Sunday 29 November 2020

Erfurt Campaign – Day 6


19 March 1813 - Central Europe - Day 6

The main French army redeploys in preparation to attack Weimar

The main Russian army are in position and use the day to resupply and reorganise

Both are well aware that the French will attack tomorrow, and it will decide the campaign

In the north 5th French corps attack Sommerda

Their intention is to prevent 2nd Russian corps marching south to Weimar

The Russians must not only hold the town, but also the road to Weimar

Battle of Sommerda move 10


The battle is the hardest fought of the current campaign

The artillery preparation inflict similar casualties on both sides

The French lose the opening cavalry melee, but the Russians lose heavily


With both artillery and cavalry failing to gain an advantage, it is left to the infantry

Both enter the battle with casualties, but both fight on despite further casualties

After two rounds of melee the Russians have one infantry brigade in reserve

Their attack finally breaks the two French brigades

At nightfall the Russians not only hold Sommerda, but also the road to Weimar



This battle was fought to avoid a very difficult battle to transfer to the wargames table

On the map you will see that both the French and the Russian main armies occupy three squares each.   On the wargames table they would occupy the whole width of the table on either side, with three empty squares in the centre.   This is necessary to allow each side to react to the advance to contact.

If both 2nd Russian and 5th French corps were to march south there would not be an empty scenic square for them to arrive.  This would give them an unfair advantage in the wargame.


So it was easier to fight the smaller battle of Sommereda to decide the issue.   It was similar to the Prussian battle for Plancenoit, in relation to the battle of Waterloo.   Equally important to the outcome, but without a confused mass on the table.


In life this type of battle is easy to react to.   Napoleon fed reserves into Plancenoit to delay the Prussian arrival at Waterloo.  But on the wargames table this is very difficult to recreate.   It is fine if there is lots of space for the reinforcements to arrive and deploy.   But if they arrive on the same scenic square as a corps already involved in battle to its front it is impossible to do so.


One of the advantages of a campaign is that you can avoid these difficult actions by simply ordering the Russians to defend Sommerda.

It also proved an interesting and enjoyable wargame.  Particularly as the Russians (played by Jan) won their first battle of this campaign.

Sunday 22 November 2020

Erfurt Campaign – Day 5

18 March 1813 - Central Europe - Day 5

Both armies prepare for the anticipated decisive battles.


In the north the French move their depot to Wiessensee and prepare to attack Sommerda.


In the centre the Russians concentrate at Weimar

The French establish a depot at Erfurt and prepare to attack Weimar


In the south 14th Westphalian corps attack Saalfeld to prevent 4th Russian corps joining the main army at Weimar

Battle of Saalfeld move 10

The battle opens with a cavalry melee, resulting in both brigades routing


The Russian artillery concentrate on one enemy brigade, causing 30% casualties.   But the infantry continue to pass their morale test and hold until the end


The Russian infantry then attack, but the leading brigade is routed

This causes the supporting brigade to rout and leaves the gunners shaken

As the Westphalian infantry advance the Russian corps breaks and retreats



Both corps started the battle with casualties

But the Russians had more than the Westphalians.

This would play a critical role in the defeat of the Russians


The Westphalian lancers charged and routed the Russian cuirassiers

The lancers then charged the nearby gunners, but were routed in turn


The Russian gunners concentrated on the left hand Westphalian brigade

The infantry received 30% casualties over three moves

But managed to pass their morale test each time


The Russians now had the advantage, and should have remained on the defensive

But their infantry charged the right hand infantry brigade

They won the first round of melee, but lost the second and routed

This caused the supporting brigade (who started with 20% casualties) to rout

And left the nearby gunners shaken


Without Russian artillery, the Westphalian infantry now advanced

They broke the Russian centre and sent one half left, the other half right


The Russians lost 3900 casualties, the Westphalians 2300

But more important 3 Russians brigades were routed, only 1 Westphalian

This game could have gone either way, particularly as both sides has weak morale due to earlier battle casualties.


The Russian heavy cavalry should have beaten the lighter lancer brigade, but didn’t


The Westphalian infantry should have broken after 30% artillery casualties (3 hits).

But each time they rolled high, and each time passed their morale

Despite this they were a liability, and a rout could easily have spread


Finally the Russian infantry should have just held their ground

The Russian gunners had already dominated the battle

The Westphalian infantry would not advance into short range of them


But the Russian infantry attacked, lost the melee then broke and ran

And the panic spread amongst the rest of the Russian corps


Interesting game, and very enjoyable to play

Sunday 15 November 2020

Erfurt Campaign – Day 4

17 March 1813 - Central Europe - Day 4

After three days of fighting both armies are urgently need of rest, regrouping and resupply.


Despite this Davout orders 5th corps to attack Wiessensee in the north.    However Wittgenstein has ordered 3rd corps to abandon the town and retreat to Sommereda.   They have closed the depot at Weissensee and taken all supplies with them.


In the centre 1st, 3rd and reserve Russian corps are forced to retreat to Weimar following their defeat at Erfurt.   1st corps is now out of supply, and the other two corps have only one day left.


6th French corps occupy Erfurt, 2nd and reserve corps halt to rally, regroup and resupply.


In the south both 14th Westphalian corps and 4th Russian corps regroup and resupply




The French are now in a very strong position.   In three days of fighting they have taken all three towns in the centre of the map, including Erfurt which is the campaign objective.   They have also managed to resupply four of their five corps.   Only 6th corps is now in urgent need of supply, and they can be supplied from the main depot at Gotha.


The Russian Army has managed to break contact and retreat to the three towns on the right of the map.   However they are now in urgent need of supply.   Two of their five corps are in supply, two have only one day’s supplies left and the fifth is out of supply.



