I’ve been trying out several different Napoleonic rulesets lately:
- 2×2 Napoleonics definitely was quite interesting as you can read about here.
- Field of Glory: Napoleonics 2 is a set I want to like. I began my foray into Napoleonics with the first edition and have fond memories of the one big battle I played. The new set-up mechanic is nice. Essentially a little guessing game about who commits to an attack or defense complete with pre-battle bombardment. The rules however are unnecessarily detailed for my taste. Blücher pulls that off better with less rules in my opinion. When I try FOGN nowadays I get bored halfway through.
- Age of Eagles: It needs a ton of bases and seems to be incredibly fiddly
- DBN (De Bellis Napoleonicus): Tried it several times and bounced off hard. The problem is, that it plays like playing DBA, so I rather play DBA with ancients.
So I decided to get back to Blücher again with a full blown Scharnhorst campaign up front. If you want to call five days leading to a battle a campaign. Here is the map I came up with for some fictional German territory early in the Napoleonic period (early war lists)
The French entered from the left, the Prussians from the right. Several days of maneuvering brought the French forces strung along row C from Schwengen (B§) to Asendorf (C7). The Prussians saw an opening when there was a gap in the French front at C4. Prussian cavalry exploited this and battle was about to commence with half of the French forces on the march. More importantly the French cavalry reserve was cut off from the rest. See letters and numbers in the order of battle for map references of the starting positions. The battlefield was C4 to D6. The river was only crossable by two bridges.
French Order of Battle
I Corps (A on the map)
1 Heavy artillery
II Corps (B)
1 Heavy artillery
III Corps (D)
2 Elite Infantry
1 Heavy artillery
Cavalry Reserve (C)
2 Light cavalry
1 Horse artillery
Prussian Order of Battle
I Corps (1 on the map)
1 Light cavalry
II Corps (2)
1 Light cavalry
1 Foot artillery
Cavalry Corps (3)
4 Heavy cavarly
1 Horse artillery
IV Corps (4)
Prussian II corps
Prussian I corps
Prussian Avant-Garde ended up as reserves. A day earlier this corps was in the center of the potential battlefield. But the French maneuver towards Asendorf shifted the corp’s position to the far left flank. Above you can see Prussian cavalry on the hill.
As the Prussians have a huge numerical advantage they begin the battle with an aggressive frontal attack along the whole line.
On the left flank French artillery and musket fire is telling. The first brigade is already retreating back.
Prussian artillery has been brought up in the center. It quickly breaks a french brigade occupying the hill.
The Prussian left flank up to the river takes casualties from clouds of skirmishers and artillery.
Avant-Garde corps on the march. The Prussians figure they have to throw everything at the French to break them early.
Prussian heavy cavalry are crossing the bridge to apply pressure on the French right flank. Meanwhile the horse artillery battery on the hill provides support fire.
Prussian cavalry is kept in check by a long line of battalions in square. Meanwhile the Prussian attack falters and depleted brigades fall back.
Prussian traffic jam as the Avant-Garde units try to bolster the line and depleted brigades fall back.
The second Prussian attack brings Grenadiers and Avant-Garde brigades to bear. Although the French lines holds in most places there are two breakthroughs
Prussian fusiliers repeatedly charge and beat back the French on the far left flank. They now occupy the forest. This is crucial, as Prussian heavy cavalry are waiting to the left just outside the picture to exploit.
Meanwhile on the Prussian right flank, another unit of infantry, supported by Grenadiers push back French infantry. This is not nearly as dangerous as on the other flank, though. There are still fresh brigades in the vicinity pouring fire into the enemy exhausted from hours on the attack.
Victory is within Reach
As the French artillery runs low on ammunition, fresh Prussian troops are thrown into another aggressive attack. Here, on the Prussian right flank, Hussars charge up the hill. They quickly dispatch of the enemy and take the objective from the French. With so few French units on the field morale runs dangerously low and the battle seems lost.
The hill on the left flank is also stormed by Prussian grenadiers. The French are falling back everywhere.
“This battle is completely lost. However, there is time to win another.”
The fateful words of Desaix at the battle of Marengo hang in the afternoon air as dust clouds signal the arrival of French reinforcements. The French cavalry corps arrives in the back of the Prussian cavalry, ready to attack. Their position is not ideal, as they are far away from the faltering infantry lines. The moral boost the French receive is significant, however.
Half an hour later, French Dragoons and light cavalry crush into the Prussians at full gallop. The Prussian cavalry defends the hill and can bring more heavy cavalry to bear, though. The result is indecisive albeit bloody. The Prussians are forced to bring back their cavalry from the other side of the river. A relieve French infantry desperately needed.
Speaking of French infantry. After hours of fighting both sides have to patch up holes in their lines. The French are still holding by a thread. The Prussian cavalry unit on the hill which broke through earlier hasn’t moved for nearly an hour. It seems their horses are blown or the hill is deemed too important to leave.
Counterattack in the Afternoon
With the cavalry battle in full swing French III corps finally arrives on the other side of the river. Elite infantry, artillery and Dragoons march on the field and begin the counterattack immediately. The French general couldn’t have hoped for a better tool or time to get the situation under control.
French Dragoons charge up the hill to dislodge Prussian Hussars. The hill is under french control again, signalling a shift of initiative.
The cavalry battle on the other side of the river bogs down to costly charges and counter attacks. Both sides are blown and exhausted. The situation becomes increasingly confusing. In the back you can see Prussian staff who have been observing the situation, suddenly finding themselves in front of enemy Chevau-légers.
French reinforcements swing out on the French far left and begin to flank the Prussians. With command of the hill comes the ability to bring artillery fire to bear again. French heavy guns begin to canister with great effect.
On the French right flank up to the river things look promising as well. With the threat of Prussian cuirassiers gone and elite infantry advancing the Prussians have no choice to vacate the hill they stormed some hours ago. It is now Prussian morale cracking. The Prussians haven’t lost that many units but they have retired many of their battered brigades after the first and second attack in the morning. These are now missing to stem the tide as the evening approaches.
A Result at Dusk
The pitiful remains of the once proud French cavalry corps stream away from the battle in retreat. The Prussians broke them but at what cost. There is not much left to pursue or support the infantry any more. The deed has been done, so they say.
And indeed the French managed to pull of a second Marengo. French infantry is pressing on to the Pas de charge. The exhausted Prussians are retiring in orderly fashion and many can slip away under the cover of darkness. But there are also so many still on the field, dead or wounded.
The Strategic Situation
With their army beaten and many casualties the Prussians retreat. But the terrain makes it difficult to consolidate all the parts of the army and one day after the battle of Asendorf French forces attack the Prussians seeking shelter in Ventring, near the original battlefield. It is here where the fate of the nation will be decided. If the Prussians can keep control of Ventring for long enough the wounded and exhausted parts of the army can pull together. If not the French will be able to defeat the smaller parts of the enemy in detail.
Stay tuned for the Battle of Ventring.