Thursday, November 29, 2012

Crossing Berezina

Berezina Crossing by an unknown artist at the scene
At dawn on the 29th, the very last rear guard of the IXth Corps made its way over the bridge, and all the combatant strength of the French Army was safely on the western bank.  Then General Eble, after delaying the inevitable order in the hope that some of the human flotsam could make good their escape, instructed his men o fire the bridges at nine o'clock.  In a trice the bridges were blocked with a screaming, writhing, fighting mass of humanity, at last aware of their peril when it was already too late.  Some unfortunates perished in the flames.  Then, with a crashing hiss and a shower of sparks the bridges collapsed into the Berezina, taking with them their pitiful loads.  The crossing of teh Berezina was over; the river was blocked with frozen corpses for weeks to come.

~D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p. 845

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Playtest Preparations

Seeking Game Playing Lads
The 1813 Campaign is warming up, we had a great international planning call today, with Campaign participants from UK to Canada to Australia, conversing around the world!  Skype is fun.

You can see the up to date material on the blog Campaign of Nations.

We are now gearing up for a playtest start in the coming week.

This leaves a potential for any new players who had been interested in what we are doing to step forward and join in the mix.

Simply send your interest in an email to: viperbbb"at" and you will have the Cyberboard material link set up and you can get into the playtest.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Bravest of the Brave

Marshal Ney, Bravest of the Brave
By the evening of the 21st, Napoleon and the heads of his columns were at Kamienska, not far from Bobr, with the rear of his army (Eugene and Davout) still in the vicinity of Orsha.  Then the whole army from the Emperor to the humblest private soldier heard an almost incredible piece of news which rallied their spirits and confidence.  The subject of this sensation was Marshal Ney, who suddenly materialized at Orsha let in the evening at the head of 900 survivors of his corps.  Ever since the 17th the army had given up the IIIrd Corps as hopelessly lost, and this unexpected return from the grave greatly  raised morale.  According to de Segur, Napoleon "leaped and shouted for joy, and exclaimed, 'I have saved my Eagles!  I would sooner have given three hundred millions from my treasury than loose such a man.'"  The Emperor immediately bestowed on the gallant Gascon the sobriquet of "Bravest of the brave."

This honorable title was undoubtedly fully deserved, and it is fitting at this point to look back and see what had happened to the IIIrd Corps since its separation from the main army.  An order, dated 14th November at Smolensk, had instructed Ney to continue his role of rear guard, and to demolish the city on the 17th prior to  following the main army westward.  On the 15th, however, Napoleon decided to hasten the speed of the retreat, but by some oversight this order was not transmitted to Ney, who accordingly held his ground until the date specified in his original instructions, whereas under the new circumstances he should have left Smolensk on the 16th.  Thus a sizable gap materialized between the IIIrd Corps and Davout's command (the formation next ahead), and this appeared to doom Ney and his men to almost certain death, or at best capture.  Nevertheless, he set out at the head of his 6000 men, 12 guns and single cavalry squadron early on the 17th along the Krasnoe road.

From the first, his journey was beset with difficulties; there had been considerable snowfalls since the 5th, and the roads behind Napoleon's column were in terrible condition after the army's passage.  Furthermore, the rear guard, last into Smolensk, had received less than its fair share of what scanty rations had been available, and its movement was seriously hampered by the hordes of desperate stragglers and the continuous harassing raids of Cossack partisans.  Its rate of advance was consequently not very great, and by the time the IIIrd Corps reached Krasnoe on the 18th, Milradovitch had found had found time to place a vastly superior force across its path.  The Russian general sent out an emissary to demand Ney's capitulation, but neglected to order his guns to cease fire during the parley.  Ney's reply was typical: "A Marshal never surrenders; there is no parleying under an enemy's fire; you are my prisoner." All attempts to break through the Russian position proved unavailing, however, and toward dusk Ney drew off his men to the Village of Danikova, north of the road, and there built a large number of bivouac fires.  But his men were to have no rest because as soon as it was dark they were on their way northward, heading for Syrokorense on the Dnieper; while their enemies, lulled into a sense of false security by their massive superiority of force and the sight of the glowing campfires to their front, failed to notice the escape.  The going was terribly hard -- only one accurate map was available -- but by dawn on the 19th Ney was well on his way.  Of course, the Russians discovered their mistake by daybreak, and Platov was soon on his way at the head of a multitude of Cossacks accompanied by several batteries of horse artillery to wipe out the impudent French column.  Ney calmly formed his men into square and, musket in hand, continued his course.  Shortly after midnight, the IIIrd Corps reached Gusinoe on the riverbank, and the next morning found a remnant of Ney's men on the further side, but without their guns which tey had been forced to abandon.  Fourty-five miles still separated them from Orsha, but throughout the 20th and 21st, the march continued despite repeated Cossack attacks, all of which were repulsed by the gallant though steadily dwindling band.  Ney's difficulties steadily increased, but a Polish officer got through to Eugene with an appeal for aid during the 20th, and the Viceroy was able to send out troops to cover the last stages of the Duke of Elchingen's epic withdrawal.

