Bloody Big Franco Prussian Battle

Played the 2nd battle in a Franco-Prussian campaign that I recently started. The 1st battle wasn’t terrible interesting so I didn’t spend time writing up a post on it. The 2nd however, turned out to be a nail biter and highlighted why campaign battles can be so enjoyable.

In the campaign the Prussians have crossed the border early on July 25th in an attempt to punish the French before they complete mobilization. This means they are fighting the first week without the south German state forces, other than the Saxons who have joined III army already.

The battle began with the French 3rd & 4th corps under Marshal Bazaine in position southeast of Metz. The Prussian 2nd Army under Crown Prince Frederick was in position to attack with the 3rd, 8th, & 10th corps with the Guard corps as potential reinforcements. In Metz, and potentially available (although the chances of French reacting are fairly low) was Napoleon III with the 2nd & Guard corps. These last 2 formations had fought the previous day and repulsed Steinmetz so they already were dinged up a bit.

I had to substitute some Bavarians for the 10th corps and some Baden/Wurttemberg for the Guard although they were rated for what they were supposed to be.

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Here’s a rough map of the battle at the beginning and a along with a few photos.

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View from the French left

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View from the French right

 

The battle started with the Prussians advancing on a 3 corps frontage. Their initial plan was for the right & center corps to demonstrate and tie up the French while their 10th corps on the left drove in the French right and hopefully rolled up their line.

 

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View of the Prussian left as they started their attack

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Panorama of the battlefield as the fighting commenced

 

Initially the Prussians met with some success, albeit with higher than desired losses.

 

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On the left the Prussians have driven the French from the village

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And in the left-center they have shoved back the French near the village with the church

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The Prussian right was mostly stalled at this point with multiple disordered units and not much success in advancing

 

By mid-morning, as expected, the Prussian Guards arrived drawn by the sound of gunfire. Incredibly, the French also reacted expeditiously and their 2nd corps arrived at the same time (this took some exceptional dice rolling to occur)

 

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View from behind the French lines. The 2nd Corps arriving en masse behind the embattled army.

Soon the crisis of the battle arose. The Prussians were driving the French back all along the line. It looked like defeat for legions of Napoleon was soon to follow.

 

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The Prussian “masse de decision.” The Guards arrive on the field and prepare to assault the central village.

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View from the French 2nd Corps. Could the “thin blue line” hold?

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On the French left the Prussians had advanced and captured the line of villages driving the French before them.

 

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While on the French right the Prussians consolidated around the captured village but struggled to advance against the French gun line.

 

 

A confused, bloody fight up and down the line resulted. In the midst of the turmoil the French Guard reached the field (a 2nd incredible dice rolling sequence with around a 5% chance of success resulted in their arrival.)

 

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On the French right wing they mount a furious assault to try to retake the village.

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While in the center the Prussian juggernaut appears unstoppable.

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Portions of the 2nd Corps and the Guard allow the French to drive the Prussians back in the center with tremendous losses.

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Panorama of the battle as the fighting rages

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One last desperate attempt by the Prussians to drive through in the center.

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While on the French right things have stabilized. The Prussians will keep the village they’ve paid for in blood but their advance has been stopped cold.

 

The final Prussian assault failed in the center. At the end, the French held their line and as night fell, the Prussians fell back after suffering horrific casualties. After recouping casualties suffered, in the To The Last Gaiter Button campaign rules that’s easier for the defender than the attacker, the losses looked like this:

French – 16 bases lost out of 85 engaged

Prussians – 25 bases lost out of 100 engaged

After the battle the Prussians retreated to regroup while the French also pulled back into the relative safety of Metz in order to try to regain their strength from the losses over the last two days.

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Battle of Prague

After an unscheduled business trip, two weeks with the flu afterwards, and the standard hullabaloo around Christmas I’m finally putting up this AAR.

