Monday 20 November 2023

Prussia Rising, a Soldiers of Napoleon campaign - Game 1 - Attack at Dollenkirche, 1813

It’s been a long haul readying my Napoleonic French army for battle, but, after 15 months of work, they are ready to hit the tabletop and their first outing will be in a new ‘March On’ (the campaign system) campaign for SoN (found in the 'Wars of the First Empire' supplement). Their opposition will be my friend’s also brand new Prussian army. Not a single model in this tabletop had even seen action before… which is very cool. Two new armies will duke it out in our campaign’s series, which I’m titling ‘Prussia Rising’… 1813, and the French are in trouble and fighting it out in southern Germany with the advancing Prussia/Russia alliance (Austrians haven’t joined in yet, than might come later).

So, starting in spring 1813, early April and the Prussian advance against Madgeburg sees my division, under ‘Old Boot’ General Houlier (a robust commander of note), part of Prince Eugene’s army on the Elbe. His first mission, to launch a probing, spoiling attack against the Prussian advance, to stall them. They will encounter the Prussian screen, sent to hold them, at the village and large church of Dollenkirche.

Both players had selected their divisions for the campaign, to which extra forces are then added for the individual battles. Houlier’s division is two infantry brigades. The first, under General Cherou, is all French infantry, 6 battalions of the 19th Leger and 78th Ligne, a mix of veterans (1st Battalion, 19th Leger), Line and Reserve infantry, and their 8 pdr guns, with full caissons. The second brigade, under General von Ziegle, are my Wurttembergers (the 'reluctant allies' rules is in play in 1813 for Germans). This is 4 battalions, 1 light and 3 reservists line units, with attached jaeger riflemen and their own 6 pdr guns. Added to this, for Dollenkirche, was single light cavalry regiment from Le Tallec’s brigade, part of the 10th Chasseurs, the only cavalry support I have and a very weak brigade, not getting them wiped out would be a challenge.

The Prussian division, under General Arnim Ritter von Fuchs (a stalwart general accompanied by a security escort of 2 hussar stands), was a very strong Advanced Guard brigade, with 3(?) fusilier battalions, a grenadier battalion, uhlan lancers and their own horse battery. This was strong, and the main fighting force of the Prussian army. It was supported by a much weaker Freikorps, of reservist infantry, a light militia horse regiment, attached riflemen and their own battery of 6 pdr guns. The Prussian added a third brigade for this battle, also of light cavalry, which was a single reserve uhlan regiment and an attached howitzer, to lurk at the back and harass with lob fire occasionally.

Forces ready, the terrain was randomly generated. From the book we got a small hillock, a small wood, a large building (the church) and paddock (the cemetery), a hill and a village of 2 buildings, and after rolling and adding in some roads, it all looked like this.

And here is the layout on a 6 x 4 board. Prussians left, French right. The hill in centre not very visible in the photo.

Time to get deployed, which means also sorting a battle plan. We drew a ‘special circumstance’ before the game and it turned out the Prussians had the order to simple hold the French probe, they must ‘Defend’ as a tactical order and would get a bonus for completing the ‘Hold the Line’ objective. It also meant, the village cottages had been fortified. So now for the tactical considerations. For me, the central hill was the obvious target, if I can take it and get guns on it there is a lot of possible VPs for objectives in it. The Prussians would have to come and fight for it or risk letting me have all those victory points unfought. They couldn’t really afford to just sit back and let me come. So to, I could not abandon the centre hill for the enemy to take, and therefore, would attack in force here. Cherou’s infantry brigade were up, they would deploy in the centre and go forwards. Also, the incentive was to get into his deployment zone and stop the Prussians claiming the extra VPs for ‘Holding the Line’. So attack I must, and the terrain dictated where. The other issue was the church, it can be a strong point for either side, so I had to contest it, or try and claim the VPs myself. That dictates where the second brigade, the Wurttembergers must go, because weak light cavalry aren’t ever going to capture a church for you. The Germans would be on my right, with orders to press forward and take the church. So, the cavalry would, by default, be on the left, a wide open area, eek! They would hold back, and use their harass ability and cover the 8 pdr guns from his cavalry rushing them. I must not let this single cavalry unit be wiped out, or the VPs (for an entire brigade gone, a big drawback for selecting weak brigades) could be terminal. If he came that way in force, I’d have to divert infantry from the hill attack to stop him. All sorts of tactical issues the game throws up. Now for a French tactical order. All Out Attack seemed obvious, but, I have a lot of reservist infantry to attack with, and 3 battalions are also ‘reluctant allies’ too, getting them to press charges for a ‘Grand Assault’ VP score would be too much to ask. A Steady Advance it would be. My deployment plan selected would be ‘centre forward’, closest to the hill, with the flanks back. Not complex, we're going hard up the middle.

