had obviously blunted their needles as they had no effect at all, not a single casualty being caused.
This was obviously quite worrying for the Prussians, as they retreated both the brigade that formed the right of their line and their guns off the ridge and down into the valley below. The left of my line quickly consolidated their gains: that end of the ridge was in my hands!
Meanwhile, at the other end of the line, I had decided that the opportunity of a disordered Prussian brigade was too much to resist, and had thrown two brigades of infantry up the hill in an attempt to dislodge them as well. Proving that the 2:1 odds were right for scenario (my zouaves had been 4:1 and supported by chasseurs), les gens brave found it hard going, and a hard-slog pushing match developed.
Weight of numbers, however, meant that my men gradually pushed the Prussians back but, just at the moment that his line began to break, Neil sent his regiment of divisional light cavalry into the flank of my assaulting units.
Very messy, and even sending in another battalion of infantry to hit the cavalry in its flank in turn didn't really help matters.
Numbers, however, still told in the end, and although I effectively lost a brigade of infantry doing it, the right hand side of the ridge was now also in my hands so, with the enemy centre retreating, I had achieved my aim.
At that point, however, the Prussian reinforcements began to arrive. Unfortunately, the clock wasn't just ticking for the French, it was ticking for Neil too, so we had to call the game before he could get his extra troops into action.
Saved by the bell, the French were victorious!