Sunday 30 August 2020

French Revolutionary Wars Campaign: The Battle of Turcoing - Endgame...?

Well, another Saturday and another game in the campaign. By the end of week one (here) it was evident that both sides had psyched themselves into thinking they were outclassed and/or outnumbered and going to be overwhelmed by the other. In fairness the dice had more to do with it but I think a more ‘in period’ narrative is Far more fun and appropriate. 🤔😉 

So. Turn one this week and the unexpected (except by me and their actual real commander, not Mike who is only Conde) Emigre division of Le Comte d’Artois (Originally en route to join the Army of the Conde) began to arrive behind the right flank of the French (I know the Emigres are French as well but I’ll call them Emigres and the revolutionary army French, or it gets complicated). There were two brigades of Emigre infantry and one of cavalry. All the brigades were a mix of mainly ‘line’ with a couple of ‘elite’ units and several of ‘recruits’. Half of the cavalry were only small units as well so a right hodgepodge. Their artillery hadn’t been able to keep up so didn’t figure in the game and would only arrive once all the Emigres were on the table.

After manoeuvring through the Prussian camp last week the Saxon cuirassiers were well placed to attack the French in the centre, which they duly did. (Eagle-eyed readers may spot that I removed two tent sections after almost 1000 heavy cavalry men trampled their way through the encampment). One of their regiments were stunned by the bravery of a French volunteer battalion which stood firm in the face of their charge and failed to close to contact, instead retiring behind their infantry, but another quickly broke one battalion, cut through the French brigade, rode over a limbered artillery company which was destroyed, swept on over a second that was ridden down, and then hit a company of horse artillery in the rear where the gunners were cut down.

On the Coalition right the Prussian heavy cavalry failed a ‘faltering brigade’ and retreated off the table, gone for good. Any hope of the Prussians rolling up the French left wing went with them. In the centre the Prussians made heavy going as they tried to advance through the encampment towards the French centre/ left. By the end of the game the Prussians weren’t really putting the French left under any pressure, and were taking a bit of a hammering from the French artillery in the process.

On the Coalition left the Saxon cheveau-legers and hussars were held back in reserve and the artillery continued its deadly work demolishing the attacking French who were forced to retreat. The Saxons in the centre attacked, charging the French, who in turn also went on the offensive. However luck was on the side of the Saxons and they drove the French infantry back. As usual attacks in column failed against an undamaged line, which seems a reasonable outcome.

At two points during the game we had three faltering French brigades. The first time they either obeyed orders or rallied, but the second was less positive. While none of them ran away they did have to retire, and with the Emigres coming up on the rear this was going to be difficult. I’ll halt now and let the photos and supporting captions show what happened.

At the start of turn one the Saxon cuirassiers hit the French columns in the flank.

Meanwhile the French launched two columns at a fresh Saxon regiment. Not surprisingly the French were bundled back in disarray.

On the French right, their infantry were taking a pounding from the Saxon artillery but had driven the Saxons out of the woods.

The French heavy cavalry made a risky about face in response to the arrival of the leading Émigré brigade and the French were in danger of being the proverbial jam in the sandwich.

The table as seen from the garden end of the table (the east), dominated by the French 12pdrs. Opposite are the French who are in a large traffic jam and unable to avoid the cannon fire. The French light cavalry just couldn’t avoid becoming hesitant as it was trying to launch a charge at the Prussian flank and maybe even their artillery. It wasn’t to be.

The Prussians advancing through the encampment.

Two companies of 12pdrs covered the gap between the two woods very effectively, with the Prussians unable to risk an attack down that route.

The battlefield from the kitchen (western) edge, after the French attack was halted and the survivors retreated.

The Emigre cavalry were the second brigade to appear in the French rear They weren't generally very good even compared to the French but there were lots of them. The French right wing was now in deep trouble.

The bottomless void that the French appeared to be falling into.