Such dauntless courage and stubborn resolution inspired the whole army; Ney's almost miraculous escape appeared a happy augury for the trials ahead.

~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p.830-831

Expose time

Are you a proper wargamer?

If Peter Cushing isn't the model of a proper "toy soldier" man - I don't know who is. 

* Spent at least £500 ($1000) on figures / tanks - and you get extra kudos for every £500 you've spent

Lost count?  I certainly have spent $1000 on just the sheet metal bases that all may armies march around on right now.

* Pricked your finger or thumb on a pike block - several times

pike?  No   Lancers?  Yes 

* Tried at least 10 different rule sets and vowed never to play half of them ever again

Rule sets for what RPG?  At least 10.
Miniatures?  Another 10 or more?
Napoleonic Miniatures?  Again another 10 or more … though I have not put down minis in actually testing many of them out.
WWII?  From skirmish to Front level, again at least 10

* Bought an army off EBay


* Sold an army on EBay

Yes, several 

* spent months painting an army - then used it in anger once

hmm, months?  Not since I started with 15mm ancients and those have all been used in multiple tournaments and games.  So simple answer : no. 

* tried several different periods and genres

Yes, from sci-fi games like Star Fleet Battles (that has no real-world comparison) to hard edged Historical simulation games like Squad Leader (with minis) and Napoleon’s Battles; both by Avalon Hill that have loads of details.  I still own many 15mm Fantasy and Historical armies for DBA and Hordes of the Things.  Along with the ever growing 28mm Napoleonic / Tricorne era armies.

* dropped a box of figures on the floor from a great height

”A great height”?  No.  Had a tower of minis in drawers come loose while driving on the freeway and tip over because I had to suddenly apply brakes because of some *%$##! In front of me?  Yes.

Thankfully they were in my new magnetic format so the only actual damage (that I could find) was a Hussar rider separating from his horse.  Easily repaired, there was time used up in re-forming all the troops that had been knocked off the magnets though, and that was too bad as the game was a special visit one and I would have preferred to have more kibitz time…

* lost a battle on the last throw of the dice

not on the ‘last’ throw 

* made at least one enemy for life

not that I am aware of

* had a proper, stand up argument over a wargamers table

stand up argument?  Like shouting?  No.  I have had a few heated discussions, and have requested my children just leave from the table rather than let them get too hot under the collar because they have rolled a poor set of rolls and cannot hear my suggestions that there are still options.

* thrown a dice across a room


* rebased an army for a different rule set

All the time now, I LOVE my MAGNETIC setup for minis! 

* inflicted a whopping defeat on an opponent

Whooping?  Like 2:1 or more in casualties?  A few times.  3:1 only once.
Hammered someone who would not listen that the Axis was going to win (in Axis and Allies) after taking and holding Karelia and having Japan capture India?  Yes.  I won the world in that game. 

* suffered an embarrassing defeat due to a stupid tactical decision

Yup.  Learned much of how not to use cavalry in that game.

* joined a wargamers club

couple of them

* bought a ton of lead that remains unpainted

Ton?  No.  I do have lead that is not yet cast and lots of moulds to cast it with though

* been to a wargamers show

not a UK or EU ‘show’ as it is known.
I have been to conventions in North America from New York to Toronto to Vancouver

* have more dice than is logical or necessary to own - and have used most of them

at one time, yes, and in my defense I bought a big bucket at discount (how can you refuse 10 lb of dice for $3?) then progressively sold them off or gifted them away.

