Sunday, 16 September 2018

2nd Battle of Zurich, 25/26 September 1799

I've been working on a game I plan to put on in November at the Battleground show at Stockton (barely 5 mins from The Burrow). One of my ideas is the 2nd Battle of Zurich in 1799, a pivotal battle in the War of the Second Coalition.

The terrain for the game, as indeed the idea for game itself, is still a work in progress, so I mocked up the battlefield as best I could and invited John the Red around to see if the game is playable. We used General d'Armee.

The French under General Andre Massena brushed aside wholly inadequate Russian defenders and crossed the River Limmat in force to the west of Zurich, while more French demonstrated against the Russians outside Zurich on the southern side of the river. Much of the Russian army was strung out along the Limat towards Baden in the west, including most of their cavalry. I used 'wargamers' licence' to include a Russian cavalry brigade in order to balance  the sides a little more.

Map showing the French attack across the river in order to assault the Russians outside Zurich from  both banks of the River Limat.
The fighting outside Zurich showing the undulating nature of what was largely Alpine Pasture interspersed with thick woods, rocky outcrops and streams. 
Russian defenders on the north bank; a brigade of infantry supported by a battery of 6 pdrs and three regiments of cavalry. Oh, and some Cossacks.
Some work to do here, but these are some very cheap Faller buildings I picked up off eBay ready made.  I have a few more to add as the interior of the city.
Two regiments of Russian dragoons and a regiment of cuirassiers, supported by a flock of  those ever present sheep.
I couldn't resist......
The main Russian body south of the river; ten battalions of infantry (including four of grenadiers), supported by cossacks, artillery, a battalion of Jager and yet more Cossacks.
The French had to deploy half of their army on either side of the river, so John  put his cavalry  brigade (three regiments) and his advance guard brigade (one more cavalry regiment, a demi-brigade legere and a battery of horse artillery).
My cuirassiers took a pasting from the French cannon but the dragoons advanced bravely on the enemy.
My Moscow Dragoons regiment crashed into the French 23rd Cavalry. Mauve facings versus pink facings. Very colourful.
In the centre massed French columns advanced rapidly towards the Russians.
My dragoons about to retreat after loosing the melee.

On the left I threw caution to the wind and charged one of John's advancing columns, riding it down . My hussars tried  to repeat their success on another column but were beaten off and forced to retreat. 

With the Moscow dragoons gone it was left to the Pskov regiment to try and slow down the  French cavalry.

I had managed to occupy the village with a fusilier battalion of the Moscow Grenadiers while  four  musketeer battalions advanced on the French.
General-Leutnant Alexander Mikhailovitch Rimsky Korsakov (seated) surrounded by his buffuddled staff.

John had placed his reserve artillery in the centre, able to fire on targets across the river to the south. After giving one battalions of Russians a hammering and knocking bits off another a lucky 'destiny' roll resulted in the rather sudden and explosive demise of my Russian brigadier when he was hit by a howitzer shell. This brigade immediately went 'Faltering' and when I tested next turn were forced to retreat. 
A consignment of Toblerone from the Toblerone factory awaiting shipment. There were rather more bars at the start of the game than are shown here. Pilfering no doubt!
The Swiss navy! Honest! A Mr Williams, an English resident of Zurich organised a flotilla of nineteen gunboats to cover the Russian's left flank from the lake. In reality they were pretty ineffective but as I had this model available I had no choice really, did I?
The gunboat delivered a couple of handy broadsides, forcing the French to think twice about  pressing their attack on the Russian left.
The Russian counter attack in the centre.

The Russian grenadiers spent the first four game turns as hesitant, even when I gave them an ADC to give them a re-roll.  The jaguars to their front were holding the French at bay.
The Russian reserve emerges from Zurich to join the grenadiers in their counter attack.
I failed to rally the faltering Russian infantry brigade on the south side of the river and it disappeared off the table and/or into Zurich. This left the Russian cavalry rather isolated and very battle scarred. The entire south side of the river was now in the hands of the French.

John moved his artillery forward in the centre to counter my attack. 
The flotilla on the lake continued to bombard the French and managed to cause enough damage on  one battalion to  merit another charge by my hussars, if I could get them to move and dared to risk it.

The Russian counter attack in the centre from another angle. Very pretty, quite impressive but altogether futile.
In almost the last throw of the dice I ordered my hussars to charge an unformed French column (the one that had been hit by the gunboats). Sadly on this occasion their charge petered out and they were forced to retire.

By now it was clear that the Russians had lost quite convincingly, or is that the French has won quite convincingly? I need to think about the practicalities of using General d'Armee in a multi player game. I know its possible, but I reckon I will need to revisit the orders of battle for both sides, neither of which were actually at full strength for this game (e.g. the Russians were short four battalions and two batteries of cannon at the very least, while the French will field 20 battalions in the full game rather than the 14 or so they did in this encounter. With the exception of the grenadiers and the jager I don't rate the Russians very highly from a shooting point of view but they were, as always, pretty tough in the face of the enemy. By now the French were by no means a mob of conscripts but were becoming a seasoned and battle hardened army. Recruits diluted this somewhat but I believe that by 1799 the infantry were pretty sound. Even the cavalry were an improvement over the earlier years of the Revolutionary Wars.

One thing that John pointed out was that the 'footprint' of a battery of cannon (3 or 4 models) was quite large in comparison to the frontage of a battalion of infantry. My models are based on a 60mm frontage and 120mm depth so a battery representing eight guns would be/is 240mm wide. Compared to a French column it is much bigger but an average battalion in line would be six bases each 40mm frontage, making the unit frontage 240mm as well, so I am going to stick with what I've got for now.

I have quite a lot of work to do if I decide to go ahead with Zurich. The troops are pretty much in hand as is much of the terrain,  but I need to do something about representing Zurich on the table and painting up some suitably Swiss looking buildings for the villages as I don't want to just plonk my Conflix houses on the table and make do.

Despite my drubbing I enjoyed the game. It has potential, especially as its essentially two battle running side-by-side separated by the impassable river. The only way across is by going through the city. I will certainly give the game at least one other run through with GdA, and maybe see what happens with Black Powder II.

No plans for a game in the immediate future but off to the Royal Armouries next Saturday.


  1. Oh my, this all looks wonderful- the scenery, the units, the gun boats, the Toblerones....
    Kudos for putting this together and good luck getting it ready to go live.

  2. It's really nice to see something quite different in terms of a scenario. I hope you are able to go ahead with this game as I think it will attract a lot of attention at the show.

    1. Thanks Steve. I hope it does too, for the right reasons ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Fabulous looking game and an enjoyable read too! The Russians are fielding "Jaguars" in battle? Seems quite unfair!

    1. hahaha! Thanks for the heads upon the typo.

  4. Splendid! So many beautiful figures and terrain all around, I especially appeciate these wonderful vignettes such as the command stand, the the Toblerone!๐Ÿ˜Š

    1. I am working on a toblerone themed vignette too ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Simply wonderful! I’m lost for words really...
    For cheap Swiss buildings have a look in the Works who often have cheap ready made wooden chalet type buildings.

    1. Why thank you David. And I will try the Works too.

  6. Great report Colin and I completely understand your sentiments re including the gunboat as it is a beautiful model!

    1. Thanks. The next question is do I put the other one on the table as well?

  7. What a superb looking game. Those sheep certainly appear to like the smell of black powder in the morning.

    1. They do. Any opportunity for a whiff! They don't surf though.

  8. A splendid looking game Colin...
    And a very enjoyable account.

    All the best. Aly

    1. Praise indeed from one of the Masters. Cheers Aly. All the best to you too.