As anticipated from the balance of forces it wasn’t much of a battle, but that’s the beauty of campaigns: sometimes you get very asymmetrical engagements. As a side note, after looking at this set of pictures I replaced the hideous green on my table with two very nice Cigarbox game mats.

As a reminder from the previous post the opposing forces looked like this.

The Forces:

Prussians Austrians
Grenadiers 4 Brigades 2 Brigades
Musketeers 5 Brigades 9 Brigades (1 reduced strength)
Fusiliers 4 Brigades N/A
Cuirassiers 5 Brigades 4 Brigades
Dragoons 3 Brigades (1 reduced strength) 0
Hussars 1 Brigade 0
Artillery 4 Heavy Artillery units 2 Heavy Artillery unit

In the rules I use, Might & Reason, the Prussians are significantly better than the Austrians on a unit for unit basis. In this case with ~25% more infantry and over 2X the cavalry, it promised ill for the white coats.

And so it went. The Austrians deployed along a hill line a ways behind a stream. It was considered to deploy right up against the stream to take advantage of the difficulties in fording under fire however it was judged that the Austrians had insufficient men to cover the length of the stream and would have left themselves open to outflanking from the more numerous, and more speedy, Prussians. They fervently hoped that either a) part of the Prussian army would not arrive on the field or b) if it did all show up that night would fall before they were too badly bruised.

 

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View from behind the Austrian lines. Schwerin’s contingent of Prussians can be seen approaching from beyond the stream.

 

The Austrians were forced to stretch their lines in order to make a flank attack less likely. This left them dangerously thin across their entire front. Unfortunately for the Austrians, all the Prussians made it to the table and they did it in a timely fashion with the entire army advancing by mid-morning.

 

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Advance of the Prussians. Frederick’s contingent has arrived and is crossing the stream while in the background Schwerin’s group continues their advance.

 

 

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Austrian view of the approaching Prussian hordes.

 

It didn’t take long for the Prussians to engage along the entire Austrian front. Their basic plan was to tie up all the Austrian front line and use a wedge of Grenadiers to drive a wedge through the relatively weak Austrian center.

 

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Looking down the battle line. The Prussians are massing to drive a wedge through the Austrians and into the valley between the hills.

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View from behind the Prussian line as the armies meet.

 

In the end it didn’t take long for the Prussian plan to succeed. Under the grenadier bludgeon the Austrian center melted away. The wings held a while longer but they were taking horrific losses from the rapid Prussian fire. By early afternoon they were falling back behind the walls of Prague. Now the question will be can the relief army save them before the city falls.

 

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Breakthrough in the Austrian center.

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Austrian left still holding but the losses are mounting quickly.

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End of the battle. The gap in the Austrian center is now huge. Time for the remnants to run away.

 

The Prussians ended up losing the equivalent of 2 infantry brigades and 2 cavalry brigades. The Austrian losses were more significant with no less than 7 infantry brigades and 2 cavalry brigades being lost. Including the Reserve army the Austrian/Russian forces still outnumber the Prussians but the advantage is being whittled down quickly.

 

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Luke the Corgi says Merry Christmas!

 

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1757 Campaign – Prelude to Prague

In the first 2 weeks of the campaign the Prussians advanced and drove the army of Kongisegg before them ultimately resulting in the fairly even contest at Munchenberg. During their half of the first campaign turn the Austrians fell back onto Prague. Their hope was that they would seize the initiative in the next turn and develop a strong central position to keep the Prussian wings separated.

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If the Austrians took the initiative Charles would move west to Sonlan and meet up with Arenberg while Serbelloni moved into Prague to join Konigsegg for defense of the city.

Unfortunately for the Austrians, the Prussians maintained the initiative as the campaign entered the second half of April. Frederick & Schwerin moved into the region around Prague and the stage was set for the second battle of the campaign.

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The opposing forces favored the Prussians in the upcoming clash. With ~50% higher numbers and significantly superior quality the stage was set for Frederick to achieve a great victory.