The Emigre cavalry charged the rear of the French columns but amazingly were beaten off. However the Emigres also charged the artillery on windmill hill and overran it from the rear.

This picture is out of sequence but shows the end of one isolated French battalion that was unable to retreat with the rest of its brigade as it was surrounded. The battalion downed arms and surrendered.

The French right wing before they were ordered to halt their attack on the Saxons.

Just another shot of the Prussians marching through their own camp as they attacked the French left.

The French heavy cavalry tried to drive off the Emigres but failed and were forced to pull back.

Confusion in the French centre with enemy to their front, rear and left flanks. The French right was at this point faltering (all three brigades) but they didn't run.

The French Carabiniers had no choice other than to charge the Saxon cuirassiers even though they were carrying almost maximum casualties. They hit but in the melee took enough damage to see them disperse.

The remaining French heavy cavalry were now all but surrounded by the Coalition army. They attempted to cut their way off the battlefield while the infantry in the photo withdrew to the village where they later surrendered.

The Emigre cavalry after ridding down the French gunners on Windmill Hill. It was the end for the French army.

The implications for the Republic of this crushing French defeat are significant. Although the Coalition forces were unable to prevent the withdrawal of the French light cavalry, one brigade of infantry and the reserve artillery, the other two brigades of infantry and one of heavy cavalry were broken or captured. One brigade withdrew to the village but were ultimately forced to surrender. The other infantry brigade was pursued by the Emigres and all but ceased to exist, while the remaining heavy cavalry did manage to cut their way though the Emigre cavalry, again with very heavy losses. The French also lost 18 guns and after chucking the usual D20 a few times a number of general officers were killed, wounded or captured in the retreat. As were some Coalition ones in the pursuit. By some stroke of good fortune, the attached Representative of the People has not so far managed to find the safety of Lannoy, and it is to be assumed that General Marceau-Desgravieres is rather grateful for this misfortune. Of course, there's always later in the evening or the next day.

Coalition losses were certainly quite heavy, mainly among the heavy cavalry brigades and the Prussian musketeer brigade. The performance of the Prussian artillery had been yet again abysmal while that of the Saxons was good. The Prussians were in no position to pursue as a result of their losses, and the Saxons were simply in the wrong position to pursue effectively and instead concentrated on capturing the brigade taking refuge in the village. The Emigres pursued gleefully taking some measure of revenge against their implacable foes. The shattered French Army of the Scarpe withdrew to Lannoy but is in a sorry state. I now have to tell their real life commander what Shaun, Richard and Steve did to his army. I have to say that knowing what I did about the wider scenario the Coalition COULD and perhaps SHOULD have defeated the French last week but the French HAD to defeat the Coalition last week, and the battle was probably lost at the point. The psychology of wargaming is always fascinating. As I’ve alluded to earlier, all the players on both sides seem to have psyched themselves into fearing the imagined and in some cases unfounded abilities of their enemy. Not unlike reality.

However, we must now turn the clock back a couple of hours and move to the rearguard action the Coalition are fighting against the advance of Generals Pichegru and Jourdan. If the rearguard fail to stop them the French will arrive behind the currently victorious Prussians and Saxons in approximately two to four game turns from the end of the battle we’ve just completed, with the Coalition forces spread all over the table (and off it) engaged in  mopping up the defeated Army of the Scarpe. You remember I said this was complicated? We shall play the rearguard action next week.

Many thanks to everyone for taking part. The technology worked very well this week, especially with the addition of a third camera covering the entire table, for which I must thank my techy wife Katherine who made it all work after much hard work. I am still firmly in favour of General d’Armee although have to admit that playing such a large game remotely is sometimes quite slow and stressful. Everyone, especially the French, who were this week on a hiding to nothing, played the game in good spirits. Thanks too to Conrad for coming down to help move the figures. 

Not long after the game ended I settled down to enjoy another 90 minutes with the Virtual Wargames Group and had some great crack with its international membership effortlessly steered by Phil Olley. Another very good Saturday of wargaming. 

