Not long ago the classic Programmed Wargame Scenarios by Charles S Grant has been revised and reprinted (available through Caliver Books). It delivers a host of scenarios with randomized terrain, forces and instructions for solo play by randomizing the other army’s strategy. I would describe it as quite old school in the way of doing things but also still at the forefront of giving new solo players a framework to their games. Even if you regularly play solo games it is very interesting as the book contains a trove of ideas to incorporate in your game or branch off from.
As the name aptly describes an alliance of some sorts is at the center of it. Bringing troops of different nations together for a common cause can come with all sorts of problems. Communication and motivation are major hurdles to overcome and this is reflected here.
My first play through was situated in the Peninsular with Black Powder, this time I moved the game to the sixth Coalition 1812-1814 and played with General d’Armee. The French are about to attempt a forceful breakthrough from the north. The Allies have to defend against this but do not know which of the two roads towards the south the enemy will take.
I decided to play the Allies or rather on the Allied side. Although I am the ad hoc C-in-C of my motley band of soldiers I’m only directly commanding the Russian force.
Your Task Sir
As the Allied armies head west to hunt Napoleon and his marshals, a sizable French force has just been been spotted to the north on a wide flanking maneuver. No single main army is in position to deal with this so a small force of everything that is in the area is assembled and put under my command to stop this threat.
I command a Russian infantry brigade with 4 line infantry battalions and an attached heavy artillery battery. The Prussians sent a cavalry force with light, 2 battle and heavy cavalry under General Kresch. On the way I also linked up with the Austrians who spotted the enemy and scouted thee ground of the battle. General Czarizs has 3 Grenzer (light infantry) battalions and several small guns under his command.
The Prussian General Kresch is a rather cautious fellow but at least one of his staff officers speaks Russian. General Czarizs on the other hand is a bold commander as expected from the hardened men of the Grenzers. Neither he or his staff speaks Russian though and they can’t even talk to Kresch as their dialect is apparently terrible (as the Russian speaking staff officer tells me in confidence).
Deployment at the important crossroads seems straightforward at first with an Austrian supplied map and some finger pointing. The left flank has some form of broken ground which makes it ideal for the Grenzers. Unfortunately General Czarizs emphatically denies deployment there and points at the more open right flank. I argue but give in in the end. The Austrian wagon train is off the road on the right flank and it is a matter of honor from Czarizs to protect his country’s supplies. It will surely add to their morale at least.
The Prussians have no preference of deployment but are ill suited for the left flank. I decided to post them on the hill between the two flanks and deploy on the left myself. Off to the battlefield.
The French Arrive
The map, as it turns out, wasn’t entirely accurate. As I arrive on the field I’m even more concerned about the right flank. It is wide open ground the Austrians are marching onto. Meanwhile I have difficulties to deploy my Russians in line at the constrained left flank.
Well, no time to change anything. The French are deploying to assault columns in the distance. From my position on the hill I can spot two infantry brigades in the center and some enemy cavalry farther off to my right. My concerns were justified. The Austrians will likely be flanked by cavalry. The following image is a bird’s eye view from the west of the field:
My Russians are deployed in line to protect the southwestern road (lower right in the image). Skirmishers have been ordered forward. Prussians and Austrians can be seen in the distance (to the right). What I will only notice later from my perspective is that the French are denying my flank. Their forces are shifted to the Austrian sector.
Some time later I spot French cavalry from my hill position and give orders to the Austrians to fall back and prepare for a cavalry attack while the Prussians are ordered to distract the French in front of the Austrian positions. When these orders arrive and how they are understood and executed nobody knows. What I can do is order my own brigade forward in a counterattack. Meanwhile the French focus their efforts (ADC) on smashing the Allied right flank and a Grenzer battalion routs at first contact with French Dragoons.
Said focus by the French proves to favor my infantry in the counterattack. The French brigade moves are sluggish and their formation breaks up as my men are advancing steadily in assault columns protected by skirmishers. The Russian army has learned a lot since Austerlitz!
The sad remains of Czarizs Grenzer’s in the forefront. One battalion and a battery with another battalion routing. French cavalry is still strong and in good formation after their easy success.
My worries about the right are relieved by Allied success on the left. As my Russians steadily advance with bayonets fixed and orders not to shoot, some Prussian cavalry squadrons charge downhill to our side and crash into the same French brigade. The enemy panics and one after another they break and run in a matter of half an hour. With one third of the enemy fleeing I turn my attention to the east:
Due to the language barrier or Kresch not being particularly decisive the Austrians did not receive any support and are thoroughly routed. Kresch’s Prussians (left of the image) have helped my Russians and counterattacked the enemy cavalry only after the last Austrians quit the field. The enemy cavalry is exhausted and worried after their latest losses. Behind the riders the second French infantry brigade marches off to the south with barely a scratch. After this image a morale roll was needed for the French cavalry to decided whether they rally and leave the field with the infantry for a French win or if they break, resulting in an Allied win.
The Final Roll
The deciding roll went in favor of the Allies. With all the command confusion I was barely able to pull it off due the stunning lightning attack on the left and the French cavalry grinding itself down on the Austrians and Prussians.
General d’Armee worked well for this scenario. The battle was surprisingly absent of fire fights but was decided in charges and melees which are a strong point in the rules in my opinion. As overall commander without any means of quick reaction to the situation or even subjective knowledge of what was happening at the other side of the table the pressure was really high as the Russian infantry went in for the counterattack.
Of course I saw and played all of the actions on the whole table but did so along the lines of prepared plans for the French and standing orders and personalities for the Prussians and Austrians. As the objectives and the terrain are quite clear cut it is easy to remove oneself from the equation and just let the plans and orders collide where I wasn’t present or couldn’t command myself. A good combination of scenario and rules.