Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Big Battles for Small Tables - continued (3)

More Nostalgia...
'My' first Napoleonic campaign was not going so well for the French.  The fact was that Philip, who was directing the campaign, had decided that the less experienced gamers (not that any of us were overburdened with that quality) should command the armies, and no real provision had been made for individual corps commanders.  Well, the whole thing was not meant to be anything complicated.  The operations of the French Army of the North having led to a defeat saved from ignominy only by determination of its soldiers, it remained to be seen what might be achieved by the Army of the East.
Two Divisions - enough for a small Army Corps -
 in our games of nearly 40 years ago.
Aside from snippets of news dropped by Philip, I had no clear idea what was going on in either theatre (North or East), nor even where the armies were operating.  But it soon became clear that the Allies succeeded in concentrating their whole strength, or very near it.  Near the town of Westburg, on the banks of the River Splasch (I've coined these names as I have no idea where this action 'actually' took place), the French ran them to earth - quite literally, as they found the Prussians on the near side of the stream comfortably dug in behind earthworks.  On the far bank, the Russian, disdaining to occupy Sudburg, had preferred to occupy the hill to the north.  The whole Allied line face southwards, ready for the French approach from that direction.
Battle of Sudburg.  Something of  a French tactical success,
but a strategic defeat, as French numbers were too few to roll up
the Allied right flank.  But given the position at the opening of the action,
it was always going to be a long shot.
(Diagram hand drawn, then prettied up with Microsoft 'Paint')

Where were the Austrians?  It would have been nice to learn that they would be several miles away sitting this one out.  No.  Scouts reported that the Austrians lay not far to the east, in imminent reach of what was to become the battlefield.  That was not good news: nothing we saw was good news.  We were outnumbered by an enemy, two-thirds of whom were dug in, by something like 10,000 troops (57.000 to 67.000, or 570 figures to 670 if you prefer).

There was nothing for it: the wine had been drawn and now must be drunk.  Although the French 'C-in-C' (I'll call him Marshal Ouijabord) was present, I pretty much formed a hasty plan, and ran the the show - a bit like Ney to Napoleon at Waterloo.  Taking command of III and IV Army Corps I undertook to throw the Prussians out of Westburg, clear the left bank of the Splasch River, and then, crossing that stream, fall upon the Russian right flank.  For his part, Marshal Ouijabord was to soften up the Russians with his massed artillery, preparatory to attack in combination with my command once the Prussians had been driven away. At the same time, he was to try and fend off the approaching Austrians long enough with the cavalry supported by the Imperial Guard.
My very first Napoleonic troops: 2nd generation Miniature Figurines Ltd
(Minifigs).  Voltigeurs of the Young Guard, and line infantry.  Originally
as Westphalians, They have since been repainted as 17th Line infantry
(or II Division in my BB4ST project).
It all seemed pretty risky, and it was.  And it didn't really work.  Third and Fourth Army Corps stormed in and shovelled the Prussians out of the first line of works quickly enough, and a second Prussian line shortly after.  The French stormed the Westburg village in great style.  But we couldn't prevent the whole line swivelling back towards the river (helped by a brief rearguard action north of the town).  Eventually, a very battered Prussian army staggered across the stream and formed a refused flank on the Russian line, facing westward.  By this time, though, both III and IV Corps were looking pretty tired themselves.  It was clear that a successful further attack across the river obstacle was possible only in conjunction with the northward attack by I and II Corps.

The voltigeurs now form the light companies of 4 line regiments:
 17th, 30th, 51st and 61st.
It was here that the French plan went  seriously awry.  The massed preparatory counter-battery fire began promisingly, with gratifying losses to the enemy ordnance in spite of the earthen protection. But Ouijabord rather prematurely (it was later alleged) switched his attention to the defending Russian infantry.  This seemed to be justified, however, when a Russian brigade emerged from behind a hill and came under a deadly cannon crossfire.  Within minutes (one bound) its scant remnants (2 out of 18 figures) disappeared whence they came.

Meanwhile, the Austrians had been flowing onto the field, the bulk of whom marched towards the French right flank.  There Ouijabord massed his entire cavalry - and a formidable barrier it must have seemed, for the Austrians did little more than build up their line and look menacing, all day.

This was my second ever Division: 1st generation Minifigs,
bought second hand and very much in need of a refurb.
All the same, it was becoming clear that the main French attack had to come soon if it were not to be called off altogether.  Leaping over the walls and fences about the Sudburg village, the infantry of I and II Corps surged forward.  Though depleted by the earlier bombardment, the Russians proved one more what formidable gunners they were. In mere moments, scores of Frenchmen were laid low. The alarming rate of casualties was too much for Ouijabord (and I had to agree with him), and the attack was called off.  The French had lost the battle.

For a long time they enjoyed a semi-retirement as garrison or
otherwise second line troops, but have recently been rejuvenated:
15th Light and 33rd Line infantry ( or VII and part of VIII Divisions
in my new scheme) 
Results and conclusions.
Well... that was the campaign, pretty much.  I don't recall that we were so close to exams and such (unlike the year before) that one or two battles might yet have been fought, but the fact was that the disaster to the Army of the North, and the failure in the East to split up the Allies for piecemeal attention, had left the French in very poor state to carry on the struggle.

Losses were about equal in this action (I think about 190 figures on both sides).  The bulk of these were from the Prussian Army.  I have since wondered whether the Prussians didn't lose more than half their strength in this action.  It must have been close!  Had they done so, then there would have been grounds (with the rules we were using) for their retreating altogether from the field.  The French might then have had a chance of winning the battle, but even had they lost, with the Prussian 2nd Army temporarily out of the campaign ( few days say) the French would have been in a position to fight on.

As it was, the outnumbered French consistently gave as good as they got.  But that was never going to be enough.

Next time: Recapturing old times with new ideas... 


  1. Those Minifigs still stand the test of time !

    1. Most of my Minifigs are 3rd generation, and I've always rather liked them. I have other manufactures, some 28mm, and though they are fine, Minifigs remain my favorites.

  2. I love the comment about the wine Ion!

    Well done.

  3. Not sure where that's from, but it conveys the situation well enough! The net effect of my early war game experiences (and chess play) was that I developed a taste for attack. Win or lose, you get all the fun.

  4. A very enjoyable read. It sounds like you all had great fun ... and I think that your maps have just the right blend of detain and simplicity.

    I look forward to reading Part 3.

    All the best,


    1. Unfortunately, Bob, there is (was) no 'Part 3' to that campaign... but it does I hope lead in to what I want with my present Napoleonic armies. Reading accounts of battles on other blogs, I have admired the pictures, but generally have found it difficult to orient myself around the battlefield - it's hard to know what's really going on. Maps, however basic, are a help, I think.

  5. A little Napoleonic game (does such a thing exist?) is great from time to time.

    There is the matter of some Villainous intent that needs discussion.

    A certain Boyar Count is curious ....

    Wanna join the dark side?

    1. The dark side, eh? You make it sound so alluring... :-) Tell me more!