Sunday 25 February 2024

Wismar Campaign – Day 1

Campaign Map                                                 

The campaign opens with a surprise French attack in the south

1st Prussian Army – hold Boltenhagen
2nd Prussian Army – hold Gadebusch
3rd Prussian Army – defend Hagenow

3rd French Army – hold Ratzeburg
1st French Army – hold Wittingen
2ndFrench Army – attack Hagenow

Battle of Hagenow

The campaign opens with a surprise attack by Second French Army on Hagenow
The Prussian army is deployed just east of the Lubeck/Wismar border
Each army has one corps on the border, the other two slightly further east.
Third Prussian army is tasked to hold Hagenow

The French cross the border at the start of move 1
7th and 9th Prussian corps advance to support 8th corps
On the right 7th corps cavalry charge and rout the French cavalry
This will delay the advance and deployment of 4th French corps

Both armies have detached one infantry and two cavalry brigades west of the Elbe
The Prussian cavalry charge and rout the French cavalry
However the French infantry advance and rout the disordered Prussian cavalry
The French win the fire fight and the Prussians retreat and abandon the bridge

The French now attack east of the river, to take advantage of their success
However they lose the fire fight and retreat.

The battle is decided by 5th French corps who attack in the centre
They break and rout 8th Prussian corps who retreat to the east of Hagenow
The French then swing left to attack the hill

4th French corps advance to support 5th corps
But night falls before they can take the hill

At nightfall the Prussians still hold the bridge on the left and the hill on the right
They also have one infantry brigade in the town itself
However they have six brigades in rout and they are about to lose the hill

The Prussians retreat overnight and abandon Hagenow


For most of this game it looked like the French would fail to take the town
They lost the first two cavalry melee, which delayed their advance
Despite having more effective artillery, they failed to do much damage
Their success west of the river Elbe was not conclusive
The French supporting attack on the east bank was a complete failure
At nightfall the Prussians still held their left flank.

However the French victory in the centre had broken 8th Prussian corps. They routed between the village and the hill on the right. This allowed 5th French corps to swing left and support the attack by 4th corps on the hill. It all happened too late in the day to be effective. But the hill must fall if the Prussians fought a second day.

Although it is not clear in this summary, nor in the more detailed battle report on the 1813 campaign blog, the most striking thing about this campaign was the effect of the new morale rules. They rely on one D6, plus or minus for type of troops, casualties and the position of the corps commander.

1 – rout full move away from enemy (friendly brigades within 4” test for morale)
2 – retreat a full move shaken (no morale test for supports)
3 – retreat a full move disordered (will automatically rally next round)
4 – disordered (will automatically rally next round)
5 – pass morale test
6 – pass morale test

In this particular game a lot of routed brigades were able to pass morale and rally, even if they were routed with 10% casualties. They might still be a long way from the enemy, and not be able to rejoin the battle before nightfall. But in many cases they could.

This was particularly so for cavalry brigades. Because of their longer movement rate they were more likely to be able to rejoin the battle. Although their effectiveness would be reduced due to casualties, they would still be a threat to enemy brigades which were temporarily disordered.

The revised morale rules also mean that attacks are much more uncertain. The leading brigade in any attack would usually suffer at least 10% casualties, and therefore have to test their morale. A low dice, especially if it resulted in their rout, could throw the whole attack into confusion. If one or more supporting brigades (within 4”) also failed their morale it could be the end of the whole attack. This is what happened to the French attack along the west bank of the river Elbe.

Many wargamers might find this unfair. But I suspect that this type of thing happened all too often in all battles, not just Napoleonic. Given that the historical reports tend to be written by the winners, it would probably not get the attention it deserved. And in the confusion of battle it must be very difficult to determine what did in fact turn the tide for the winners. Given our circumstances, where Jan and I have wargamed together for 50 years, we need something drastic to counter the fact that we both know the rules and each so well.

A very interesting, and also very enjoyable, first battle of the new campaign.


  1. Thistlebarrow,

    Having read the more detailed battle report, it strikes me that the French victory looks quite decisive but it seems as if it was achieved at a greater cost than the above narrative conveys. It will be interesting to see how the Prussians deal with the next French attack.

    All the best,


    1. Hi Bob

      The second series of battles is always more interesting. Each corps starts the game with battle casualties, and are therefore less effective and more fragile in morale tests. It is not unusual for one routed brigades to take two or more nearby brigades with them!

      best regards


  2. Interesting action this one: in the balance for most of the day, and a decisive breakthrough in the centre in the late afternoon.
    Just a comment on the morale thing. I like to take troops' stance into account, such that advancing troops failing morale/ reaction test will halt, rather than retreat, in the first instance. That won't stop them shooting, but, if you're factoring in disorder as well, that puts them (not unreasonably) at a disadvantage in the subsequent firefight. On the other hand, a unit already retreating might well rout on a second 'retreat' result.
    Just a thought.

    1. Hi Ion

      Providing a brigade is "formed" it will do whatever you ask it to do. It must test morale when it receives casualties or is within supporting distance (4") of a friendly brigade which has failed its morale and routed. A cavalry brigade must also test its morale to counter charge.

      Disordered brigades cannot fire, fight or melee nor do they count as support. But they automatically become "formed" at the start of the next move, providing that they are within 24" of their corps commander.

      Shaken infantry retreat 8", cavalry 12", directly away from the enemy. They do not affect the morale of nearby brigades, but they do have to rally to become "formed". They must attempt to rally each move.

      Routed brigades move the same distance away from the enemy. All friendly brigades within 4" have to test their morale. They will continue to move the same distance away from the enemy each move until they are rallied to become "formed" They must attempt to rally each move.
      With the simplified 1D6 for morale testing this has resulted in a wider range of possible options. A low roll of 1 will usually result in failing morale test, a high roll of 6 will usually mean the brigade will pass. Anything in between will vary depending on the quality of troops, the nearness of the corps commander and friendly brigades and whether they have received casualties.

      It makes for a more interesting game, because the outcome is always very uncertain. It means that brigades are less likely to pass their morale test, but it also means that they are more likely to rally in time. So there is a lot more disruption to the planned battle, which is what I was hoping to achieve.




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