Sunday 30 August 2020

Day Six – French Options

6 March 1813 – North Germany - Day 6
The Prussian victory at Weyhausen is a serious setback for Napoleon.
3rd French corps are forced to retreat back over the river Elbe
This will allow 1st Prussian corps to rally and regroup
Napoleon will then be unable to prevent them marching south to join Blucher

Both armies are badly damaged and urgently need reinforcements

Blucher orders 1st corps to rally and regroup at Weyhausen
2nd and 4th corps continue to regroup and receive reinforcements at Cremlingen
3rd corps are ordered to abandon Schonlingen and move to Cremlingen
He needs another two days to concentrate his army

Napoleon orders 3rd corps to rally at Gifhorn
This will take two days, and they will not be available to the looming battle
Nor will they be able to prevent 1st Prussian corps from joining Blucher

1st, 4th and 13th corps are all ordered to concentrate at Brunswick
In doing so they will not be able to resupply, regroup or receive reinforcements
But he is well aware that he must attack before the Prussians concentrate.

Napoleon does have the option of holding Brunswick and not attacking Cremlingen
But that would allow Blucher to concentrate four corps against the three French
Within three days he could face these odds and risk losing Brunswick.

Wednesday 26 August 2020

Day Five – Hard Going

5 March 1813 – North Germany - Day 5
Both armies rally, resupply and reorganise
Corps concentrate casualties in one brigade, less 10% per brigade
Battle casualty replacements start to arrive

However in the north, Napoleon orders 3rd corps to cross the river Elbe
This results in the battle of Weyhausen, which the French lose
Both sides start with casualties, particularly cavalry and gunners
The Prussians hold against a determined French attack
At nightfall they still hold the town and the French retreat
End of Move 4
The French had to cross the river well north of the town
Fortunately this was unopposed, but it did take one third of the game
As they did so their artillery fired on the Prussians, but no casualties

Apart from the river crossing, the most interesting aspect of this game was existing casualties.    Both corps had infantry, cavalry and artillery casualties.

Each casualty (or 10% casualties) means a minus of 1 on morale and combat charts.
This can have a considerable impact, particularly on artillery.

At long range gunners need 8 or more for a hit with 2D6.   They lose 1 for each casualty and 1 more if they have fired last time (indicated by smoke beside gun)
The French had 2 casualties (20%), so needed 10 or 11 if they fired last time
This will explain why they did not manage a single hit, despite firing 10 moves out of 12.

The French cuirassiers had 2 casualties (20%), the Prussian hussars 1 casualty (10%).   The hussars charged and gained plus 1 for impact.  So they were even on the dice.   Both sides suffered 1 for the first round of melee, but the hussars routed due to morale.   However the cuirassiers now had 3 casualties and were effectively non-operational for the rest of the game.
End of Move 12
Against the odds the French crossed the river, regrouped and attacked the town
However they lost too many casualties to artillery fire as they approached.
One brigade did defeat the landwehr brigade, who routed into the town
But the conscript brigade passed their morale test and held the town

One French brigade routed due to 30% casualties from artillery fire
A nearby brigade were shaken as a result of the rout
So there were no infantry to exploit the rout of the landwehr brigade

At nightfall the Prussians still held the town.   They also had two formed infantry brigades and their gunners still manned the guns

The French has one formed infantry brigade and their gunners.   They were too weak to continue the attack and withdrew overnight.

Another very interesting game.   Despite the existing casualties morale did not play a major role, as it often does.   When required to test morale both sides rolled good dice.   The unfortunate French brigade tasked to charge the guns lost three casualties, yet passed their morale each time until the very last.   Had they moved first during that final round they would have been able to charge the guns, but might still have broken and run.   But the Prussians moved first, hit the infantry a third time and that was sufficient for them to break and run.

This was another game which was uncertain right up until the 12th move.   And might well have gone to the French had they managed to move first.   When there is only one corps per side we roll 1D6 at the start of each turn to decide who moves first.  I always have to roll first, and got a 4.   Jan (the Prussians) rolled a 5.

Despite losing the game I was very pleased that the Prussians had at last won a game in this campaign phase.

