Sunday 18 April 2021

The Forcing of the Linth Valley, 1 October 1799

Very late posting but it can’t be helped. Last Saturday I hosted another game here at the Burrow, aided by Richard and Conrad who risked their safety, liberty and bank balances had the COVID police been aware of the ‘gathering’.  That said I had the garden doors and skylight windows open and a medical grade plasma wave air purifier thingy was running, so reasonable precautions were in place. Paul, Neil and Shaun joined via Skype and watched the game as it was love streamed by each of my three cameras. The figures are all mine from a variety of manufacturers, but mainly Eureka, Elite and Trent. The mountain guns are Cran Tara. Rules used were Black Powder II with my usual house rules, mainly swapping the turn sequence around so shooting comes before commanded moves.

So, another game from Suvorov’s campaign in Switzerland in 1799 was set up. In reality this battle took place a few days after the engagement at Altdorf, the game played two weeks ago. (Click Here to read post). Suvorov now knows for certain that Zurich has fallen to the French under Andre Massesna, and the Russian army of Rimski-Korsakov he’d been en route to join has been crushed. Suvorov's only escape route for his army was now to climb through the high snow covered mountain passes, and it was vital that the army was able to secure the Linth valley in order for them escape the closing net as French troops strove to encircle and annihilate his army.  Gripping stuff indeed!

The battle, like all of them during this little alpine episode, is quite small. Both sides were pretty evenly balanced in infantry (around dozen each), with the Russians having one or two more battalions than the French, but the French had a regiment of Chasseurs a Cheval to counter the Russian Cossacks and a battery each four and eight pounders opposed to the dozen or so pretty useless one-pounder mountain guns of the Russians. Over half of the Russian army were grenadiers or Jager, while the French were all veteran formations. Both sides had troops on the table at the start, with the bulk of their forces hopefully joining over several turns. For the Russians there was also a chance that all or part of their reinforcements would arrive at the optional entry point. Richard and Shaun were the French while Conrad, Neil and Paul were Russians, so without further ado, here is what happened. (Did I say there was a ten turn limit before it got too dark to fight? We forgot anyway).

From “Suvorov in the Alps”, by Tom Garnett. Superb book if you can get it. Six scenarios plus lots of background.

The table at the start of the battle. Russians on the right.

The French left. Open and vulnerable should the Russians come that way.

Turn 1 and the Moscow Grenadier Regiment advances towards the stream while in the distance Paul’s brigade of four grenadier battalions and a couple of ex-Piedmontese 2pdr mountain guns make an entrance   opposite the French left.
Two Russian jäger battalions advancing on the Russian left.

Paul’s grenadiers marched quickly towards the settlement and the wooden bridge beyond it. Staying in march column was a risk but one battalion has formed into line to face the French flank guard.

A battalion of French facing the Russians across the
As the Russians close in on the wooden bridge and overwhelm the French on the  Eastern side of the river, Esmerelda looks on.

At the ford the Russian mountain gun moves forward to support the attack. 

By turn 3 Conrad and Neil had quite a force ready to assault Nefels. They would have been ready sooner but the reinforcements were delayed by a move due to an untimely blunder.

The French are driven from the north bank of the stream as Conrad’s brigade of Russian infantry

The Russian charge is halted and the French can withdraw into Nefels.
Richard posted his horse battery on the western end of the bridge.

The French adopt aggressive tactics and try to drive the enemy off with the bayonet.  Despite loosing most of the hand to hand combats their morale held for several turns until one battalion was destroyed and the other forced to seek safety in the village.

The lone French battalion on their extreme right held off the attention of two battalions of Russian jäger for the entire game.

French reinforcements arrived late but still were able to help bolster up the wilting first line holding the Russian frontal assault.

Russian mountain guns about to deploy and engage in an unequal duel with the French horse artillery. Richard was unable to bring his Chasseurs a cheval into play. Maybe they should have had a go at the main Russian force attacking Nefels frontally?

Mission Control

It’s that darned curious cat again. 

The Russian mountain guns are very fragile and have come off badly against the French horse artillery . Paul’s grenadiers have reformed and are ready to try and storm across the bridge. Doomed to failure perhaps, but we will never know.

This French battalion held on for several turns by throwing a run of very high break test results so it took a rear attack to see them off.
In a final throw of the die Neil’s Cossacks charged the disordered French , who are caught in line.

The Cossacks hit the disordered French line but are quickly driven off.

The Cossacks have been driven off with heavy losses as one squadron routed after failing to make any impression on the disordered French they’d foolishly charged. Conrad’s main assault column has been halted outside Nefels. 

The game ended there with little chance of the Russians being able to drive the French off, unlike the real outcome. It was an interesting tactical problem for both armies. Paul had the right idea with his Russian brigade, as when his troops (all grenadiers) arrived unexpectedly at the optional entry point he’d advanced as fast as he could in march column towards the village of Melis, held by two seriously outnumbered French battalions. I can't help but feel that the Russians facing the French at Nefels should have thrown caution to the wind and attacked quickly with their advance guard before the French reinforcements could arrive. It would have stood a good chance of succeeding I reckon, especially if the Jäger had tried to outflank the French by pushing through the wooded hills on their left. I suspect they assumed the woods were impassable but they never asked.... That didn't happen of course and the French were left in control of both objectives (ok, maybe not the wooden bridge as the enemy were deployed at the other end from the French artillery with several grenadier battalions lined up to assault it, but at least it was contested), resulting in a Russian defeat. I played this scenario several years ago with John, and the Russians lost that time as well. It is a tough one.

The game was great fun and I survived it thanks to the presence of Richard and Conrad who moved the troops, leaving me free to manage the game and the kettle. It worked well (the game that is, although the kettle worked too).



  1. Great game Colin, must have been wonderful to have other gamers with you during the wargame.
    Long may it continue.

  2. Great stuff Colin so nice to see a real battle ...hope for us all👍

  3. Another splendidly uplifting AAR from the Burrow for those of us who can't indulge in hobby action in the present circumstances.