The Forces:

Prussians Austrians
Grenadiers 4 Brigades 2 Brigades
Musketeers 5 Brigades 9 Brigades (1 reduced strength)
Fusiliers 4 Brigades N/A
Cuirassiers 5 Brigades 4 Brigades
Dragoons 3 Brigades (1 reduced strength) 0
Hussars 1 Brigade 0
Artillery 4 Heavy Artillery units 2 Heavy Artillery unit

 

 

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1757 Campaign – Battle of Munchenberg

The first battle of the campaign occurred near the small town of Munchenberg when the advancing Prussians under Schwerin engaged the Austrians under Konigsegg. The Prussians had a slight manpower edge and an enormous quality advantage. It was assumed that they would brush aside the Austrians with relative ease. However…

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Austrian deployment with their left guarded by the river & the town

Konigsegg, the Austrian commander, is not a very good general however of his three sub-commanders, two of them, Hadik commanding the cavalry and Lacy commanding the left half of the infantry were able generals. His third subordinate, Saint-Ignon with the right half of the infantry line, was steady but slow.

Schwerin advanced from the east with Keith & Manteuffel commanding the infantry and Kraig and Ascherleben the cavalry.

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Prussians beginning their advance

By midday the Prussian infantry had engaged the Austrian line while the larger Prussian cavalry charged the Austrian horse.

The Prussian infantry immediately began driving back the Austrians, although taking heavier losses than expected. The cavalry however was unexpectedly repulsed by the Austrian Cuirassiers which resulted in the destruction of the brigade of Hussars.

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For several hours the white coated defenders fought toe to toe with the advancing Prussians until it became obvious that they could not withstand much longer. They successfully withdrew their guns without loss however although their infantry losses were severe.

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The battle was decided when the Prussian cavalry overwhelmed their outnumbered opponents and were able to crash into the flank of the Austrian infantry line. The defenders morale failed and they streamed off in retreat down the road towards Jungbunzlau.

Losses were heavy on both sides although the lack of surviving Prussian light cavalry meant that there was no pursuit of the retreating Austrians.

Losses Prussian Austrian
Infantry 2 Musketeer brigades destroyed – (14SP total) 2 musketeer brigades destroyed, 1 brigade reduced 4 SP –  (16SP total)
Cavalry Hussars destroyed (they were depleted before the battle from march attrition), Dragoons down 3 SP – (6SP total) 1 cuirassier brigade destroyed – (7 SP total)
Artillery None None
Generals None Hadik killed

Overall the Austrian losses were slightly heavier, 23SP versus 20, however their overall larger army means that they can afford the loss better than the Prussians can.

 

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1757 Campaign – April

Now that I have a dedicated game room, it’s time to kick off my first campaign project. Just because it’s visually appealing I’ve chosen my Seven Years War armies for the initial foray. I use Sam Mustafa’s excellent Might & Reason rules for gaming the 7YW and it conveniently includes two different campaign methods. I’m using a “slightly” modified version of the 1757 campaign. I want to get my Russians on the table also at some point so I’ve replaced Daun’s Austrian relief army with a similar sized Russian force under Fermor.

Here’s what the map looks like that the campaign plays out on:

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The Prussians begin north of the river, the Austrians to the south, and when the Russians arrive they’ll be coming on at Brunn. I’m playing this solo but the rules lend themselves very well for solo gaming and I think I can make the campaign work also with some judicious forgetfulness.

After deployment, the Prussians have initiative on the first turn and their moves are shown below.

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As Brunswick-Bevern advanced into Reichenberg, Konigsegg successfully evaded and fell back into Munchengratz. Unfortunately, he failed to fall back as Schwerin advanced from the east and so the first battle is set to begin!

