Plancenoit 1815 – 2×2 Napoleonics

Almost immediately after playing the Plancenoit scenario from the Bataille Empire rulebook (link), I converted the same scenario to 2×2 Napoleonics. The terrain remained the same but crammed into a 2 foot by 2 foot area. The armies were downscaled a bit without changing the ratios between both forces.

Setup

The Prussian divisions are deployed at the top from left to right: Prinz Wilhelm (cavalry), Losthin, Hiller. The French are similarly arrayed as in the prior report from left to right: with Domon and Subervie (Cavalry), Simmer, Jeanin.

The view from Plancenoit.

Battle

Some turns into the battle the infantry of Simmer and Jeanin try to hold off the Prussians. In the background Prussian divisions of Hacke and Ryssel arrive. French artillery has to keep the center together as a regiment retreats (lower left).

Left of this picture French hussars and lancers have trashed Prinz Wilhelm’s cavalry.

Roughly halftime in the scenario. Not much has changed which is by itself remarkeable. Two French infantry regiments and an artillery battery manage to hold of the bulk of the Prussian forces. Ryssel had to shift his forces to the open flank though to cover the hole left by Prinz Wilhelm.

The Guard arrives at Plancenoit. Other than in my last battle it is needed in this game.

With the last light of the day fading Tippelskirch’s infantry division arrives (upper left). The blue line denotes the imaginary front line. Observant generals will notice how the French position is held together by artillery batteries. Hardly a stable position. To the far right guards have charged the Prussians and stabilized at least the right a bit. Desperately needed as the right road is the only real avenue for the Prussians into Plancenoit.

At the end of the battle the Guard retired to defensive positions in Plancenoit. The two remaining units holding out against the Prussians will soon be surrounded and overrun.

After the battle I removed the French troops that would realistically be surrounded and straightened the Prussian lines. The French have precious little troops left for a defense. A French victory as they still hold the village but only a minor one as Prussians have free range of movement and enough troops to take Plancenoit. Only nightfall prevents them from exploiting the situation.

Thoughts

A very quick and interesting game as always with the 2×2 rules. There were some fortuitous rolls for the French. For example as a Prussian line regiment charged artillery in the open and the French won even with a hefty -3 modifier on their melee roll, keeping the line from buckling. As I classed all Landwehr as militia I finally discovered why they are so cheap. Militia costs half the points of a line regiment with next to no difference. The only difference is a negative rally modifier. This game showed how big the impact of this modifier is, as Disrupted Landwehr is notoriously difficult to rally (6 on 1d6 but only if an HQ is attached). The Landwehr was basically stuck in place and with so many of them needing the attention of both HQ’s.

With a less severe turn limit and a less congested battlefield the scenario seemed more fair than the original one. The French won again but this time it was way closer and there were some lucky rolls for the French.

One thing I noticed again, is the brutal effectiveness of ranged fire against cavalry. This is well balance with infantry and close range artillery fire. The problem is long range artillery fire which makes it easy to protect one’s flanks from cavalry with just an artillery unit.

As with several other modifiers that seem strange in 2×2 Napoleonics at first, there is usually some deeper thought or implication behind it.

Plancenoit 1815 – Bataille Empire

Although I played Warhammer related tabletops in my childhood and adolescence my very first tabletop foray into Napoleonics was pretty late. In 2014 I played a Plancenoit scenario with Field of Glory: Napoleonics and a lot of paper counters and terrain. Here is the link, but be warned, its rather basic stuff.

I played countless battles since then but rarely historical scenarios. Their attention to detail and specific requirements of troops is not that interesting to me but for the sake of good old times I decided to revisit Plancenoit.

Bataille Empire (BE) has a scenario about the battle in the rulebook so I settled for it. This would give BE another chance to win me over.

Set-Up

The scenario begins at 6pm with several reinforcements still on their way. The deployment areas are relatively fixed but I decided that the French try to fend of the Prussians well before Plancenoit. With the reinforcement scheduled, a defense in depth might be possible.

The Prussians decided to lead with their Landwehr on the whole front to soften the enemy up. It would be up to the reinforcements to deliver the final blow. As the Prussians are the attackers the action is mainly depicted from their view.

