Sunday, 22 May 2022

Llanes Campaign – Day 4


14 May 1813 – North Spain – Day 4

 Soult orders 10th Army to attack Comillas

11th French Army rally and resupply at Reinosa

12th French Army retreat to Soncillo

 

1st British Army defend Comillas

4th Spanish Army regroup and resupply at Cabezon

2nd British Army occupy Aguilar and take possession of 2 days supplies

 

8 guerrilla capture convoy to Medina with 2 days supplies

10 guerrilla attack town of Medina, forced to retreat with  no casualties

Battle of Aguilar

The French plan was to pin the centre and south, and attack Comillas in the north

Soult commanded an attack force of 2 infantry, 1 cavalry and 1 artillery brigades

He defeated the British covering force, but left it too late to take the town

 

In the centre 10th French corps defeated 1st  British corps, but were unable to take the farm

 

In the south 20th Westphalian corps defeated and routed 2nd British corps

 

The British lost 7 infantry, 5 cavalry and 1 artillery (3400 casualties)

The French lost 6 infantry. 2 cavalry and 1 artillery (2700 casualties

10 British brigades were routed, 5 French brigades

 

Comment

Despite having the advantage of attacking, the French have lost the first two battles of this campaign

For most of this game it looked like they would lose the third also

 

The main attack was against the town, and the French had a mixed force of infantry, cavalry and artillery

The British has a smaller force of infantry and cavalry, including one Spanish brigade

It was necessary for the French artillery to weaken the enemy cavalry, and this took longer than expected

It was move 6 before they were able to advance to attack, and they did not have sufficient time to take the town

 

In the centre 10th French corps took casualties as they approached the farm

They were unable to take the farm, but they defeated the British troops outside

 

In the south 20th Westphalian corps were outnumbered and had to advance through the woods

Their artillery were routed before they could even clear the woods

However the 2nd British corps gunners routed when the nearby 1st corps gunners routed into them

This allowed the Westphalian infantry to press home their attack and they routed the British infantry

 

The game was very enjoyable, because the advantage kept moving from one side to the other

And right up to the last move either side could have won.

 

In the campaign the guerrilla are starting to have an effect on the French lines of supply

This problem was eased by the general French retreat following their earlier defeat

 

Despite this victory things are not looking good for the French

However the British were deployed to defend, and are having difficulties following up after winning the first  two battles

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Llanes Campaign – Day 3


13 May 1813 – North Spain – Day 3

 Wellington orders 2nd army to attack Aguilar

1st army to hold Comillas and resupply

4th Spanish to hold Cabezon, rally and regroup

Battle of Aguilar

The French occupy a very strong defensive position between Aguilar and the Llanes-Santander district border.

No attempt has been made to garrison the town itself.   23rd French corps occupies a hill to the north of the main road, 24th Italian corps occupies the hill south of the main road.   General Leval has created a strong reserve of the artillery of both corps, and an elite brigade from each corps, in the centre to hold the road and town.

General Hill deploys 3rd British corps against the northern hill, and 4th British corps against the southern one.  He has also created a reserve of the artillery and cavalry of both corps, plus an elite infantry brigade from each, also in the centre.

Hill is aware that a frontal attack down the main road would lead to heavy casualties.   His plan is to attack the two hills, and only when one or both is taken will he attack in the centre.

Each French corps has its cavalry brigade under command, Hill has concentrated all of his cavalry in the centre.  So the infantry approach both hill in line, with one brigade on the flank in square.  They halt out of musket range, and send their skirmishers forward.   After a prolonged skirmish fight they eventually take both hills.   The French suffer more casualties on the southern hill, where 4th British corps has two rifle brigades

The French retreat and abandon Aguilar, leaving the British with a convincing victory

The French suffer 11 infantry, 1 cavalry and 2 artillery casualties (4700 men

The British lose 5 infantry casualties (2000 men)

 

Comment

The French position was one that Wellington would have been proud of.   Two low hills either side of the main road, which would provide excellent cover from artillery fire.

However this was not a tactic which my French troops are particularly suited.   They have average skirmishers, good musket skills and are better suited to column attacks

The British, and particularly the two rifle brigades, have excellent skirmish skills.  But they are poor at volley fire and only average at hand to hand fighting

In addition the French have longer range guns, which give them an advantage over the smaller British guns.

