Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Eric's Battle Report

I've just received Eric's version of events via the miracle that is e-mail and without further ado present them for your perusal:

1. Design and Setup

Designing a scenario for our first full two table experience presented a few challenges. The main problem is to try and avoid having most of the action happen across the gap between the tables. This usually means that straight side-to-side encounters are not an option. I played around with a few ideas in my head, but many of them ended in two separate battles happening with only a tenuous connection between them, which isn't what you normally want. I settled upon a set-up loosely (very loosely you pedants!) based on the second day of the battle of Kulm 1813, a battle which I seem to have some sort of obsession with as this isn't the first time I've used it for inspiration.
Battle across the table gap

As I had only minutes to think up forces and to make things different from the more structured campaign armies we have been using, we decided to go with random troop quality. Until a unit has to take a morale test they are assumed to be 1st class. When the first test is to be made a d10 is rolled and the result compared to a chart I quickly made up. As this was 1813 the average quality of all armies was a mix of 2nd and 1st class infantry, with very low rolls meaning militia and high meaning veteran or better. Each division on table was given a quality which provided a modifier to the die roll - veteran divisions gained +2 for example and a roll of 12 would give the unit Elite status.

The terrain was set-up so that there was a hilly and forested area on the French right becoming flatter further left with a scattering of villages and open woods. The French left was dominated by a large hill (the Altberg) which had steep sides so that artillery could only traverse it on the road. It did have a flat top where artillery could set up and troops on it could see over all the other hills. Exposed as it was the French would be taking a risk putting artillery there. The open terrain in the centre and left had the potential for both large scale cavalry and artillery duels. The area behind the French front lines was set-up similarly with close terrain to the right and open on the left, with a carefully sited village if the French chose to fall back on it.

The initial forces had two small, but veteran Russian divisions, with a supporting 12pdr battery and allied Austrian line division facing off against 3 French divisions, two of which were veteran and supported by a large heavy cavalry division and a corps 12pdr battery. At game start 2 Prussian divisions were set up behind the French right just emerging from the rough terrain. The Prussian commander was informed that if he blocked one of the roads off table behind the front lines he could prevent their reserves arriving. The Russian commander was told that his reserves depended on the whim of the Tsar, but that success would be rewarded more than failure. The emergence of the Prussians meant that both tables could be used from turn one as that action could take place on one table whilst the Russo-Austrian lines were involved on the other. I hoped this set-up would lead to minimal action across the gap between tables, a hope that was destined to be dashed.

2. The early battle

The French chose to set-up one of their batteries on the Altberg supported to the rear and left by a veteran division. This exposed unit was assaulted straight away by the Austrians and the battery forced to retreat. A large scale infantry battle ensued for the Altberg which left the French veterans streaming back in two waves. These routers were to play a pivotal part later on.

Meanwhile the Russian 12pdr battery dominated the open ground in the centre, whilst the French Corps 12pdrs were left impotent having been set up too far back, out of range of the Russians. The French left moved to the other side of a low ridge and attempted an assault, but the move had lost them cohesion and the attack was half-hearted and so doomed to fail. The Russian guns turned their attention to the central division who stood and took it for a while, their casualties leaving them with reduced morale.

The Prussians emerged from the woods to find themselves faced by the French heavy cavalry. Their hussars threw themselves gallantly into the fray but lost to superior quality and superior morale dice. Without any further cavalry support their infantry was left to try and advance in square to try and make room for their guns to set up. The heavies, without artillery support could do little against the squares and a stalemate ensued. The Cuirassiers did ride down a battalion of Fusiliers, but the cavalry started to take increasing casualties from skirmisher fire.

Once the Altberg had fallen the Tsar started to release the reserves. At the same time the French reinforcements started to arrive on the rear board and the battle moved into a new phase.

3. The battle of the gap.

The first reserves to arrive were the Austrian Grenadiers, who were given orders to punch straight down the middle and rout the central French division. The move left them intermingled with one of the Russian divisions and both divisions suffered from reduced cohesion. Rather than face this assault and an outflanking by the victorious Austrians on the Altberg, the French withdrew onto the rear table, covered by their Corps artillery finally in use.

To the French rear the poor quality Westphalian reserves were followed by veteran Wurtemburgers and elite Young Guard divisions. The two confederation divisions were sent against the Prussians, whilst the heavy cavalry was brought behind the lines to counter the Russian advance on the left, which was now supported by a small Kurassier division. As events unfolded the French heavies saw no further action, depriving the French of their strongest arm.