Might & Reason uses “brigade”  units, roughly 4 battalions of infantry or 10 squadrons of cavalry per 2 stand unit. The opposing forces are:

Prussians Austrians
Artillery 2 Units 1 Unit
Infantry 1 Grenadier, 3 Musketeer, 2 Fusilier 6 Musketeer
Cavalry 1 Hussar, 1 Dragoon, 2 Cuirassier 2 Cuirassier

The Prussians of this period are, “man for man” quite a bit better than the Austrians so I anticipate a victory for Schwerin & company however, we’ll see how it ends up on the table!

 

 

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Finally, a dedicated game room

I played my first war game 43 years ago (Avalon Hill’s Waterloo for the curious) and in all the intervening years I’ve never had a dedicated place to game. For much of the time I would setup on saw horses in the garage. At one point I was able to use folding tables in a spare bedroom. In either case, the setup had to be removed once a game was complete and the space returned to its normal usage.

As of today though, I have a room of my own. I was able to fit in a 6’x9′ table, a really comfy Lazy-Boy dual recliner, and a 65″ Samsung super HD TV. It may not be the most spacious place on earth, but I’m tickled pink by it!

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Game Room!

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Nice storage under the table

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Battle of Kolin using Might & Reason for a first trial

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Franco-Prussian Campaigning

I’ve been working towards a solo Franco-Prussian campaign for several years now. Initially I was going to use the 1870 rules for the tabletop but after several play tests I decided that in 15mm I didn’t like the figure / gun ratio, although I think it looks fine in 6mm like the author Bruce Weigle plays, and that it was a little complex for large, solo battles. At this point the project went into hiatus for a long while until I stumbled upon Chris Pringle’s “Bloody Big Battles!” rule set. After several playtests, both solo and opposed, I’ve come to really like these rules and they have reignited my interest in this project.

The next step was figuring out how to run the campaign. I dabbled with deriving my own rules for this but my talents don’t really run in this direction so I went down the path of using an existing game that I could modify as needed to fit the tabletop rules. With this in mind I pulled together every Franco-Prussian rules set I owned and reviewed them all with the following goals in mind:

  1. I wanted it to be at least corps level, potentially down to division level for maneuver units.
  2. I wanted it to cover the mobilization part of the war as I think this is critical in the historical campaign.
  3. I wanted some flavor, i.e. expertise of Prussians vs the command problems of the French without being overbearing. I wanted a nuanced version of the “McClellan” rules you can find in some ACW war games.
  4. I also wanted the ability for troops to potentially arrive on the battlefield that weren’t in the initial clash. For the Prussians the “marching to the sound of the guns” was a large part of their success in the war and I wanted to include that as well as allowing for at least a chance for the French to perform better than their historical counterparts.
  5. Having the ability to regain strength for units when out of the line of battle was also a “nice to have” although I felt I could glue that on top of any rule set if necessary.

So with all that in mind I ended up with the following candidates:

  • Bloody Big Battles itself has a linked historical battle campaign system : BBB!
  • Strategy & Tactics magazines “The Sedan Campaign” : Sedan Campaign
  • Strategy & Tactics magazines “The Franco-Prussian War” : Franco-Prussian War
  • “Blood & Iron” from Pacific Rim publishing : Blood & Iron
  • “Franco-Prussian War 40” by Victory Point games : FPW 40
  • Vae Victis magazines “L’aigle foudroye’ 1870” : l’Aigle Foudroye”
  • “To the last gaiter button” from Real Time Wargames: To the last gaiter button

Each of these rules have pluses and minuses to them and it took some time playing through each to choose what I thought would work best for me. I ended up initially rejecting the Bloody Big Battles campaign as it is fun but provides limited ability to modify history which, after all, is sort of what I’m going for. I also eliminated the Victory Point game as it was army level rather than corps/divisions as I wanted. Next on the chopping block were the Vae Victis rules and the S&T Sedan Campaign. In both cases the map is fairly limited in scope and neither depict the “positions magnifique” quality of the border terrain that was so important to the French deployment. That left me with the other S&T set, Blood & Iron and the Real Times Wargames rules.