It was clear to the French that one or both of the hills would have to be taken before the main attack could be made on the town.   However a considerable force would have to be allocated to hold the main road, otherwise the British could bypass the hills and go straight for Aguilar.   The French commander created a separate command of the artillery of both corps, supported by an elite infantry brigade from each corps.   The cavalry were left under the command of their respective corps commanders.

The British commander felt confident that his infantry could take the two hills.  He expected the French infantry to deploy behind the ridgeline, out of artillery range.   This would mean that he would be unable to use his guns to soften up the French.  But he was confident that he could win the skirmish battle, and inflict some casualties on the main battle line.   He would attack both hills at the same time, and attack in the centre only when one or both of them were taken.   For the attack in the centre he took command of the artillery and cavalry of both corps, plus an elite infantry brigade from each.

It came as a nasty surprise to find that the French cavalry were not deployed either side of the road, so they must be with the infantry behind the hill ridge.   This would make an attack in column very difficult.  

He also found that the French 12 pounder guns could hit his own 6 pounder guns before they could get within range of the French gunners.  So softening up either the hills, or the centre, was no longer an option.

He ordered both corps to approach the hills in line, with a strong skirmish line in front.   The British cavalry in the centre would offer some protection, but one of the three brigades of each corps would also form square on the flank to protect the British lines.   As the British infantry approached, the French infantry moved to the front of the hill.   By this time the British guns were unable to fire on them due to their own infantry being too close.

So the battle would be decided by an extensive skirmish battle.

This went well on the northern hill, where the French infantry were shaken and retreated from the ridge.   The British infantry would have to form column to attack, and the two British brigades got bogged down in hand to hand fighting.   The Portuguese brigade, which had been in square against the French hussars, now formed column to attack the flank of the French infantry.  As they did so the French cavalry charged, but were unable to break the Portuguese.  Both brigades broke cover to regroup.

The battle was decided on the southern hill.    Here the British had two rifle brigades and one Portuguese cacadore brigade.   They also halted out of musket range and sent forward a strong skirmish line.   One French brigade was routed.   However one French brigade moved forward in column and charged the right hand rifle brigade.   The riflemen came off worse, and retired shaken.   The second rifle brigade formed column and attacked the winning French brigade, which was now disordered.   The British won the melee, but only just.   However it was enough to force the rest of the French corps to withdraw.

It is very unusual for skirmish fighting alone to win a battle in my rules.  This is because skirmish fire is very uncertain.   Each brigade rolls one D6, and needs a total of 6 for a hit.   Trained troops add plus 1, riflemen add plus 2.   When they fire we place smoke in front of the brigade, and it is only removed if they don’t fire again next time.  If they do it is minus 1 for a hit.   So even the elite riflemen need a dice throw of 5 or 6 to hit.   Trained skirmishers need a 6.   Poorly trained skirmishers can only fire on alternate moves.   So this is not a tactic you would normally use, and particularly if the enemy were supported by cavalry.    However as the British player I could not see any better option.

It is always easy to remember when one player rolls a 6, or a 1, at a critical part of the game.   It is more difficult to remember the balance of luck throughout the whole game.   I suspect that we both rolled good, and bad, dice.  But my good ones were at the critical point, and Jan’s bad ones were when she really needed a good one.    So I won the game.

Sunday, 8 May 2022

Llanes Campaign – Day 2


 

12 May 1813 – North Spain – Day 2

Wellington orders his army to advance to the border

But to avoid combat unless the French cross into Llanes district

 

Soult orders 3rd French army to attack Cabezon

He considers the Spanish held centre to be the allied weak point

The Spanish army are advancing as part of the main allied advance

Battle of Cabezon

The French had to advance, in three columns, through the mountains to reach Cabezon.   This made coordination of the whole army very difficult.

The French commander created a reserve of two infantry brigades in the centre to attack the town.  However the Spanish garrison had been increased to three brigades.

The two corps kept their artillery, but were expected to support the attack on the town.  However they found it difficult to advance with the guns supporting their own columns.

At nightfall the Spanish still held the town and won the battle

Comment

As this is the opening battle of the campaign there are no previous battle casualties.   All brigades are therefore full strength, and morale does not play such an important role.

Two things decided the outcome of this battle.

First was that the French would have to approach through the mountains.  This, combined with the campaign rule that there can only be one command in each map/wargame square, made it very difficult to coordinate the three columns.