Saturday 29 August 2020

French Revolutionary Wars Campaign: Anyone remember what happened to the Emigres? The Battle at Tourcoing #3

 One aspect of our campaign that has developed over the course of the fighting in the Austrian Netherlands has been my “D20 Table of Randomness” which  I use for all non-player interactions such as the effectiveness of patrolling and the quality intelligence reports, and how well cavalry screens are in covering their parent forces from the prying eyes of the enemy. There are quite a few other instances where I use the table, the range of options for each I hope accurately reflect the situation I’m trying to resolve.

Harking back to the previous couple of ‘Campaign days’ readers may recall that the army of General Marceau-Desgraviers had spied a body of Emigres on the road between Tournai and Lannoy. However, when he tried to close with them Marceau-Desgraviers patrols Wrongly reported that the cowardly Emigres had retreated back towards Tournai. Two D20 were thrown at this point. The French result was the worst possible in terms of accuracy, while the Emigres’ was the best possible in terms of screening. What the Emigres had actually done was slip away to the North East undetected.

Marceau-Desgraviers then decided to march towards Lannoy and Tourcoing, where he was able to surprise the Prussian and  Austro/Saxon/Bavarian/Ragamuffin Corps who were quite rightly fixated with the forces of Pichegru and Jourdan just a few miles to the NE of their position. A few more D20 were thrown. The Coalition forces wrongly identified the French as being the Emigre Corps that was “known” to be covering their rear, while the French were able to get within two miles of the Coalition force before they were correctly identified! What nobody knew at that point, except me, was that the Emigres had been following the corps of Marceau-Desgraviers at a distance. So intent were they on attacking the Coalition forces in the rear that the French failed to spot they were being followed (more D20) until the first cannon balls landed amongst them coming from the wrong direction! 


Now I know this sounds a bit contrived, but using the instructions I’d received from the players together with the random effect of the D20 for the situations related above, by lunchtime of the first day of the game I could see what might happen and was getting a little anxious. The scenario was developing by itself and becoming more and more complicated. We have the Coalition main force facing the French to the rear under Marceau-Desgraviers; the Coalition rearguard is a couple of miles to the NE facing an attack by the (probably) overwhelming numbers of Pichegru and Jourdan’s divisions; the Emigres have in turn snuck up in the rear of the already engaged French of Marceau-Desgraviers and are lobbing cannonballs into the rear of their right flank. Aaaargh!  Interestingly, the real Battle of Turcoing in 1794 was a vast sprawling affair with vast and numerous dispersed columns of French and Coalition  troops manoeuvring and clashing over a wide area, so the game isn’t too dissimilar to reality.

Thankfully, given the option of attacking the Coalition rearguard without deploying before doing so or after deploying, Pichegru and Jourdan chose the latter. This meant that even a complete walkover by them would result in there being at least eight turns before they could arrive in the rear of the main Coalition army, and I could leave that battle for another day. Phew! 

So on Saturday the battle of Turcoing will continue, with only minor adjustments to the table, to allow the Emigre corps (little more than a division really) to attack the rear of Marceau Desgravier’s Army of the Scarpe, while the Coalition forces do their best to maintain their attack. 

Sunday 23 August 2020

French Revolutionary Wars Campaign Continues. The Battle of Turcoing, #2

The day of battle came and we saw the newly-arrived division of General Francois Severin Marceau-Desgraviers clash with the combined force of Prussians and Saxons, led by FML Knobbelsdorff and FZM Von Kaunitz respectively. Needful of the danger posed to their rear by Generals Pichegru and Jourdan they each detached two brigades to attempt to slow the inevitable advance once the sounds of battle drifted northwards. If they were swept away Pichegru and Jourdan would descend on the Coalition rear any time from turn 8, ie the 3.30 turn. We were starting at 12 noon campaign time.

