Tuesday 13 July 2021

Soldiers of Napoleon - Schumann Farm, near Plauen, Battle of Dresden, August 26th, 1813

Game 2 of mini-campaign was a big one, a good test for the game at it’s maximum size (for general play). 5 brigades a-sides. 3 deployed, 2 in reserve.

The French deployed occupying the Schumann Farm with a strong infantry brigade, reinforced with extra 8 pdr guns at the farm itself. In the centre, around the farm’s fishery pond was his Dragoon brigade, 3 Dragoon regiments (if each weakish) and their horse battery. The French right was another infantry brigade. Behind, in reserve, ready to move up, were a light cavalry brigade (this played no part in the battle in the end) and a Cuirassier brigade of 2 regiments, his heavies. So, a cavalry heavy force for the French who unsurprisingly elected for an all out attack… they were coming!

For my Austrians, I also chose an all out attack, so this was going to be a furious clash. My plan was to await for my reserves brigades, the cuirassiers and the grenadiers before launching the attack though (made that mistake before). My two infantry brigades would hold, form squares if necessary, and I deployed my light cavalry as a screen to the left, their job to go forwards and disrupt and harry the French whilst I waited for the big-hitters to arrive, both brigades due at the end of turn 3 it turned out.

All the units on the tabletop, we dealt the first action cards and the French, with the Initiative, had first play… his first card being for a special event ‘Senior Officer Arrives’ and rolling for it, General St Cyr trotted up to take a look over the field here, which would prove useful for getting his reserve in quicker and give him an extra Action card each turn whilst the Corps’ commander was on the scene.

The French began aggressively, the Dragoons galloping forwards in the centre, countered by my light cavalry, with my chevau-leger getting in the first charge and just driving off one regiment, then my Hussars, always in the thick of it it seems, driving off another, nice early work by the cavalry screen. His guns open up with their usual accuracy and blasted holes in my ranks, especially opposite the farm. My own guns where still on limbers, as I intended to come forwards a bit first (for range). His 8 pdrs had the reach which my 6 pdrs didn’t. The French artillery would continue to be a potent force throughout, which I couldn’t match.

The French also set-off with an infantry assault, 3 battalions, through the Schumann orchards towards my lines on the far right. My skirmishers and jaegers opened fire as they moved through the trees, but didn’t stop them.

In the centre the cavalry dueling continued, between the lines, his Dragoons regrouping and his horse guns blasting my light horsemen. I pulled back, but his cavalry came after me. One Dragoon regiment wheeled away left, heading into the gap at speed and before I could change formation, they charged headlong into my Linz landwehr, destroying them utterly. Next, they hit my line infantry, who also took a beating, falling back, then breaking. The Dragoons were on the rampage as I urgently send 1 chevau-leger regiment after them, galloping right to the aid of the infantry. After the first 2 turns the French had a narrow lead and, with St Cyr’s aid, his reserve cavalry arrived on his table edge. Here he held them, waiting their moment.

The French infantry assault on my right had stalled at the edge of the orchard, under musket and now artillery fire, all 3 battalion columns refused to charge home (2 were only reservists, not great at this attacking lark). They returned fire instead, but were out-shot at the moment.

Meanwhile, my Hussars had got carried away, my fault, and seen a chance to rush his deployed horse battery, they boldly charged and didn’t make it, leaving them open to a horrid, close-quarters canister fire experience, with heavy losses. His regrouped Dragoons moved in the for the kill and I couldn’t get away in time, my Hussars were being cut down and soon ragged ordered, before breaking - a terrible waste of good cavalry and a mistake by me. I got greedy for the glory (and VPs, very Hussar-like).

End of turn 3 and the French had pulled further ahead on VPs. His cannons were still hurting me, I’d lost a battery to those damn rampaging Dragoons, but they had now lost some men themselves and, reduced in strength, were less of a threat. My Cuirassiers arrived from reserve, on my right, but the grenadiers didn’t show up… damn them. I’d have to wait and try again at the end of turn 4. I need those troops.

This battle was slipping away and I hadn’t got my attack going yet. No time to waste, rather than wait for the grenadiers to join them, the heavy horse galloped forwards at top speed, deploying into attack columns from their columns of march. Seeing them coming, French infantry formed square ahead of them, their guns targeted them, but the brave men of the 1st and 3rd Cuirassiers rode on! His last Dragoons were badly outnumbered and outclassed.

On the right, my infantry volley kept the French at bay, until one battalion finally got enough courage up to press forwards and charged home, their attack column easily driving my firing line back. But the reservist with them were panicking (special event) and did not help, one unit just fell apart and routed. I thought could hold here, and my grenadiers would counter-attack and sweep these Frenchmen away, winning the day.