The Battle

Losthin’s and Hiller’s Assault columns are carefully advancing. French skirmishers and artillery take their toll. Red dice are hits. Infantry can suffer 4, cavalry 3 before they are packed into the box. Green/blue dice are half hits. BE calls these attrition but they are essentially half hits and an added layer of bookkeeping I find mostly unnecessary. I think attrition can be replaced by rolling a die roll. Even causes a hit, odd is ignored. This would add another roll to the procedure but it would declutter bookkeeping from attrition markers. The additional die could be of another color and rolled with the firing dice if attrition is scored which would not take too much time.

Some turns later Prinz Wilhelm’s attack on the Prussian right flank has been checked by far inferior (in numbers) enemy cavalry. Even worse, Jacquinot arrives with more cavalry (upper right) and supports Domon in holding up the Prussians. The two units with skattered base placement at the bottom are disordered Prussian units which retired from melee.

Hacke’s divison arrives on the far left on the march to Plancenoit. I don’t have enough Prussians so Hacke’s troops look suspiciously like Russians. Meanwhile the real Prussians are pushed back on the entire front.

Combined musketry and artillery ripped a hole in the Prussian center. This is not something the French can exploit as Hacke and Ryssel, who arrived with another infantry disivion, have more than enough troops to fill the gaps. But battlefield chaos and retreating troops keep them from doing so for a while. The French are content with redressing their lines and keeping the enemy at bay which is all they need to achieve at the end of this fateful day.

On the French side about halfway through the allotted turns Duhesme’s Young Guard arrives in Plancenoit. The enemy is still far from their objective.

Prinz Wilhelm’s cavalry has been pushed back to the edge of the map and Prussian reinforcements have no space to enter the battlefield. The entire Prussian right flank is up in the air for a turn but shortly after this picture opportunistic French Chasseurs are send packing by solid infantry formations.

It is the beginning of turn 6 of 7 in the scenario. I decided to end the battle here. Prussian losses are high (62% of of cohesion lost) while the French forces are still quite intact (33% of cohesion lost). What’s more is that the Prussians are still far away from Plancenoit, which is worth a big lump of victory points at the end of the game. There is no realistic chance they can win the scenario. This is partly due to the congested battlefield. About half the troops never saw battle and with the tight turn limit it is difficult to change that.

Part of the problem was the abysmal performance of Prinz Wilhelm’s cavalry on the Prussian right flank. They rolled badly turn after turn and a real threat to the French flank never materialized despite superior numbers. Subervie’s cavalry on the French side even stayed in reserve for the entire time as they were not needed.

French Guard reinforcements marching through Plancenoit as the day draws to a close. Waterloo is lost but the French retreat path has been secured.

Thoughts

The battle felt very one sided. Although Simmer and Jeanin had to give ground slowly at the end they still had more than enough fight in them to hold of the Prussians. Not a single Prussian unit ever advanced past their half of the battlefield! I don’t know exactly how much of this is down to scenario design or my unfamiliarity with the rules. In a previous scenario from the book (Jakubowo) I encountered the same problem though. Attacking is difficult and even more so with conscript level troops. This is neither a surprise nor unrealistic, but on both occasions I wondered about the very tight turn limit for the attacking force.

This is not a big issue as I’m not a fan of historical scenarios anyway. The rules are much more of a problem. Well, at least for what I want from them. Some parts are fiddly and long lists of detailed modifiers are time consuming, although they are all quite logical and easy to check. Add to that the reliance of 1d6 for almost every roll. Whether it is firing, melee, morale or maneuver tests. The high variance of 1d6 feels too random even with the ton of modifiers to add or subtract, yet the results are rather predictable as the casualty tables are designed that way.

The results still seem believable and detailed but the system does not feel fun to play for me. Especially as the turn sequence is geared towards individual divisions rather than IGOYOUGO which is more difficult to play solo.

If you like a bit more detailed rules that are still playable and you are not a solo player BE is probably way more interesting for you than it is for me. The very detailed army lists are a nice bonus. They go way deeper than the usual early-late distinction for the major powers and can be used for other rule systems easily.

