We met at the Club on Sunday for a Russian v French 1812 Napoleonic game using “Bloody Big Battles” with a few mods to reflect the Napoleonic period. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos at all! Apologies.

Anyway, it was an encounter battle with 5 objectives on the table, victory going to the side that controlled 3 at the end of the 10th turn. Three were villages closer to the Russian side (fewer generals and passive infantry made this necessary for balance). One was on the left, one left centre and one right over on the right wing. There were 2 objectives closer to the French – one on a hill opposite the village on the Russian left and one central in a village. There were several hills and woods around the table.

On Turn 1 both sides’ left flanks arrived. The Russians made all haste for the left flank village whilst the French advanced on the right flank village (all from a Russian perspective). Second Turn and the French centre came on, heading for the centre village. Both left flanks pressed forward and the Russian cavalry moved up onto the objective hill to their front.

Turn 3 – the French right appeared in march column, pressing towards the hill objective. The Russian left flank commander, having roundly berated his colleagues for their lethargy, was relieved to see both centre and right finally arrive. The former moved up towards the centre left village, now held by the Russian left flank, although they were thinly spread across the 2 objectives they had secured. The Russian right advanced on the village but the French had pretty much beaten them to it.

The Russian left flank cavalry corps then secured its place in history! They charged into the head of a French column, sending it reeling back after riding down a regiment. They didn’t stop there and carried on into the supporting artillery, riding down 3 batteries with the remainder escaping by the skin of their teeth. This drama was set to continue over the ensuing turns. The supporting French cavalry countered, but failed to drive the Russians off, and they duly charged another column, riding down 2 regiments. However, their days were numbered. The remaining French had deployed and a maelstrom of fire cut the brave troopers down. Nevertheless, they had stopped an entire French Corps in its tracks and they were to spend the rest of the game recovering from the effects of this gallant charge and played no substantive part in the remainder of the battle.

The centre also turned into a stand off as the Russians struggled to get forward and deploy and the French, content at securing the objective and viewing this sector as one for ‘economy of force’, remained defensively poised to protect their gains. The high point was the Cossacks chasing off a French artillery concentration from a hill to the right of the village objective, supported by a Russian cavalry corps, but the local French cavalry soon saw them off. The purpose of the Russian actions had, however, been achieved. They were covering the move of the Russian reserve, the Guard Corps, over to the right to support their beleaguered colleagues.

The right flank developed into the key contest of the day. By stealing 2 marches on their opponents, the French had closed on the village objective as the Russians arrived. The leading Russian division successfully cleared the village but the French follow on forces arrived in numbers as the Russian advance stagnated. The French deployed a grand battery (some 150 guns) to the left of the village, bringing it under sustained fire, supported by 2 divisions deployed respectively to the front and right flank. French cavalry screened the right flank and kept the Russian cavalry at bay. The Russians struggled to get their own guns into action, losing a heavy battery early on, placing them at a marked disadvantage in firepower terms. More Russian troops moved into the village but the combined firepower of the French over the space of several hours saw Russian units dying to a man. As dusk gathered and with the last Russian units struggling (still) to get into the fight and with the Guard still too far away, the French attacked. A desperate attempt to support the defenders saw Russian cavalry hurling itself at the guns and protecting cavalry, if only to give the defenders some respite, but 2 French divisions (actually, one was Italian) stormed into the village and the battle was won.

So, how did it go? Great! Once again BBB showed just why it is such a superb set of rules. The French General on the right, who delivered victory for the Emperor, had never played BBB before but soon had the basics firmly grasped. The game flowed swiftly, swung both ways with moments of high drama that will go down in Club legend, and consistently delivered realistic results. Friction was very evident, but not overpowering, period tactics were rewarded, the French felt like they were Napoleonic French and the Russians felt like Russians. The few mods we had made all seemed to work well and helped give the flavour of Napoleonic warfare. Great success and we will be back in Russia soon for a refight of Borodino!