Second was that the Spanish had 12 pounder guns, the French 9 pounder.   So the French could fire further than the French.   This allowed them to deploy to cover the mouth of the three valleys and engage the French before they could deploy.   The Spanish gunners were not as well trained as the French, but the longer range more than made up for that disadvantage.

In this game the Spanish actually outnumbered the attacking French.  This is because they had a militia brigade in garrison.  In addition the garrison was increased to three brigades, and the French had only allowed two brigades to take it.  So the attacking column would have to rely on artillery support from the two corps either side of them.

Being pinned at the entrance to the valleys the French artillery had to first engage the Spanish corps opposite, only then could they afford to concentrate on the town garrison.    This all proved too difficult, and the French gunners could not pull it off.   The garrison did eventually suffer casualties, but it was too little and too late.  

At nightfall the Spanish still held the town, and therefore won the battle/wargame.

You will see from the map that there is a lot of hill ground either side of the border, so this is a problem which the attacking player will encounter again and will have to be solved.   Fortunately I usually command the attacking army, and Jan the defending one.   So I will have to come up with some solution.

Sunday, 1 May 2022

Llanes Campaign – Day 1


11 May 1813 – North Spain – Day 1


The whole French army advance to the border

This unexpected move takes Wellington by surprise

The French also start to move supplies to the forward depots

 

Comment

 

The French advance has taken Wellington by surprise

The Anglo-Portuguese corps are still in their garrison locations

This ensures that each corps is within one days march (3 squares) of their depot

 

The French corps are now out of range of their three eastern depots

Already supplies are being moved to the forward depots

The French movement has also disrupted the Spanish guerrilla bands

The three rear depots are now vulnerable to guerrilla attack

 

The yellow markers are Spanish troops, both regular and guerrilla

You will note that there are six allied corps, four British and two Spanish

The two Spanish corps are in the centre, with British support on both flanks

 

The French will still consider them to be the weak link in the allied position

However this is no longer the case, these two are the elite of the Spanish army

They are not quite up to the standard of the British brigades

But they are the equal of the Portuguese infantry

And both are at least as good as the French conscript brigades

 

There have been changes in the morale, firing and skirmish ability of all brigades

Generally all have been made slightly better, to avoid too many routs too easily

But the Spanish in particular have gained from this reassessment

 

It will be interesting to see how this all works out in practice

Sunday, 24 April 2022

Start of Llanes Campaign


Traditional map of Europe

 

My 1813 campaign started in April 2009.  

Since then it has provided 82 campaign phases and 418 battles to wargame.

 

The campaign was created to provide interesting battles to wargame.

It was never my intention to model the actual 1813 campaign.

I choose 1813 because it was the first campaign in which all of the major nations fought at the same time

It was also notable because all of them were of relatively equal fighting and command ability

In previous campaigns the French had usually defeated their opponent

But by 1813 those defeated nations had learned hard lessons and improved their own armies

In the previous year Napoleon has lost an entire army in Russia

In 1813 they were largely replaced by conscripts

 

It was always designed to be a series of campaign phases.

Each one would be similar in size and duration to the Waterloo campaign

Each would also be free standing, and would start with both armies at full strength

It was planned that each phase would provide about 6 battles to wargame

 

The campaign order of battle was based on my existing model soldier collection

I had armies for Austria, Britain, Prussia, Russia and Spain

I also had a much larger French army, which included many allies such as Polish, Italian, Westphalian and Bavarian

 

The campaign was divided into five theatres, three in Germany and two in Spain.

Austria, Prussia and Russian would be in Germany, each with a French army against them

Britain and Spain would operate in Spain, again with a French army against each.

The orders of battle would remain constant for the five theatres

This would allow me to use all of my model soldier collection in sequence.

 

New Military District map of Europe showing each campaign phase

 

The campaign has run nonstop since April 2009

However it has not followed an 1813 narrative

Had it done so it would long since run out of options.