Big Bloody Scharnhorst – Day 4 Battle of Bolkhov

While the Russians suffered a major defeat at Inask (orange frame) there was also an even larger battle raging to the north at the same time. This is the story of the battle of Bolkhov (blue frame).

The six sectors translated to the following tabletop after additional terrain placements and deployment. Note, the battlefield is rotated 90° counter clockwise. North is to the left in the image below. Every unit shown on the map is a division. Prussians are dark blue, French are light blue, Russians are green.

I have been tinkering with these maps. They are just a rough draft. Tell me if you find these helpful to follow the battle.

Both sides faced several challenges on this battlefield. The French had fewer numbers but a good defensive position if they managed to block all three bridges over the Msta river (impassible). As the Prussian contingent started on the wrong side of the river and the French center was only occupied by the cavalry reserve, it was not a given to achieve.

The Russians could just sit on their side of the river and defend as well. Their position would probably be even stronger but they had superior numbers and limited time before their flank at Inask would be rolled up towards Bolkhov. Their strategic position felt a tad like Waterloo from Napoleon’s perspective here. A strong force to attack with on a battlefield with limited space and the clock is against you.

Initial Orders

I wrote two sets of orders, one offensive, one defensive for both sides divisions and let the dice decide. These orders could be changed during the game but the basic mindset (offensive/defensive) would be a principle factor for order changes.

The French and their allies decided on defensive orders:
-Von Steuben (left flank): Cross the Msta and defend south of it.
-Collin (center, cavalry only): Stay in reserve.
-Merle (right flank): Defend the hill in the southwest.
-Lessard (right flank): Defend the central bridge.

The Russians decided to attack:
-Koltsov & Vorodnin (right flank): Attack the enemy in front of you.
-Medhorovsky (center): Stay in reserve.
-Nosov (center): Advance and cross the Msta.
-Davydov: Cross the Msta and take the hill in the southwest.

So the Russians plan to cross a river with superior forces to crush the French. Suddenly I get a whiff of Friedland…

Early Morning

The stage is set. French have the initiative but let us watch the action from the Russian side first, as they are the attackers.

Davydov arrays his men to cross the Msta near Bolkhov. Their crossing will be unopposed as Merle on the other side has orders to hold its position. Merle doesn’t even have artillery to harass the Russians.

In the center, Nosov sends his Cossacks in first to scout and is slow to reorganize his men for the crossing. On the far side you can see the bulk of Lessard’s division marching up to the river to oppose Nosov.

On the Russian right flank the battle starts in earnest. Koltsov sends swarms of Hussars to harass the Prussians. Zimin is repulsed by Hülse’s Prussian Cuirassiers while Polunin sneaks around the flank to attack infantry in march column. He is repulsed as well. This wouldn’t be a believable result in small scale games, where cavalry will eat march columns for breakfast but here it is. ~3000 bayonets won’t be ridden down by light cavalry in just one attack. Hasty squares will be formed, everything gets in terrible disarray (disordered) and men will die but eventually the Hussars don’t have the numbers or stamina for a prolonged attack and retire. Yellow markers are disorder markers.

Vorodnin brings up his infantry but is slow to do so. Even with the Hussar attack going on von Steuben might have enough time to cross the Msta to the save side.

Lessard gets his men to the center quickly and Plante starts to engage with artillery support. Enemy Cossacks and infantry are held in check on the far side of the river.

Von Steuben (center of the image) gets his infantry over the Msta while Hülse’s cavalry beats back repeated charges from Hussars. This is only possible by emergency unlimbering his substantial artillery assets to canister the Russian cavalrymen. Ammo reserves are further up the column and which turns out to be problematic.

Morning

Concerned about the huge number of Russian infantry crossing near Bolkhov on the French right flank, the French activate Courcelle’s heavy cavalry from the reserve to offer flanking support.

Meanwhile Merle’s infantry opens up with telling volleys. Return fire is effective as well, as the Russians have heavy artillery support from across the river.

A similar situation develops in the center with Lessard’s troops stopping the Russian advance with help from horse artillery of Collin’s reserve.

