Tuesday 30 January 2024

Battle of Lutzen 1813 - Fighting to the Last Prussian and A Grand Day Out!

Last Saturday I was at the Durham Wargames Group for a refight of the battle of Lutzen, organised with meticulous precision by Mr John H.  Paul, Dom, Mike and I were the Allies. Shaun, John the Red and Nick were the French.   An account of the real battle can be found Here.  We were using John's extensive and rather beautiful 15mm collection with his own rules.

This was going to be a pretty enormous game with perhaps ('cos I can't remember) over a dozen corps from both sides involved. We were able to get started just after 10:00. Reinforcements for both sides would be arriving at various (often inconvenient) points throughout the game. I won't attempt to give a blow by blow account of the game as I was too engrossed to take many photographs; hopefully they will give an idea as to how things went.

Me, Nick (a Frenchman), Dom and Paul study the table.

Marshal Marmont (Shaun) pinned in the corner of the table by loads of Russian cavalry.

The Allies preparing to attack.

The Imperial Guard arrives (theirs, not ours)

One of the Allied cores.

A major Allied assault is developing.

Dom's Prussians were tasked with assaulting the villages while also covering our flank in case any French were to arrive. The Prussians assaulted the villages several times but were unable to take them. They did force one garrison to depart when the houses caught fire but in the process the Prussian Guard were lost.

French Imperial Guard getting closer!

My Russians on the hill about to advance.

The Russian grenadier corps about to assault the French.

A massive column of Russian grenadiers about to get stuck in......we hoped.

Our right flank under pressure from French reinforcements.

The Russian centre.

Paul launched his grenadiers at the enemy but they were knocked back at first. They did make a big hole in the enemy line but were forced into square due to the presence of the French Guard cavalry.

The French on our left were unable to advance as we had them pinned by massed artillery and cavalry.

Russian cuirassiers managed to defeat the enemy cavalry facing them but were unable to make any further headway.

Prussian cavalry vs the Chasseurs a Cheval of the Guard.

The Prussians were victorious and the Chasseurs fled!

Essentially, the Allied plan was to send a covering force off to our right, use the Prussians to assault the villages in the enemy centre, reinforced by the main Russian body and lots of artillery. We would use Mike's Russian cavalry to cover our left and prevent Marmont from joining the battle.

Suffice to say, we fought to the last Prussian (including Blucher who fell in the last turn leading an heroic charge), and failed to achieve any significant successes anywhere. Our left was solid and immovable. Our centre was edging forward after an earlier retreat. Our 'big push' in the centre came to nothing apart from destroying a few French divisions, and a significant number of our own, and the Prussians took a hammering after three failed assaults on the villages. Finally, our right was beginning to crumble due to the arrival of more French directly to their front.

This was a clear French victory, but I reckon we did better as the Allies than they did in the real battle. The game was an excellent and spectacular event, and was hugely enjoyable. We played until past 4:00pm so it was also quite a gruelling day but well worth it. Thanks must go to John for organising it all and to the French for not gloating too much in their moment of victory. 

Tuesday 23 January 2024

The Battle of Oravais 14 September 1808 - Russian Invasion of Finland 1808-1809.

This is my adaptation of one of the scenarios from the excellent Scenarios for Wargaming the Swedish-Russian War 1808-1809, volume 2, entitled ‘1808 Turning the Tide’. The main limitations I faced were not enough terrain and not quite the right Swedish units from my 28mm RSW 1808 collection. The terrain issue was fudged easily enough by liberally dotting the landscape with trees, and the clearings marked with the things I normally place my trees on to define the boundary of any woodland. As for the discrepancies in the order of battle (no Swedish Horseguards and technically not enough Swedish cannon) I just used what I have, which was more than enough. Anyone wishing to read more on the battle can read a good account at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Oravais

Paul, Jim and John took the Swedes and Conrad, Shaun and Dave were the Russians. The Swedes were required to hold the Russians up and prevent them from reaching the far end of the table. (See the map). The Russians had to drive the Swedes off and get half their army within striking distance of the road leaving the table on the Swedish baseline. We used Valour and Fortitude again.

