1813 BLOODY BIG BATTLES

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We met at the Club yesterday for another run out with “Bloody Big Battles” and the amendments for the Napoleonic period. The game was set in 1813 with the French on the back foot in Germany. In accordance with agreed strategy, the Allies are avoiding Napoleon and focusing on his Marshals and this time it was Ney’s turn! Ney has been somewhat ‘enthusiastic’ and got himself exposed with the Allies converging. He has the following under his command:

II Corps Marmont
4

4

1

T S

T S

Heavy Foot Battery

 
III Corps Ney
5

4

1

1

T S

T S

Medium Foot Battery

Heavy Foot Battery

10th Div Ledru

11th Div Razout + 25th Div Scheler (Wurt)

IV Corps Eugene
3

4

4

2

T

T S

T S

Medium Foot Batteries

IT Royal Guard Pino

13 Div Delzons

14 Div Broussier

V Corps (Poles) Poniatowski
4

3

1

T S A

T S A

Medium Foot Battery

16th Div Zayonchek

17th Div Kniaziewicz

VIII Corps (Westphalian) Junot
6

1

T S F

Medium Foot Battery

23rd Div Tharreau + 24th Div Ochs
II Cavalry Corps Montbrun
4 H F  
III Cavalry Corps Grouchy
3 Lt F

So, not too bad. Some useful artillery and plenty of Generals (the ones in bold are on table and count)!

On the Allied side, a combined Austrian (under Schwarzenburg) and Russian (under Barclay de Tolly) force is converging, with the following (all Austrians were Passive and all Russian infantry was Stoic); Russians listed first and Austrians second:

I Corps Gorchakov
4

4

1

T S

T S

Light Foot

 
II Corps Wurttemburg
4

4

1

T S

T S

Light Foot

 
III Corps Raevski
4

4

1

V A

T S

Light Foot

Gren Div
V Corps Yermolov
4

4

1

V A

V A

Heavy Foot

Gd Div

Gren Div

I Cavalry Corps Gollitzin
3 V M  
II Cavalry Corps
3 M
I Corps Colloredo
6

6

1

T S

T

Light Foot

 
II Corps Merveldt
6

6

1

T S

T

Light Foot

 
III Corps Gyulai
6

1

T S

Light Foot

 

 

IV Corps Klenau
6

1

T S

Light Foot

 
Austrian Cuirassiers Nostitz
3 V H  
Austrian Cavalry
3 T M

The table was as follows:

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with the French on the side with the 2 roads exiting centrally as shown on the right of the picture immediately above (apologies for some of the photos – a bright day with the shutters on the Hall windows open meant a patchwork of bright and dark areas on the table). The French were on table from the start, the Allies were split into 3 commands and diced with a 5/6 meaning that they were on table at the start, a 3/4 meant they would arrive on Turn 1 and a 1/2 would see them coming on in Turn 2. The game was scheduled to last 8 turns.

The objective was all about the French Army. The Allies aim was to crush it, Ney’s aim was to check the Allied advance to allow him to break clean and withdraw through the night unmolested. As umpire, this is where I fell a little short of the mark. The French CinC got the idea that all he had to do was keep pulling back and get off the table until I pointed out that that would not check the Allies and that they would still be hot on his heels. He took the point well, but I think he might have played things a little differently had he realised quite what he had to do.

Anyway, off we went. The French deployed pretty much across the table, spreading themselves thinly and with no reserve. They also deployed well forward, although I believe this was to force the Allies to deploy early and then slip away. The Allies could come on anywhere along their own table edge and basically up to the half way point on both flanks.

Allied movement dice rolling started badly and stayed that way. All 3 commanders threw consistently poor dice, which was a shame and did mean that the scenario didn’t go as well as hoped. That’s another point for me – the scenario needed to account more for such poor dice rolling. So, start of Turn 1 and not a single Allied soldier on the Table! And the only ones to arrive were one command of Russians over on the far right (I’ll do everything from a French perspective). Even then, they were slow with quite a few units not moving or only getting a half move.