Except more artillery fire, some from off-table, was hitting my lines and I lost 1 infantry battalion broken by it… another blow. The French were on 30 VPs, needing 37 to break my army. I was at 19, needing 38 to break him… not good odds. It was all or nothing for the Cuirassiers’ attack. In they went, one regiment’s charge swept away his Dragoons in a one sided fight and they broke. The Cuirassiers raced on to overrun his horse battery as well. The others, using a special ‘fierce cavalry charge’ event., plunged at one of his squares and almost broke it (1 more point of Disruption needed). But, despite the carnage, the French square held and my cavalry pulled back. They regrouped though and prepared to try again. Only now, with the Austrian heavy horse in full cry did the French commander react with his own, the Cuirassiers came cantering forwards to counter my attack in the centre, using a ‘well-drilled’ special event to swinging from march column in attack columns, wheeling around the pond. Still, it was a bit late, he might have waited too long.

My grenadiers had arrived, marching in and pushing forwards towards the Schumann farm, one battalion forming line and cutting those last Dragoons to shreds with several volleys. The brigade’s supporting battery deployed and sent accurate shells into the advancing Cuirassiers. It had been bad turn for the French, he’d lost 1 infantry battalion, 2 Dragoon regiments and a horse battery. I had lost, err, nothing! Suddenly, the Austrians were just ahead on VPs. It was very close.

The final turn and finally French gunnery deserted them. His guns did little damage. My regrouped and rallied Cuirassiers charged again, taking a gun battery and cutting down his gunners (they had their chance and blew it). His infantry fire, most in squares, was ineffective. My other Cuirassiers withdrew before the powerful re-post of his cavalry, avoiding being counter-charged. And, just like that, the French broke… signalling the retreat as my VP total reached 39, to his 35. I had won, by 2 just 2 VPs. The Cuirassier’s bold attacks had won the day at Schumann Farm.

The game had lasted 5 hours, long, but I aim for 1 hour per brigade and it was bob-on for that, and this was a big game. Somehow the French had thrown away their lead. His gunnery desert him at the end, but had been well above averagely good earlier on. Perhaps he just needed his reserve cavalry up sooner. But, it seemed the forces he had would win without them, so he didn’t send the order to get moving. Me, I had scraped it. My light cavalry had been badly mauled, lost my Hussars stupidly when they had done their job and should have withdrawn. My infantry held up long enough, although Krawietz’ brigade had taken bad losses, mostly to the Dragoon-rampage. Great fun. The game’s action is creating that nice narrative, it feels like a Napoleonic battle, with eps and flows. It looked great on the tabletop, busy but doesn't feel too full. On to game 3 for the campaign, with the Austrians just in the lead now.

Some pictures of the hours of battle across Schumann’s fields. 

Kraweitz' infantry brigade deploy on my right, on the hill, von Klopp in the foreground waves them on. The dice shows his command re-rolls for the game.

French guns, with full caissons, deployed at Schumann's farm.

Grujik light cavalry brigade out front on my left/centre.

French infantry columns are harassed by skirmishers in the orchard hedges as they advance on the French extreme left.

The cavalry advance to met each other in the centre of the field. A honourable duel to begin.

Schumann's fields, Austrian infantry awaiting the order to attack as the light cavalry do the dirty work ahead. 

Dragoons stream forwards in a fast column of march, risky with Austrian cavalry close by. They quickly changed formation.

So fast it's all blurry... the 5th Hussars target his Dragoons, charge and win. 

In line, Austrian infantry and skirmishers engage the French columns as they reach the orchard hedge. Musket volleys crackle back and forth.

Dragoons on the rampage, they rush into the gap, only skirmish fire from the jaegers to stop them (it didn't).

My heavies thunder onto the field and rush across the table, forming into attack columns. Not as good as a line for impact, but easier to manoeuvre. Kornmayer's brigade command stand is between his regiments.

The French get through the hedge, but the reservist were not happy and refused to press on, eventually panicking and breaking. 

Austrian cavalry in full cry, trying to break the French square. No easy task, at which they just failed. The cannon battery's canister would be a painful reward for the failure. But they pulled back, regrouped and went again. Bravest of boys today.

French columns, ragged now, press from the orchard. Only one made it, but broke the Austrian line at bayonet point.

Advance the grenadiers, the full brigade arrives along with its supporting battery on limber.

Hungarian grenadiers hammer the last Dragoons into a bloody mess with repeated volleys, breaking them.

The French heavies advance past the farm and pond, under heavy cannon fire though, but too late to intervene.

1st Cuirassiers (in some disorder now) crash the French line again and smash through... the decisive action of the battle, they overrun the guns as the French break. Note, that square is still in place in the foreground. It is very hard to break one...

Note: Large green dice show Disruption on a unit, we had small ones, but found them fiddle and too hard to see 'in game'. Disruption is damage, disorder, fatigue, etc. As with other 'Soldiers of' rules, more Disruption than stands at the end of a turn and a unit breaks, Disruption is lost via Rally actions, but Rally actions can cost Victory Points to the enemy, so Rallying is an attrition on your army. 

1 comment:

  1. Well it certainly read like a good old Napoleonic battle.