 

There have been six major reorganisation of the campaign

The original was April 2009 and was a solo campaign

Second was October 2009 when I started the first PBEM campaign

Third was June 2013 when the campaign reached 2014 and it entered France

Fourth was February 2015 when I reset the calendar to January 2013

Fifth was February 2016 when I changed back to solo campaign

Sixth was June 2020 when I made new maps based on military districts

 

There have been relatively few changes to either the campaign or wargame rules

The campaign rules were changed when the campaign went from solo to PBEM and back to solo

The wargame rules had minor changes to reflect game play

However throughout the period there was always a game on the table from the current campaign

Llanes Campaign Phase

 

This will be the fifteenth campaign phase between Wellington and Soult in northern Spain.   

The British won 8 and the French 7.

 

In this campaign Wellington commands four Anglo-Portuguese and two Spanish corps

He can also rely on 12 Spanish militia brigades

They are the garrisons of the towns in the campaign

When a town is taken by the French the garrison becomes a guerrilla brigade

 

The French also have six corps, plus six conscript brigades for garrison duty

 

The major difference in this campaign is the fighting ability of the two Spanish corps.   

They are not up to the standard of the four British corps

But are similar to the Portuguese infantry brigades in each of those corps

To is to reflect that in 1813 Wellington’s army included Spanish brigades

These performed relatively well, especially compared with those commanded by Spanish generals.

 

It is always difficult to get the balance right between French-British-Portuguese-Spanish brigades

Particularly when games are mostly decided by the luck of the dice.

But I wanted to get away from Spanish running away at the first sight of the French

This was certainly not true in 1813, when they formed an important part of Wellington’s army

Sunday, 17 April 2022

Morale in Wargames


If you have a regular wargame opponent, as I am fortunate to have, morale will probably play an important role in your wargames.   When both of you have a good grasp of the rules, and a lot of experience of gaming together, it is often the thing which decides the outcome of the game.

When I started my 1813 campaign I decided that I would have to write my own rules, both for the campaign and the wargame.   I wanted the campaign to provide interesting battles for my wife and I to wargame.  And I wanted the wargame to be fun and fast moving, whilst still reflecting Napoleonic warfare.  It soon became apparent that the morale rules would be critical in both the campaign and the wargame.

To keep it simple I decided on 1 six sided dice to determine the outcome.   This would be amended as follows

Plus 1 for elite troops

Plus 1 if general in base contact

Plus 1 if supports within 4”

Plus 1 if garrison or in woods

Plus 1 if 20” or more from the enemy

Minus 1 if conscript (poor quality) troops

Minus 1 no general within 8”

Minus 1 no supports within 8”

Minus 1 for each casualty

Minus 1 for rout within 4”

Minus 1 if routed through

Minus 1 if disordered

Minus 1 if shaken

Minus 2 in rout


The total of the dice and the total plus or minus would decide what the brigade would d

 

3 or more pass morale test

1 or 2 shaken

0 or less rout

 

Most of the modifiers are not down to the player, but the result of casualties or current morale.    But the player can ensure that all brigades are within supporting distance (4”) of each other.   And that their general remains within 8”.

The overall effect is that most troops without casualties and with supports will make their morale.

After a battle all casualties are transferred to the campaign.   Infantry casualties can be concentrated in one brigade, but 10% always remain with the brigade who received them.  This applies for the remainder of the campaign.   So casualties in one battle have an effect until the campaign ends.

All casualties, less the 10%, can be replaced by reinforcements.   However they take a long time to arrive.   A corps must be stationary, not in contact with the enemy and be in supply to receive reinforcements.   They then receive 1 casualty per corps per move.   These are allocated in priority to artillery, cavalry and then infantry.

In addition in each corps all infantry casualties, less 10% per brigade, can be transferred to the brigade with most casualties.   This allows all other infantry brigades to quickly come to full strength, less the 10% casualties which will remain until the end of the campaign.

It sounds a little complicated, but it is really simple to apply in use.   After each campaign day is completed I adjust casualties to each corps.   When a battle is declared the current strength of each brigade is noted and shown on the wargames table by use of a small token which shows the casualties as numbers, with 1 representing 10%.

At the start of the campaign all brigades will be full strength.  So in their first battle all will follow orders until they start to receive casualties.   The more casualties they receive the more likely they are to fail a morale test.   It usually requires a poor dice throw, plus minus modifiers, for a brigade to rout.

When they do all supporting brigades (within 4”) must immediately test their morale.   If they rout, then all brigades within supporting distance of them must test morale.   This is when earlier battle casualties have an immediate effect on the current game.   All brigades with 10% casualties or more are more likely to join the rout.