Turn 2 did see the rest of the Allies arrive, but with not much more haste. The Austrians came on centre and centre left but the left hand (from the French side) Corps did very little. Some accurate artillery fire from the French (Marmont and Eugene) silenced the Austrian batteries and disrupted the infantry. Passive and with no General, they really didn’t get across the Start Line all day.

In the centre the Austrians did better, the presence of Schwarzenburg making all the difference. However, their artillery was sent packing by the Polish gunners and the advance was slow and ponderous. An attempt to drive their cavalry into the right flank of Eugene’s Corps was shot to pieces by the Poles (amazing what a double 6 can do!!) and the advancing infantry had to recover from several disrupts before being able to charge the village held by the Poles. However, accurate fire from the village stopped them in their tracks, killed a number of Austrians and disrupted the leading units. At this stage and with night falling, Poniatowski felt he had done enough and ordered the withdrawal. The guns and one division fell back, but the second division was slow (half move) and was vulnerable to being caught.

Over on the right, Ney’s Corps extended from the Poles further right and then Junot’s Westphalians held the extreme right. The Russians moved better (not passive) and managed to get some cavalry around the French flank and across the stream. The French cavalry threw them back, but the infantry following up caught them from 2 sides and shot them to pieces. The Westphalians then bounced the Russian Guards and Russian Cavalry. Trying to pull away, Russian fire gave a halt, disrupted result and so their planned withdrawal stopped, leaving them really quite exposed as night fell. Of course, Ney’s Corps was there to assist…….oh……. no it wasn’t! The left hand Division was gone – shot to pieces – and the right hand Division was in a poor state – low on ammo and disrupted, almost spent and with hordes of Russians closing, I ruled they would not have made it away.

So, the scores on the doors! Marmont, Eugene, half of the Poles and one French cavalry corps would have made good their escape, Ney’s corps and one cavalry corps were lost, the Westphalians had little chance of breaking clear and it was touch and go for the rest of the Poles. About 50% gone. We concluded Ney’s chat with the Emperor would be both interesting and lacking in coffee and biscuits! But we also felt the Allies would be disappointed. So much more should have been possible but they just couldn’t get it together. The story of much of 1813, in reality, and a real tribute to the command and control in BBB, allowing such to be represented so well and so easily.

Another area of post game discussion was the Allied plan. Clearly when you all throw poor dice, then that’s going to be an issue, but the intent had been to hit the French line in several places at the same time. We debated whether this is really an option with troops with such poor maneuverability. We discussed whether the Allies should have simply pushed forward and then, if necessary, paused rather than trying to get everyone from the start line to the objective simultaneously. We also wondered if they should have made more use of march column – that +1 can really make a difference and, on roads, much ground can be covered quite quickly. Yes, there is risk, but the Allies had the numbers to take losses, what they didn’t have was time.

The other subject is one that has been a constant theme for us. The attackers just don’t seem to be able to get their artillery into action. It moves up limbered, is therefore a prime target, gets hit, gets silenced and goes back. Repeat. Repeat. The exception this time was the Russians, whose guns’ approach was better covered by their infantry, which combined with the French redeployments, including of their artillery, to allow Russian guns to get into decent range (12″ and less) and they were the ones that really hurt Ney’s Corps. We continue to debate this issue – I feel that their approach has to be covered – let cavalry or infantry take the heat until the guns are in the right place and deployed. Harsh, but the guns are real killers in the later Napoleonic age and they are needed. I also felt that this deprived the Allies of the chance to disrupt the French infantry and complicate the withdrawal process. Withdrawing in the face of the enemy is hard, doing it under fire even more so. I wonder if the French would have become more fragmented and vulnerable had they been disrupted by artillery fire much earlier?

Anyway, some piccies of the action:

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Monty the Desert Rat.

 

One thought on “1813 BLOODY BIG BATTLES

  1. Sounds like a fun game! It’s good to see your Napoleonic BBB games working so well.

    The standard BBB rules worked fine (for my taste) for the Napoleonic BBB games I’ve played. But for your Naps-specific version, I offer one suggestion in response to your point about artillery vulnerability. BBB was primarily designed to cover the late C19 when shell is the standard munition, and is effective for counterbattery work. In the Napoleonic era, when guns predominantly use roundshot which is much less use against artillery, you could perhaps justify a Left shift against an artillery target.

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