Thursday, 25 March 2010

Smolensk II

Last night we picked up our dice and measuring sticks and continued the Smolensk game.  The game has developed into two distinct parts.  One part is the fighting on the southern bank of the Dnieper around the suburbs and walls of the old city and the other is on the northern bank where the French are having great difficultiy in deploying.

French infantry advance past the outlying suburbs towards the walls of Smolensk itself.

It's probably easier and quicker to deal with the northern sector first.  Dom's Polish troops having been delayed by poor dice throws in their deployment have all but stopped advancing due to the large force of Russian cavalry to their front.  Their own cavalry is unable to help as they have the same deployment area and are therefore blocked by the infantry.  To make matters worse the strategically important village which covers the Dnieper crossing point in the area has been taken by the Russians.  Without this village there will be no chance for the French to switch troops from the southern bank and achieve an envelopment of Smolensk.  The only real action that has occured so far was a cavalry melee which saw a regiment Russian uhlans heavily defeat a regiment of French lancers.

Poles about to form square in the face of Cuirassier and uhlans

On the southern bank of the Dneiper the Russian left flank was secured by the defeat of Grouchys' dragoons last week and this has allowed the Russian infantry reinforcements to advance unhindered towards Smolensk.  The French have now countered by deploying the Young Guard in support of Grouchy's remaining cavalry but the Russians should have ample cavalry to neutralise them.

Nick's enthusiasm to get to grips with the last dragoons costs him dearly as skirmishers and volley fire take a heavy toll of his cavalry.

Things have gone much better for the French on their left flank.  Both of the corps advancing on Smolensk have taken the outlying suburbs which were their initail objectives and have defeated the Russian forces in front of them.  The problem they now face is where to go from here.  The walls of Smolensk are deemed too high to be assaulted and the only way in is through the gates.  Any assaulting unit will be bound to take heavy casualties from the defenders and will be unsupported in any melee once they do get in.  The trick seems to be to cross troops over the Dneiper and encircle Smolensk but as previously mentioned this will be very difficult as the ford is now commanded by a Russian held village.

Westphalian infantry take a breather after capturing their first objective.

The Russians haven't had it all their own way so far.  Those defenders who were positioned outside the city walls have now nearly all been put to flight or as in the case of one brave guard battalion, cut down to a man.  This has left the Russian commander with a difficult situation caused by the fleeing troops desperately trying to get into Smolensk.  Coming in behind these routing troops will probably be the best and only real chance that the French will have of taking Smolensk at the point of the bayonet.

Russian infantry routing back into Smolensk.  Perhaps a golden opportunity for the Gallic hordes.

So far the game is nicely balanced and I wouldn't want to call it either way.  The French will have to be aggressive and inventive, and the Russians tenacious.  So all in all a game tailored to suit their respective characteristics.  We reconvene next wednesday and I for one am looking forward to it.

Monday, 22 March 2010


As previously mentioned we've now begun a new game which is loosely based on the battle of Smolensk.  This particular game is Dom's baby and he's designed the terrain and produced the orbats.  Unlike the real battle there are no French or Russian Guard formations though there are a couple of russian guard battalions.
  As we don't yet have any fortified walls which will work for the fortifications of Smolensk we've sadly been reduced to depicting the outlying suburbs with a smaller wall around them.  However moves are afoot to obtain a decent set of fortified walls so watch this space. 

The battlefield from the Northwest, "Smolenskville" is in the centre of the far table. The gap between the tables is the river Dnieper.

The game started with one corps from the Russian "Second Army of the West" on table in the area of Smolensk and then players had to specify where their troops would be entering the table and in what order.  Their actual arrival is decided by a dice throw which is easier to achieve as the turns progress.  The Russians having an easier total to achieve were able to bring on all of their troops within the first three moves.

Turn two and the cavalry are already knocking lumps off each other

Almost immediately The arrival of Sievers 4th Russian cavalry corps was challenged by Grouchy's 3rd reserve cavalry resulting in a series of melee's.  Four squadrons of French dragoons crashed into two squadrons of Sievers Curassier and sent them back through their supports.  A "rally on the spot" morale dice would have caused major headaches for the Russians but it was not to be and the victorious French returned to their own lines.  On their flank however another two squadrons of dragoons were heavily defeated by more Curassier who received a "pursue" morale result when the dragoons fled.  This allowed them to crash into the unformed reserves and in the resultant melee and morale phases a whole regiment of Dragoons was lost. 

Junot and Davout commence their advance against Raevski's 7th corps

On the French left troops began to be deployed on table in the form of Junots' Westphalian corps and Davouts' 1st corps.  Clearly aiming to secure the sparsely held outlying villages they made good progress despite the best efforts of cossacks and 12lb'er artillery to delay them.

The Westphalians, beefed up by a division of Wurtemburgers.

It's here that the next major clashes of the battle are most likely to take place, though the Russians are making a belated effort to withdraw closer to Smolensk.  We reconvene on wednesday night so I'll try to get an update in on thursday.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Grinding On

Once again apologies for the delay in posting, though this time it has been due to me building my new computer and transferring the necessary files etc. across from the old one.  Did I say building?  Well yes I did and to be honest it couldn't have been much simpler.  The components were all pretty much plug in or at most needed a few screws and everything worked first time, including the new windows 7 operating system.  Now all I had to do was get on to the internet.  This should be easy but proved far more difficult than the construction phase.  Suffice to say though everything is now up and running and so to the report of the final part of Eric's trilogy of encounters.

Surviving Austrian infantry attempt to take on three times their number of fresh troops.

You may have noticed in the last post a somewhat downbeat mood emenating from the Allied command team and this week things were no different.  The arrival of Allied reinforcements in the shape of a heavy cavalry division and an elite infantry division had the effect of clogging up what little space to maneouvre that remained.  The fight continued to be contested by the same battered formations that had been there from the start as there was nowhere else for them to go. 

Russian Dragoons launch themselves against infantry squares in a vain attempt to gain some space.

It does seem that everything that the Allies tried was doomed to failure and this was in large part due to the near impassable terrain that they were expected to cross in order to come to grips with the enemy.  Erics' justification was that the French had lower quality troops to defend with which is fair enough but the trick in using that technique is getting the balance right.  In truth the French could have straw filled dummies for most of their battalions because they were never called on to fight. 

Adding insult to injury a division of Young Guard arrive to join the fun.

When the Allied infantry did finally make its way through the artillery fire to the French infantry they were badly worn and often could not be reinforced as the troops behind them were unformed by the terrain.  The game went on for another three turns and then we called it a day and set about putting the toys away. 

A panoramic view of the situation close the end of the game.

I think it's true to say that this game didn't work out as expected.  To be fair to Eric he has produced three battles in this mini campaign, the first two of which worked extremely well.  I think we all failed to spot the danger of too much restrictive terrain and the two extra twelve pounder batteries in redoubts was a bit of overkill.  Hopefully in future we'll also make sure that troops don't start the game deployed within effective range of artillery as this leaves them with no option other than to assault the guns regardless of other threats. 

Austrian grenadiers about to charge into the arms of the waiting French.

Our next game should start next week and is loosely based on the battle of Smolensk.  Not one that any of us know much about, which should make for an interesting game.