Pressure on the French allies mounts on the right flank. Hülse’s Cuirassiers are beating back enemy Hussars for hours now.

Midday

By midday von Steuben already received a slew of confusing orders from the French commander. As the C-in-C of the whole theatre is not present, the French commander is rash and micro managing. Luckily the bad orders don’t arrive in time and the good orders do. Meanwhile an order from the Russian command reaches Nosov with some delay. He is ordered to cease his advance in the center and hold his side of the river bank.

After the first unsuccessful attempt to cross the Msta he is happy to oblige and arrays his troops at the river bank. This is a strong defensive position but his men are bad shots and lack artillery support. They are quickly out of ammunition as well.

Merle and Davydov are fighting over the hill on the French right. French cavalry from the reserve is held in check by Pugin’s infantry in square (further back center in the image). Abramov and Bychkov have trouble to advance against thick clouds of French skirmishers.

Hülse is pressured to retire and Prussian artillery unlimbers again in an desperate attempt to keep the advancing Russians in check. At least von Steuben’s infantry forces are now in position to defend the bridge.

Early Afternoon

by now the frontlines are mostly drawn and the battle gets into its attritional phase.

Davydov’s brigades charge uphill but are repulsed.

Nosov and Lessard fight along the river bank. The French are gaining the upper hand.

Hülse rallies his men and sends them forward again to repel the enemy. Under the cover of his cavalry von Steuben can finally get his artillery over the Msta. The Russians are hampered by traffic jams and poor command.

Another attack goes in near Bolkhov and this time the losses are horrendous on both sides. Russian morale is still high though. Coudert’s brigade lining the hill becomes spent. Is this the end of the French right flank? French command thinks so and orders Lessard to extend his line to link up with Merle.

The order arrives but fighting troops are difficult to shift. Combat ebbs though, as the Russians retire with mounting losses. Behind Nosov (right side in the image), Medhorovsky is ordered to leave his reserve positions and prepare for a road march towards the Russian left flank. The intention is to support Davydov but the lead column is slow to move.

Von Steuben finally gets all his forces safely to the French side of the Msta. His infantry lines the river banks. A strong defensive position but he is outnumbered quite a bit.

Afternoon

As the line infantry retires on the French right flank, the entire Russian reserve is ordered to support Davydov.

Here is Medhorovsky whipping his march columns into shape. Nosov retired further back as telling artillery fire dispersed his cossacks. Farther in the back on the left you can see Plante’s brigade from Lessard’s division moving to support Merle.

Vorodin and Koltsov throw their forces into the fray as an order arrives to be aggressive. Casualties begin to mount on both sides.

Late Afternoon

Once moving Plante wedges his brigade efficiently between the other French forces and begins to push the Russians back. Pugin’s men face severe ammo shortages which makes it difficult to hold the ground.

Just as Lessard sent his biggest brigade away to support Merle another order arrives: Counterattack! With artillery reshuffling and nearly half his infantry not in place he launches the attack. For what its worth it is well executed and leaves Bogdanov’s brigade spent and bloodied. Nosov manages to threaten the flank with Kravchuk.

The tragedy about this can’t be seen in this picture. Just right of the image Medhorovsky’s reserve troops are still on orders to march away. The order to turn and support Nosov are late! Half of Medhorovsky’s men march away from the failing center while one of his brigades bumbles about, unsure which way to turn.

What started as a running battle for the Prussians now becomes a painful grind. At least Hülse’s Helden (heroes), as they are already called, have been pulled back in reserve and can get some desperately needed rest.

As darkness begins to fall a hodgepodge of troops from three French divisions shore up the French right flank against Davydov. The Russians are finished though. Losses, low supplies and constant threat from cavalry makes it impossible to take the hill before nightfall.

In the center Saindon and Verieur of Lessard’s division have crossed the Msta in a counter attack. Saindon managed to advance as far as the road and clashed with Modhorovsky’s bumbling brigade but they held the advance in check. With the Russian reserve streaming back the counter attack would probably be beaten back in time but French achieved their goal to cause losses and confusion.