Sunday 23 August 2020

Day Four – Prussian Problems

4 March 1813 – North Germany – Day 4

After three days of fighting both armies are in urgent need of rest and resupply

However, as might be expected, the situation is much worse for Blucher than Napoleon.

1st Prussian corps is operational, but the other three must rally, resupply, reorganise and urgently need battle casualty replacements.   To do any of that they must first evade the French, and then they must halt for at least 24 hours.

Blucher orders 1st corps to secure his right flank by holding Weyhausen.
2nd and 4th corps must retreat to Cremlingen having lost the battle of Brunswick
1st corps is almost out of supply, and the new depot at Schoningen is empty
So they must also move closer to Cremlingen, which fortunately is the main depot.

The Prussian army must now fight a major battle with a river at its back
Even more important they must hope to be allowed sufficient time to rally and regroup.

Napoleon is quite happy to allow Blucher to concentrate at Cremlingen
A defeat there must mean the destruction of the Prussian army

In preparation he orders 3rd corps to cross the river Elbe if possible
But at all events to pin 1st Prussian corps and prevent them moving south

1st corps is short of supplies, but has not suffered many casualties
They are ordered to occupy Brunswick and observe the Prussian retreat
4th and 13th corps have both suffered heavy battle casualties
They are ordered to rally, resupply and reorganise

To advance further east, Napoleon must establish new depots closer to the river Elbe.   He orders new depots at Gifhorn, Brunswick and Wolfenbuttel.   And all supplies to be forwarded from the main depot at Salzgitter.

It will take a couple of days for both armies to rally, resupply and reorganise

Wednesday 19 August 2020

Third Day – Third Battle

3 March 1813 – North Germany - Day 3

In the north both 3rd French and 1st Prussian corps regroup and resupply
In the south 13th Polish corps enter Wolfenbuttel, 3rd Prussian corps retreat
In the centre 1st and 4th French corps attack Brunswick
Table at the start of the Game
The game started with 2nd Prussian corps in the middle of the table. 
Both 4th Prussian and 4th French corps will enter the table at the start of move 1
1st Old Guard corps would arrive on the table at the start of move 5
All of this was dictated by the campaign. 

This had the makings of a really interesting wargame
First there would be two corps per side, so more tactical options
Second they would be staggered in their arrival, again offering tactical options.
Equally important, both Prussian corps would be on the table from move 1
4th corps would not come into action until move 4 or 5
But they would be seen approaching, which would threaten the French player (me)
End of move 7
The Old Guard entered the table at the start of move 5
By then 4th Prussian corps was approaching 4nd French corps
Napoleon sent forward his cavalry brigade to counter the Prussian cavalry
They immediately charged the Prussian cuirassiers
This caused the rest of 4th Prussian corps to halt and deploy

By the end of move 7 (of 12 game moves) the rest of the Old Guard were in position
You can see that 4th Prussian corps are further back than 2nd Prussian corps
This meant that the Guard infantry were unlikely to reach them before nightfall

Meanwhile 4th French and 2nd Prussian corps were knocking hell out of each other
And they would consider to do so until the end of the game
By then 4th French would have lost 6 infantry and 2 cavalry figures
2nd Prussian corps would have lost 13 infantry and 4 cavalry figures
Three French and four Prussian corps would be in rout

I am particularly pleased that I use my French guard brigades regularly in my games.
There are three corps, 1st Old Guard, 2nd and 3rd Young Guard
The Young Guard are not much better than a regular French corps
But the Old Guard have one elite infantry and one cavalry brigades
However the rest of the corps in First French army have no elite troops

This game proved just as interesting as it promised.   The staggered arrival of corps added a lot of tension to the game, and as the attacking French commander I found that I had to hold back and try to time the arrival at the battle of the Old Guard.   Not sure that I got it right, but it was a great game.

After three defeats things are not looking well for the Prussians.   I suspect that they will have to retreat, concentrate and try to recover before a final large game to decide the outcome of this campaign phase.