For us this simple rule mechanism usually determines who wins the game.   Neither of us tend to make either rule or tactical mistakes.  We have used the rules so often that we have learned both very well.    So it is loss of morale, often sparked by a single casualty, which often results in a victory or defeat.

Simple morale rules like this will not appeal to everyone.   I have used many commercial rules over the past 50 years.   All had morale rules, some very complicated.    I remember that WRG rules had lengthy lists of modifiers, most of which cancelled each other out.   But they were impossible to remember and would require long periods of consultation during the game.

Our morale rules have served us well since they were written 14 years ago.   They have had many amendments in the light of play experience.  But having written the rules myself these changes rarely has unexpected consequences in later games.

Sunday, 10 April 2022

Gera Campaign – Day 9


9 May 1813 – Central Germany – Day 9

In the north 5th French army attack Naumburg

2nd Russian army abandon the city and retreat east to Kretzschau


In the centre 4th French army occupy Jena

1st Russian army retreat to Jena

 

In the south 6th French army rally, regroup and resupply at Sulza

3rd Russian army rally at Lederhose

 

Both armies are both now low on supplies and in need of reinforcements

Neither are capable of renewing hostilities

The French have failed to take Gera

However they have finally forced the Russians to retreat from the border

It is a limited French victory, but still a victory.


Comment

After nine days the French have won the Gera campaign phase.

They have won four of the six battles fought

 

Despite this it has not been an easy or a clear cut victory for the French

They have failed to take their campaign objective, the town of Gera

Indeed they have been hard put to establish themselves in Gera District

 

Strange that the Russians never seem to do well in the campaign.

Out of 16 phases fought so far, they have only won three.

There is no obvious reason for this, they are similar quality to the French.

Their cavalry are weaker, having two Cossack brigades

But their artillery is stronger, having more 12 pounders than the French

So in theory the two should balance each other.

 

Looking forward to returning to Spain for the next phase

Sunday, 3 April 2022

Gera Campaign – Day 8


8 May 1813 – Central Germany – Day 8

Both armies are desperately in need of rest, reorganisation and reinforcements

Supplies are also running low, though not yet likely to affect their operational ability

Davout is determined to secure his foothold in Gera district before this happens

He orders 4th French army to attack Jena

Battle of Jena

Both 4th French and 1st Russian armies have suffered least battle casualties

The French also have 2nd Young Guard corps, the elite of the Army of the Centre

So for once neither commander had to worry about battle casualties making their brigades weak

 

The Russians had two elite infantry brigades in support of Jena, under the command of the army commander

The French created an attack force of two elite brigades, commanded by Davout

 

The young guard were north of the town, with their artillery on their right to fire on the garrison

They would not advance until the town was under infantry attack

 

6th Vistula corps was south of the town.   Their artillery would also engage the garrison.

Their main task was to contain 1st Russian corps and prevent them supporting the town

 

The combined French artillery was ineffective against the garrison, despite moving to close range

It was left to the infantry to assault Jena

 

North of the town 2nd Russian corps, including the guard cuirassier brigade advanced to support the garrison

The young guard were forced to move their artillery to fire on the advancing Russian infantry

The guard grenadiers charged the Russian guard cavalry in the decisive engagement

The French cavalry won, and secured the left flank

However the Russian cavalry rallied and supported the infantry to hold the French

 

South of the town 1st Russian corps, including the guard Cossacks, also advanced to support the garrison

The Cossacks charged the Polish lancers, and routed them.

This unexpected setback caused the Vistula corps to halt their attack

However they did manage to hold the flank.

 

Fortunately the French infantry attack on Jena was a complete success

The two elite brigades routed the two Russian grenadier brigades who formed the garrison

 

At nightfall both armies were still in place, but the town was firmly held by the French

 

The Russians have lost 4 infantry, 3 cavalry and 2 artillery casualties (2100 men)

The French have lost 3 infantry and 3 cavalry casualties (1500 men)

 

Comment

For once morale due to earlier battle casualties was not a problem

Both sides had good quality troops, including elite guard cavalry

 

It was strange that the French artillery did not perform better.

They were able to manhandle the guns into close range of the garrison

So they only needed a total of 7 with 2D6 for a hit, yet only managed one hit out of 4 attempts

 

The cavalry melee proved critical, particularly the Cossack victory

This caused the Vistula corps to halt and abandon their attack

However the Russians failed to take full advantage and attack the Poles.

