- Andrew Hobley(Andrew H)United Kingdom
"Half the Old and Young Guard too, Less than half of Marmont’s Men, That’s the way the campaign goes, Pop goes the musket!
Up and Down the Paris Road, In and out of Champaubert, That’s the way the campaign goes, Pop goes the musket!"
(Adapted, badly, from the nursery rhyme ‘Half a Pound of Tuppenny Rice’)
Saving the campaign for another day (it needs both maps and so I need the dining room table) I played (solo) the three battles of the Six Day Campaign. By now I think I am getting the hang of using march orders and road mode to move formations to where I want without having to depend on initiative movement. I decided to throw caution to the winds and use cards and roll for weather. I did play with hidden units, but most of the illustrations show all units revealed.
First up Champaubert - Olsufief’s isolated IX Corps hit by the French army. Olsufief decided that the forces at Baye were too exposed so pulled back to the hill between there and Champaubert. Cloud and fog slowed the French advance, VI Corps came up the road and I Cavalry crossed the stream to the east of Baye (unnamed on the map, Google suggests it is now called the Ru de Maurupt), and recrossed it on the Congy road. The result was that by 3pm the all of Olsufief’s units had been pocketed and eliminated with no French losses; Olsufief himself escaped to the east. Champaubert and Fromentièrs were taken, and Blücher’s units (which arrived as Alternative Reinforcements, but were delayed by the fog) headed back east faced with an overwhelming French force. A French Strategic Victory - which as the rules quite rightly say is the ONLY sort of victory the French can get in this scenario, any other result is a defeat.
Moving west the next day we come to Montmirail. Sacken with XI (Livien) and VI (Scherbatow) Infantry Corps and the cavalry has headed east while Yorck with part of I Corps (mostly cavalry and no supply train so out of supply once south of Soulaville) is trying to meet up at Montmirail. However one or two French are in the way. Napoleon at the start has 8 Division of VI Corps, parts of the Old and Young Guard and the Guard and I Cavalry Corps - all rather spread out (and by the time the Guard Cavalry Corps has scatted in response to the French first card, even more spread out). The Allies are badly handicapped by Sacken being the only commander, and only able to command one formation at a time.
The French had thrown out a vedette screen, the Allies followed suit. In the fog and cloud both sides lost vedettes when they ran into light cavalry units, but Russian cavalry then isolated and destroyed the Guard Light cavalry unit. (The latest edition of Wargames Design on OSG's website has a revised reconnaissance table which gives vedettes meeting light cavalry a chance of survival which I shall use in future).
Napoleon occupied Marchais with his VI Corps who were then attacked by Scherbatow and the Russian VI Corps. For several hours the Russians tried to cross the stream and take the village, while Marmont’s men held them off. About 1:30 pm it looked as if the Russians would take the town, but they failed to advance and the last few defenders were relieved by the Old Guard (An exchange result eliminated the last French unit in the village, but as the Russian Corps was out of command they could not advance after combat.).
To the south Lieven’s XI Corps headed towards La Celle (attracted by the 5 VP for holding the town), but moved out of Sacken’s range and dithered around Vendières. Unfortunately for them the Old Guard and the Guarde du’Honour cavalry caught one division trying to approach Marchais from the south-east and destroyed it, demoralising the main body of VI Corps and Young Guard reinforcements came on to the south (Alternate Reinforcement entry card), took La Celle and then slowly drove Livien’s men back.
To the north, around Plénois and Bochage d’en Bas a cavalry clash between the Guard and Russian and Prussians saw several units of both sides destroyed and at one point the Guard Cavalry demoralised. Nansouty rallied his men, held the line and the Allied cavalry began to fall back.
In the centre the Young and Old Guard attacked across the stream, driving the Russians out of La Celle and then Haute Epine. Sacken began to fall back towards Fontenelle as night fell, with XI Corps isolated to the south, leaving the French with a Strategic Victory.