* have taken boxes of troops down to a club just to show them off to your mates


* You have reference books on each period / army you play (I must have ten samurai books now)

not each army, I tend to get the campaign series that covers the events more than the troops.

* Having played so many different games you confidently quote rules for a totally different period, scale or ruleset to the one you're playing at that moment

Yes, and I prefer not to unless we are in a round-table discussion of how/why things are ‘done’ and what has been done differently in a game.

* You have lied to your partner / spouse about how much you've spent on the hobby (When my wife saw my painting table, I told her that Vallejo paints are only 75p each - I'm going to Hell...).

Nope.  I have earned my cash for the hobby and recently have paid some family expenses with it.

* You get genuinely excited when a package arrives in the post - then hide it upstairs quickly before your partner sees it.  If your partner finds it first, you lie about the contents.

No, I show it off to those interested.

* You have joined a re-enactment society (5 points for this one!)

Did SCA in my twenties, then was in the active Canadian Armed Forces … they are re-enacting the 1970’s all the time.

* You have played in an unsuitable venue (I have played in a wooden pavilion in the middle of winter where we had to keep coats, scarves and gloves on to play - and in a social club where we used the pool table as a battlefield (making us the most unpopular people in Wallasey).  I have since vowed only to play where both heat and beer are accessible and in plentiful supply.

I have used my old shed without heat for a few games in October and November, not any more.

* You continue to search for the perfect Napoleonic / WW2 / Ancients / ACW etc. rule set (knowing that it doesn't actually exist).

Search for it?  Not actively, I am happy to look over new ones and see what interesting mechanics people have come up with to solve command and control issues mostly.

* For that reason you have developed your own house rules for certain periods.  And think them far superior to the original author's efforts.

There are ‘house rules’ in some games, mostly developed so that the 5-12 year old sons that I have can get into the game and have a sense of fun (things like written plans and maps are beyond the understanding of most 6 year olds)

* You have returned from a wargames show and sneaked upstairs to hide the stash.


* You have an irrational aversion to some genres and vow never to play them regardless of how much fun they look.  Like Dystopian Wars, 6mm Napoleonics, Warhammer 40k, Malifaux etc. 

If I think/feel they look fun and someone else is putting on a good enough show to get my attention, I will play.  If I am asked to put on a game, there are some I have the aversion to … mostly the 40K stuff as it costs so much and has a play/feel like WWI

* You have made your own wargames scenery.


* You have reached a painting 'wall' ("If I have to paint another f________ Gaul, I'm going to scream")

From time to time in each project.  Thus the reason for switching armies and troop types from time to time. 

* You have lost - and regained - your wargaming mojo.

I dropped off the wargames radar when I signed on with the military, about 5 years – then RPG’s got me moving again, after encountering a tabletop gamer who taught me how to make my own moulds I launched into miniature wargames – now after many many years of games I do not see the ‘mojo’ dropping off.  Most certainly the RPG mojo has fallen off, as has most of my connection to those players.

* You have the occasional (and short lived) sense of guilt with your wife/children when complaining to them about the money spent in clothes, shoes or toys/Xbox games when you have £200 of unpainted metal stuffed in an upstairs drawer.

Nope, I have paid bills with the sale of my excess production, so no such guilt trips for me.

* You have done armies in different scales for the same period (e.g. ACW in 28mm, 15mm and 6mm).

again, armies?  Dunno.  I do have Hordes of the Things Napoleonic troops and 28mm armies – so I guess this qualifies.

* You have jealously coveted someone else's troops (if Ian pops his clogs, I'll be round his house with a Transit van before he hits the ground).


* You have laughed (secretly or otherwise) as someone else's paint job (Marks' purple camels come to mind)

Yes, we had a warhammer 40K player who was somewhat color blind and his silvery green space marines were so painful to look at on the table they were always destroyed first.
After one such battle where his force was literally blasted off the table (three of us were shooting only at him), he commented about the poor performance of these troops and wondered aloud about why we were all concentrating fire on him.
Mike very directly told him that his troops were of such a god awful fluorescent puke green color that we had to get them out of our sight in order to think straight.