Primakov breaks and Essen suffered heavy losses against concentrated Prussian artillery from across the Msta. Vorodnin and Koltsov still have more men but a breakthrough before nightfall is not possible.

Final positions after turn 10.

Aftermath

After ten hours of fighting the battle of Bolkhov ends. It is time to rally the survivors, tally the losses and decide the winner.

The French and Prussians rallied one infantry stand and chalk up 5 infantry lost. I was quite surprised as the Russians mounted so much pressure that losses felt higher.

The Russians rallied several stand back but still lost 11 infantry, 2 cavalry and one artillery is reduced.

Looking at the battlefield the French achieved their goals while the Russians didn’t. Both flanks are secure, albeit with a lot of help for Merle. The center delivered a successful counterattack. It is not complete success though. The Russians can retreat in an orderly fashion. Only Davydov at the left flank is a bit isolated but he has heavy artillery support which makes retreat of the Msta possible. In conclusion this is a French victory.

How did it play?

To be honest, the battle was a slog to play to completion. I wanted to have a variable turn number and roll if the battle continues after turn 10 but couldn’t encourage myself to play another turn.

So what happened? Basically I tripped over myself. I placed an impassible river at the center of the campaign map, I decided to battle there and I set it up as the map told me to do it. So I ended up with a table where I essentially fought three bridge crossing mini battles (to put it negatively). Take a look at the start and end position of all forces to see how static the whole affair was.

What I probably should have done was to combine both campaign battles into one and shift the battlefield around a bit or make the river fordable. BBB and its scale lends itself well maneuvering and that’s what I limited, funneling the Russians down three lanes.

Of course this is always a risk when playing campaigns where the battleground can be chosen by the commanders. It is a powerful reminder, of an aspect that is missing in most pickup battles. A good battle ground does not necessarily make a entertaining battlefield. The same holds true with troops arriving piecemeal and at sectors you don’t want them to be. From a period flavor perspective everything worked like a charm. Many things felt like I read them somewhere. Late and confusing orders lead to decisions a general might have taken but a wargamer wouldn’t. Counterattacks, attrition, the importance of artillery support, it went the whole mile.

From a rules perspective it also was a success. All these historical aspects of the period were achieved by Blücher’s Scharnhorst system, the order system and Big Bloody Battles with Napoleonic amendments. The French are responsive in command and have powerful skirmisher screens. The Russians are tough to crack, bad at musketry but a tad better in melee. They are slow to get into gears but then they roll towards you with numbers and relentlessness.

So overall I’m happy with the result. I learned a lot for future battles and campaigns and added BBB+period amendments to my top tier rule sets. Looking back at the battle I think I will have fond memories for these parts that worked. This is why I was more thorough in this battle report 🙂

The campaign

I will address the campaign implications of this battle in another post.

2019 is dead, long live 2020

Back in December 2018 I decided on a couple of wargaming goals for 2019. Time to review these. My status in italics:

  • Acquire a Napoleonic Prussian Army: This is a task bleeding over from 2018. I already ordered a fully based and painted army in 6mm Baccus. It should arrive by end of winter.

    Done!
  • Acquire a Napoleonic British Army: This is the last big army I need in my set of the five great Nations. I’m thinking about cutting down in size on this army though. I need to make a plan how many British and minor nation allies I need (see below).

    I wasn’t sure if I want to continue the 6mm scale and basing. But I think I will get them sooner than later.
  • Acquire some Napoleonic minor nations units: To add some color to armies and support the British army. I’m thinking about units with distinct uniforms and common presence in the age of Napoleon. Bavarians, Hanoverians, Brunswickers, Vistula Legion, Portuguese

    See above
  • Play more test battles with Age of Eagles: Only played two so far which I didn’t enjoy that much. There are some AoE scenarios I downloaded and want to set up.

    I played another scenario but it felt weird. The units are brigades with thousands of men, they are quite big on the table but they feel more like battalions to me.
  • Play more test battle with Bloody Big Battles (Napoleonic mod): I downloaded two Napoleonic mods for the rules. I want to try them and compare with my AoE games. Playing the same scenario with AoE, BBB and Blücher (my go to rule-set) should give me some insights about the rules systems and how much I like them or not.