The Coalition forces had been surprised by the arrival of this new French corps in their rear. This was due to their quite rightful fixation with the threat to their North, but also due to some dreadful scouting which reported the enemy troops as being the Emigre division that was known to be acting as rearguard midway between Tournai and Lannoy. Unbeknown to Knobblesdorf (and the French attacking his rear) the Emigres had temporarily withdrawn away from Marceau-Desgravieres rather than risk battle. They had then sneakily slipped in behind the French who were advancing blindly with their blood up and without any proper scouting, and were tailing them behind a thick cavalry screen as they advanced rapidly towards the Prussians. This could end up being one hell of a confusing battle, spread across several weeks and several distinct actions (just like the real Battle of Turcoing).

The game started with the French poised to attack the confused Coalition army. The latter would have a greater chance of becoming hesitant during the first three turns, and reduced ADC capacity in turn one as well. [Using General d’Armee as usual]. Although it might not look it, both armies were almost evenly matched in terms of units. However the Coalition cavalry were almost all classed as ‘large’ as were some of the Saxon infantry. Most of the French was made up of National Guards and Volunteers, so we wouldn’t know whether they were ‘recruit’, ‘line’ or ‘veteran’ until the first time they had to test for anything. Mean, aren’t I? The two halves of the Coalition army were to operate wholly independently, with no overall CinC and no exchanging of ADCs. 

In time honoured fashion I will let the photos, which seem to be slightly out of sequence for some reason,  tell the story.

The Coalition left wing - Saxon grenadiers and artillery supported by a brigade of cheveaulegere and hussars.

One of the Saxon infantry regiments holding the centre.

More of the Saxons

Over on the right flank, after a slow start the Prussian heavy cavalry advance, intent on attacking the outnumbered French left that was hanging in the air. The Prussian artillery shown here proved to be particularly ineffective for most of the game.

Prussian KR No 7 von Borstel

The French centre and right wing were slow to advance. Only the cavalry brigade appeared keen to get to grips with the enemy. The infantry may well have been put off slightly by the massed Saxon artillery on the hill to their front.

After many false starts the Prussian heavy cavalry make it onto the flank of the French, but are taking  a bit of a hammering from French horse artillery. 

A wider view of the same shot, showing the Prussian attack on their right. The fusilier brigade were repeatedly charged by the French cavalry and forced into square, and the grenadiers were very slow in advancing tin their support.

After much dithering the main French attack commences in the centre, intent on driving the Saxons off the table.

The French attack as seen from the Prussian left wing, facing three batteries of Saxon artillery! Casualties were heavy, although the French did manage to clear away the Saxon skirmishers and occupy the wood.

Another shot of the Prussian heavy cavalry, if only because they look so good. As it was, poised to ride down everything in front of them, they hesitated! Not good.

The Saxon infantry eventually began to advance supported by Saxon and Bavarian (being played by Piedmontese) heavy cavalry.

Back over on the left the Saxon grenadiers were happily holding their position despite taking casualties from skirmishers and French artillery.

The French centre took some time to get moving but soon got the idea and advanced. I should perhaps point out here that most of the French battalions were made up of Volunteers or were Gardes Nationales, and therefore their classification was unknown until the first time in the game we needed to know. On 1D6, a 1 or a 2 meant the unit was recruits and a 6 meant they were veteran, otherwise they were line. The narrative behind this corps was that they had been transferred from the Rhine and had been in action a fair bit.

The French heavy cavalry, led by the 2nd Carabiniers seemed very keen to charge the Saxons. They did try, forcing one battalion into square, but they were bounced back, taking heavy casualties. The brigade were also taking fire from the massed batteries on the hill. 

The Saxons again.

The French heavy cavalry and their attached horse artillery company were very much on their own for a couple of turns.

Losses mounted among the heavy cavalry, causing several discipline tests which unformed at least one unit a turn.