* You have provided a piece of useless trivia relating to the troops on the table to show off your wargaming knowledge. 


* You have contradicted someone elses' trivia - demonstrating your superior knowledge and giving you a warm glow inside.


* You have caused a major disaster on a wargames table (spilling a pint, collapsing the table, dropped someone else's figures on the floor).  Mark has flattened two tables in the past year - and he was losing both battles....

no, not ever – I am extremely careful around others minis and ask the same of others at mine.  I take extra efforts about drinks and have gone to great lengths to make many of my game parts that must be so exposed somewhat ‘coke-spill-proof’

* You have cheered when an opponent's dice lets them down at a critical point (I have literally danced in front of someone when he failed a morale roll) 

Danced?  No, cheered yes – that is what is expected in Circus Maximus!

* You have lied to your partner about going gaming.  "Mothers' not very well - just popping around to see her.  I'll be back in about - oh - seven hours".


* You have lied to an attractive woman (man) about your hobby.  

No. I have a wealth of historical information about many of the different Imperial periods, so the minis may be the start of a conversation about Ancient Greece or 19th Century France.

* You have made an opponent cry.  It doesn't count if they are under 8 years old though.

no the over 8 crowd – see comments about my young sons

* You have painted the same army in the same scale more than once (Monty, you dawg!)  

Army?  Dunno what qualifies as an army.  I have painted loads and loads of British line troops and sold lots of them and French Napoleonic forces also, again sold them and made more.

* You have reference books on armies you haven't even got (I have books on ECW, ACW, SYW, 30YW yet not one solitary figure for any of these periods).

Yes.  I have some ACW books that were given to me by a relative when they heard I was doing mini warfare and interested in the period – never did develop the forces.

* You have bought figures for a period you have never and will never play - because they were cheap.  Step forward my HOTT dwarf and evil goblin armies.

I have some HOTT armies from Warmaster that are still unpainted, however I am interested in the period and I have played many HOTT battles with other armies, which these Warmaster ones are slated to join.

* You have inflicted grevious bodily harm on a dice that has let you down.  This includes the guy who used to drill holes in them and impale the offenders on cocktail-stick stakes and Big Lee taking an axe to one offender.


* You blog or have a web-page about your Wargaming activities


* Your book collection is almost all war and wargames related


* You critique 'war' movies (especially Hollywood war movies) for historical accuracy (like the use of American tanks - Pershings I think - to represent German Panzers in the 'Battle of the Bulge'.)


* You spend car / train journeys checking out the lie of the land - considering which way you would attack from and whether it would make good wargaming terrain.

No, I am too busy driving if I am in the car, or sleeping if I am not the driver. 

Points Score: not sure how to score this – I think I got too many bonus points in the first queston! 

Many thanks to Conrad over at Joy and Forgetfulness

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Horn Tooting

This little bit of the blogosphere has been nominated for the "Liebster Blog Award" by the Avon Napoleonic Fellowship.  A thank you to James and the team down under.

Part of the nomination is to expand the nomination, with the following provisos:

1. Copy and paste the award on your blog linking it to the blogger who has given it to you.
2. Pass the award to your top 5 favourite blogs with less than 200 followers by leaving a comment on one of their posts to notify them that they have won the award and listing them on your own blog.
3. Sit back and bask in that warm fuzzy feeling that comes with knowing that you have just made someone's day!
There is no obligation to pass this on to anyone else but it is nice if you do.
So I went through the many blogs that I favor and after much deliberation have come up with these five favorites:
1. Grimsby Wargaming, Paul is ever at the table and wile his die rolling or tactics may not always go his way, the photos of the amazing, well-painted armies are always worth the visit.
2. Battle Game of the Month, certainly posting more than just once a month!  Ross is certainly worthy of a visit.
3. One Man and his Brushes, the pure artistry is something to behold, along with something for the historical, western, and even whimsical game player.
4.  A Napoleonic Therapy Project for 2012, while the title may make it limited to only 2012, the minis and game plans of this blogger are not.
5. Saxe-Bearstein, for the spirit of gentlemanly wargaming, none can represent this better than Jeff.
Do take a moment to look over these amazing blogs.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

SHAKO - Rear Guard Action 1812

Playing games on Saturday with my boys was a bonus, they were keen to go with a SHAKO battle.