    I still need to do this. I think I will run into the same problem as with AoE.
  • Paint the remaining 6mm houses: They are sitting in the box where I primed them. No excuses this year!

    I’m on it. Slowly…
  • Test Twilight of the Sun King rule-set: I ordered it in December and waiting for it to arrive. If I like the rules I want to make them work for Napoleonics.

    I played two battles and had a lot of problems interpreting the rules. There is a long list of modifiers for morale (and effectively shooting) which I now consider bad design. These long lists slow game play so much that it isn’t enjoyable.
  • Set-up and play an ECW campaign with For King and Parliament tabletop rules: So many ECW blogger campaigns I follow. I desperately want to set up my own but it has proven difficult to find a campaign system I’m satisfied with.

    Ongoing. The campaign works, although not moving armies on the map is a bit of a bummer. For King and Parliament works well, too. I tried out other sets and they can’t compare.
  • Find suitable campaign rules for a Europe-spanning Napoleonic campaign: Yeah, good luck with that…

    Need more luck this year…
  • Make counter armies for Fistful of Tows 3: Some easy to read NATO-Symbol counters for WW2 armies. Probably for the eastern front.

    No progress and currently not much interest. I bought and played Rommel though. I liked it but not enough interest in WWII currently.
  • Play some Fistful of Tows 3 test battles: Read most of the rules and want to try them out. Something easy first like a WW2 eastern front tank battle without artillery.

    See above.
  • Base all remaining trees: I have about 40% done since yesterday. I single base them to be more flexible. I build a test forest template a few month ago, however. I have to decide if I like it enough to keep it or rip it apart to re-base the trees.

    I’m trying a new basing scheme but progress is slow.
  • Test a C&C Napoleonics variant: My biggest critique of the game is the time to kill. It is very easy to kill whole units off without much time to react. For the scale and time frame the game conveys to me this seems wrong. On top of that it strengthens the luck aspect of the card drawing. I’m thinking about a variant where each block simply takes 2, 3 or even 4 hits before being destroyed.

    Done that. Best C&C game so far. Have to play some more.
  • Design a random army generator for C&C Napoleonics: Either with dice or as a little coding project with Python (programming language). I already made a list of all available blocks for this and have some basic ideas. I want to tie it to certain periods though, like “French – Russian campaign” or “French – Waterloo campaign” or something along those lines.

    Thinking about this currently as I tried Polemos Marechal d’Empire and its force generator.
  • Design a random terrain generator: Already have a prototype which I tested once. I need to incorporate rivers and roads in a better way and tweak some stuff. Currently it uses playing cards. Maybe I should switch it to a program or custom terrain cards (according to my collection of terrain).

    Seen stuff in other blogs and have enough rule systems with good terrain generation so this is not necessary.
  • Make counter armies for ancients: This is a long term project. The problem is, to make counters that don’t feel too generic.

    Currently testing with a DBA campaign.
  • Get some ancients battles going. Preferably in a campaign setting: I have downloaded some campaign rules, mostly with DBA tied in. They require a set of multiple armies each though.

    See above.
  • Designing a cold war era social game: I began work on this in 2018. It is currently planned as a matrix game for six players and a game master. The setting is a spy war on cold war Berlin.

    Minimal progress
  • And last but not least: Play games!

    Did that

Reasonable progress I think. Apart from the terrain front where I want to step it up.

What Else

Beyond my set goals I did some other unplanned stuff as well. I played the new Field of Glory Napoleonics Second Edition, General d’Armee, Polemos Marechal d’Empire and the new rule set from Hervé Caille Bataille Empire.

Sad to say that none of them convinced me entirely. Being a competition rule set FoGN is to complicated and table heavy for me. General d’Armee was way better than I remembered it but ultimately slower than Black Powder and the results seemd to be similar. The same can be said for Bataille Empire. The rules are very well written and offer a good amount of detail for their speed. I have to try them again but I still think Black Powder can achieve similar results with way less rules clutter.

