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. |