The first major battle of our 1814 Campaign took place just outside Sezanne, troops were arriving throughout the day but the battle itself didn’t start until late afternoon. With little time to gain a victory the cautious French pushed forward too slowly to crush the Allies in front of them and the commander decided that they ‘should wait for more troops to turn up’ and the battle petered out towards nightfall. The scene is set for a much larger battle the next day.
It is interesting to see the difference between a campaign battle and a one off scenario. Players are far less willing to throw troops forward and simply hope for the best!
Our club puts on a game at the excellent WMMS show every year, in 2020 it was a Rank & File ACW battle ‘Fort Donelson’. We played this out twice, once as a test and then for real at the show. I designed the scenario to be a fairly even fight but I think with hindsight the victory conditions for the CSA are a little too hard. A closely fought battle even so.
I have recently started a Napoleonic campaign at the local club based on the Boardgame ‘Napoleon at Bay’ covering the 1814 campaign. Rather than use the detailed hex map I changed it to an area based campaign map.
The boardgame rules were ignored and instead the campaign uses a simple area movement system with various speeds for different troop types.
Army lists have been put together from various sources including the game itself and historical OB’s culled from the internet and books. I don’t pretend that they are perfect but its enough to say that the French have their work cut out for them!
Grey area names denote major towns while those with a thick border are fortress towns. Supply sources are indicated at the edges of the map, blue for French and red for Allied. A PDF download of the map is available on the March Attack game page.
The first major battles at Brienne and Chalons will have some battle reports for the blog when I sort through the photos. Because of the size of the armies I used a simplified version of March Attack, ‘Quick march Attack’ for these big battles.
I’ve always liked the Wargamer show in Birmingham, it was one of the very first shows that I attended as a trader back in the days when I used to sell Crusader Miniatures myself. The past few years saw a couple of changes in venue and I have to admit I didn’t like the latest one. The show is now split over a couple of floors, 2 main halls and some side rooms – I don’t really think this set up works well for traders or for visitors. Still, I’ll be there in 2020 too.
The Balance of Power rules were designed to cover pretty much the whole of the ‘horse & musket’ period after the end of widespread use of pike blocks. Lots of the games played have been 15mm mid 1800’s so it was a nice change to be able to use some bigger figures for an earlier period battle.
One of the guys at our club has a spectacular (can’t think of any other way to describe it) Marlburian collection and some of it was out on the tables for our club demo game.
The first public ‘outing’ for the Rank and File rules was a game that the Stafford Club put on at the WMMS show.
As usual we left things to the last minute and knocked something up on the spur of the moment – the result was our SYW refight of Kunersdorf using 28mm figs and the Rank & File rules.
Above is a shot of the entire 6 foot by 8 foot table – the Prussians advancing from the left of the picture with Austrian and Russian positions on the right – on a hill – behind earthworks.
The Prussian certainly had their work cut out and in between shopping breaks, coffee breaks, lunch breaks and chatting to people we hadn’t seen in ages breaks they began their attack.
The daunting task ahead of the Prussians – two lines of Austrian infantry behind earthworks, supported by artillery and cavalry on their flank.
Throughout the day the Prussians sensibly refused to attack this head on – instead relying on the right wing beating the Russians and rolling up this lot from the flank.
Unfortunately the Russian position was hardly going to be that much easier to take. This piece of ground saw the most vicious fighting of the day.
The Russians intent on holding at all costs and the Prussians knowing that if they couldn’t take the redoubt their whole attack would fail.
The Russian defenders were bombarded to little effect before the Prussian Fusiliers were thrown in against the redoubt. The first wave suffered badly and was thrown back, the second fared no better but the third managed to break through and a vicious melee ensued with both sides throwing in pretty much every spare unit they could get hold of.
The cavalry fight on the Prussian right lacked any sort of finesse. The redoubt and the marsh meant that all either side could do was pile forward with their heavies and hope to smash the enemy with superior quality, numbers and a fair bit of luck.
Once again I have left the battle report far too long to do it justice but at the days end the Prussians were forced to concede defeat with the Allied forces battered but still in control of the field.
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!