Sunday 28 April 2024

Review of Wismar Campaign


Battles fought during the Wismar campaign phase

The campaign covered the period 11 to 18 July 1813, and took eight weeks to complete.   It was a fairly uneventful campaign, which provided seven battles to wargame.   Most campaigns have six battles, but this one had a two day battle.

Most campaigns raise some issues, which often result in amendments to either the campaign rules or the wargame rules.    This one had three such issues.

The campaign is designed to provide interesting battles to wargame, there are no strategic objectives and consequently the main focus is on the battles, and their effect on future battles in the campaign.  

Wargame casualties play an important part in subsequent battles.   As in most wargame rules there tends to be a high percentage of casualties.   I have tried to control this by the morale rules.   All tabletop casualties are 10% of a brigade.   They result in an immediate morale test and usually cause the brigade to retreat.   If both sides make their morale a second round of combat is fought, resulting in a further 10% casualties.  It is unusual for a brigade to make their morale with 20% casualties or more.  At the end of the battle the casualties are recorded on the campaign data.   To reorganise a corps has to be out of contact with the enemy, in supply and stationary.   During reorganisation casualties can be concentrated in one brigade, but 10% always remains with the brigade which suffered them.   This can result in corps starting a wargame with a high proportion of brigades having 10% casualties.   This reduces their combat ability, and also their morale.   It makes for a game in which one rout can quickly spread to all adjacent brigades.   In this campaign I allowed all infantry casualties to be concentrated in one brigade per corps.   Cavalry and artillery were concentrated in one brigade per army.   This has worked really well, and I will continue to game test it in the next campaign.

Supplies have also caused some problems.   It takes a lot of administrative work to keep track of supply columns and the amount held at each depot.   This has become more of a problem since I increased the size of battles from one corps per side to three corps.   I have reluctantly decided to remove supplies from the campaign, except in Spain – where they played an important role.   In Germany each corps starts the campaign with four days supplies.   To resupply they must be within one day’s march of a depot, out of contact with the enemy and stationary for the whole day.   This restriction still applies, but it is assumed that the nearest town has sufficient stores to resupply the corps.

The final problem was completing each wargame within 12 moves, to correspond with the 12 hours per day in the campaign.   It works quite well, providing that the defender stands to fight.   In general there are four moves for the attacker to deploy within long range artillery of the defender.    Then four moves of artillery fire, and often cavalry melee.   Finally four moves for the attacker to reach the defender and engage in close combat.    If the defender retreats after four or six moves there is insufficient time for the attacker to pursue and have the close combat to decide the winner.   The game objective is always a town or city.   A good garrison is difficult to overcome, especially if there is not enough time for close range artillery fire.   As a result games often end with the defending army being beaten, but still holding the town or city and thus winning the game.   To overcome this problem I have made each of the three centre squares of the table a game objective.   The winner is the side which holds at least two at the end of move 12.

Future campaigns will prove whether I have the balance right or not.

Sunday 21 April 2024

Wismar Campaign – Day 8

Campaign Map

Prussian army abandon Wismar
French win campaign

1st Prussian Army – retreat
2nd Prussian Army – retreat
3rd Prussian Army – retreat

3rd French Army – occupy Wismar
1st French Army – occupy Schwerin
2nd French Army – occupy Ludwigslust


For those of you who read the post on Day 7, this might seem an unexpected and abrupt end to the Wismar campaign. Looking at the photograph at the end of the battle of Wismar it might seem that the Prussians held a strong position. They had lost the battle because they failed to hold two of the three game objectives, namely the inn in the centre and the hill on the right. However they did hold the third objective, the woods on the left. They also held the city of Wismar.

However not quite so obvious from the photograph is that the Prussians had lost all three of their corps artillery, either captured or abandoned. And although they had won two cavalry melee, they were still outnumbered three to two in cavalry brigades.

By far the most serious problem was their lack of artillery.

Without artillery, or cavalry superiority, it is almost impossible to win a game. If Blucher had decided to fight a second day at Wismar there was nothing he could do to stop the French deploying all three of their corps artillery at short range of the city. Firing three guns each move they would only need 4 or more for a hit on the garrison. Their cavalry could easily keep the weaker Prussian away from the guns. Their infantry could wait out of range for the garrison to be whittled down.

So it is not surprising that Blucher ordered Third Army to abandon the city and retreat with the loss of the capitol there was no point in First Army holding Schwerin. Second Army had already abandoned Ludwigslust.

The French won the campaign.

Sunday 14 April 2024

Wismar Campaign – Day 7

Campaign Map

Third Prussian army left campaign
Battle of Wismar

1st Prussian Army – defend Wismar
2nd Prussian Army – redeploy at Schwerin
3rd Prussian Army – left campaign

3rd French Army – attack Wismar
1st French Army – retreat to Gadebusch
2nd French Army – regroup and reorganise at Ludwigslust

Battle of Wismar – Move 12

The city was the district capitol and the main Russian supply base
It was also the campaign objective

The Prussians deployed just west of the city in a strong defensive position
This consisted of woods on the left, an inn in the centre and a hill on the right

Each of these was a game objective and the winner would be the one who held at least two of the three at the end of 12 moves.

Both sides started the battle with only minimum casualties.
The French had three cavalry brigades to the Prussian two
However the French also had 10% casualties on one of their three corps artillery

The main French attack was in the centre, where Murat formed a cavalry reserve of the brigades from 7th and 8th corps. He would use this reserve to support 8th corps attack on the inn in the centre.