The Prussian attack on their left reaches the boundary of their own camp. The fusilier battalions had been slowed by the presence of a brigade of French cavalry that repeatedly charged them with impunity as the heavier Prussian horse were so slow in coming up.

Two regiments of French heavy cavalry on their right. 

A fuzzy shot of the Saxon Reserve cavalry brigade that was glued to the baseline for several turns. Until their infantry advanced they were stuck.

Viewed from being the French lines, the Prussian main attack.

In the penultimate turn of the game the Saxon heavy cavalry had advanced through the camp. In the final turn they advanced to within 3" of the French. They could have charged the French columns in that turn as they had the 'forwards' order and only needed to throw  a total of 1 on three D6 to have enough move to hit the French columns. Their commander chose not to so they finished their move poised to strike, if they'd not left it too late, next turn.

By this time it was 4pm so we halted proceedings until next week. If I'm allowed to make some observations (yes I am, its my blog) I will:

I continue to be happy with the rules and the way they play out in a game (Gen d'Armee), and everyone is getting more used to them. 

This is a BIGGIE. The Prussians and Saxons were on the clock and needed to use their greater numbers and massive superiority in cavalry to attack the French. They had a good workable plan to fulfil this but then, for whatever reason, failed to follow it through. I know unfortunate ADC and hesitancy rolls contributed to the initial sluggishness but the attack, when it went in, was piecemeal. The main Prussian infantry brigade was bombarded relentlessly by the French reserve artillery and 'faltered' when one battalion was swept away. They recovered but were taking heavy losses. For some inexplicable reason the Prussian commander chose not to engage the enemy battery with his artillery but to take pot shots at the French skirmish screen. Yet again the main Prussian artillery were ineffective and between them they caused more casualties on themselves (fatigue hits) than on the enemy!

Knobbelsdorf scarified his superb heavy cavalry by not ensuring they had the wherewithal to sweep round on the French flank. They were halted too many times and took fearful losses from a company of French horse artillery. One regiment was forced to retreat off the table so the first thing we do next week is a 'faltering' test for the rest of the brigade.

The Saxons, everyone in fact, seemed scared of advancing through the camp. It only slowed movement by half, with cavalry having a 1 in 3 chance of becoming unformed. When the Saxons did move it was too late and the chance to charge their heavy cavalry into the French columns was lost.

The French were supposed to be on attack orders as instructed by their absent player commander. His two surrogates did their best but the commander of the left was psyched out by all the Prussian cuirassiers and the commander of the centre took ages before he could get his main attack rolling as the brigade commander clearly didn't relish the thought of all those Saxons to his front, by which time his cavalry and flank brigade were being chewed up by the Saxons.

On my part visibility in the centre of the table was apparently difficult, as were the corners of the battlefield. Clearly my table is too big! We shall work on a solution to that for next time. Big big big thanks to Conrad (Coalition) and Steve (French) for helping move the troops and to act as the real eyes of their respective 'remote' players. They were only allowed to give an overall briefing at the start of the game and then only respond to questions about the detail of what was going on and could not prompt nor coach the commanders. I could of course, but mostly it was ignored. Their growing frustration with their Prussian/Saxon and French army commanders was most amusing to behold.

However I have to praise the Prussian commander (Dave) for acting in character for much of the game (except when his technology failed him temporarily). We said he'd taken a head wound and was unable to see anything for a couple of turns, which is true.

That said, everyone played a great game in good humour, and I believe great fun was had by all. Next week we shall complete part 2 of this extravaganza. 

Meanwhile, near Mouscron, the French under Pichegru and Jourdan have been marching to the sound of the guns and have encountered the Prussian/Saxon rearguard. What will happen? Well, you will have to wait and see. 

I Like Mounted Arquebusiers. More of Them, French this time.