This time the Russians would have 2:1 advantage over the French - who were simply called upon to last as long as possible ...

One of the interesting things that can come about when a 6 year old makes the plan ... you can get some very 'unusual' setups and plans!

a confusing series of crossing paths in the plan for the Russians
In rear-guard were 4 battalions of line troops and 1/2 horse battery for the French.

It took three turns for the Russians to move into range on the French ... during which time the crossing columns had to move and shift on one another allowing for one 1/2 horse battery to roll far forward, preparing to blast the French, who took a risk in throwing out a column at the battery and caught it in the process of unlimbering - only a re-roll card saved the battery from being totally destroyed.

By turn 5 the columns of Russians had been sorted out and new orders sent to the cossacks on the far right wing - the attack would be devastating and involve combined arms!

by turn five the Russians were more sorted out
Russian Cossacks are faced by French Line Infantry
The Russian Infantry was still marching to positions
The French decided to not form squares and fired volleys into the advancing cossacks.  They failed twice to get any hits or disorder the cossacks.  When the charge came home, the did not form square and fired again, failing then in the close combat the score result was a tie!  Since the Russians have the move option (with almost all forces in motion!) the French Infantry line was driven back by the Cossacks - who were at the very limit of their commanders radii, and recalled back rather than drive any more forward.

Upon reflection from the game, I had a thought to 'force' certain layouts on players (based on historical positions or standard tactics) then let the players have to amend or adjust their plans from this starting position ... it certainly has some merit for both teaching historical tactics and coming to a better understanding of the sort of mix-ups that can happen in the battle situation.

Turn 6 was one of a pause for the assaults and continuing to get forces ready for the Russians, while the artillery duel got going full force... the Russian Dragoons came out the worst for the situation along with one of the French battalions taking 2 casualties.

artillery battle during turn six
Turn 7 was another Cossack charge, that was repulsed by a French emergency square (that battalion had recovered and raced back to protect the 1/2 battery that was killing Dragoons and now Russian infantry (it had not missed all game!)).  Meanwhile the Russian 1/2 battery that had been mauled in turn 3 was now back into position and unlimbered ready to fire ...

Turn 8 was the decider, three artillery batteries fired on the start of the turn for the Russians, scoring hits for each of them.  One French Battalion was simply cut to pieces having taken a total of 5 hits it was gone (only 1/2 the brigade remained).  With a wounded column (unable to change formation) and a fresh column facing a wounded French square, the Russians threw the Infantry columns at the square that had just repulsed the Cossacks.

coup de main, 2 Russian columns smash through a French square
With both brigades reduced to 50% in the same turn a morale roll was called for, both rolled "1" meaning ROUT.

The Russians smashed this rear guard in 4 hours of battle and were still mostly healthy - certainly the Cossacks could keep on the heat on a retreating Grande Armee....

Conquest of the Empire

A fun, not so little, game that my young sons seem to enjoy ... at least until the combat really gets going - poor Marcus caught in a pincer movement ...

Conquest of the Empire
He did well, until faced with big forces on both sides, having to concentrate on one or the other left him wide open to counter-attack ... he lost his capitol and with it his cash reserves, without the forces to take it back available the game was essentially over.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Still a figting force; 200 years ago near Krasnoe