For the Prussians, they were always going to contest that hill, and with their main force. The Advanced Guard have to be in the deployment zone furthest forward anyway. They deployed with them in a screen, out front, and the reserve light cavalry behind to their right, and the Freikorps behind to the left, facing the church, to contest it. To stop me taking it, they’d have to send some of their poor infantry to try and hold it. Then there was the weak French right, an attack here looked just too tempting. So, for a commander with the ‘Defend’ order, von Fuch's was still going to come forwards (at least a bit) on his left, in the centre and on his right… aggressive defensive it is then.

Time to deploy models… we laid out out our brigades, taking turns and finally saw how the battle would unfold. Wurttembergers vs Freikorp on my right, my main attack up the hill, led by a long extend line of light infantry screening the attack columns behind. My left was, err, not much, just some chasseurs hanging back, as his uhlan came for them. The Prussians won the initiative and would have first play, and also rolled well for command points, gaining 5, whilst I had 1… miserable!… it was time to let the guns thunder at Dollenkirche.

The Prussians began well, with a good hand and lots of orders to spend, whilst the French were sluggish (all 2 and 3 cards). His fusilier were quickly up on the hilltop, infantry and uhlan advancing on his right. Freikorps infantry rushed up at the quick and seized the church before the Wurttemberg troops had even moved. We’ll drive them out then!

My line of light infantry got up the hill, voltiguers rushing out first and the trading of volley fire began, a solid volley from my line was repaid with interest with a withering volley from Prussian fusiliers that had my line recoiling back and rallying, ouch! These Prussians came to fight!

Artillery added some early disruption to the mix and turn 1 ended with the Prussians in an early VP lead and retained the initiative on the ‘How Goes the Day?’ roll.

Turn 2, and more of the same, Prussia fire was heavy in the centre as my light infantry and skirmishers weathered it and rallied again.  It was hot up on the hill from the start. His ulhan, seeing my weak cavalry charged, lances levelled and my Chasseurs counter-charged (might as well). They lost the fight and withdraw to rally, losing 2 stands as well. His uhlan had come too far though, a long way from their commander and into canister range of my 8 pdr guns, a first blast then a second with an ‘intense cannonade’ saw they pay with 3 lost stand and a rally required for their victory. Both our cavalry units were a mess now. The Wurttemberg artillery also hit the church (they can hit the broad side of the church) and heavy skirmish fire from their light infantry and jaegers had the poor volunteers cowering inside the Dollenkirche. Behind, the infantry columns moved up, ready to try the assault (unlikely with their reluctant allies re-rolling a passed discipline check to charge). Still, excellent skirmishers and rifle-armed jaegers were doing the job anyway.

Turn 2 ended with a few rallies and Prussians still had the better start. I need some good Orders cards to get Cherou’s infantry moving en-masse to take that hill, the 19th Leger’s two extended line battalion’s were weather hellish fire and had lost stands. Time for the main attack to strike…

Turn 3, I finally got some Orders cards to get the infantry moving, and the advance began, cannon fire in support. Two columns reached the hill top, one to the left of it, one held back in reserve. More fire on the church and an inability to rally saw the Prussian reservist break and run. Wurttembergers moved in and had their objective and, by luck, the ‘Take a Stronghold’ objectives had been in my hand, I used it and in the End Phase claimed the VPs for the good work here, getting me back in the game, and just ahead on VPs for the objective bonus. Time to launch some charges on the hill and drive the Prussian fusiliers off it.

