Sunday, 29 May 2011

Clash at Leipzig

Our long awaited campaign finally got under way on wednesdy night with a battle between the Prussians and French in the area of Leipzig.  The French with two Corps took up a defensive position and awaited the attack of the Prussian army.  Fortunately because of the size of the battle we had enough French to field their entire force and by adding Austrians and Russians the to the Prussians we could also field the entire Prussian army.  Neil who has devised the campaign has done a battle report so I'll hand over to him....

The early mist of the 8th November 1806 lifted pre-dawn and as the weak hazy light of the sun spread slowly across the field at Leipzig it revealed over 100,000 men in final preparations to make battle. The field had scattered hills and stretched from a wooded valley in the North down across rolling low hills and undulating cultivated land toward the South. A line of hamlets and villages were scattered across the centre with a central hill dominating and topped with a Village.
The French army had drawn up in an advanced position centred around this central village with the Divisions of St Hilaire, Caferelli, Vandamme and Oudinot running North to South in the front line. Further reserves were ready behind to add their support when needed. Lined up ready to attack, again running North to South, were the Prussian Brigades of Von Pletz, Scharnhorst, the Heavy Cavalry of Von Preussen, Blucher’s Infantry in the centre flank in the far South by Von Muffling and finally Von Quitlow.

Troops of St Hilaires division forming the French left wing.

Napoleon had opted for a forward position to try and punish the Prussians with his superior artillery before they were able to close on his Infantry. It was with some consternation and dismay, that he viewed a formidable gun line opposing his troops made up of Foot batteries, Horse guns and battalion guns. 
Side note: This unfortunate situation had arisen at least in part due to the solution arrived at by the umpire on paper for the campaign to ‘model’ battalion guns. It was to create smaller, non-howitzer batteries who could not ‘grand battery’ up with others and used a d12 die to hit instead of the normal d10. This achieved the weaker batteries invisaged but has a flaw in that it still does create ‘batteries’ which are a different beast to battalion guns. More on solutions to this mis-modelling at a later date but the Demon was out in the room so, for this battle at least, that is how they are to be played.
The opening turn saw Von Pletz and Scharnhorst begin to advance amongst the trees and valleys in the North whilst the rest of the Allied army sat behind its gun line which opened up across the front. The French gunners retaliated and began an artillery duel. Turn 2 saw more of the same with a largely static Prussian army gaining the upper hand in casualties in the centre but suffering themselves in the South. In gun terms, the artillery in the Centre/North saw 3 French batteries of 3 x 12lb, 3 x 8lb, 3 x 6lb and 2 howitzers battling against 6 Prussian Batteries totalling 6 x 12lb + 2 howitzers, 6 x 6lb and 6 x 6lb battalion guns. In the South, the 3 French batteries had 6 x 8lb, 3 x 12lb and 3 howitzers facing 3 Prussian batteries totalling 3 x 12lb + howitzer and 6 x 6lb battalion guns.

Prussian heavy cavalry and infantry advance against the French left.

Turn 3 and Von Pletz continued his advance in the far North whilst Scharnhorst’s Brigade slowed beside him. The remainder of the Allied force appear almost catatonic in its state as the guns did their bloody work on the French batteries! Turn 4 and 5 saw more of the same but also saw Napoleon decide that the threat in the North was becoming an issue so activated his first reserves with both the Infantry of both La Roffiere and the Imperial Guard moving out from their initial positions.

    Turn 6 and 7 and mid-morning arrived and appeared to stir the Prussians from their lethargy…. In the far South Von Muffling sent forward his Light cavalry squadrons toward Oudinot’s Infantry whilst in the North, Von Pletz halts his advance behind a ridge of hills between him and St Hilaire. In the centre Blucher’s Infantry begins to change position.
    Turn 8 and the first Prussian reserves advance on table just to the North of Blucher in the form of Von Oswald’s Infantry Division. This turn also saw the French Divisions of St Hilaire and Caferelli, who had been exposed on the front line, begin to pull back and find some protection from the bombardment.

Russian infantry and battalion guns on the allied left.

Turn 9, St Hilaire seeks cover as Von Pletz begins to advance again in the North whilst in the Centre, Von Oswald’s march signals a general advance as he is joined by Blucher and the Heavy cavalry of Von Preussen moving towards the French lines. Turn 10, approaching the half way point of the battle and things are moving as the Prussian right and centre continue to push on and Margeron throws out a couple of squadrons of light cavalry in a counter move which is short lived after heavy musketry from a wood on their flank sends them backwards. The only position that still seems static at present is the far South where Von Muffling and Von Quitlow appeared resolved to hold their ground in a stale mate situation.
    From my perspective as the umpire, and with the pseudo apology in place already for the battalion guns and therefore ignoring them, the French had a sound plan of holding the edge of the open ground and pounding the Allies as they advanced toward them. In the South this sort of worked as they had gun dominance and were able to fairly effectively drive off the Prussian 12lb’s leaving a whole Prussian Corps ‘pinned down with only barrels of cannon to look forward to if they did advance. In the centre however, the Prussian decision to ‘soften up’ the opposition before a general advance led to the artillery duel, which they in turn won, and now the French Infantry will find themselves fighting full strength Prussians rather than the weakened ones hoped for… 

The Prussian centre begins its advance.

