Friday, 14 September 2012

Borodino 200

Like many other games clubs worldwide the Cobridge Old Contemptibles took the opportunity to re fight Borodino last weekend.  The game was set up on the Friday afternoon and folks arrived Saturday morning to get started on the battle.

We were using 'Quick March Attack' to re fight the battle, this has a scale of 24" to a mile and a unit represents approx 12 guns, 1500 infantry or 750 cavalry.  Even at this scale the Russians had something like 140 units on table and the French almost 150!  With a high proportion of artillery on both sides this was always going to be bloody!

Russian Deployment
French Right Flank Deployment

The table was 12 foot by 6 foot which meant that the battlefield was slightly larger than it should have been, this was more to accommodate the players around the table than anything else. Even so the troops filled their deployment zones and the French Guard had to settle for starting off table.

Ney's Corps launches its attack on the Fleches.

The first French assault was directed through the woods on their right while a Grand Battery was formed to bombard the Fleches.  First thing in the morning the Polish and the majority of Davout's Corps started forcing their way through the woods. While the Russian resistance was sporadic the terrain meant that the French would take some time before their presence could be felt.

The French Grand Battery started to take its toll on the Russian gun line and at 10.30am Ney launched an assault with his Corps.  Unfortunately the French flank attack through the woods was not yet in position to give support, there was nothing opposing the Russian guns in the centre and finally there were plenty of Russian artillery still in reserve.

Ney marched forward into almost 60 guns on his objective and had another 60 that could direct fire into his leftmost regiments.  The troops pushed forward for over an hour but the unsupported attack was destined to fail almost before it was launched.  As a Russian player I can say we were relived that the French artillery had been replaced by an infantry assault that we beat back almost with ease.  Ney's Corps  took no more part in the days battle.

The situation at midday.
After the failure of the first French assault the artillery continued with their duel.  The French had fewer heavy guns but the Corps reserve and Guard artillery were starting to gain the upper hand.  By the time we had completed the 12.00 turn at the end of Saturday the battle was still open for either side to win. 

Sunday morning and the French players must have had a half time chat as they came on with a vengeance.  Davout and Poniatowski had pushed through to the edges of the woods and were in a position where they could launch an attack on the flank of the Fleches.  While the Russians had deployed an artillery line to face this attack it was far from an ideal position to be in.  Meanwhile Napoleon had called forward the Guards and they were to attack over the same ground that Ney had crossed earlier in the day.

This time the French assaulted all along the front in an effort to pin down the other Russian Corps and stop them sending any re-enforcements to their left.  As much of the French heavy Corps artillery had been used to pound the left flank the attacks did pin the Russians but at a horrendous cost in infantry casualties.

The Russian right flank, almost untouched.
Edge of your seat time.
Second assault on the Russian left
The second assault on the Russian left was co-ordinated with attacks on the centre and through the woods.  This meant that the battered Russian artillery could not halt the French Guard and the defences are assaulted by fresh Young Guard regiments with plenty of cavalry and artillery support.  At this point the Russians decided that the Fleches could not be held and a new gun line needed to be formed behind the stream.  Falling back helped concentrate the Russian troops who, by now, were outnumbered and the Russians only had their Guard remaining as a reserve.

French cavalry unleashed against the centre.
Due to the massive losses in infantry the French centre was being held by the cavalry Corps, sensing that the Russians were nearing breaking point these troops were ordered forward.  Almost 10,000 cavalry attacked the Russian centre, the gun line was overrun and Russian dragoons and Cuirassier counter attacked in vain.  While the battle raged in the centre the Russian left flank was being pushed further and further back, French artillery were now blasting Russian infantry formations forced into square.  Army morale started to affect both sides but the Russian CinC failed to inspire any confidence in his troops and by 4.00pm the battered remnants of the Russian army was forced to retreat from the field.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Battle of Chalons, 16th Feb 1814

The second major battle of our club 1814 campaign was fought outside Chalons on the 16th February.  This was the second day of the battle, the first being a dull affair where both sides refused to attack as they were waiting for more troops to arrive on the field.  The second day saw both sides with more troops and prepared to make a fight of things.

Deplyment at 8.00 am.

The campaign situation was that the French had advanced to Chalons to cross the Marne and relieve the forces that were bottled up in Reims (see campaign map).  The starting positions see the French in a thumb shaped pocket with its base at the town of Chalons, Prussian and Russian troops are to their south while Wurttemberg and Russian forces are North of them.

French launch an attack to the north.

The 8.00am turn sees the first of the French arrivals pass through Chalons, unfortunately for the allies it is Guard Infantry and without even firing a shot they thoroughly demoralise both Allied commanders!

French Guard arrive on the battlefield

Wurttemberg and Russian troops ready to fight, or so it seemed...

At this point the commander of the northern part of the army attempted to fall back, cavalry about faced, artillery limbered and moved away and infantry columns marched back towards their base line.  Whether this was an attempt to redeploy further away from the French or an attempt to quit the field is not quite clear - whatever the reason it was a disaster.  With almost the entire French Guard Cavalry Corps plus suppport hardly a mile away Grouchy unleashed Hell!

Using a modified 'Quick' version of the March Attack rules allows for strategic as well as tactical movement and with each turn representing 30 minutes that mile (24") was covered in no time at all.  Napoleon took the initiative in the next turn and something like 6000 cavalry piled into the rear of the IV Wurttemberg Corps and the 3rd Russian Dragoon Division.  It was so bad I didnt have the heart to take any photos...

To the South von Kleist's 2nd Prussian Corps seemed to have no more interest in attacking, even less so when the French Reserve Artillery started to arrive.  The entire southern force marched off table except for a rear guard of cavalry that put up a brave fight with Schwarzenberg leading numerous charges himself.  It almost seemed as though he had a suicidal death wish but he managed to leave the field with only his ego bruised.

By 10.30 am the battle was over, more French troops were arriving every hour and the Allied forces had either been destroyed or had retreated from the field.