The French Grand Armee was now down to 45,000 effectives
The Russians, meanwhile, seemed in little hurry to get to serious grips with their adversaries.  A great deal of skirmishing and minor actions took place at various points along the column, but nothing really serious happened until the 17th.  By that date Napoleon had been at Krasnoe for two days, waiting for his extended column to close up.  He was not altogether satisfied with the situation, however, as is shown by the dispatch of two regiments of teh Young Guard to aid Eugene's IVth Corps, which was held up by Davidovitch and Nikulina for much of the 16th before finding a way round the block through Jomina.  Indeed, his anxiety to ensure that the main road should remain open induced Napoleon to order and attack against Kutusov by the Guard on the morning of the 17th.  At first he thought to entrust this operation to General Rapp, but then changed his mind and placed General Roguet of the Middle Guard in command.  The operation was a complete success.  The southbound French columns (16,000 strong) caught Kutusov completely unawares, so accustomed had he become to the idea of a passive French opponent.  The Russian partisan leader Davydov, fancifully recorded that "The Guard with Napoleon passed through our Cossacks like a hundred gun ship through a fishing fleet," and in no time the Russian commander in chief was ordering his 35,000 men to retreat south.  The Russians subsequently tried to misrepresent the outcome of the action, claiming that "Bonaparte commanded in person and made the most vigorous exertions, but in vain; he was obliged to flee the field of battle."  But this was flagrant propaganda.  It was Kutusov who had very much the worst of the encounter.

This action - known as the Battle of Krasnoe - is of significance for two reasons.  First, it reveals the degree of moral ascendancy retained by Napoleon: his very name could clearly still strike terror into the hearts of his opponents; secondly, it proved the correctness of the decision not to send in the Imperial Guard at the later stages of Borodino, for had this formation been severely mauled near the River Moskva, it is unlikely that it could have pulled off this notable coup some eight weeks later.  Strategically the French attack at Krasnoe proved fully effective.  It ensured that the road to the west remained open, allowed the greater part of the army (less Ney) to rejoin the Emperor by the evening of the 17th, and made the enemy warier than ever.

~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p. 828-829

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Campaign of Nations - Cyberboard tools complete

The cyberboard game box for the Campaign of Nations (1813) has been sent out to the prospective players today.

In another week I plan to set up some conversations about the game and start a test run.
Just the 'pieces' on the map, no details as you need to have cyberboard to get that data

For now I share with you, dear readers, this sample map from the game box.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Rear Guard action - SHAKO at Dak-Kon

The other game I ran at Dak-Kon in October was on Sunday, a SHAKO 'pickup' game format with the action taking place somewhere in Russia in 1812.  A French flank guard/rear guard force having to slow down or stop a Russian advance force.

Layout at the start - from behind French left
The troops were all ' fast conversion' from the Fast Play Grand Armee the day before.  I simply pulled them off the 3" square bases and put them onto the correct 2" squares for cavalry and 1 1/2" by 2" infantry rectangles.  I really like how fast I can 'switch' from one system to another - the change over only took 30 minutes, during which time the table was laid out using the 'dice' to establish the ground for battle.  We ended up with a woods, two hills and a large (6 sector) town.

The French-Italian forces consisted of two brigades of Infantry, the French with one Battalion of Grenadiers and two of line, the Italian brigade with three Battalions of line and one of Grenadiers (Irish Legion serving as "Italians") and a brigade of Cavalry with two Hussar Squadrons and one of Dragoons.

The Russian attackers had two brigades of infantry, each with three battalions of line (one each of Jagers with detached skirmish formations - the French having no Voltigeurs at all) a brigade of Dragoons with two squadrons and full artillery battery and a brigade of Cossacks.

Deployment as seen from behind the French left
The French took up defensive position with woods on the left, a large hill sheltering the French brigade and most of the cavalry and on the right the Italians were massed with the other hill, ready to move to either dominate the hilltop or use the hill to shelter from enemy guns.

The Russians deployed in one long line, with orders for the right wing brigade to take the large hill, the left brigade to advance to artillery range and hold and the Dragoons to press in immediately.  The Cossacks were held back for exploitation or flank action.  The effect was to keep the French guessing about the possibility of the Cossacks appearing on the flank.

The first turn was movement to range with artillery exchanges, not much to write about.

Turn two saw the Russian Dragoons race into the center of the field, an odd decision for sure as none of the French or Italian forces were yet disordered, the French Dragoons responded and sent the Russians reeling back.

First cavalry engagement
The Russians had two Dragoon formations in the brigade and now they countered the French Dragoons who in turn were also thrown back.