 

The young guard were also unimpressive.

The cavalry melee between the two elite brigades did result in a French victor

However the Russian cuirassiers rallied and helped prevent the French advance

This was largely because of the time it took to redeploy the French gunners

 

The deciding engagement was the infantry fight for the town.

Both sides had elite troops, so the advantage was with the Russian defenders

The one casualty caused by the French guns left one brigade shaken

Both brigades then withdrew into the centre of the town to seek shelter from the guns

This allowed the French infantry to assault on equal terms

It was then just luck which side would win

The French had better luck than the Russians

 

Another very interesting wargame, with many unexpected outcomes

Sunday, 27 March 2022

Gera Campaign – Day 7


7 May 1813 – Central Germany – Day 7

Both armies are nearing the end of their operational ability

Despite heavy fighting over the past 4 days, neither side has gained an advantage.

It is becoming clear that the French will not be able to achieve their campaign objective of taking Gera

 

In the north French retreat to Sommerda, Russians regroup at Naumburg

In the centre Russians rally at Jena, French resupply at Weimar

In the south French attack Sulza

 

Battle of Sulza

To secure the border Marshal Davout orders 6th French army to take Sulza.

A victory would at least secure a foothold in the District of Gera

 

Both armies start the battle with considerable battle casualties

MacDonald is aware that with such brittle morale he cannot risk heavy casualties

As attacker, this presents a difficult problem.

 

A depleted 8th French corps will hold the mountainous northern section

He creates a reserve of three infantry and one cavalry brigades

This will form the spearhead of his attack.

15th Vistula corps will support the attack in the south.


He deploys his army out of artillery range of 3rd Russian army

His corps artillery advance into range of the Russian infantry and open fire

The Russian guns reply, but do little damage

 

The French reserve advance in the centre

The Vistula lancers move forward to threaten the enemy artillery

Russian Cossacks charge the lancers, but lose the melee and rout

A nearby Russian infantry brigade lose their resulting morale test and join the rout

The Russian gunners abandon their guns and take cover in the remaining infantry square

 

By midday it is clear to Winzingerode that he cannot hope to hold the French

With two infantry and one cavalry brigade in rout he orders the rest of his army to withdraw

One infantry brigade will hold Sulza until nightfall, and will then retreat to join the rest of the army

 

The Russians have lost 3 infantry and 1 cavalry casualties (1300 men)

The French have suffered no casualties

Comment

The outcome of this battle was decided solely on morale

Almost every brigade in both armies had at least 10% casualties from earlier battles

This left them very vulnerable if forced to take a morale test

It also made it very likely that if one brigade were to rout, the supporting brigades might well join them

 

So the French commander held his infantry and cavalry out of artillery range of the Russian army

He then advanced his artillery to long range of the Russian infantry, who had to hold their ground to protect their guns

His intention was to weaken the infantry with artillery fire, and then attack with infantry and cavalry.

The only reply open to the Russian gunners was to fire on the difficult to hit French gunners

 

Only one Russian infantry brigade was hit, and it lost its morale and routed

Fortunately their supporting brigades passed their morale test.

 

The French infantry would now have to advance to take Sulza

This meant moving into range of the Russian gunners

Only the French reserve advanced, the two corps on the flanks held their ground

 

The Russian infantry brigade which had routed left one of the Russian batteries uncovered.

The Vistula lancers advanced to threaten these guns, and the supporting Cossack brigade counter charged

The Poles won the melee, and routed the Cossacks

A nearby Russian infantry brigade had to test their morale, failed and joined the Cossacks

The Russian gunners had to abandon their guns and seek shelter in a nearby infantry square.

 

As the result of one cavalry melee the Russian centre was broken, without a single French casualty

 

The remainder of the Russian army was now seriously outnumbered and withdrew before the French could reach them

 

However this battle could just as easily have gone the other way

 

If the Russians infantry square had not broken things would have gone very different

The Vistula lancers could not have charged the Russian infantry

They would have come under artillery fire to get within charge range of the Cossacks

Possibly lost casualties, cavalry melee should have resulted in a draw at best

French infantry would have had to march towards the guns

Would almost certainly have lost at least one infantry brigade

May well have lost more due to failure of morale.