The Prussian commander, with many of his troops still stuck in the woods, decided to try and draw off the Westphalians with half a division. This tactic worked and though the Prussian battalions were defeated, the Westphalians had been drawn into an attack far away from the point of decision, when they might have been better deployed just screening the whole Prussian force, leaving the Wurtembergers to help in the centre. Instead the Wurtembergers ended up in a drawn combat against the other Prussians.

On the French left the Russian advance was held up by a Swiss militia square which refused to run, but the advance continued. Once the 12pdrs were back in action and the Kurassiers had moved up, there was little that the battered French could do without reinforcements that never arrived.

In the centre the French reorganisation was badly hampered by the retreating troops from the Altberg. These troops repeatedly rallied then routed the rallied and routed. This meant that the good order troops could not deploy properly and that the troops already battered by the Russian 12pdrs kept on having to take morale checks. By the time the mess was sorted out several other battalions had joined the rout and the Allied assault was upon them.

The only hope the French had left was the late arriving Young Guard, whose fire saw off the damaged Austrians advancing from the Altberg and who threatened to take advantage of the confusion between the grenadiers and the adjacent Russians. This confusion was heightened by the gap between tables where this force was trying to deploy. So much for my plans of avoiding this scenario!

The guard attack was hampered by Wurtembergers falling back, but that could not excuse two battalions routing on initial contact with the allies. With most of the French army now falling back the battle was declared an Allied victory. The French had an initial advantage but attacked piecemeal and used their artillery poorly, whilst the Russian 12pdrs were allowed to have a field day.

This battle was envisaged as part one of a trilogy. The result here means that come part three a French veteran division will be replaced by a poor one. Part two is about to start. Will the French get their revenge? I don't know, but this time I've decided to embrace the gap.

...and there it ends, or does it? The game lasted for four game nights and nineteen turns in all and allowed us to use heavy cavalry divisions for the first time. The Russians are shortly to be strengthened by two more cuirassier regiments and can expect more dragoons in the near future so perhaps Eric's next game will see the Allies on the offensive. In addition to Eric's battle report I also received lots of photo's. In fact far too many to publish on the blog, so I'm looking into putting them onto an online album such as photobucket though I've not had much success so far.


Rafael Pardo said...

A great battle!
I played Kulm several years ago. The second day was a great view: massses of Austrian white-coated infantry falling over the french flank!

guy said...

Years ago I had a book called Wargames from David Nash and he seemed to suggest you should play top to bottom rather than across the tables. Effectively you set out horizontally across the 2 boards. Apparently the gap down the middle of the armies was easier for the eye to deal with and avoided the inevitable battle in the gap. The meglamaniacs solution is to have one table on wheels and push the 2 tables together for a global view between moves but I presume this is wishful thinking.


Chris Cornwell said...

I've played up and down over multiple tables and its an even worse nightmare. The visual aspect is similar but the real problem is that all the players are trying to physically cram into one space.

Noel said...

Playing up the middle would be doubly difficult for us as due to space restrictions the tables butt up to the wall at one end. One solution for the gap problem might be for all the players to be suspended from harnesses, a'la Tom Cruise in that really bad movie.


Dave H said...

Hi. What figures do you use to represent your Westphalians Guard Light Infantry? I believe that Elite do not produce a figure for this yet? I think I saw the Lights in the front of your photo of the Westphalian division in one of your previous posts? Thanks. Dave

Noel said...

Dave: The jaeger are actually line jaeger not guard, though as far as I'm aware there is little difference in uniform between the two, other than the guard jaegers' Karabinnier company wearing a peaked bearskin. For the line jaeger we used the voltigeur pack from Elite (WFA7)as once again to the best of my knowledge the uniform is the same apart from the colour.


Dave H said...

thanks for the info. Very enjoyable blog by the way!

Doc Smith said...

Cor Blimey! Massed lead on a huuuge table. Noel, I am drooling with envy. Not usually a fan of Elites, although I own quite a few meself - but en masse on a big table - who cares? They look terrific.

Perverse of me, as I've just invested a fortune in French (Perry's etc) but I DO like seeing hordes of Austrians kick some French butt.

Notice in the pic your Grenz are in line against a French column - did you get enough shooting in to dish up that column? BTW - another dumb question - what rules are you using?

I've just posted some more stuff on results of painting Perry's my blog you may be interested in:


Please feel free to visit and leave a comment.


Noel said...

Hi Doc, The rules we use are "In The Grand Manner" which are well suited to large battles. They classify Grenzer as militia morale but as veterans for firing.

If I remember correctly they didn't stop the columns and ended up getting hit quite hard. I'll check with Eric for confirmation as he was commanding them at the time.