How to Discourage Massed Attack Columns in Lasalle

Reading the Lasalle Forum it quickly becomes clear that a common game tactic is to mass Attack Columns against defending Lines. That in turn means that defenders abandon Line and commonly deploy in Attack Column themselves.

The problem with all of this is that is completely unhistorical. Historically Attack Columns were expected to deploy into Line when they got to musketry range so left enough room between units to allow this.

Personally I find the unhistorical sight of massed Attack Columns offensive and I want a game mechanism to prevent or discourage it. The Lasalle Forum has a bunch of suggestions which I thought I’d list here.

Paul Goldstone lays out the facts on how Attack columns are too strong in Lasalle:

An attack columns charging a unit in line has a very good chance of killing the line (assuming 8-8, its a 24% chance). If two attack columns charge a single line, it is really bad for the line – even inflciting a DISR, (15-8), the attack columns will kill the line 55% of the time. And because attack columns have such a movement advantage over lines, it is quite easy for two attack columns to charge a single unit in line. Conversely, attack columns are a better defensive formation – the smaller frontage means it is harder for an attacker to get 2-1 units, and the attack column moves faster.

The answer is unless behind an obstacle, avoid deploying your troops in line, and if you do try fighting in line, always fall back as the reaction rather than stay and fight.

The diagram shows the situation Paul is considering. Two Blue Attack Columns are approach two Red Lines. The Red player should have read the rules and deployed like their opponent, with two Attack Columns side by side. In fact the Red deployment is historical (thinking British) and the Blue formation isn’t. Attack Columns left gaps between units.

Massed Attack Columns in Lasalle
Massed Attack Columns in Lasalle

Lasalle is not alone in this. Shako has the same problem. I’m at a loss why the respective authors haven’t dealt with this problem given the amount of (virtual) ink spilt on the topic.

Luckily other folk have already put some thought into how to address this. Mostly on these pages Solution to columns ganging up on lines, The Multiple Attack Column Conundrum, and Attack columns too strong in Lasalle?:

A: if bunched units [less then 1BW apart] -1 penalty for each unit within 1 BW

“an attack column (attacking or defending) less than 1BW from a neighbour to a flank (in any formation and whether infantry or cavalry) suffers a combat modifier of – 1 dice (as if disrupted) for EACH instance. So if three columns gang up and are each less than 1BW apart, the end columns suffer -1 dice and the centre column -2.” (srmlaw)

B: allow defender to fire at all attacking units

“a line may fire at *all* units within its arc of fire” and “allow a line to fire at full effect at all targets” (pyruse)

C: allow only single unit attacks

“Only one unit may attack another unit in a single turn (although counter attacks are allowed ). This also stops an infantry and cavalry unit unrealistically attacking a defendimg infantry unit at the same time.” (ackostokie)

D: modification to the # of combat die for the defender depending on support

“any unit in LINE that has another unit within one move to its rear gains one die and 1 die if another unit is within one BW to a flank. A unit can gain a maximum of two dice for flank and / or rear support. You could add the supporting unit can only have a MAX of ONE DISR on it or it can’t ‘Support’.” (trailape)

E: Deploy into line if repulsed

“a attacking column is repulsed in close combat then it moves back 1 or 2 BWs as normal and must deploy into line if there is no room either side due to other attacking columns being to close then it automatically collects another DISR.” (ackostokie) Comment: “there is no reason in principle to restrict the further 1 DISR to lack of space due to neighbouring columns, but could be lack of space for any reason.” (srmlaw)

F: Only front ranks fight if < 1BW between columns

“if two columns have less than 1BW between them, then only the front row is considered when calculating dice for firing AND combat.” (JKS in san diego)

G: Rear ranks penalised in combat if < 1BW between columns

“if two columns have less that 1 BW between them, half the number of dice for the rear rows of each unit when conducting combat.” (JKS in san diego)

H: Deploy into line if take hits from musketry

“if a column takes hits from musketry, it *must* deploy into line. If the columns are too close, they will disorder on another.” (pyruse)

“Make attacking columns deploy into line when they takes hits. A column which receives any DISR from shooting immediately takes a DISC test. If it fails it deploys into line. If this results in it interpenetrating a friendly unit, both take 1 DISR.” (pyruse)

Kontos points out “The precedent has already been set in the rules for artillery being forced to limber from effective fire”.

Sam Mustafa (aka Le Grand Fromage) sees lots of issues with this proposal:

That’s one of those rules though, that totally breaks down in practice. For example: what if they’re shot in the flank or rear? Do they deploy into line not facing the enemy who just shot them? Or do they turn first, and if so, how? By wheeling? By about-face? What if they face enemies to both front and flank? Do they deploy into line facing the one who shot at them, or the one who scored the hit? What if deploying into line would result in them facing in a different direction from the other BNs of their regiment?