This I tried, but only one charge was made, whilst another withering volley from the Prussian firing line saw another column smashed up, retreating, rallying (not) and then breaking. The right of my screening line pushed on, trading skirmish fire with Prussian by the cemetery and from the village cottages. Behind, my veteran unit, 1st of the 19th, pressed on to the hill, lining up a charge. That charge did drive the fusiliers back and off the hill, I had it, but too many Prussians unit were still too close to claim the ‘Take the High Ground’ objective (and I hadn’t been dealt one yet anyway… typical!). That small win was countered when his grenadiers counter-charged around the left of the hill and smashed up another of my line columns, driving it off, to rally and, unable to save them, then break. My attack up the hill had been costly in lost units and secured me little in return. Over by the church, my German skirmishers started to make his militia cavalry, deployed into the graveyard, pay with galling rifle fire. But, on my far left, his remaining uhlan had now rallied and regroup and were coming back for a second go. Artillery fire failed to deter them. After so many French rallies, the Prussians had crept ahead on VPs again.

Now we reached a few turns of stalemate as both struggled to get much done. Charge request failed, all command point re-rolls had long been spent. Skirmish fire continued, his uhlan stalled for want of orders (trying to move a long way from your command stand requires lots more orders) and we both rallied to get units back in good order and shed disruption. My light infantry line reached (just) his forward deployment zone and denied him the easy VPs for that… phew! Game saver. More French artillery bombardments did little, although a better roll would have broken his uhlan… one more hit… dam my dice!

Ok, end game, it was close, where could we press to win it? He pushed his grenadier’s counter-attack to advance around the hill and they then refused to charge (3 times!), resulting in trading ineffective volley firing from my reserve column and his. His uhlan closed on my poor chasseurs, who, err, ran off. I used an ‘at the gallop‘ special event to speed away to safety in the centre and avoid being charged again. This left my guns exposed though, but it was the lesser of two evils. The guns fired and missed… those few uhlan were a pain and I had no answer now, unless I got a Stalled card maybe (no such luck). The Freikorp rallied again and their cavalry finally decided to move up and try and drive off the skirmishers around the cemetery, currently using them as target practice. They charged and, leaping the stone wall, just made it to the light infantry line. They won the resulting melee, but only just. Meanwhile, the uhlan wheeled around and charged my exposed 8 pdr battery. The chasseurs were no longer in place to counter-charge and save the gunners, and so they were ridden down. That was it, the Prussian cavalry had saved the day for them and won them the victory. A couple of late (and fairly weak) cavalry charges saw the day’s French attack called off. Back to Madgeburg! Dollenkirche was a solid Prussian win in game 1 of the campaign, but a hard fought one.

I got off to a bad start, but pulled it back and looked like I might just squeak it in the end, but in end, his cavalry advantage won the day. Lesson learnt, more cavalry for game 2 to counter his. My 5th Hussars are ready and eager for some action…

Finally, post-game brew and debrief, we worked through the Marching phase of the campaign. It turned out to be poor weather, reducing morale values and the French were short on supplies and lost their full caisson. Both sides had lost a few stands from units and gained a few. I used my reinforcements to regain my lost 8 pdr battery. The Prussians replaced lost cavalry stands. We move on to game 2 in a couple of weeks, can’t wait.  

Cherou's brigade deployed, light infantry screening, ready to take the hill.

Wurttemberger's on the right, to take the church. Guns on the hillock have a good line of fire to it.

General de Division, 'the old boot' Houlier.  (tough as....), 1 officer marks 1 re-roll, which is rubbish.

Wurttemberg light infantry screen the assault on the church. Riflemen and later skirmishers, ahead of them.

The volleys are traded on the central hill, 19th Leger vs fusiliers.