The battle began with the Prussians having a slight numerical advantage, some 53,000 men to the French 49,000, but the French defending the outer environs of Leipzig. There is a long way to go in this battle yet with hardly anything truly committed to action and next Thursday when we convene should see both sides getting into the meat of the matter.. In Campaign terms, there is still the obvious issue of where the other third of the French army is whilst the whole of the Prussians are committed to battle at Leipzig together with their Saxon allies who are yet to make an appearance on table.

Neil intends to give us a blow by blow account each week which should make for entertaining reading, stay tuned.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Campaign Season Opens

First things first I suppose, as I reported in the previous Blog entry I headed up to the Wargames Holiday Centre last weekend for a bit of playtesting of Mark's new Waterloo game.  Mark has moved the terrain to the West so that Hougomont is now at the extreme right flank of the Allied line which has allowed him to bring the villages of La Haye and Papelotte on to the table as well as Plancenoit.  Of course this gives a greatly enhanced role to the Prussians as they arrive earlier and have a larger area to operate in than in previous incarnations of the battle.

Prussian troops from Ziethens Corps head towards La Haye.

I must have played Waterloo at least half a dozen times at the WHC and I really liked the changes that Mark had made.  In previous games there was often the feeling that the arival of the Prussians was dependent on how well the Allies were coping with the French assaults.  This time the French were forced to react to their arrival from early in the game and were unable to blindly assault the Allied ridges knowing that the Prussians would probably arrive too late to turn the tide.

Two of D'erlons divisions begin the climb up the ridge.

The French plan of attack was relatively straight forward.  Lobau's Corps would defend the right flank against the Prussians whilst D'erlon and Reille's Corps each of four divisions would carry out the main attack on the right and left of La Haye Sainte respectively.  One of Reilles divisions was tasked with tying down Hougomont while D'erlon had to detach a division to concentrate on Papelotte.
    The right of the French line was seen as the main point of attack and therefore the heavy cavalry divisions of Milhaud and Kellerman were also allotted to this crucial area. 

The Chateau D'Hougomont defended by four, yes four, British Guards battalions.

Both divisions of the Imperial Guard along with the Guard cavalry were held in reserve to carry out the final breakthrough should they be needed.  On the left Reille's Corps was given the job of assaulting Hougomont, though this quickly became a screening action once it was discovered that the chateau was defended by four, forty eight man battalions of British Guard.  Reille also had the task of holding the French left while putting pressure on La Haye Sainte.

One of Reilles' division contend with the KGL for La Haye Sainte.

In the end the French were once again victorious but it was a much closer game than most of the ones I've played before.  I say once again, because in previous games it has generally been up to the French to lose it rather than for the Allies to win.  If the French did all the right things they would usually break the Allied line and this could sometimes happen very quickly.  Considering that the majority of the experienced players were on the French side it was still a hard fought game with the French just shading it.

The Guard cavalry once released head off to give some much needed support to Reille's Corps.

Changing the subject our new campaign is now under way and we have our first battle to fight.  The French face a coalition of Prussia, Austria and Russia and have headed North from their cantonements in Bavaria in an attempt to knock Prussia out of the war before the Russians and Austrians can come to their aid.  Advancing on a broad frontage it was the intention of the French to cross the Elbe in the vicinity of Meissen and advance on Berlin thereby forcing the Prussian field army to defend it.  Unexpectedly the Prussians rather than guard the line of the Elbe have crossed to the South bank and moved towards Dresden in support of the King of Saxony who has declared for the Allies.  This has allowed the French to send one Corps Northwest and cross the Elbe closer to Wittenberg. 
    The remaining French Corps remained at Leipzig to cover the crossing and it is here that the Prussians with their allies the perfidious Saxons have decided to attack.   

The area of operations with Leipzig close to the centre.

In the South there are reports that the Austrians are attempting to bully the brave and honourable King Maximillian of Bavaria into allowing them passage through his lands though information is scarce at the moment.
    So next week it's the Battle of Leipzig and if this campaign is anything like the last one we may end up fighting there several times.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Short and not so Sweet

Not too surprisingly our current game which we recommenced on turn seven was all over by turn nine.  The Prusso-Russian attack on the French left wing foundered and was then thrown back in utter disorder, whilst the Austrian attack in the centre fared no better.  I was actually caught out by the brevity of the game and took very few photos until it was all over which is my excuse for the rather poor selection which accompanies this post.

A variety of Confederation troops queue up to take a swing at the hapless Allies.

