Sunday 11 February 2024

The Relief of Danzig, 15 May 1807

Another smallish battle from the excellent Battles for Empire scenario book is the attempted Russian and Prussian relief of Danzig, then under siege by a small French army under Marshall Lefevbre. In an attempt to raise the siege some 8,000 Russians disembarked on the Baltic coast at Weichselmude, held by a small Prussian garrison, and moved towards the French forces on Holm island, west of the city, and blocking the way to Danzig.  Most of the besieging army were on the other side of the Vistula so reinforcements would take a few hours to arrive meaning the French would be outnumbered for much of the game. Oh, and did I say the Russians had support from a British sloop of war on the river?

Danzig is off to the right. The Baltic is north amd the Vistula runs down the left side. The Vs are the objectives for the Russians, 2, 4 and 3 are the entry points for the French reinforcements. The red stars are the Russian entry points. The open woods restricted movement by one third but otherwise had no effect on the game. The river/canal was only crossable at the bridge.

Richard and Nigel were the Russians and Prussians, and Neil and Conrad were the French. The French started the game with two brigades of French, Poles and Saxons, totalling no more than seven battalions, one squadron of cavalry and two batteries of 4-pdrs. I classed the French and Poles as veteran and the Saxons as, well, Saxons. The French also had the support of the Vistula Redoubt (on table), the Holm Island Battery (off table) and the 12-pdr coastal battery (also off table). One brigade was deployed in the woods behind some  defensive works while the other remained in reserve to quickly head off any flanking movement by the enemy or provide support to their comrades in the front line. The Russians were limited to bringing onto the table only what would fit in their slightly limiting deployment area. Their plan was to send the Cossacks and two infantry battalions over the dunes to capture the bridge and then to attack the enemy rear. Meanwhile the Russian jäger brigade would advance directly towards the French in the woods, supported by the small attached Prussian brigade, while Nigel and ultimately 10 battalions of Russians marched south to outflank the French in the woods and take control of the objective areas. 

The lonely French brigade in the woods at the start of the battle.

Richard sent his Cossacks and a couple of battalions down the left bank of the river/canal to outflank the French position. Meanwhile the Russian jägers and the first of Nigel’s infantry begin their advance. The redoubt is actually off the table with only a limited range. For some reason the Russians appeared to march round it, even though it was two feet to their rear. I didn’t say anything at the time…..

Richard’s flanking force.

Neil ordered his French to advance which caught them on the back foot a little. The Russians close to the camera threw the first of at least five 1’s when trying to activate his brigade which delayed their advance considerably. They could have been in the French rear by turn 4 but didn’t get there until turn 10!

The French exchange fire with Prussian schutzen.

This brigade was made up of Polish infantry, a squadron of French Chasseurs a cheval and some 4-pdrs.

The Chasseurs charged the Russian jäger battalion and as it was caught in line the infantry were routed. The battered Chasseurs withdrew to lick their wounds and sink a few bottles of cheap vodka.

The Chasseurs had to take four fortitude tests due to the losses in the melee and passed them all!  

Conrad’s Franco/Saxon brigade moved to be in position to head off Nigel’s infantry on the other side of the wood.

Nigels leading brigade.

On Turn 4 the French received some much-needed reinforcements in the form of some Saxons, two battalions of the Garde de Paris (who were involved in the real battle) and a light battalion (with the Tirailleurs Corse) standing in for them on this occasion.

The reinforcements heading off the Russians. Nigel’s second infantry brigade had been sucked into the fighting at the other end of the table so was unable to offer any support. 

The Prussian brigade included a detachment of dragoons who charged the French cavalry and drove them back. The dragoons also retired, job done and threat removed, as being a detachment they were very brittle.

The defenders of the woods were attacked by Nigel’s brigade and Richard’s Prussians. The Russian jäger brigade was down to 50 percent strength so was wisely kept out of the action. The French battalion closest the camera broke, and although the Fortitude test was passed Neil decided it was time to pull his troops back before they were overwhelmed.

The French reinforcements attacked Nigel’s brigade while Conrad’s original command pinned them from the front. 

The Cossacks finally made it to the bridge after a string of 1’s for activation, only to find the now recovered French Chasseurs waiting for them.

The infantry of the outflanking brigade were too far behind to offer any support. However although the leading Cossack sotnia was destroyed by the French, the French became shaken. This was taking place at the same time as the Polish battalion in the woods was routed. The Fortitude test was failed which meant that shaken units within 6” of the enemy had to be removed, so bye bye Chasseurs. 

The pressure is mounting on the Russians attacking the southern end of the woods as they are now outnumbered and out classed.

The Garde de Paris. One regiment wore red faced green and the other green faced red. They look superb I reckon.

An example of Nigel’s unfortunate run of crappy dice rolling.

Nigel’s entire brigade was wiped out.

Neil’s brigade escaped being overwhelmed by a great mass of Russians and Prussians and pulled back to Conrad’s position.

Neil’s retiring survivors of his brigade.

Neil even managed to save his artillery.

The last surviving battalion of Nigel’s brigade about to be put in the box.

Well, that didn’t go as I expected! The Russians were the first to admit that their actually quite well thought out plan didn’t work as they were unable to execute it properly, especially with the second Russian brigade getting sucked into the battle for the northern end of the woods. This involuntary diversion from the plan was a killer in the overall scheme of things. Were it to have moved as planned, this brigade would have avoided the fighting in the north and would, I expect, have tipped the balance against the French at the southern end of the woods. Of course, if the flanking force had not wasted at least five turns failing activation tests they would have forced Neil to pull back sooner, but it was not to be. The Russian plan was a sound one but as with such things it didn’t survive first contact with the enemy. 

We played from around 10:30 until just after 3:00, including lunch, and managed 12 turns out of a total scenario length of 14. It was a resounding and unexpected French victory. Oh, and do I say that the RN sloop was sunk by the French 12-pdr battery off table? Well, it was.

The game was excellent and both sides had to work hard; it’s just that the French were less unfortunate with their dice rolling. The rules remain, in my opinion, rated OK. I think that despite the fact that they were written with big multi-player games in mind they’re perhaps too brutal. IMHO a better set is Black Powder with the house rules I’ve included for several years, e.g. the fire then move sequence, so maybe I will go back to them? And when GdA 2 arrive I look forward to trying them out.


  1. You sank a RN Sloop? There will be questions in Parliament, not to mention a court-martial!

    1. It blew up and was lost with all hands.