And then there’s the question of when – in game sequence – that formation change has to happen? Does it happen immediately? If so, then you’ve got another sub-phase injected in the midst of the enemy’s actions, which is full of a whole other host of problems (hence I always try to avoid such “magic movement” in my games.) Does it happen later, when your movement phase comes around and you’re now eligible to change? If so, then you’ve got to carry around some sort of marker until then, and of course, what if the situation has changed so that deploying into line no longer makes any sense, given all that has happened in the meantime? (Such as enemy cavalry appearing in front of you.)

I: Leave 1 BW gaps between units

“no unit can be closer then 1 BW to another.” (john de terre neuve)

J: columns cause 1 HIT on 5-6

“columns cause 1 HIT on 5-6” (Zaporosty)

K: Wait for a card based Version 2

Sam Mustafa, author of Lasalle, is aware of the issue and is thinking of introducing a card based initiative system to address “issues with Lasalle that allow too-easy combined arms attacks. It would no longer be such a walk in the park, for example, to slam multiple attackers against a single defender, particularly if one is INF and the other is CAV.” (Le Grand Fromage on Will there Ever be a 2nd Edition Lasalle).

M: Don’t let columns fire and limit units attacking each face

Christopher (CATenWolde) (Lasalle Test: Austrian vs French) proposes that (1) Columns don’t fire and (2) only one unit can attack each face of an enemy unit

Christopher explains this:

1. Columns don’t fire, period. That wasn’t their combat role, and if they found themselves issuing fire then they were also probably flailing around trying to deploy into line, which *they* knew was their only chance to issue effective fire.

2. Only one unit can attack each face of an enemy unit. Again, this reflects actual historical practice, both in terms of command control (difficulty of maneuvering units with tabletop precision) and tactical reality – units would maneuver with space to deploy into line, but obviously they would do so to deploy in line opposite their target, not at some half-arsed gaming angle designed to get another unit “space” to attack. On the other hand, if you let multiple enemy units approach and get on your flank, then you deserve to get piled on.

8 thoughts on “How to Discourage Massed Attack Columns in Lasalle”

  1. Since the real defence of line was the fire power,you may add this simple rule:when a line is attacked on its front only by infantry you my call an hold fire.
    You hit with 4-6(3-6 if you use a command bonus)but if the line looses it is destroyed

  2. The simplest solution appears not to have been recognized yet. Denser targets such as columns or waves, should be easier to hit. So, if the following was done, this should clear everything up:

    “If a unit in line is within 2BW or less of a target unit in a column or waves formation, it may fire at two dice per stand with all other modifiers applying as normal.”

    This adjustment would make it similar to canister. The firing unit can divide shots as normal per the advanced rules.

    As far as combined arms (problem?) go, tough luck. Unless you intend to ban cavalry from your table, you’re simply not going to stop this kind of attack. Adopting a 2.0 version with cards to dictate how the game flows is not going to improve the game. Using cards to dictate actions is much akin to Milton Bradley board games. Sam appears to think this is the future, and perhaps it is to some extent, but there are some of us that look down on such concepts.

    • Gary I like your suggestion. Simple but effective. A massed attack would take its chances.

      I agree about card based actions. I like the concept of initiative in a game but cards are too random.

      • After talking it over with the group, we’re going to try this for the next Lasalle game that I’m hosting on May 17th. I’ll try to write up a review of that modification and post it on my blog so people can get it an idea of how it played out with that change.

        • Gary has written up a report of his experiment at Defend the Hill: Lassalle AAR. His summary of his suggestion for fire into attack columns is “The adjustment is not a game changer by any stretch of the imagination, however it is a bit more formidable than as written currently in the rule book. I believe for the mean time, I will retain it until something changes my mind.”

  3. I’ve posted this to the Honour forum but thought it might be useful here:
    Looking at how von Reisswitz’s 1824 Kriegspiel dealt with this problem, I read:
    Equal strength die II to the battalion-mass (that’s odds of 3:2 for the columns if I read it correctly). If the attack does not succeed the column is defeated even if the die gives ‘R’ (repulsed), and totally defeated if the die gives ‘D’ (defeated) or ‘T’ (totally defeated), and totally defeated in any case if they are pursued by cavalry in their retreat.

    • So basically charging massed columns that are defeated in a more significant way i.e. +1 level of “defeat”.

  4. Yes. One v one, the column gets odds of 1:1 but if it wins, inflicts results one level worse on the line. That’s just in the melee as the line would normally have had a chance to inflict losses and a negative outcome on the column from shooting beforehand iirc. My guess is that two columns crashing I to a line battalion would become badly confused if repulsed or defeated. It’s different from what is often proposed to deter twin column assaults: disorder before contact or if halted by shooting. Here it’s the consequences of losing that are more drastic and the economy of force reduced (odds of 3:2 rather than 2:1). What is also interesting is that assaults in battalion mass columns (closed columns) aren’t regarded as failures to form line in time but Clausewitz’s “Principles of War” essay tells as much.


Leave a Reply