The French artillery was very effective, and caused casualties to the Prussians in the inn and the woods in the early moves of the game. This allowed the French infantry to take the inn and the top left section of the woods.

1st Prussian corps deployed in the middle of the hill on the right. They were out of sight of 7th French corps artillery, who engaged the infantry between the inn and the hill. The French infantry attacked the hill and a prolonged skirmish, musket and finally hand to hand fight took place. The Prussians fought hard, but eventually abandoned the hill and retreated to the road on the right of the city.

In the centre the reserve cavalry under Murat played an important role. The leading brigade routed the gunners, but was in turn routed b y the Prussian cuirassiers. However the second French brigade routed the Prussian cavalry. This allowed 8th corps to deploy between the inn and the city

9th corps occupied the top left quarter of the woods, and sent two brigades to attack the top right quarter. This was held by a Prussian grenadier brigade, who fought off both French brigades. The Prussians then counter attacked and occupied the whole of the woods.

At night fall the French held two of the three game objectives, namely the inn and the hill on the right. The Prussians held the woods, which was the third objective. They also held the city, but this was not a game objective. The French thus won the game.

The French have lost 6 infantry and 1 cavalry casualties (2500 men)
The Prussians have lost 9 infantry, 1 cavalry and 5 artillery casualties (4600 men)


This is the first time that we have allocated game objectives, rather than the campaign objective – which was the city of Wismar. This forced the Prussians to hold the three objectives in the centre of the table, rather than retreat half way through the game to hold the city or town.

For some time I have been frustrated that the attacking army would take casualties approaching the initial defence positions, only to have the defenders retreat before they could be attacked. In a game of 12 moves there would then be insufficient moves left to allow the attacker to regroup and pursue the retreating defenders.

By the simple method of naming three objectives in the centre of the table, and making the winner of the game the one who held at least two of the three at the end of the game, I seem to have solved this problem.

Strange how the answer to a long standing problem is so often very obvious once identified.

Sunday 7 April 2024

Wismar Campaign – Day 6

Campaign Map

Third Prussian army retreat off map
Battle of Schwerin

1st Prussian Army – regroup and resupply at Wismar
2nd Prussian Army – battle of Schwerin
3rd Prussian Army – retreat off map

3rd French Army – regroup and resupply at Boltenhagen
1st French Army – attack Schwerin
2nd French Army – occupy Ludwigslust

Battle of Schwerin

Napoleon commanded the First French Army, which included the Imperial Garde. They had fought Blucher at the battle of Gadebusch three days earlier. That battle had been a technical victory for the Prussians, but they had suffered heavy casualties of 3100, compared to only 400 French. Napoleon was determined to crush the Prussians this time.

But it was not to be. The French lost a large cavalry battle, leaving two of their three brigades in rout. This left Napoleon at a serious disadvantage, and he would have to expose his infantry to win the day.

2nd and 3rd French corps attacked the hills on the flanks, and 1st (Imperial Garde) was given the take of taking the town in the centre. They took the hill on the right, but not the one on the left.

The cavalry moved forward to cover the Garde infantry, but when they lost the melee and routed the infantry had to form square and call off their attack.

Blucher continued to hold the hill on his left, but withdrew 5th corps to Schwerin and 4th corps to the fortified inn on his right. At nightfall he held a very strong position, and Napoleon called off the attack.

The French lost 3500 men (mostly in the Imperial Garde) to 1500 Prussians.

A convincing Prussian victory


Although the Prussians held a strong defensive position, they looked like they were facing defeat. They had lost heavy casualties at Gadebusch, and had only two cavalry brigades to the French three brigades. The French had only lost 400 men at Gadebusch.

Napoleon had been robbed of a victory at Gadebusch when Blucher withdrew before the French could close and complete their attack. This was partly because Napoleon had hesitated to risk casualties to his Garde. He would not make this mistake twice.

1st Garde corps was placed in the centre, and would attack Schwerin. It would be supported by a cavalry division (two brigades) led by Napoleon himself. The high ground to the left and right would be left to 2nd and 3rd French corps. They were not expected to take the high ground, but would pin two of the three Prussian corps.

The Garde artillery was deployed to be able to continue to fire even as the infantry went forward. The cavalry division would engage the Prussian cavalry and then concentrate on the Prussian guns in the centre.

The French did not wait for their artillery to weaken the enemy, that delay had cost them victory at Gadebusch. The attack began on move 3, when the cavalry moved forward to engage the Prussian cavalry. At the same time the infantry marched towards Schwerin.

The French cavalry included the elite guard chasseurs, and should have at least held the Prussian cavalry. However luck allowed the Prussians to charge first, giving them an advantage. They then rolled 5 and 6 on their melee dice. The French brigades both suffered 10% casualties, the two Prussian brigades none. The second round of melee was 10% casualties to all four brigades. But the French now had 20% casualties, failed their morale and routed.

Both Prussian brigades had passed their morale, and now turned on the garde infantry. The French had to form square, and unlimber their artillery to drive off the Prussian horsemen. They managed to do so, but it allowed the Prussians to withdraw to a second position in and around Schwerin.

Not only had Napoleon run out of time again, but this time he had suffered much heavier casualties, particularly in the garde infantry. First French Army was broken, and he had to call off the attack. A moral, and physical, defeat of the first order.

A bad day for the French (me), a great day for the Prussians (Jan)