This campaign is following the usual line.   First a period of intense fighting as both sides try to achieve an advantage.   This leave them both disorganised and short of supplies.   Both are now faced with a period of regrouping and sorting out their lines of supply in order to enter the second phase, which is larger and more decisive battles.


At this stage the winner of the earlier fighting is actually faced with more difficult problems than the loser.  To advance he must establish a new system of supply depots, otherwise he will move out of supply range.  


The loser has fallen back on his supply line and is now within range of at least three of them, including the main depot.


In our campaign supply rules both armies always maintain a minimum number of supplies.   This is set at four days for each corps, plus four days reserve.   At the end of each campaign day I total the number of days held by each corps, plus the number held in all of their depots.   If this comes below the minimum, in this campaign 24 days, the balance is delivered to the army main supply depot.   In this campaign that is Gotha for the French and Weimar for the Russians.   This again is always to the benefit of the retreating army.


The French commander now has to plan the final offensive, and also reorganise his lines of supply to support the advance.   This will mean bringing his depots very close to the enemy.  So a defeat in the final battles could mean losing his supplies and having to retreat.


In this way I ensure that the campaign is never won until the final battle.

Sunday 8 November 2020

Erfurt Campaign – Day 3

16 March 1813 - Central Europe -  Day 3

First major battle/wargame of the campaign

French attack Erfurt with two corps and their reserve

Russians counter attack with two corps and their reserve

Start of Game

The city of Erfurt is represented by four town squares

The Russian army starts the game deployed to the right of the city

The French army is deployed to the left of the city

Each army has 9 infantry and 3 cavalry brigades, plus 3 batteries of artillery

The cavalry and artillery of the reserve corps are C class, minus 1 for melee and morale

End of Move 8

The battle is concentrated on the fight for the city

Both armies commit three brigades of infantry, each commanded by their CinC

As they enter the two sections nearest to them the buildings are removed

This allows us to measure movement, deploy to fight, and measure retreats

The Russians hold both flanks, but lose more casualties than the French

But the French win because they capture the city


Campaign Note

This was an unusually complicated game.   There were two reasons for this.


First the table was quite crowded for such a large army, and particularly the area taken by the city of Erfurt in the centre


Both flanks had terrain which was easy to defend, and the approaches were very narrow.   


The Russians occupied the terrain on their side of the table, and only advanced into the city.  


The French intended to attack, but found it too difficult to advance beyond their own terrain.   Consequently they also deployed to hold.


The French attack on the city was heavily supported by their artillery, and caused casualties to the Russian garrison.  This provided decisive when the French infantry attacked.


The Russian artillery concentrated on the French infantry and cavalry.  They caused a few casualties, but more important they made a French attack likely to be very expensive.  This resulted in a lack of fighting on the flanks.


Interesting wargame, but a little disappointing that it was again decided by town fighting.   This is always decided by the luck of the dice, though the French artillery did help the French attack.

Sunday 1 November 2020

Erfurt Campaign – Day 2

15 March 1813 - Central Europe -  Day 2

In the north 5th French corps retreat

Russian 2nd corps enter Wiessensee


In the centre both armies concentrate for a major battle


In the south there is an encounter battle at Suhl

End of Move 8

Suhl is a walled town and does not have a military garrison

The civilians lock the gates and refuse entry to both armies

14th Westphalian and 4th Russian corps both have orders to take the town

Being unable to enter the town they deploy outside the town walls


It takes four moves for both corps to advance within artillery range and deploy


The next four moves consist of an exchange of artillery fire, which proves completely ineffective and no casualties on either side.  


With just four moves left someone must advance and attack, or it will be a draw.

The Westphalians take up the challenge.


The infantry are ordered to advance, and the lancer brigade to engage the Russian cavalry.   Before they do so the Westphalian gunners fire one last time on the enemy cavalry.   The cuirassiers suffer 10% casualties, fail morale test and are shaken.   As a result they are unable to counter attack the lancer, break and run away.


This exposed the Russian artillery to a flank attack, and they withdraw immediately to avoid this outcome.   Their supporting infantry form square.   The Westphalian cavalry rally and threaten the enemy infantry


Meanwhile the four Westphalian infantry brigades advance in two columns of two in each.  


The leading brigade on the right smash the conscript brigade opposed to them.   They rout into the elite Russian grenadier brigade trying to deploy behind them.   Both brigades run away


The Russian brigade on the left has to remain in square, due to the hovering lancer brigade.   This is not a good formation to meet a column attack.   However they not only hold their own, they win the first round of melee.


By now two Russian infantry and the cavalry brigade are in rout. The artillery are retreating with their guns.   Two infantry brigade cover the retreat.


Fortunately it is also nightfall, and the Russian corps can retreat under cover of darkness.   The Russians have lost 1500 casualties, the Westphalian only 400.


Campaign Note

This battle was memorable because the walled town of Suhl was able to close their gates and defy both armies.   This was only possible because neither side could spare any infantry to storm the town.   Had they done so the town would have had to surrender immediately, as it did not have a military garrison.


This was only memorable because it gave me a good excuse to avoid a second wargame of both sides fighting over a built up area.   These never make for interesting games, because they rely entirely on the luck of the dice.   An there is always a good chance that the result will be inconclusive.


The Westphalian victory was a good result because both the Russians and the French have won one battle each.   Neither side have any strategic advantage, and both are in position to fight the first major battle of the campaign, which will be at Erfurt.


And whichever side lose the battle for Erfurt, their earlier victory will prevent an immediate collapse and will allow for a longer campaign as a result.