Sunday 16 August 2020

Another Day – Another Battle

2 March 1813

 In the north 3rd French corps enter Gifhorn
1st Prussian corps retreat towards Weyhausen

In the centre Napoleon awaits the outcome of the battle of Wolfenbuttel
Blucher is undecided whether to support 1st corps or attack
He does neither and waits to see what develops

In the south 13th Polish corps attack 3rd Prussian corps at Wolfenbuttel

The battle is hard fought on both sides, and both suffer heavy casualties
At nightfall the Prussians have one brigade left, the French two
Blucher orders them to retreat
End of Battle of Wolfsburg
It is most unusual for one of our wargames to end in a draw.
But this was the exception which proves the rule

Small games, with one corps per side, usually end in a convincing victory
This is because casualties play a larger part when there are no reserves
But again this was the exception

Throughout the game the dice favoured both Jan and I
My artillery hit one of her infantry brigades
Her gunners hit my cavalry

Hand to hand fighting are usually decided quite quickly
And the side which loses first casualties usually loses the melee
But again this was different

The cavalry melee went on for three moves
Jan won the first round, I won the second, we drew the third
Her cavalry had 40% casualties, mine had 30%
Mine were shaken, hers were only disordered
However in our morale rules a brigade with 40% casualties automatically routs

It was the same with the infantry melee
As my infantry approached, one Prussian brigade charged my leading brigade
The resulting melee lasted three rounds, and was still undecided at nightfall
Both brigades had 30% casualties.
Next move one, and quite likely, both would reach 40% and rout

At nightfall the Prussians had just one formed brigade
Their grenadier brigade still held the woods
The French had two formed brigades
Both were average, and one had 10% casualties

It was too close to call, so we both rolled a dice to see who would win.

I rolled 5, Jan rolled 5
She rolled 3, I rolled 3
I rolled 4, she rolled 2

I won
But I felt guilty about it!

Wednesday 12 August 2020

Rally, Regroup and Reorganise

1 March 1813
On the first day of the campaign 3rd French corps attacked 1st Prussian corps west of Gifhorn.   The French won the battle, but lost 600 casualties.  The Prussians suffered 2800 casualties.

The corps which lost a battle have to retreat the following day, and to establish and maintain at least  one map square between them and the winners.

The winning corps normally moves forward to occupy the square in which the battle took place.  When it is for a town they normally move into the town.
2 March 1813
3rd French corps have occupied Gifhorn.   1st Prussian corps have retreated towards Weyhausen, taking with them 17 brigade (garrison of Gifhorn) and 3 days supplies from the depot there.  

Because the French have not pursued them, they can halt just west of Weyhausen.   They have established the one square gap between them and the French.   They have also placed the river Elbe between them and the French.

Both corps have moved, and consequently both still have their battle casualties, and also routed or shaken brigades have not been able to rally.   To do so they must remain stationary for one full day.

Both corps started the campaign with four days supplies.   They have used two days, and have two left.   The French are still within three squares of their depot at Meinersen, and therefore can resupply from there.   The Prussians have lost their depot at Gifhorn, and not yet established one at Weyhausen.   They are out of supply range of the nearest Prussian depot at Cremlingen.   However they do have three days supplies which they took with them when they abandoned Gifhorn.
3 March 1813
Both 3rd French corps and 1st Prussian corps have orders to rally, resupply and reorganise.   They have remained stationary, and are not in contact with the enemy, so they can do so.

Rally means that all shaken and routed brigades become formed again.  This is automatic and does not rely on a morale test.

Resupply is automatic providing they are within supply range (three map squares) of a depot with sufficient supplies.

Reorganise means that all infantry casualties, less 400 per brigade, can be moved to one brigade.  This is always the one with the most casualties.   There is only one cavalry brigade and corps artillery, so this does not apply to cavalry or gunners.  

In addition each corps receives replacement for their battle casualties.   Infantry brigades always keep 400 (10%).   Cavalry and artillery always keep 100 (10%)

The French had lost 600 casualties at Gifhorn.   This consisted of 400 from 9 infantry brigade and 200 from 3rd cavalry brigade.   There are no brigades to rally, and all infantry casualties are in one brigade.  3rd cavalry brigade receive 100 replacements, leaving the brigade with 10% casualties

The Prussians have suffered 2800 casualties, broken down as follows:

2 infantry brigade – 400
3 infantry brigade – 2000
1 cavalry brigade – 200
1 corps artillery – 200

All of the infantry casualties, less 10% of 2 brigade, are already in 3 infantry brigade
Both the cavalry and artillery have 20% casualties
But only one of them can receive 10% replacement each turn
1 corps artillery receive 100 gunners
This is because priority for battle replacements is artillery, cavalry and then infantry.