The uhlan and more fusiliers on the Prussian far right. A big problem for me.

Patriotic Freikorps, and their guns, which couldn't hit a barn from the inside today. More training for volunteer gunners.

Prussian advance begins across the fields (open terrain, just for looks).

heavy skirmishing around the church. Now occupied by Freikorp reservists...

French columns comes round the hill and drives off the fusiliers, before being flank charged by grenadiers, breaking them... red dice mark an officer stand's 'at risk' number.

19th Leger weather the storm in the fight for the hill top.

Disordered column, taking fire, retreating and breaking.

The French attack columns final reach the hill top, but march into another withering volley. Carnage!

The grognards of the 19th Leger close in on the right the finish the job...

Grenadiers have driven off the French column here. There bold counter would come to little more, despite trying. Never have grenadiers refused to charge so often! The shame!

On! On! Behind the eagle of the 19th... they have the hill.

and Wurttemberg also has the church as a strong-point. It is turning to the French... maybe...

Prussian top brass arrive at Dollenkirche to inspect the day's blooding... all seems in hand... no panic! Later I used a 'commander wounded' event for some stray howitzer fire to land on him, it missed!

Pushed off the hill top, the line reforms, reserve uhlan move up to cover the cannons for a counter charge, should the French come down. But the attack has petered out.

The screen reaches the Prussian deployment zone, vital work, if hot. 2nd battalion of the 19th earned their corn today.

Wurttemberg skirmishers and jaegers give fire into the cemetery, picking off militia cavalry at will.

The 10th Chasseurs (the sad remains off) run for cover in the centre.

But, the guns are then exposed and his last uhlan overrun them...

As the militia light cavalry win a narrow fight by the church from a risky charge... that is enough for 'the old boot', time to withdraw for the day. Prussia has the field whilst the Old Boot retreats to help defend Madgeburg.

Friday 3 November 2023


This game was pre-set at 900 points per side, a meeting engagement with the exact scenario randomly rolled. It turned out to be a straight Attack/Counter-Attack game. So, we deployed our scouts, 3 each, so no advantage there, and the Germans would take the first turn. 

Here's my army list for the action –

The scenario grows as forces arrive, so the start saw some minor moving of the scouts into positions, the Russian long range patrol in woods getting their radio set-up to spot for mortars when needed, my recce HQ doing likewise from the cottage on the hill (goo spot), only with a battery of Hummels on call with their 150mm guns, serious hitting power. Meanwhile, their little half-track scooted off to claim an early objective. By the end of turn 1 we both had 2 objectives each. The first Germans arrived were foot pounding grenadiers on my right, making for the road, to secure the objective and threatened the one in the big woods ahead, currently with three well camouflaged red army scouts in it, with big binoculars. They called in teh first mortar fire and added some pinning, but as yet, no losses.

The Russian began somewhat more dramatically, speeding in three T-34s and tank riders in a top-speed drive straight at my forming lines, aimed at the hillock my recce troops were holding, it came on at full speed in ‘Crazy Ivan’ frontal charge. This provoked some ambush fire from my lurking SdKfz 250/9’s 20mm cannon, the only AT weapon I currently had to stop 3 tanks (if it even counts)!

This forced my hand, so next turn, in rolled my Panther tanks, to counter the T-34 rush, and the first radio check got through to the Hummel battery, which dropped in their first rounds, pinning 1 tank at least. The other two rushed on for the hill though. Behind, ever more Russian arrived: infantry, two SU-76s, their HQ, trucks or various type and sizes and then their big hitters, two SU-152 – oh zverboi!

The race to reinforce was on, and we both rolled well, the smaller German force was soon ‘all-in’, with two supply trucks the last to arrive and lurk at the back, awaiting need. My radio van and forward aid post also took cover behind a rearward copse, and got busy doing their thing. Up front, the fight was on, my Panthers taking aiming and missing with the first AP rounds to rip through the air today. Stopping that charge would be the focus of the first turns of combat. Meanwhile, at the road, my infantry had deployed, including their HMG-42 tripod and loader team that was soon on ambush fire and could rake along the wood line facing them. 1 Panther pulled up behind them, awaiting those SU-152s to appear… come to papa! Then, a IL-2 Sturmovik dived in on a (well) timed bombing run and hit the road junction, right on the Panther. Bombs away, one was a direct hit and kaboom, I had lost my command tank without firing a shot… a burning wreck. Damn those VVS Jabos! (and I forget to include any AA weapon, dumb!).