 

Should have been a Russian victory

 

Turned out to be a French one

 

Sunday, 20 March 2022

Gera Campaign – Day 6


6 May 1813 – Central Germany – Day 6

The campaign is going badly for the French

By now they should be in position to attack Gera

But they are still west of the border

In the centre and south they have finally forced the Russians to retreat

However to move into Gera district they must take Naumburg

 

In the north French army attack Russians west of Naumburg

In the centre French regroup, Russians retreat behind Jena

In the south French army advance to make contact with Russians at Sulza

Second Battle of Naumburg

Both armies start the battle with considerable casualties from previous battles.

Lefebvre is aware that his army is not strong enough to launch a frontal attack

He orders both corps to move to the centre and support the main attack.

This is spearheaded by the reserve of two infantry brigades and one corps artillery

 

The reserve artillery is routed by the Russian gunners

This causes the central attack to stall until the redeployment is complete

 

Constantine reacts to the French redeployment by retiring his right and centre

The right retreat into the woods, the centre to the valley between the two hills

On his left 4th corps move down from the hill and join the centre

 

The Russian gunners concentrate on the French cavalry, and rout both

This spreads to two infantry brigades, and 5th corps artillery

 

Without cavalry or artillery support the French infantry must withdraw

 

French lost 1 infantry, 1 cavalry and 2 gunners (700 men)

Russians lost 1 infantry (400 men)


Comment

After four battles both armies have suffered considerable casualties.

Even with reinforcements most brigades have at least 10% casualties

This would have a significant effect on this battle.

 

It would have more effect on the French, who would have to attack

They would have to accept some artillery casualties as they approached the Russian position

The French commander was aware that they could not risk a frontal attack

He ordered a redeployment towards the centre, where the reserve would spearhead the attack.

 

Obviously the Russians reacted with their own redeployment

They withdrew to a strong position in the centre at the entrance to the valley

Their left wing retreated to the woods, their right moved down from the southern hill to extend the centre

 

The battle was decided with relatively few French casualties

The Russian gunners were lucky with their dice, and hit the Westphalian artillery and French cavalry

Both failed their morale due to battle casualties, both broke and routed

Both routs spread to nearby brigades, who already had battle casualties

 

Only one infantry melee took place, when the Russian infantry stormed the inn in the centre

They won, but it had little effect on the outcome of the battle

 

This battle could have gone either way, the Russians were luckier on the day

 

The French really needed to win this battle, and the outlook is now bleak for them

Sunday, 13 March 2022

Gera Campaign – Day 5


5 May 1813 – Central Germany – Day 5

The campaign is not going well for the French

They had anticipated that by now they would have taken the three border towns of Naumburg, Jena and Sulza.  

All three are still held by the Russians.

 

In the north both armies regroup and resupply

In the centre 4th French army attack Jena

In the south the Russians retreat to Sulza.

Battle of Jena

The battle is fought to the west of Jena.

The French advance in three columns

In the north 2nd (Young Guard) corps

In the centre a reserve of three infantry brigades and corps artillery

In the south 6th French corps

 

The battle opens with an exchange of artillery fire, which causes little damage

2nd corps occupy the northern hill, but do not attack

6th corps attack in the south, but are unable to break 1st Russian corps

The battle is decided by the fight in the centre between the two reserves

 

The French 12pdr guns dominate the 6pdr Russian guns

At midday the French infantry advance, and rout the shaken Russian gunners

 

Having broken the Russian centre the French artillery redeploy to support 2nd corps. 

Before they can attack the Russian army retreats.

 

The French claim victory, but the Russians are not defeated

At nightfall they still hold Jena and both corps are in good order

 

The French have lost 2 infantry and 1 cavalry casualties (900 men)

The Russians have lost 3 infantry, 1 cavalry and 2 artillery casualties (1500 men)

 

Comment

Marshal Davout is well aware how critical this battle would be.