The Polemos rule set is just a mess. I didn’t create very complicated combat situations in my game but the rules couldn’t even explain the basic stuff fully. Apart from that it just looked like several DBA games played at once. Just blocks crushing into other blocks. Which is totally fine in DBA but looks strange in Napoleonics.

Speaking of DBA and Napoleonics. I also briefly tried DBN again and… see above. The game works but it doesn’t feel right for me.

In regards to miniatures I build some ECW proxies. Essentially lines of painted matchsticks for a rough 2mm treatment of the conflict. I have to play more battles with the buggers to see if I like the look.

I also ordered some 2mm Napoleonic blocks and did some prototyping. Haven’t found the massed Brigade look and feel so far. I’m thinking about using them for other stuff like Ancients, SF or fantasy.

Some of my gaming time, actually quite a bit, went into painting monsters for Sword & Sorcery. A Dungeon crawler boardgame with miniatures I play with friends. I’m making good progress and games with unpainted miniatures are quite rare now. I still have to paint a huge dragon with several heads and his minions. They should be fun.

Battle of Asendorf

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)
6 Ligne
1 Heavy artillery

II Corps (B)
6 Ligne
1 Heavy artillery

III Corps (D)
2 Elite Infantry
2 Ligne
2 Dragoons
1 Heavy artillery

Cavalry Reserve (C)
2 Light cavalry
2 Dragoons
1 Horse artillery

300 points

Prussian Order of Battle

I Corps (1 on the map)
2 Avant-Garde
1 Infantry
1 Light cavalry

II Corps (2)
1 Grenadiers
4 Infantry
1 Light cavalry
1 Foot artillery

Cavalry Corps (3)
4 Heavy cavarly
1 Horse artillery

IV Corps (4)
2 Grenadiers
5 Infantry

301 points

Deployment

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.

Opening Moves

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.

Early Morning

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.

Midday Breakthrough

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.

2×2 Napoleonics Test Game

The free ruleset 2×2 Napoleonics piqued my interest for a couple of reasons. It uses a small scale battlefield of 2 foot by 2 foot (hence the name) and a brigade scale with just the right amount of details omitted. But it also features very interesting pinning mechanics which makes it different from other rule sets.

As soon as a infantry unit fires, it becomes pinned and may not move until rallied. As rallying is virtually impossible when close to an enemy, units get stuck in firing lines slugging it out until one side wavers and breaks. This seems more realistic than the maneuverability of troops in combat in other rules. With the combat units pinned it also makes management of reinforcements more important. Gone are the days where I can micromanage some units to broaden my lines and plug gaps. The only units that can plug gaps are reinforcements now.

Deployment also handles differently. Most of the army starts as said reinforcements and the battle evolves over many turns as fresh troops arrive. Aimed at corps level engagements, maybe as part of a larger battle, this is another interesting approach. Though, I can see breaking this rule from time to time or when playing larger battles.

But first of all I played a test game to see how everything plays out.

The Battle of Lützenhagen

The battlefield after set-up. French in the south with both their reinforcement points at the road. They have an artillery unit on the eastern hill, light cavalry to screen their advance and some infantry marching on the road.

The Prussians are coming in from the north as attackers. One reinforcement point is on the road as well but the other one is on the eastern map edge in order to flank the French. The force compositions are the same for both armies.

A couple turns in. The Prussians (farther away) took the central village (unit on the green plate center is occupying it). They are shaking out the battle line. The French brought up their units and are building a strong cavalry presence on their right wing (left center of the picture).

The French right wing swings around the village. Lancers beat back Prussian Hussars and advance far into the Prussian rear.

Meanwhile the infantry clash around Lützenhagen. French gain the upper hand due to effective supporting artillery. The village remains a though nut to be cracked, though. The French cavalry advance gets beaten back to the start by Prussian reinforcements arriving in the nick of time.

Situation at the end of the game. The French poured reinforcements in much quicker and effectively pushed back the Prussians from the village. The Prussian lines are in disarray. They lost 5 units compared to the French 2 losses.

Given that French losses are cavalry units I judged that the battle was a French victory but not a major one. They took command of the battlefield and inflicted losses but are not able to pursue the retreating Prussians effectively.