The yellow marks show the Swedish positions at the start. The green arrows show the Russian starting positions and axes of attack.

The photos have undergone the usual Google Blogger Randomiser nonsense but I think they’re now in more or less the correct order.

The Russians advanced blindly (they had to ‘spring’ the tripwire that was the Swedish vanguard). A bold (?) attempt by the Russian hussars to take the bridge failed miserably. They overran a gun defending the bridge but were then cut down and routed by musketry from both flanks.

The Russian hussars on the road before their fateful charge

Dave deployed his guns and infantry intent on driving the Swedish off before launching an assault. The Russians were actually loosing out in the firefight against Finnish jäger and infantry across the river from them. It all seemed a little pointless as this stretch of the river was impassable except by the bridge. 

The Russians edged to their right, giving a perfect target for the Swedish infantry who poured volley after volley into the flanks of passing Russian infantry columns.

Meanwhile far to the rear Swedish reinforcements were arriving.

Paul deployed his best infantry (of the Savolax Brigade) along the stream where they remained for the entire battle.

A casualty of war….

The Russians then pushed their Cossacks over the river to attempt a flank attack on the Swedes. 

Meanwhile, John’s Swedish brigade had raced up the table to support Jim’s exposed brigade, and they were just in time. 

Shaun’s Russians had made very slow progress through the woods, failing to even activate on several occasions, which meant that they were not in a position to support Dave’s frontal attack by the ridge. Worse still, the rear battalion of grenadiers was charged in the flank by a couple of squadrons of Swedish dragoons and destroyed. The Swedish dragoons then turned and dispersed the Cossacks.

A lone piece of pizza the only survivor of a very nice and unhealthy lunch.  Jim’s daughter had made us a Victoria sponge which hadn’t survived until lunchtime!

Gradually the Russian numbers were growing, as Conrad’s reserve was now in position to support an all out assault.

The firefight across the river continued while the Russians sorted themselves out ready to attack.

With their blood up the Swedish dragoons caught the Russians in the river and smashed another battalion before falling back to regroup.

Finally, the main Russian assault began, with four battalions launched across the river towards Jim’s thin line.

More Russians crossing the river upstream from the fight around the bridge.

The Russians are now across the river in some strength.

Meanwhile, Dave’s assault ground to a halt in the face of determined Swedish musketry. The Russians failed to break the Swedish line and the melee continued.

The Swedes in melee then withdrew from combat, meaning that the Russians would be forced to make another assault on their now reformed line.

The second Russian assault fared no better than the first.

By now we had played 14 turns (I lost count after 12) out of a possible 15. The Russians were nowhere near achieving their objectives so, with night falling and only one turn remaining,  a Swedish victory was announced.

It will come over all critical if I were to unpick this game but I need to a little. For example, Dave’s brigade should have been tasked with pinning Jim while Shaun and Conrad outflanked him. Instead, Dave was pinning and outflanking all by himself. That might have been the plan but some unfortunate activation dice put paid to that idea somewhat. The Russian artillery was also badly deployed as it blocked the road and access to the bridge, and several battalions of jäger were wasted as despite being perfectly capable of doing so, none were deployed to skirmish with the Swedes and protect their infantry columns.

Anyway, everyone agreed it was a very challenging scenario and an enjoyable game so what more could be asked? The Russians were victorious in the real battle so with a Swedish victory on the tabletop, honours are even.

The rules worked really well. They’re quite brutal but make for a good game. Dave and Shaun had not played V&F before but they picked them up easily enough, and the rest of us are warming to them nicely. Mind you, when GdA2 come out we might have to try them out. I could also do with finishing off a couple of Swedish units still in the box of doom,  not necessarily to give more for the table but to give some variety.