Portable Napoleonic Battle of Lauerritz

I decided to give the battalion level rules in Robert Cordery’s new book Portable Napoleonic Wargame (Eglinton Books, 2018) a try. After I played a game with the Divisional rules from the book I was disappointed by rule shortcomings and strange combat modifiers. Shooting seemed very effective while melee wasn’t. Two units sharing the same grid space posed quite a few rules questions. The battalion scale rules field a maximum of one unit per grid space which alleviates one problem I had.

The Scenario

Somewhere in Germany during the Befreiungskriege. Two French brigades are sent to the village of Lauerritz to secure the army’s flank. The allies have Russian and Austrian troops on the move against the French. They have more men but leadership is not unified between the allies.

To represent the situation I opted for more strength points for the allies and the use of command decks. The turn sequence is still IGOUGO but sides draw from a deck of playing cards to see how many units they can act with each turn (much like DBA’s pips).

French Army

The French command deck consists of cards with the values 3, 4 and 5.

1st Brigade
General d’Brigade Jeunet (6 SP)
3 battalions of line infantry (each 4 SP average)
1 artillery (2 SP average

2nd Brigade
General d’Brigade Foire (6 SP)
2 battalions of grenadiers (both 4 SP elite)
2 battalions of line infantry (both 4 SP average)

Austro-Russian Army

The allied command deck consists of cards with the values 2, 3 and 4.

Austrian Avant-Garde Brigade
General Tannhaus (6 SP)
2 Battalions of Grenzer (both 5 SP average)
2 Regiments of Hussars (both 3 SP average)

Russian Brigade
General Fedorovitch (6 SP)
3 battalions of line infantry (5 SP poor)

The Battle

The battlefield with fields in the center and Lauerritz to the east of them. French will enter via the road from the south (bottom). The Russians will enter from the west, also using the road. Finally the Austrians will arrive from the center of the northern map edge.
The little green dots are painted 1 Euro cent coins to depict the square grid. I put coins down on every second grid point to reduce the clutter on the battlefield.
The allies arrive and fan out their troops. Austrians farther away to the top.
The french position their artillery behind the fields which stop movement when entering (my own rule) and grab Lauerritz.
Austrian Hussars dash forwards. In the back the other unit of Hussars move around Lauerritz in a flanking maneuver. Both units are shot to pieces without achieving anything in the coming turns.
Firefights erupt west of Lauerritz. Units are constantly pushing and advancing.
After several turns the french finally manage to charge but melee is actually quite harmless compared to shooting in these rules.
The end of the game. Russians manage to flank the french but melee stays indecisive for several turns. Meanwhile another Russian unit flanks around this combat zone and destroys the french artillery. A win for the allies who forced the French to retreat.

Thoughts about the rules

Given how many lightweight rules alternatives there are on the market and for free the portable rules are lacking too much to be played in my opinion.

The above depicted melee was what broke it for me. The way modifiers work, the Russian flanking unit is less susceptible to lose men when flanking. So far so good. But is the French unit in dire straights for being flanked and in combat against two enemies? No, it isn’t. In fact the rather slim chances of losing men are further reduced to a 1 in 6 by the general supporting the French. They can literally fight for a dozen turns without effect while on other parts of the battlefield a unit can be shot to pieces quickly. Not to say that the artillery and musketry modifiers are more to my liking.

Adding to that, I can pretty much play many rules systems with a 1-2 page rules overview (QRS) but the rules layout of this book is standing in the way of clarity in my opinion. Said modifiers are formulated in lists of whole sentences which have to re-read quite a few times to find the ones that apply. A QRS is not included. There are good parts though. The decisions to suffer casualties vs push back tied to unit experience is a clever mechanic forcing the players to make though choices. In the end, though, I will rather move on to other rules that work in my opinion.

Battle of Mialensk – Blücher AAR

I decided to play a (fictional) straight forward pick-up battle to test out a terrain generator draft and get some soldiers on the table. The battle has the early French under attack by Russians somewhere in the vast Russian countryside.

Terrain generation worked well and gave me a table with many features. I replaced a swamp with a lake and had to improvise a bit with rubble. I use most hills as flat topped, so only the outer crest is important for defensive bonusses of course hills block line of sight. One could imagine these as minor elevation present on most battlefields.

Russians begin and play on the odd turns, french on the even ones.

Turn 1 & 2

The battlefield. French deploy in the south and have the blue objectives. Russians attack from the north with Mialensk as objective in their control.
French left wing and center: I Corps is arrayed in front of Lesobkin farm, its flank screened by some light cavalry. Back on the road you can see III Dragoon corps in reserve. On the lower right IV Guard Corps in reserve as well. Napoleon rides in front of them.
On the french right wing, isolated by the woods in the center of the battlefield II Corps protects the objective.
View from the russian left wing and center. Two corps of infantry with heavy artillery formed a line over the entire front. Behind them left of the town of Mialensk the Guard Cavalry is waiting in reserve. Right of the town another infantry corps is held in reserve.
From the center to the right wing numerous line brigades are deployed and in reserve. On the outer right wing there is another heavy battery on a small hill and a corps of light cavalry waits for flanking opportinities.
Russian artillery in the center open fire and the battle commences. The rather unknown general Taikonov advances his center and right against Napoleon’s forces.
French I corps advances as well to take the hill, though they are outnumbered.
In the centre french light cavalry maneuvers into position for a flanking charge on the incoming russians.