Thoughts on 2×2 Napoleonics

The rules worked reasonably well. Detail is not only omitted from the game, though. The rules lack clarifications on many things, making judgement calls necessary on many occasions.

As I expected the pinning rules work quite well and generate interesting board states and decision points. The reinforcement rules made the battle feel skirmishy and piecemeal at times, offered a dynamic change at other times.

In hindsight the way the battle evolved looks believable to me but it wasn’t as much fun as with other rules. The rules need clarifications, some tightening and rewriting for me to use again. Given that 2×2 Napoleonics is entirely free and has been worked on by three people that is neither surprising nor detrimental. It is a nice framework with some fresh concepts.

Wargaming Everything in 2019

So much I want to do and try out in wargaming. In order not to forget most of it and motivate myself I wrote up a to do list:

  • Acquire a Napoleonic Prussian Army: This is a task bleeding over from 2018. I already ordered a fully based and painted army in 6mm Baccus. It should arrive by end of winter.
  • Acquire a Napoleonic British Army: This is the last big army I need in my set of the five great Nations. I’m thinking about cutting down in size on this army though. I need to make a plan how many British and minor nation allies I need (see below).
  • Acquire some Napoleonic minor nations units: To add some color to armies and support the British army. I’m thinking about units with distinct uniforms and common presence in the age of Napoleon. Bavarians, Hanoverians, Brunswickers, Vistula Legion, Portuguese
  • Play more test battles with Age of Eagles: Only played two so far which I didn’t enjoy that much. There are some AoE scenarios I downloaded and want to set up.
  • Play more test battle with Bloody Big Battles (Napoleonic mod): I downloaded two Napoleonic mods for the rules. I want to try them and compare with my AoE games. Playing the same scenario with AoE, BBB and Blücher (my go to rule-set) should give me some insights about the rules systems and how much I like them or not.
  • Paint the remaining 6mm houses: They are sitting in the box where I primed them. No excuses this year!
  • Test Twilight of the Sun King rule-set: I ordered it in December and waiting for it to arrive. If I like the rules I want to make them work for Napoleonics.
  • Set-up and play an ECW campaign with For King and Parliament tabletop rules: So many ECW blogger campaigns I follow. I desperately want to set up my own but it has proven difficult to find a campaign system I’m satisfied with.
  • Find suitable campaign rules for a Europe-spanning Napoleonic campaign: Yeah, good luck with that…
  • Make counter armies for Fistful of Tows 3: Some easy to read NATO-Symbol counters for WW2 armies. Probably for the eastern front.
  • Play some Fistful of Tows 3 test battles: Read most of the rules and want to try them out. Something easy first like a WW2 eastern front tank battle without artillery.
  • Base all remaining trees: I have about 40% done since yesterday. I single base them to be more flexible. I build a test forest template a few month ago, however. I have to decide if I like it enough to keep it or rip it apart to re-base the trees.
  • Test a C&C Napoleonics variant: My biggest critique of the game is the time to kill. It is very easy to kill whole units off without much time to react. For the scale and time frame the game conveys to me this seems wrong. On top of that it strengthens the luck aspect of the card drawing. I’m thinking about a variant where each block simply takes 2, 3 or even 4 hits before being destroyed.
  • Design a random army generator for C&C Napoleonics: Either with dice or as a little coding project with Python (programming language). I already made a list of all available blocks for this and have some basic ideas. I want to tie it to certain periods though, like “French – Russian campaign” or “French – Waterloo campaign” or something along those lines.
  • Design a random terrain generator: Already have a prototype which I tested once. I need to incorporate rivers and roads in a better way and tweak some stuff. Currently it uses playing cards. Maybe I should switch it to a program or custom terrain cards (according to my collection of terrain).
  • Make counter armies for ancients: This is a long term project. The problem is, to make counters that don’t feel too generic.
  • Get some ancients battles going. Preferably in a campaign setting: I have downloaded some campaign rules, mostly with DBA tied in. They require a set of multiple armies each though.
  • Designing a cold war era social game: I began work on this in 2018. It is currently planned as a matrix game for six players and a game master. The setting is a spy war on cold war Berlin.
  • And last but not least: Play games!