At the end, I opted for “To the last gaiter button”. Neither of the other rules covered mobilization and most importantly, neither allowed “to the guns” reactions into battle. I suppose I could have added those features but the last gaiter button included them all in a nice package. It was also easy to modify the strength ratings from the original rules, which includes a tactical rules set, to the BBB! requirements.

I’m having a game room constructed, that hopefully will be complete by the end of September, and I’ll be close to starting the campaign. Currently I have 3 French corps painted along with 2 Prussian, 2 Bavarian and the combined Baden/Wurttemberg corps. I want to paint up the French Imperial Guard, one more line corps, and 2-3 more Prussian corps but I can start the campaign with what I have. Hopefully it will meet my expectations!

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Revolution & Empire Trial

We trotted out the 28mm Napoleonic figures for the first large scale trial of the Revolution & Empire rules. Facing off were 2 French line corps (Lannes & Davout), a Bavarian corps (Lefebvre), cavalry reserve and the Imperial Guard who were opposed by my 2 line Austrian corps and a Reserve corps. All told something over 1,000 figures a side.

 

A few pictures from before the battle.

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The festivities started with the French right corps advancing against the Austrians. I’d deployed with my 2 Corps, Rosenberg on the left and Hohenzollern on the right, side by side and the Reserve corp of Liechenstein off table in the center. As this was the beginning of 1809 the two corps were the standard 2 infantry divisions plus an advanced guard division.

As you can see the French are all nicely based and flocked while my Austrians are slackers and are still standing around on painted wood! I have a few batteries and 5 battalions of Landwehr to finish then it will be time for flocking en masse!

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Shortly thereafter the French left corps stepped off to push my right.

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The thin white line was a bit worried at this juncture as the mass of Frenchmen descended upon us but only time will tell if we can stand up to the pressure.

By this time the fighting was raging up and down the battle front.

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It’s a good time for a panorama showing the entire battlefield

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It’s been a while since we had this much lead on a table!

 

View from behind the French cavalry reserve…would they be needed today?

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No, no dramatic charge to finish the battle. This was our first attempt at the rules with a good sized battle and we ran out of time. It was looking like the French wouldn’t be able to push through the Austrians and after 6-7 hours of playing it was time to call it a halt.

In general, we were pleased with the rules. They feel more balanced than the previous Empire versions and we also liked the changes to the order and command systems. With one person a side we got through 6 hours of game time in just over 6 hours of real time so for a first try we felt they moved along well enough. We’re gearing up for a couple days of battle around the beginning of September and hopefully we’ll a) have fun and b) come to a conclusion!

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Painting up some Napoleonic figures

So we’re back into Napoleonics…the 1st this time, not the 3rd. I’ve been working on some Austrians to add to the army. I haven’t flocked bases or added flags but otherwise I’m moving along ok.

Here’s a unit of Cuirassiers.

Austrian cuirassiers

I’ve also added a few more generals. Here’s Archduke Charles and some friends.

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Add lastly a few Austrian guns have joined the colors.

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We’re using Revolution & Empire for rules and hopefully in the next few weeks we’ll get our first “large” battle in; something like 3 corps per side. While waiting for that here’s a teaser picture from our first single corps on corps practice run we did while learning the rules.

battle teaser

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20mm modern American infantry

Just finished up painting a platoon sized force for playing some modern combat in Afghanistan. Not my best paint job but I think they are good enough for playing with even though the figures themselves deserve a more capable hand. It took me a few tries to get an acceptable, even with my low standard, version of digital camo for them. Eventually I got lucky and found a tutorial on TMP that helped a lot. Their opponents are in the mail and hopefully will arrive in a week or two. The Elhiem figures are beautiful and paint up quickly so I should be ae able to give them a go on the table by sometime in February.

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Platoon HQ

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Close up of the weapons squad

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Entire force

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Closer view of one of the squads

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Civilian Interaction Team in front, EOD in back

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