Russian Dragoons counter-attack

The end of the turn also saw a brigade fail its moral check as Russian artillery was starting to take effect, one Battalion of line was routed (having suffered 4 casualties) and the brigade rolled a morale check die getting a "1"!
French brigade morale fails and they flee to the edge of the board...
The collapse of the French left could have been catastrophic, however the French light cavalry was still available to 'plug the gap' until the men could recover.

Meanwhile on the Russian left the Cossacks had arrived, they were following the battle plan to drive up the line behind the Dragoons and smash into the French center.  Certainly the inexperience of this Russian player was telling in his choice of action for the lightly armed Cossacks!

Cossacks arrive in the Russian left wing
Two turns of further artillery exchanges and another series of charge and counter-charge from the Russian and French Dragoons, left the French with the Chasseurs damaged and the Russians with one less Dragoon squadron.

all alone in the center, Eugene holds on until French brigade can recover
Those Russian Dragoons had to fall back from battle, directly in the mouths of Italian horse guns...

Russian Dragoons facing Italian horse guns
Turn 6 saw the end of the Russian Dragoon brigade, they were destroyed in an instant by concentrated artillery fire at close range by the Italian horse battery and longer range by French horse guns.  As they fled so did the full battery of Russian horse artillery attached to the brigade, now the weight of guns was closer to equal.

The Cossacks advanced behind a screen of Russian infantry, the battalion of Jagers suffered in turn 7 from massed French and Italian artillery fire.  The French brigade that had fallen back in turn 2 was now recovered and back into position.  Just in time to blast the remnants of the Jagers from the field.  Then the Cossacks charged, into steady French Grenadiers.  It was not even a close match ... the Cossacks were blasted to bits.  Then came a "1" brigade morale roll for the Cossacks, who fled to the edge of the field.

In turn 8 the Cossacks recovered and still the artillery was dealing out death blows, this time another Russian Battalion fled the field (with 4 casualties), while the jubilant French Grenadiers were wounded and disordered by concentrated Russian artillery.

Start of turn 8 from Russian left
Seeing that victory would only come from breaking the will of the French brigade opposite him one Russian commander decides to press forward after one last blast from his guns.

Brigade command choosing to drive forward to victory
Only two more French units breaking would complete the win for the Russians, three more were needed for the French....

the paths of glory lead but to the grave
Then French and Italian artillery got that next Russian unit, now only two each were needed for victory.

The weakest French unit were the Chasseurs a Cheval, though they were posted to a reserve role.

Chasseur a Cheval in reserve, though wounded still a capable unit
French and Italian line, though bloodied was now back into position
The Russians had moved into squares on their right, due to the French light horse that had filled the gap of the infantry brigade, now those slow moving Russians were going to be unable to press on their advantage, for the French brigade had recovered and now was back into position to hold them off.

The French fired on the advancing Battalions, taking out another one and certainly causing a morale check on the central Russian brigade, though this would come at the end of the turn, they were in no condition to continue fighting, and the French guns were certain to score more hits that could not be sustained (the remaining Battalion had 3 hits already).

Russian right formed defensive squares
Russian right wing brigade had taken the hill
A critical decision time had come for the vanguard commander ... how to score one more casualty on the French forces?

Fateful moment, Russian command must get one more casualty to win
The decision was made to send in the Cossacks to achieve the victory.

measurement being made to send in the Cossacks
The Cossacks charged at the wounded Grenadiers ... who went to form square - and - failed! (rolled a "6")

Now a desperate fight would result, with the Cossacks having bonus and dice roll total score of 8 and the wounded Grenadiers coming up with NO bonus (having failed to form square and casualties and no support they were at a "0").  As the Grenadiers already had two hits they could only sustain two more, three hits and they would flee the field, causing the brigade to have more than 1/2 casualties and likely having to flee totally - giving the Russians the clear victory, so they would have to roll a "6" in order to even stay on the field and give the rest of the French a fighting chance.

The Grenadiers rolled a "6"!

They fell back with casualties, yet the brigade would remain.

The Cossacks charged ahead and totally destroyed the French foot battery that had dealt out great volumes of death all day.

The problem was that the Russians had lost another Battalion in the turn, the French had reached their victory total.  Final score French: 6 :: Russian: 4.