If 1st Prussian corps can remain stationary, and avoid contact with the enemy, they will receive 100 cavalry replacements the next day, and then 400 infantry replacements each day until 3 infantry brigade is down to 400 (10%)

You will see from this that a corps can recover from a defeat, but not completely.   Each brigade will always carry at least 10% casualties

In addition the sooner the winner can pursue the loser, the harder it will be from them to recover.   However the winner can only do so if he has sufficient supplies.  

This has been a best case situation for the winner.   They started with four days supplies.   Issued one on the day of battle, a second to occupy the battlefield.   They could have pursued for two more days before they ran out of supplies.  But each day would take them further from their supply depot.   When they did run out they would lose 400 infantry for each day that they were out of supply.

The supply and reorganise rules are easier to operate than to explain.   When a corps is reduced to two days supplies they should either halt or prepare to resupply.

Each brigade that suffers battle casualties will be affected for the rest of the campaign.  Each 10% casualties results in minus 1 on all combat and morale tests.

So a simple, but non the less effective battle attrition system.

Sunday 9 August 2020

1813 Brunswick Campaign - Initial Deployment

Corps Deployment at Start of Brunswick Campaign

My last, failed, attempt to get this campaign going was a painful reminder of how important it is to get the initial deployment right.

It is really important to make allowance for things going really badly wrong.

It is quite possible that the first couple of battles will go against the attacking army.   When this happens it becomes more difficult with each defeat for the attacker to continue to attack.  

This applies not only to the defeated corps, but also to the other three corps not yet engaged.

My expectation of each campaign phase is that it will provide at least three or four battles to wargame.   The first few battles are usually one corps per side.   These are usually very straight forward wargames.   Both corps enter the battle at full strength.   The attacker has the advantage that he can concentrate against any weakeness in the defence position.

Each battle usually opens with a cavalry engagement.  The attacker gains plus 1 for impetus, and heavy plus 1 against light cavalry.  This encourages the side who can charge first to do so.   A low dice results in the attacker losing and routing, a high dice in the defender doing so.   But the usual outcome is a stalemate.  Both brigades then have to return to command range (8”) of the corps commander to rally.

But if the attacker should lose the melee and rout it is pretty well the end of the game.   It is pretty well impossible for infantry to attack without cavalry support, if the defenders still have cavalry.

If this happens in the first game of the campaign it is not too bad.  But if it is repeated in the second game then the whole campaign is pretty well over.  This obviously applies to any defeat, not just the initial cavalry melee.

So it is important to set out the initial deployment to overcome this type of setback.

On the map you will see that the Prussians have deployed one corps in front of each town, with a fourth corps in reserve in the centre.   The French have deployed their army in a mirror image.

This means that there will be at least three battles, even if the French lose each one.   A single defeat will not affect the other three corps.

Hopefully the outcome will not be three victories to one side.   For example if the French win in the north, but lose in the south, they can then reinforce their victory.   By the time the Prussians redeploy they will hopefully have inflicted casualties to redress their initial set back.

And, of course, having to stop to resupply at least every four days allows both sides to recover from any initial defeat.

Wednesday 5 August 2020

1813 Campaign in Northern Germany

North Germany
Prussian Advance
Blucher was the first allied commander to be ready to take the field against the French.

The Prussian army was concentrated in and around Berlin.   

On 20 February he ordered them to advance into Brunswick region.    His objective was the capitol city of Brunswick, which he entered on 25 February.

He was surprised to be able to do so without any French opposition.

French Preparation
Napoleon arrived in Osnabruck on 24 February

He had ordered 1st French army to concentrate in Osnabruck region on 19 February.
This concentration was completed on the day he joined the army

1st French army was the strongest of the five French armies.   Not only was it commanded personally by Napoleon, but it also included 1st (Old Guard) corps.
Brunswick Region
On 26 February Napoleon crossed into Brunswick region.

