Monday 13 July 2020

FRW Campaign. Breakout from Courtrai, part 1

The French on full alert and ready to counter attack.
Following on from the previous post here, the Austrians are trying to escape their encirclement within the city of Courtrai and have broken out on the left (North) bank of the Lys. By pure happenstance this sector was the weakest of the French besiegers, but the French sentries had been very alert and as a result all their troops were 'stood to' and ready to counter attack. The game ended up being another played down the length of the table, but nobody could complain (not that they would) as the scenario was one of the players' making. So, Colberg (Conrad), Clerfeyt (Paul) and von Klopff (Dave) were pitted against Shaun (Souham), Steve (Pichegru) and Richard (Jourdan). The characters Pichegru and Jourdan were elsewhere so Steve took MacDonald's brigade and Richard the Poles ( to my knowledge there wasn’t a Polish unit in the Armee du Nord but I had my Legion for the Italian campaign so just had to use them) and Bernadotte's elite Legere demi-brigade. I will try and let the photos (click on them to embiggen) and a brief commentary explain how things unfolded. The game started at 5.30 so the first two moves would be played in the gloomy light of dawn before sunrise at 6.30. During this time no close-up cameras were permitted. At 7am however the French launched their balloon and soon gained total air superiority (whatever that means).

The Austrians launched their cheveau legers towards MacDonald's brigade, forcing the two leading units into squares. The Austrians bounced.
MacDonald pushed his dragoons through to counter the Austrian threat, driving one regiment back in disarray but not without loosing heavily.
As it says, the Austrian Staff observing the battle atop the battlements of Courtrai.

The Austrian line holding a hedgerow against the French attack. Some of the units are a little flaky, being either recruits or still carrying losses from earlier encounters with the French.
Souham leading the army reserve forwards, a little slowly at times thanks to a perceived lack of enthusiasm among the army's elite.
Colonel Bernadotte as he was then advanced his three light battalions towards the enemy, but similar to Souham, experienced a few failed activation rolls early on.
Colberg brought on his reserve heavy cavalry, cuirassiers and uhlans. This brigade would be a serious threat to the French.
Now his cavalry reserve were on the table, Colberg decides to do a quick check on the 'Military Chest' to ensure nobody (but him, allegedly) has dipped their fingers in!
The Austrian cuirassier and uhlans ride past a bunch of cabbages. No, not the officers on the city walls!!!!
Dave in his GM von Klopff persona led the reconstituted and weakened grenadiers straight towards the Inglemunster road.
A battalion of Austrians (IR Graf Michael Wallis) collapse in the face of French artillery and skirmish fire. 
Bernadotte's light infantry remained in column in the face of Austrian artillery and  reached the ruins of a suburb demolished prior to the siege. One battalion took escaped taking heavy losses from the Austrian artillery thanks to some pretty poor shooting.
The grenadier brigade included two companies of artillery that could have been utilised elsewhere perhaps?
MacDonalds leading battalions redeployed into line and were pushing forward relentlessly. The Austrian Cheveau Legere were trying to pull out of danger as they had suffered high casualties from enemy fire and the earlier melee with the French dragoons.
Bernadotte's light battalions were now very exposed. Two battalions formed square and the other charged the Austrian artillery but failed and were forced to retreat.
The Austrian line facing the French onslaught. Would they hold? The Aerostatier Corps balloon can be seen in the background.
Another battalion of Austrians (IR Erzherzog Ferdinand) is routed after a vicious French bayonet charge. The  brigade is now faltering (for the second time actually. They survived the first time they had to test).  If they don't hold it could see the collapse of the Austrian right wing.
The Austrian supplies. Officers had been ordered to limit their baggage to no less than two carts and a dozen mules each. The other key baggage was the army war chest, and ammunition and all the stuff necessary to keep the artillery and wagons on the road. 
The leading and severely battered Polish battalion can be seen crossing the hedge into a gap in the Austrian line. 
The battle from the viewpoint of Richard (Jourdan/Bernadotte).

By 4pm we decided to halt proceedings (well I was knackered) and reconvene next Saturday to finish the game.  The game was very much in the balance as if the Austrians could make good use of their almost total cavalry superiority they would almost certainly give the French a drubbing and escape. But we will all have to wait. Casualties have been very high among units of both sides so it will be interesting to see how these much-weakened battalions and regiments impact on the end result. We used General d'Armée again and although I'm sure we did a few things incorrectly they worked well and we managed eight action packed moves.

One thing about facilitating a game by Skype is that the facilitator/umpire has to move ALL the troops, do ALL the measuring and do a great deal of talking and walking around the table. Next time I'm going to set my pedometer to see how far I walked. Walking of course is a killer for me and by lunchtime I was knackered. Talking about it over lunch with Katherine and Steve (and afterwards with everyone else) I now have volunteers willing to take it in turns to come to help move the troops which will be a massive help and I'm very touched by the offers to help.

For once the technology didn't fail us. One fixed camera/iPad went off about half way through, but the main fixed camera and the roving iPad kept going throughout. We have a second phone line into the house now as the original one was on overload trying to cope with three laptops, two tablets, three phones, Sky tv, the house alarm, 'ring' door bell, Alexa and security cameras. A bit of juggling and everything has since worked so much better.

Thanks to everyone for playing the game which I believe was enjoyed by all, and again thanks for the offers of some socially distanced help for future games.

I think I'm playing in a late Victorian era naval game via Skype on Thursday, then roll on Saturday! Once this game is over we already have another possible battle situation to resolve. Its certainly heating up quickly!


  1. Another excellent looking game Colin. Beautiful figures,buildings and terrain.

  2. Fine effort in every respect.