Sadly for the Allies the General Retreat card never came up, and it was only when reading F L Petre’s account in ‘Napoleon at Bay’ while looking at the map (and halfway through the game) I realised that the Russian retreat line is NOT to the west, but north - MacDonald’s French Corps lies to the east on the wrong side of a broken bridge. And I also realised that the II French Cavalry were about to erupt onto the map behind the Russian lines so had to shift the supply units north ASAP.
And so to Vauchamps with both maps, and a long line of troops of both sides, centred on the town of that name. Blücher thinks that Marmont’s silence means weakness, not knowing (in history) that Napoleon with three cavalry corps, two-thirds of VI Corps and the Young Guard and part of the Old well to the rear, is poised to pounce. The Allies have some of Kaptsevich’s X Corps and Ziethern’s Division of II Prussian Corps forward at Vauchamps, the rest are around Fromentières.
The long French tail is the Young Guard, strung out along the road in road march mode, with a March Order for Champaubert so as not to need to roll for Initiative movement. In my game mud stopped them getting into the fight. In mud supply trains cost double for each hex, formations with a March Order move "... at the speed of the slowest unit in the force," (20.22); a March Order covers "... all In Command units of a Formation" (20.01) and a force is defined as " (b) a Formation, excluding any out of command units" (Glossary). So a formation that includes a supply train with a March Order in mud moves at four hexes if on road and two if on tracks.
Noon, when the scenario started, was foggy and muddy. The French moved forward slowly, I Cavalry moving to the north and the Guard Cavalry to the south of Vauchamps. The Allies at Vauchamps fell back slowly while on the flanks I Cavalry and the Cossacks fought around Sarechamps Farm. The Russian cavalry were eventually destroyed, but at some cost to the French with the I Cavalry Corps demoralised. The Guard cavalry pushed back the Prussian light cavalry in the south. By 3pm, when the fog cleared, the Allies had gathered around Fromentières and it was clear that the French offensive was gathering pace. Blücher ordered II Corps to form up in road mode to retire while Kaptsevich’s men held Fromentières. The French paused to gather their forces and a 6pm took the western part of the town. But Blücher ordered a general retreat and the Russians pulled back as night fell.
Counting up the VPs the Coalition had managed a marginal victory - losses were roughly equal, but the Allies had not been driven off the map as historically.
So an overall conclusion on these three scenarios. Each is a scrappy affair, unlike the great set piece battles one imagines make up a Napoleonic battle. But thinking about it, outside the Peninsula, of Napoleon’s battles of the Empire Austerlitz, Eylau (day 2) Wagram, Borodino, Lützen, Bautzen, Dresden (Day 2), Leipzig, Ligny and Waterloo were battle when both sides were expecting a stand up fight (and one could argue about Ligny). All the other battles in one way or another were meeting engagements. The difference with these three is the size of the forces. The strongest French formation in terms of strength points is the Old Guard (31 SP); the average infantry formation strength is 14 SP. Compare that with French 1806 infantry formations in The Coming Storm, average strength 37 SP, for 1807 24 SP. So this is a different sort of warfare and one that requires more skill. Napoleon had the ability - the question is do we?
So worth playing, and worth playing again - even Champaubert to see if the Russians can make a better fighting retreat. Each scenario offers different possibilities and I look forward to see how they play out as one campaign - will I have Napoleon’s forces as the meat in a sandwich or will he manage the historical one-two to west and east? As my wife is away for a few days over Easter I may not have long to wait before I can get my hands on a larger table and I shall report back then.
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- Prawn KingScotland
A very fine review many thanks. I need to check this game out. The maps are really attractive but I am not so sure about the counters. I guess I have been spoiled by CoA!
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- Cihan U.Germany
Thanks for the AAR; I just got my game today and am looking forward to trying out the scenarios.
How did you handle the hidden units rule? I mean, how did you "forget" the enemy units, since you were playing solitaire?
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