Clearly the field was not going to stay in French hands long, though the battle was a French 'victory' it was a Pyrrhic one for the Russians were certain to recover faster than the French ... the greater part of the army would march away and the French retreat would continue ...

Many thanks to MIKE for playing as the Russian in this contest at Dak-Kon 17 in Courtenay.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Battle of Leipzig - Avalon Hill's Napoleon's Battles

After having a chat with James Fisher of Avon Napoleonic Fellowship, and discovering that he was unaware of the mapping solution that the Avalon Hill, Napoleon's Battles system had, I thought I might share some of the details here.

From Module 2, which was all about scenario design and a few selected battles (that did not make it into the original main rulebook) the map layout for Leipzig has four 'tabletops' as depicted:

"Tables" A - B - C

"Table" D and layout
The scenario calls for the "Allied" armies (Russia, Austria, Prussia and Sweden) to 'march on' the table for the most part (some are deployed to the south).  While this does miss some of the artillery strength that the allied forces had it does permit the battle to commence without the need for a truly massive table space, or running the game on the floor.

Another thought has come to mind from the reading of David Chandler on the subject of Leipzig battle.  The Allied 'plan' was roughly divided into four sectors:

The battlefield of Leipzig covers a wide sweep of ground, divided by the Rivers Elster, Pleisse, Luppe and Parthe.  The city stands at the confluence of the first two named, and in 1813 the terrain separating them was extremely marshy and wooded.  The old city and its suburbs lay to the est and north of this difficult area, and the single road running westward from the Rannstdt Gate to the village of Lindenau was carried along and extensive embankment cut by several wooden and stone bridges.  Near Lindenau, another stream - the River Luppe - leaves its parent the Elster and runs away to the northwest roughly parallel to the main river enclosing between them another swampy region.  Immediately to the north of the suburb of Pffandorf, the Parthe tributary leaves the Elster in a northeasterly direction, before describing a broad southerly sweep towards its source near Kolm Berg.

These four rivers, radiating out from Leipzig, divide the surrounding circle of country into four main sectors.  Approximately to the south of teh city lie the marshy areas already referred to.  To the west, between the Elster and the Luppe, lie two roads, running from Lindenau to Merseburg and Weissenfgels respectively.  Here the ground is at first very flat and open, but five miles down the Weissenfels road near Markranstadt the terrain on each side of teh highway becomes increasingly hilly.   The northern sector lies between the Elster ad the Parthe.  Here again the country lay open and fairly level, with a number of roads radiating out toward Halle, Duben and Eilenburg.  The fourth and most significant area, destined to see much of the battle, lies between the Parthe and the Upper Pleisse.  It is marked by a series of low ridges runnign outward from Leipzig toward two pieces of relatively high ground - the Galgenberg (lying between the villages of Wachau and Liebertwolkowitz) and the Kolm Berg, some two miles to the east.  Although the undulating nature of the terrain and the large number of villages and hamlets made it a naturally strong defensive position, much of the countryside was very open and well suited to large-scale cavalry action.  Several important roads cross the area, running toward Wurzen, Dreseden, Grimma, and Borna.  Linking these were a large number of earthen lateral farm tracks of dubious military value.

~ D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p. 923

Allied forces were so concentrated to move inwards towards Leipzig along these four sectors, with only (relatively) small crossing forces dispatched from the south to enter the marshy westward sector (where the final escape route lay).  This means that, for tabletop purposes, the western sector can be 'simulated' via other means and a concentration on the south east and north regions can be done.  Indeed this is generally what the Avalon Hill scenario aims to achieve.

For someone wanting to simulate this great battle, I would first request a general battle plan from the Allied commanders, and keeping the Schwartzenberg, Alexander and Blucher players apart while they did their planning.  The French player could lay out their outer defenses and keep  any reserve details secret.  Then once this was done, on paper, I would lay out the battle for tabletop action based on the advances that the allied commands called for.  This way the best use of the 'tabletop' gets put into use and the overall battle can still be actively pursued without the need for an immense table or some other such 'accommodations' as trap-doors or player cut-outs, when it is understood that vast areas of the battlefield will, by necessity will be either inactive or simply vacant.

Likewise, there is no need to depict the ground that any allied 'reserves' are standing on or marching from.