Firing was building up, my artillery did some good work on pinning and destroyed a truck, then killed his sniper in an (un)lucky, rolled a 1, cover save. The charging Russian tank riders had leapt down off their tanks and into the woods on the hill, where a ferocious fire-fight started, one grenadier squad and their MG team pinning them all down. Now for the tanks. One of which was hit and destroyed by my panzer ace Panther, score 1 kill for the day, he’ll need many more!  The ‘crazy ivan’ attack was stalling, and next turn, more heavy MG and 20mm cannon (250/9) fire would cut down the Russian infantry, leaving a few survivors only. The second T-34 was hit by more Panther fire and burned… crazy ivan attack over! Phew, back the rest of the fight.

The Russians were pushing into the big woods in numbers and a heavy exchange of small arms fire began, German MGs (4 of them) hammering the tree line and causing pinning, and more pinning, all heads down in there. Behind, 3 more T-34s were coming up through the trees with more tank riders on them. The SU-152 were lurking behind waiting on reserve move. To counter this (after loosing the Panther) I moved my Jagdpanzer-IV up and then onto ambush fire, when they came, they’d at least risk some AP fire. Now, it seemed the Germans were on top… the counters favoured them anyway, but all was about the change.

From his hill top vantage point the Russian HQ urgently called for fire support, and got through, using his wire team them got a ‘Front’ battery of 4 152mm guns. It open fire at the road (lots of my infantry down there) but deviate on a wild shot, by 20” woah! Miles out, except it landed right between my two panthers back by the hill. The rolls to-hit saw multiple direct hits scored and, kaboom, kaboom, both my panzers went up in smoke… one big stonk, and my armour was gone – trouble!

Still, I had my Jagdpanzer-IV (last armour), lots of panzerfausts and the Hummel fire, we’d give it go, but the enemy still had 4 tanks and 4 assault guns… I was confident I would hold or see-off his infantry, with so many MGs and that HMG, his two rifle platoons were already looking low on manpower. He’d send the armour instead… of course!

As he did, the T-34s appeared through the trees, firing HE and MGs and the pinning mounted. The SU-152s came too and my aiming Jagdpanzer hit, only to glance off! Drat… their big HE shells also missed though. The pressure was on, the fight intense, and the Russians were going for the jugular now. My panzer grenadiers had to just hang on, and keep those Hummels firing. They did, and got one T-34, but then the radios failed and the guns fell silent for a turn, not good timing. Time for heroics, of the panzerfaust-kind. Out leapt a bold grenadier to loose at a SU-152, hit, and glanced off again… then a mine strike counter also bounced off… mein gott! Beasts these things… another ‘fuast squarely hit a T-34 and wrecked in. Still, I paid for that as HE fire returned all along the road, pinning just about everything, from his SU-76s and T-34s. Along the road, and sneaky flank move came a suspicious truck, it unloaded his assault engineer squad, flamethower at the ready. I responded I used tactical co-ordination to get my HMG back up, and it hammered the wood line and turned the truck into a smoking colander. Both sides stacks of counters at raced up in heavy fighting… it was close. The counter taken for the tac co-ordination was, woop!, an Air Attack, and the Luftwaffe appeared. A bomb-armed Stuka (old school in ’44) dropped in next turn… perhaps it could turn the day?

