Friday, 15 May 2015

The Battle of the Pragavitz Heights - Crimean War 'fictional' battle.

Paul came up this week for our (almost) monthly game, put off a couple of times due to my back problems. I had set up the table for the next Seven Years War game I am planning, the Battle of Prague, to see what extra terrain bits I might need (hopefully none apart from some ponds it turns out). I therefore decided to keep the terrain on the table and use the Prague scenario transported almost 100 years into the future and hundreds of miles to the east in order to give my Crimean troops another airing, as I don't yet have quite enough SYW Austrian cavalry for Prague proper. Given the major differences in tactics and firepower between the British and the Russians I increased the troop proportions so that the infantry were numerically more or less equal rather than the 2:1 superiority between the Prussians and Austrians in 1757. I didn't tell Paul the game was based (albeit) loosely on Prague. We diced for sides, no choice, 4,5,or a 6 and Paul would take the Russians. Paul ended up with the Russians.

The Russian army played the role of the Austrians and was made up of the following:

Commander in Chief: staff rating 8
Corps troops: Rifle detachment (small unit), Heavy artillery battery (2 gun models in entrenchment), Field artillery battery (2 gun models)
Moscow infantry regiment (9): 4 battalions (2 off table, enter on move 3)
Tobolsk infantry regiment (8): 4 battalions (enter on move 1)
Borodino infantry regiment (7): 4 battalions (enter on move 3 plus 1D3 turns)
Cossacks (7): 2 regiments
6th Hussar brigade (8): 2 regiments
6th Uhlan brigade(8): 2 regiments
Horse artillery: 2 light gun models

The British forces were:

Commander in Chief: staff rating 6 (Lord Raglan)
Heavy cavalry brigade (8): 5 small units of cavalry
Light cavalry brigade (7): 5 small units of cavalry, 1 horse battery
Guards brigade (8): 3 battalions, 1 battery artillery, 1 small unit riflemen
Line brigade (8): 3 battalions, 1 battery artillery
Highland brigade (9): 3 battalions, 1 horse battery (enter on move 3 plus D3)
Line brigade (7): 3 battalions, 1 small unit riflemen, 1 artillery battery (enter on move 4 plus D3)

We used 2/3rds distances for this game, especially given the long ranges involved with the artillery but particularly the British Minee rifled muskets (30" normally). As usual we used Black Powder with my Crimean amendments as I don't necessarily agree with what's in the book.

The streams and marshes were quite an obstacle and would take 1D3 moves to cross. The contour on the large hill reduced movement by half and gave a plus 1 in combat resolution and an extra D6 in melee when fighting from higher ground. The villages would each hold one battalion of infantry. Everything else was incidental and had no effect.

 Above, Russian left wing and below, the British arrive, very slowly as they were literally bogged down trying to cross the swampy river.
 Above the Russian cavalry face (below) the British light and heavy brigades struggling to cross the streams and marsh.
 Above, The Russians charge the heavy brigade and quickly drive off or destroy three squadrons, shattering the brigade. Being small units the British cavalry are very vulnerable, especially against lance-armed troops, so even though they can definately give it out, they can't take it, so to speak.
 Above, the Russian infantry readying themselves for the advance of the Guards' brigade (below).
 Above the Russian Ulan brigade charges the 14th Light Dragoons who countercharge but are beaten and broken.
 The Guards close with the Russians and cause great destruction and disorder on their tight-packed columns - as they did in the real war.
 The Russian Moscow regiment occupied the redoubt after the artillery battery became shaken and Paul chose to withdraw it to a position of greater safety.
 The Highland brigade surge forward while below the Guards are still in a prolonged fire fight with the Russians. The latter tried to close to melee but only one battalion made it through the Guards' closing fire, and although the fight went on for several turns they were eventually repulsed.

 The British battalion above (HM 7th Royal Fusiliers) threw a blunder, resulting in a headlong charge towards the nearest Russian infantry. Not quite what I had planned and they were bounced back shaken and in disorder as a result. Photo courtesy of Mr R Fenton, esq.
 Two Russian brigades were by now shaken and forced to withdraw. Below, two battalions of the Moscow regiment tried in vain to close with the flank of the Guards brigade.

 Above and below, the battered but victorious British advance on the retreating Russians.
 Above, the Russian view from the redoubt. Below, the Cossacks finally made it across the stream and threatened the British left flank, but it was too late for them to change the outcome of the battle. 
 A donkey accompanied by an ass. Not sure which is which........
 Above, the Rifle brigade skirmishing with the Russians on the hill. Below, the victorious Russian cavalry. The lancers and hussars between them managed to neutralise (i.e. break or drive off) both British cavalry brigades.
 Above, a spent force; the British cavalry. Below, Lord Cardigan and General Scarlett shift the blame  for the shameful humiliation of their cavalry brigades onto one of their recently deceased aides de camp! 

The British got to move first and made slow progress trying to cross the swampy river along the baseline. On the left the Heavy Brigade were drawn into combat by the Russian hussars and two squadrons of the former were broken and another shaken and forced to retreat, effectively putting the entire brigade out of action.

In the centre the Guards and their supporting brigade advanced on the Russian position. The Guards spent much of the battle engaged in a prolonged exchange of musketry with the Russian line which had advanced to the edge of the escarpment. The Russians tried a few bayonet charges but they were either shot away before they could close or held and pushed back by the Guards. The other British brigade on the left made slow progress towards the Russian skirmishers and artillery, taking some casualties on the way.

Paul's reinforcements arrived more or less on time and were thrown into the fight. The remains of the Moscow regiment (in red hats) occupied the redoubt as the gunners had become shaken due to sniping from the British riflemen. The last brigade made straight for the British to the left of the Guards and tried to drive them off. Meanwhile the British reinforcements had arrived and were pushing straight up the centre in the hope that the unsupported Guards would hold long enough for weight of numbers to tell against the Russian centre. The Highlanders took quite a battering but held off another Russian bayonet charge and one English battalion in the third line managed to throw the only blunder of the game and charge three moves right at the Russian line. They were bounced back quickly enough in disorder and shaken.

Meanwhile all along the line the British infantry and artillery had been wearing the Russians down to the point where two brigades were broken with most of their units shaken or routed. On the British left, the Light Brigade finally made it into action and predictably while doing some damage to the Russians were driven back. Having a stamina of only '2' and a save of '5' against lance-armed cavalry made them very brittle but they look very pretty and are actually figure-for-figure a match for the Russians. Paul's Cossacks finally made it across the river and were moving into a position to threaten the British left centre but by now the Russian line was in retreat.

A decisive British victory? Just about, as there were no cavalry left to exploit the situation. The Russians always have a hard time against the British (which is right if we are to believe the history books) but they have won in the past quite convincingly. Not this time though as they didn't have their usual numerical superiority in infantry and especially artillery. They would normally field a full division (which is what I have) of 16 battalions supported by 4 batteries (each of 2 gun models). I also made their cavalry commanders better than normal to better reflect the scenario where they were playing the role of the Austrians. The British firepower is of course deadly but not overwhelmingly so (Paul might disagree) as with a save of 3+ and a stamina of 4 the Russian columns can take quite a battering.

Anyway, it was an enjoyable game and its always great to get my Crimean troops on the table as they look very splendid indeed!


  1. They certainly do look splended. Excellent report and pics; a great advert for the period.

    Best wishes


  2. Splendid looking set to there. Always enjoy a visit here, seldom leave less than inspired!

  3. A grand looking game, Colin. It reminds me of I desperately want to get back to this period. I can hardly wait until some more pressing projects and a signifiant holiday are behind me so that I can launch back into it.