The Great Battle rules had been playtested with smaller games of approximately a Corps a side but this is the first large game that would test how a full battle actually plays out.
I chose Dennewitz as it was roughly the size of game that I wanted and fairly evenly matched with troops arriving throughout the day. It also helped that I had plenty of Prussian troops available. The image below shows the initial deployment of the forces at midday. I started the battle slightly later than historically to save taking up time moving the divisions into position.
Both sides had been instructed that there were troops turning up throughout the day. The French plan was to advance on their left while holding back on the right. Rather than any kind of preparation two Divisions from the VII Corps and one more from the IV Corps immediately began to advance towards the Prussian right and centre.
The picture below shows the French positions after their first move. At 8 hexes to a mile this attack was being made over a very wide front.
The two French divisions pictured below represent 15,000 men and almost 40 guns. The idea behind the rules is that large formations are made up of lots of individual stands rather than a few brigade sized blocks. This gives the flexibility to alter formations, expand or contract frontages or detach units.
Of the three attacking divisions the one in the centre pushed forward while those on both flanks halted. I’m not sure this was in the original plan and it had some unfortunate consequences for the French centre.
The Prussian defenders were fairly active and moved troops to block all of the French attacks, some brilliantly executed (or was it lucky dice?) cavalry charges stopped the outermost French divisions and allowed the central French attack to be flanked.
By this point in the game we had been playing turns pretty much in real time, a game turn in GB is 30 minutes and that is how long we took to play them through.
It came as no surprise when the French centre started to crumble and after an hours fighting they were starting to suffer from Major Formation morale – it was only a matter of time before the divisions would break and the French attack was called off all along the line. The troops remaining started falling back closely followed by the Prussians.
At this point in the day (4-00pm) the first division of Oudinots XII Corps arrived and was immediately ordered to bolster the French centre. With the two French divisions that did not push forward in the initial attack mostly intact the Prussians still had a fight on their hands.
Unfortunately by now it was 4-00pm (real time), we played through from midday to the 4-30 game turn in 4 and a half hours but had to call a halt here. As the Prussian objective was to halt the French drive on Berlin they deserved to claim the victory.
As a first large scale playtest the game was fun, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and picked up the rules very quickly, they are really quite straightforward. The game mechanics worked as I had hoped though I think I may be close to taking out too much detail out if I ‘streamline’ any further.
Even though the game ran in ‘real time’ unfortunately it still doesn’t allow a battle of this size (50,000 troops a side, approximately 150 units on table) to be completed comfortably within a day. We didn’t push ourselves by any stretch of the imagination (it was Sunday afternoon after all!) but I think some modifications to the scale could be in order while keeping the game mechanics pretty much as written. Updated version of the rules on the web site soon and hopefully I will have had time to work on some better terrain!
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