Into the end game, as the fight along the road continued. My Jagdpazner was hit by more 152mm arty fire and KO’d… several MG teams and squads were lost to HE and MG fire, one to a hit from 152mm HE from a close range Zverboi! - painful. The road was carnage. I dished some damage out too though, another a ’faust claimed a T-34 and the hard working HMG team, still going, cut down the last of another Russian rifle squad… that gun was in danger of melting its barrel. The Russians were feeling the pain of HMG-42 fire (makes a change not to be on the end of it to be honest). The Stuka dived in, though DshK AA fire and bombed the rear hill with his HQ elements, radio truck, etc, on it. High value targets. One rifle platoon platoon HQ was directly hit and wiped out, the rest pinned down in the screaming attack. 2 more counters pulled for that, but still the Reds didn’t break. Next turn the JU-87 came back and strafed a supply truck into flaming wreck as well. But with only 4 BR left, could I survive another turn?

It looked like I may, the SU-152s were out of ammo and retreating to find more. His T-34s gone (bar 1) only the SU-76s in the wood line kept up the HE fusillade, to little effect. His infantry had not much fire power to add, beyond a few 50mm mortars lobbed over at the road. It was his engineers that settled in, moving through the central marshes to attack my (stationary) 250/1 (recce HQ’s transport), its pintle-MG fire had been keeping Russian heads down. But it didn’t move last turn (oops) and the flamethrower attack hit it. Engulfed in flame, it was wrecked… so 2 counters, 1 for the loss, 1 for the flamethrower terror. The first was… a ‘Confusion’, one Russian squad was pinned by it. The next (I might survive), a 5… god-damn it. That was it, my brave defence of the highway was over.

 It had been carnage… to both sides… both my platoons reduced to well under 50% in men, no armour left… but the Hummels were still firing. The Reds lost 5 of 6 T-34s, but the assault guns all survived, some how (the SU-152s were unstoppable today). Great game, 3.5 hours of hammering away. The Russians still had 9 BR left of 61… the Red Horde could not be turned. Maybe with 1 more turn of firing, a good Hummels strike and the Stuka strafing up another soft target (lurking radio truck I’m looking at you) I might have just forced a win… not that it matters, because it was top fun win or lose. The section of the Minsk highway is in Russian hands now.

The action –

The field, paved highway up the centre. Germans from near corner edge, Russians from far.

Red recce team, watching the German deployment.

250/1 heads the road junction objective to claim it early.

Crazy Ivan is on his way... 3 T-34s about to make to top speed charge.

First panzer grenadier platoon deploying on foot... others would tank ride in. Rush to get forwards and get set-up to defend the road.

Jabos! Sturmovik attack run...

Direct hit, command panther lost...

Crazy Ivan, through the 150mm artillery strike, 2 pressed on.

250/9 facing them from the hillock (also an objective). Pop-gun fire won't stop them.

But these guys will... Panthers, panzer ace 351, and tank riders.

The reach the hill, and the infantry dismount.

Hummels doing good work, pounding the road and getting a truck, pinning, and later getting that T-34 as well... it bottled the charge when the Panthers appeared...

The big zerboi's...

On the hunt for reckless T-34s

They almost have the hillock, but the German fight back would be swift and lethal. A bold effort early doors and very distruptive (and very Russian).

The inferno of mortar and direct HE fire on the road, much pinning.

Hummels  finishes them off... recce HQ earn their keep.

Carnage at the end of the 'crazy ivan' charge...

MG team face down the last T-34, err, where is the squad panzerfaust? (it fired and missed)

Meanwhile, in relative safety, aid post and radio van are busy. The Air Attack didn't show this time.

Panzer Ace on his way to deal with that T-34, and he did.

More armour and riding infantry moves up behind.

And suddenly, the queen of the battlefield speaks, a big 152mm stonk, two burning Panthers, and big trouble for the Germans. Boom, boom, boom!

The Russian second attack starts, armour first. Here they come!

Jagdpanzer IV aims, hits, glances off... prepare the panzerfausts...

The road under intense pressure as the SU-152s get up close and it gets messy. That squad took a direct hit and was wiped out. Thank god they only have 3 shots...

Heroics with a panzerfaust... eat this!

Assault engineers get across the road into the marsh, and then move up to toast a 250/1... end game.