The Prussian army was concentrated around Brunswick city, in the centre of the region.   Napoleon was therefore able to occupy Hannover without any opposition.  He halted there to establish his lines of supply.

He was already in contact with the Prussian army, and on 1 March he ordered his army to advance and attack them.

Campaign Diary Blog
There is a detailed diary of the whole campaign.  
It includes a daily record, including reports of all battles fought.
It also has orders of battle and maps of the campaign areas

You can find it here

Sunday 2 August 2020

1813 Campaign in Spain

National map showing campaign areas
There are two campaign areas in Spain
North – 4th French Army v Anglo/Portuguese Army
South – 5th French Army v Spanish Army
Regional map showing initial deployment areas
The political and military situation was much more complicated in the Iberian Peninsula than in Germany.   Napoleon had established military regions throughout Spain, but they were not recognised by either the Spanish or the British.  
1812 has been a good year for the French.   Throughout the year they defeated one Spanish field army after another.  By the end of the year only one Spanish army remained and it was in Andalusia in the far south.

The British had established firm control over Portugal before marching into Spain at the start of 1812.   They took the two critical border fortresses of Cuidad Rodrigo and Badajoz, and they defeated the French at Salamanca.   Wellington then marched them east towards France.   The first obstacle was Burgos, where it all went badly wrong.   Despite a long siege Wellington failed to take Burgos.   The French armies in Spain concentrated and forced him to retreat back into Portugal.

In January 1813 the French held all of Spain, except for the southern region of Andalusia.   There were French armies, one at Burgos and the second at Madrid. Napoleon’s brother Joseph was the nominal King of Spain and commander of all French troops in the Iberian Peninsula.   But he exercised no real control.  Marshal Soult at Burgos and Marshal Suchet at Madrid ignored his orders.   Napoleon was too far away to exercise real control, and was much too busy building his new Army of Germany.   The Spanish, both military and civilian, held Joseph in contempt.

During the January meeting of allied commanders it was agreed that the two allied armies in Spain would also commence offensive operations on 1 February.   But, as in Germany, neither were capable of doing so.

Wellington’s army had suffered badly during their retreat of 1812.   Morale was low, and supplies low.   Reinforcements and supplies were on the way from England, but it would take weeks, if not months, for them to arrive.  

Spanish morale was even worse.   Every Spanish commander who had faced the French had been defeated.  There were large quantities of manpower throughout Spain who hated the French and were eager to fight against them.   But there were few competent Spanish commanders, and even less supplies.   Spain had long relied on Britain to supply all military equipment.   Spain had suffered long years of conflict and food and material was in short supply for civilians and soldiers alike.   It was unlikely that the Spanish field army would be able to march north at any time before 1814.   The best they could hope to achieve was to defend Andalusia.

The initiative therefore lay with the French.   Joseph want wanted a coordinated offensive against Wellington to drive him out of Portugal.   Soult agreed, providing he was reinforced by half of Suchet’s army.   Suchet did not agree.

Suchet wanted to march south into Andalusia, destroy the last Spanish field army, and plunder the rich province of Andalusia.   He considered he had sufficient men to do so, and was impatient to do so.

In January 1813 Joseph, Soult and Suchet all received urgent orders from Napoleon in Paris.   The two armies of Spain would send 50% of their best officers and men back to France to form the basis of the new French Army of Germany.   No excuses would be accepted for any delay.   In return they would receive a similar number of conscripts.
By February most of the replacements had arrived in Spain.  But it would take weeks, if not months, to train and incorporate them into the corps and divisions of 4th and 5th French armies.

The allied declaration of war on France has as little effect in Spain as it had in Germany.   Both the French and the allies were too busy trying to rebuild their field armies.
There are no standard campaign areas in Spain.   This is because the French do not have a safe rear area.   They only control the regions that they occupy, and even then it is contested by guerrilla groups.

The campaign area will depend on the campaign objective of the aggressor.  In northern Spain this is likely to be Wellington.   In southern Spain it will be Soult