I completed the bases of this unit of 12 French Arguolettes today, having started on the unit on Wednesday evening. It didn't take too long to paint them (well, that's obvious, just look at them!). I used contrast paints for the horses and much of the clothing, then a highly opaque range of colours from Warcolours based in Cyprus. here. I find these paints cover extremely well and there's a wide and useful range of colours. Given that I always give my figures a coat of 'Colin's special recipe wash' and then highlight the colours again before varnishing the contrast paints are a bit redundant but I might as well use them up. Anyway, I'm quite pleased with the way these chaps have turned out. They're all from TAG. Banner from Pete's Flags of course.

like Ive said before I remain to be convinced that they were especially effective firing from horseback, even if they even did stay mounted. Anyway, the figures look nice.

Friday 21 August 2020

A new Italian Wars command stand

 As well as the mounted arquebusiers I posted about earlier this week, I also completed another command stand. The two mounted figures are personalities from TAG while the chap with the banner is a Perry plastic. The banner is one of Ludovico de Medici’s Bande Nere before they adopted the Devils flags after his death (I think). I thought I’d use this stand to represent a high ranking Condottiere in the service either of Venice or more likely the Papacy. 

The flag of course is from Pete’s Flags. 

Thursday 20 August 2020

French Revolutionary Wars Campaign - The Battle of Tourcoing 18 September 1793 #1 Intro

A little of what follows may be news to some of the players but it matters not in respect of either the campaign or the coming battles. Indeed, Saturday will see yet another large battle in our ongoing FRW campaign. On 16 September the French under Houchard and Souham achieved a practicable breach in the walls of Courtrai and demanded the surrender of the Austrian army. Terms were agreed and the entire corps under Coberg and Clerfeyt surrendered. The conditions were to include all Coalition troops within five miles of the city. The terms of the capitulation allowed the Austrians to march out with their personal arms, colours flying, officers with their personal belongings, but with minimal supplies. All their artillery was left behind as were a large portion of their cavalry mounts. They are to march to Ghent and have undertaken not to fight the French for two years. The Anglo-Hanoverian army had been on the point of relieving Courtrai but terms were agreed before they could intervene. Not wishing to be caught up in the surrender (ie be within five miles of the city) the Duke of York withdrew to Inglemunster.

Below are some images of the battle lines before the game commences. 
The Prussian right. The French have clearly refused their left.

The table from the West. Coalition forces on the left.

The Coalition centre

The French centre as seen from the Prussian lines 

The French right facing a large body of Saxons

The table from the East. 

But, before we get to the battle I need to bring the narrative completely up to date. The day before, on 17 September Campaign time Turcoing fell to the Prussians without a fight, possibly through treachery. The Austro/Saxon/Bavarian/Ragamuffin Corps has finally made it to the theatre of war. After an abortive attempt to besiege Lannoy (always difficult without any siege guns and associated ‘stuff’) they have joined the Prussians encamped a couple of miles northeast of Turcoing, who were licking their wounds after their brief encounter with Pichegru and Jourdan near Mouscron also  on 17 September. Unknown to the Coalition, thanks to some dismal scouting, ( the Republican army was originally wrongly reported as being the Emigre division operating out of Tournai - OOOOPS!) the new Army of the Scarpe, ordered to Flanders by Lazare Carnot and under the command of General Francois Severin Marceau-Desgraviers, had marched from Alsace via Douai intent on mischief. It fell in behind the Austrians and upon finding both them and the Prussians encamped outside Turcoing facing the threat from Pichegru and Jourdan, immediately attacked their rear.

So as of noon on 18 September we have the combined Prussian/Austrian/Saxon/Ragamuffin corps facing the Army of the Scarpe to their South. North of them, currently inactive, is the corps of Pichegru and Jourdan. Houchard with Souham and Duquesnoy are busy escorting the main Austrian army from Courtrai and the Duke of York has done the honourable things and pulled back to Inglemunster. The Army of the Conde is reportedly near Bruges. Interesting to note that Houchard was in the real world arrested and charged with treason at around this time. Will history repeat itself?

The Battle of Turcoing will commence at noon on 18 September 1793.