Each army has won one battle so far in the campaign

However the French have failed to drive the Russians back from the border

If they lose this battle and retreat they have failed in their campaign objective

 

With both armies on the table at the start of the game no time was lost in deployment

By move two the French artillery were in range of the Russian gunners

After four rounds of artillery fire little damage had been done

 

In the north Davout did not want to risk heavy casualties to his elite 2nd Young Guard corps

He advanced his infantry on the high ground, out of sight of the Russian guns

Their cavalry advanced in the valley to cover their flank

But were careful not to approach too close to the Russian guns or heavy cavalry

They were waiting for the French reserve to come to their support

 

In the centre both armies had created a reserve of three infantry brigade and corps artillery

The winner here would be able to support either the northern or southern wing

 

In the south 6th French and 1st Russian corps were evenly matched

Neither had managed to gain artillery superiority

Finally the French  had to advance and move into Russian artillery range

Their cavalry charged the Russian Cossacks, expecting a quick victory

However they lost the cavalry melee and had to retreat shaken

The unsupported French infantry quickly retired

 

The battle in the centre was decided by the French 12pdr artillery

They outranged the smaller 6pdr Russian guns

They were able to move into close range of the Russian guns and pound them

As soon as the Russian gunners were shaken the infantry advanced and routed them

 

Although the Russians retired, they did so in good order and still holding Jena

Sunday, 6 March 2022

Gera Campaign – Day 4


4 May 1813 – Central Germany – Day 4

Having won the battle of Naumburg, the whole Russian army moves forward to the border.  

In the south Third army cross the border and launch a surprise attacks on Saalfeld.

After a hard fought battle the French hold the town 

Battle of Saalfeld

The Russians create a reserve of both corps artillery and two elite infantry brigades.   The French reserve is two elite infantry brigades allocated to hold the town.

The Russians have to advance through the hills to reach Saalfeld.   This results in a slow deployment, except for the reserve artillery who use the only available road to deploy first.

The French are deployed on the hills either side of the town, and happy to wait for the Russian attack.  The reserve artillery remain behind the town to avoid the Russian artillery deployed in front of Saalfeld.

In the north, 8th French corps has to advance into the plain, to disrupt the Russian reserve.   5th Russian corps attack, but are driven back with heavy casualties

In the south the Russians remain behind the crest of the hill.   6th Russian corps attack, and have more success than in the north.  But at nightfall the hill is still disputed.

So the battle is decided in the centre.   The Russian refusal to garrison the town protects the reserve infantry.   The French reserve infantry suffer heavy casualties as they approach the town, and are too weak to attack.   At nightfall the French still hold the town, and claim victory.

Comment

It is interesting how the campaign takes on a life of its own.   The intention of this campaign phase was that the French would move east into Gera district, with the objective to taking Gera itself.

This would mean that the initial fighting would take place at Naumburg, Jena and Sulza.   However the Russian victory at Naumburg dictated that the Russians should take the initiative and march into Erfurt district. 

This in effect would make it the Erfurt campaign phase, not the Gera campaign phase!

So this battle, even though it was very early in the campaign phase, was critical.   If the Russians won at Saalfeld it would be extremely difficult for the French to hold the line of the border.  They would have to retreat to Wissensee, Erfurt and Suhl.

The latest winning tactic is for the attacker to create a very strong reserve, usually infantry and artillery, under the command of the Army commander.   The defender has to defend the whole front, leaving the point of attack to the attacker.   Using the reserve the attacking general can choose which of the two wings to support, giving them a high likehood of winning.

The counter is for the defender to do the same.   The game objective is always the town, so the defender must use his reverse to hold it.  By putting his infantry into the town, he presents an excellet target to the attacker.   He can move his artillery into close range of the town, batter the garrison and then attack with his reserve infantry when they have received sufficient casualties.

In this game the French defender (Jan) found a winning counter to this tactic.   She created a reserve of two elite infantry brigades.  But they were placed behind the town, not inside it.   The two corps either side of the town deployed their artillery close to the town, providing long range support.

As the Russian reserve advanced they came under fire from the French artillery.   There was no one in the town, and the enemy infantry was behind the crest of the hills on either side.  So the Russian artillery had no targets, other than the difficult to hit French gunners.   However Russian infantry had to be close enough to support the reserve artillery, and therefore were within range of the Russian gunners.  They suffered heavy casualties, and were too weak to attack the town.

Had the Russian reserve infantry stormed the town early in the battle, they would have suffered even more casualties from the French artillery.  And the French reserve infantry could have entered the town at the same time as the attackers, thus preventing the Russian artillery from firing on them.

This simple tactic won the game for the French.   And it presented a very effective to the previous battle winning attacker reserve.   It will be interesting to see if we can come up with a counter to the counter!