Turn 3 & 4

As the russian infantry advance on the hill french brigades open fire along the whole line with some effect.
Overview after turn 4 viewed from the french side. While firefights break out in the center, french light cavalry is seriously outnumbered on the far left side. On the right wing russians move closer more carefully in order not to strain command (MO points) too thin. Napoleon has no command problems at all but has to think about his reserves on the left wing already.

Turn 5

Russian light cavalry stream down the right flank near the village of Sevechny and send the lone french division flying.
With his forces committed Taikonov has time write orders for his left wing corps. Some turn towards the center while others stay as token force or retreat due to telling artillery fire from the french.

Turn 6

French cavalry tries to throw the advancing russians into disarray but are beaten back with heavy losses. Napoleon’s centre is already under threat.
The emperor decides to counter russian maneuvers with an attack order to II corps. Cavalry is swinging around lake Nargut while brigades advance on the thinning russian left flank.
But there is trouble brewing everywhere. Trusted ADC’s are send to the left flank to release II corps from reserve. Two Dragoon divisions rush forward.

Turns 7-11

During the next turns both sides are hampered by low command rolls. Napoleon’s release of the cavalry reserve proved to be just in time. At least some divisions can engage each turn and beat the russians back after bloody fighting. Fresh Divisions are brought forward slowly to exploit the situation.
The firefight on the central hill rages on for several turns and both sides are exhausted. The russian brigade on the lower left side of this picture just eliminated an artillery battery though and the french position suddenly becomes dire. In the upper right you can see Napoleon behind his troops surveying the situation of the unfolding cavalry battle.
On the other fronts, the lack of solid command and disorderd ranks make progress difficult. General Taikonov sees french troops in the centre wavering and orders the guard cavalry corps into the breach.

Turns 12-14

Emergencies keep popping up for Napoleon. Only his right wing is strong and fresh but has difficulties getting their troops moving. Finally II corps is shifted through the woods to get to the endangered centre sector faster. Russian infantry engages them in the woods and buys time for the guard cavalry to arrive.
After much deliberation and pleas from his marshals the emperor relases to Old Guard. Their task is to build a new defense line around Lesobkin farm. Meanwhile most of I corps is on the retreat.
At least the french Dragoons keep on pushing the russians and threaten to turn the flank. Maybe they can delay the russians long enough for the french reserves to build a new line.

Turns 15-19

Russian guard cavalry rushes through the center and charge the preparing Old Guard head on. Retreating frnech streaming from the hill are trampled under the hooves of the russian guards. It is now midday and the french lost four units against only one russian. Although several russian units are low on morale and three have retired from the battlefield. The battle is far from lost however. Napoleon still has a firm grip on his army. Taikonovs troops are scattered all over the battlefield trying to exploit french holes in the line. Commanding his forces becomes increasingly difficult for the russian general.
French Dragoons appearing in the russian rear also add to the problems of general Taikonov. Some reserve brigades are activated to salvage the situation. The heavy artillery in the upper right is too far away, however. It will be overrun next turn.
Although the russian infantry conquered the hill, reforming took too long. Most of the retreating french manage to slip away.
Taikonov rides forward to push his forces onward but the Old Guard has managed to dig and and keep the enemy in check.
French II corps slowly pushes onwards and suddenly the strong russian position in the center is in danger.

Turns 20-29

French Dragoons also still gallop at everything in the russian rear, crushing retiring russian troops. Russian losses mount rapidly while the french stabilize a bit.
Russian reserves are massed in the center and supported by the guard cavalry to get the situation under control again.
After hours of battle II corps light cavalry manages to loop around lake Nargut and threaten depleted russians in the rear. Both russian flanks are now turned and exhausted troops are scattered around trying to escape. The Russians are danerously close to breaking.
The “Grumblers” defend Lesobkin farm vigorously. They throw back several attacks. One russian brigade (center of the image) is caught in deadly crossfire and rapidly breaks.
French II corps pushing the russian center in under heavy losses. Light cavalry moves in to flank.

Turn 30

This is the situation after the battle (all markers removed), viewed from the french left flank. Lesobkin farm to the right.


The french are three units shy of their breakpoint (thanks to Napoleons morale boost). The next russian loss would seal their fate. The french are still in command of two objectives versus the russian one. A narrow win for Napoleon by the skin of the Old Guard’s teeth. Ultimately General Taikonov overextended his army to expoit every perceived weakness. The french managed to counterattack with a few units here and there stretching russian command structure to the point of breaking.

A very interesting game. The russians had the initiative and were in a good position to win the game. Napoleon’s ability to keep his army together under heavy losses gave him time to recover from the early game. His superior command ability was the reason to counterattack successfully, while general Taikonov was struggling to keep his forces together.

The terrain generation worked very well. The battlefield was interesting and challenging. I’m going to refine the system and post it later.