The Allies never recovered from the debacle of their early assault and were caught by the pursuing Germans and Poles at a huge disadvantage.  The result was inevitable, more routs and more ground lost followed by the collapse of the Allied right.  One brave thirty two man battalion of Pavlovs lined out to try and buy some time for their comrades but was hit by the combined fire of artillery infantry volleys and skirmishers, losing fifteen men in just one turn. 

Having taken the fire of guns and infantry for several turns the leading Austrian battalions begin to crumble.

For the Austrians in the centre it was very much the same story. Advancing on a two battalion frontage their infantry was forced to endure the defensive fire of four French battalions and an artillery battery.  Despite their ability to take heavy casualties and keep going forward it was all to much for them and they failed to even get in to contact.

A battalion of Elite Miniatures Swiss, part of a small but potent division holding the French right.

So where did it all go wrong for the Allies?  With the twenty twenty vision afforded by hindsight I think it's fair to say that they went at the whole thing a little too hard and fast.  Once again there was no preparatory artillery fire, instead the infantry advanced from turn one straight in to the sights of the waiting and untouched French.  In the centre the Austrians would probably have benefitted from clearing the French from the woods to their front instead of ignoring them and attempting to advance on a narrow frontage against a force which had plenty of space to line out.  It is of course easy to be wise after the event and it's not always obvious before the game gets under way where the vital parts of the battlefield will be.
A sotnia of cossacks seeing the way things are going decide to look for some stragglers to pick on.

So what now?  Maybe we'll start another game next week or it may be an evening of campaign moves now that Neil has given us our army lists along with a general brief.  For my sins I rolled high on the dice and ended up as Napoleon which means that any blog entries regarding the campaign will have a distinctly Francophile slant.
As for me I'm off to the Wargames Holiday Centre this weekend for a spot of playtesting Mark Freeths new Waterloo layout.  The idea is to give the Prussians a greater role in the game and Mark's moved the terrain around quite radically to achieve this.  I'm taking my camera so assuming that I actually remember to use it I'll post some pictures and a report when it's all over.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

It took us no time at all to get a new game started following last weeks' decisive session and this time it was Eric who stepped up to the crease with another scenario.  This time we're only using the one table as the intention is that this will be a relatively short game designed to fill the time until we're ready to start Neils' long awaited campaign.

The field of battle with the French on the left and the Allies on the right.  Very quiet at this end so far but hotting up in the distance.

 Eric employed the tried and tested "dice for your troops" method, in which each player rolls a D10 and receives the corresponding troops from the list which he had devised.  This gives everyone a division sized infantry force of varying quality with or without cavalry support.  The French players ended up with only one French division, the other three being Swiss, German and Polish.  The Allies have two Russian, one Austrian and one Prussian division.

A Saxe-Coburg battalion enjoys the cover of a redoubt while their Westphalian and Kleve-Berg comrades duck.

It appears that from the outset both sides decided to attack and defend in the same areas. This is understandable considering the ground.  The Allied left/French right is hilly with small woods and a village presently held by the French, whereas the the Allied right /French left is relatively flat and open.  The latter sector is the one which has seen the majority of the fighting so far.
Russian Hussars and infantry, part of the division which forms the Allied left.  To their right is a battalion of Austrian jaeger.

As well as rolling for our troops we also rolled a D6 for initial deployment.  This left the French with all but one of their formations already on table while two of the Allied divisions had to march on from the base line.  Dom's division of Austrians had the dubious distinction of having one of its battalions march on table on turn one and immediately retreat off table on the following move when he threw a five for their morale.  In fact out of his six, forty eight man battalions only three are still advancing together following a serious of tragic morale throws.

Dom's reluctant Austrians advance by installments.

To Doms right Nick had the responsibility of controlling his own Prussian division and Andys Russian division as Andy was unable to make it on the night.  The added responsibility might be the reason behind a couple of rather strange decisions made by Nick which left the rest of us a little bemused.  Nick decided to support his advancing Prussians by bringing up his artillery to knock out Neils guns.  However he chose to do this by moving them up into cannister range of Neils guns.  The resulting carnage left Nicks guns at half casualties whilst Neils battery though damaged survived the encounter. 

Nicks' Prussian battery decide they've had enough for today.

While advancing into cannister range was a strange enough thing to do, Nicks next idea was even stranger.  The battery moved to its right and was unlimbered next to a battalion which was about to be charged and had next to no chance of winning the melee.  The resulting rout sparked a morale test for the battery and off they ran.  This meant that there were now two routs adding a total of minus five to any morale throws and unsurprisingly another Prussian battalion was thrown into retreat.  The situation isn't unsalvageable but the French have gained a decent advantage in the area.

Looking a little like a flag sellers convention the Pavlov grenadiers enter the table to the right of Dom's Austrians.
We got as far as turn seven, which isn't bad considering we had to finish off putting away the figures from the previous game and set up the new one.  So next week we'll be continuing the motion and I'll be able to digress a little about Neils' campaign which we were briefed about on thursday evening.

Westphalian, Kleve-Berg and Polish troops from Eric and Neils divisions nip forward to take advantage of the confusion in the Prussian ranks.