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Subject: Maloyaroslavets “get there firstest with the moistest” rss

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Andrew Hobley
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And finally the last of the battles in this package makes it to the table and quite a contrast to the slugfest of Borodino, or the mass army marching at Smolensk. Let’s start with the set up -

Setup

Yes, four French unit, five Russians and one Russian Leader! Everyone else is sitting on the reinforcement schedule. General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s quote in the title is very relevant to this game.

Historically we are at 23 October 1812. Moscow has been taken and burnt and the French are now retiring (not retreating!) to spend the winter at Smolensk. Napoleon could either have matched back the way he came, via the looted countryside, or headed south via Kaluga or Medyn. He decided on the later. En route the army has to cross the Luzah River at the town of Maloyaroslavets. The French are coming down the road from Borovsk on the upper left map edge, the road running off the south edge of the map leads to Kaluga lies south, Medyn lies south-west. The Russian army is at Tarutino, on the road on the upper right map edge.

Maloyaroslavets itself lie on the east bank of the river (at this point a stream for game purposes), coving the bridge over the marshy road crossing. A monastery (Chateau in game terms) cover the crossing, in the town a church provides a strongpoint. And between them nestle the hex with 10 Victory points – the only ones on the map. The French can also try to cut the road the Kaluga and get 2 VP for each Russian baggage train on map if they manage that.

The key area of the map

The Russians have realised the French are heading for the crossing; at start Platov Cossacks are marching for the town, as are the Italians of Eugene’s IV Corps with 13 Division well ahead of the rest and with cavalry in the town itself.

One important point is this was played with the revised setup (see http://talk.consimworld.com/WebX?14@@.1ddab8e6/403 and the headers to that forum) so will be different from other games played before April 2015. And of importance is the change (which of course I cannot find now) that baggage trains enter with the unit commander or at the end of the formation - your choice. That amendment made a difference to the second game when the baggage come on with IV Corps first reinforcements and so stopped the French advance units being out of supply at 9am.

So to battle at 5pm with two turns before nightfall. Platov’s cavalry reach the town, occupying the monastery. The French attack, driving one unit out and inflicting heavy losses on another, at some costs to themselves. But night falls before they can cross the bridge (being out of command they cannot advance after combat). The cavalry in the church comfortably repel the Cossacks. But by nightfall Dokhturov and his leading elements have arrived, Eugene and the rest of IV Corps are marching down the road to the town as fast as they can go.

Nighfall

At night General Miloradovitch and two units of Russian heavy cavalry turn up [Alternative Reinforcement card played at 6pm] so will provide some much needed leadership for the Russians [who otherwise rely on the officers succeeding with their initiative rolls]. For the French 5 Division of 1st Corps also arrives.

At daybreak on 24th Dokhturov failed to wake early and Huard’s division of IV Corps crossed the bridge and occupied the monastery. Eugene crossed the river, and began assaulting the town, where his cavalry advance guard had finally been driven from the church. But he was handicapped by being out of supply (and so not able to advance after combat) and by the I Corps units being out of command, failing to move and stopping the rest of IV Corps arriving quickly. For the Russians Raevski’s VII Corps was arriving, the Cossacks had moved to Pokrov in case the French tried a flank attack.

10 am

Unsupported and isolated Eugene’s men were overrun by Raevski and Dokhturov; Eugene himself managed to cross back over the river. By 12 noon the Russians held the town and the crossing, the French IV Corps had pulled off the road to allow I Corps to come up while Eugene reorganised his routed troops. And for the Russians the Guard Corps had turned up [another Alternate Reinforcement].

12 noon

On the Russian left the Guard cavalry and II Cavalry corps emerged from the woods and drove back the Cossacks. Reinforced by Moeller’s I Cavalry the Russians held the French back from the roads. On the right the I, II and IV French cavalry crossed the river and for a time cut the Russian supply line at Romanva, at the same time as Eugene sent the Italian Guard and 15th division across. The Russian reinforcements proved too strong for the French, Grouchy and II Cavalry being overwhelmed, and Russian VIII Corps repelling the Italians.

In the centre Davout had organised I Corps to attack the town. He managed to push into the monastery and the lower town, while also crossing the river to the west. But Dokhturov (who had moved to the left), Raevski and the Guard proved too strong and not only threw the French back, but trapped and destroyed two divisions.

5pm

Chastened and defeated the French fell back. Not only had they been badly damaged and were falling back along a road bare of supplies but a victorious Russian army was on their tail!

Adding up the VPs the French had lost 69SP, the Russians 9SP. Three I Corps Divisions, IV Corps and II Cavalry were demoralised. Adding in the VPs for card played (French -14, Russians -13) the net score was -14 to +17– a Russian strategic victory.

Having bungled this badly as the French I decided to have another go. As this is not a monster battle another play through was much easier to contemplate and set up.

This time the French resisted the lure of an alternative reinforcement (aka a road block), but Russian locals did delay the second day French reinforcements for two hours. To balance this Platov and Dokhturov dithered with the result by 10 am Eugen was across the river, although not in force.

10am The results of Russian dithering.

This state of affairs did not last long when General Miloradovitch and Raevski’s men arrived and by 1pm the town and monastery were in Russian hands.

Eugene crossed the stream to the south to try and outflank the town, as Bessieres and Sebastiani led their cavalry towards Pokrov and Terentyeva. The Cossacks and Moeller’s I Cavalry were driven back – and in the case of Russian I Cavalry almost wiped out. Eugene pushed towards the road and the south of the town, not helped by all his artillery having to stay on the other side of the river [I was playing the ‘artillery have wheels and can only cross steams at bridges’ house rule]. A Corsican former artillery officer was able to organise them into a battery – admittedly in a marsh – to bombard the Russians to the north of the town. Davout took I Corps and crossed the river to the north, with the cavalry to his north. By late afternoon the French attack was in full swing.

4pm The French attack

And by nightfall disaster – in the left Grouchy and II Cavalry Corps had been surrounded and destroyed, III Cavalry had been hit, with Latour wounded and dying next day, on the right part of the Guard cavalry had been routed and I Corps had been pushed back to the river, with Teste’s brigade routed.

6pm The French attack held

Counting the bodies the last two turns had seen the French take considerable losses, 46 VPs to the Russians 12VP . IV and two French cavalry corps were demoralised and adding in the cards it was -6 to +14 or another Russian Strategic Victory.

And my thoughts on this scenario? Certainly a battle worth returning to. Fortune favoured the Russians both times, what will happen if the opposite happens? But it is tricky for the French; lots of forces entering on one hex – there was a huge off map traffic jam on many turns. Do you enter in road mode and move faster, but take up more space, or stacked and move slower? Do you push for the nasty pocket in front of the town and try and get across the bridge, or wade through the marshes?

And the saddest thing is the state of the French cavalry. There you are, a stack of four units and a leader whose SPs total – 4! Gone are the days of triumphal French cavalry riding down all in front of it.

So having played all the scenarios in Napoleon Against Russia will I be back again? You bet, each scenario has something more to offer. But now, after a break with WW1, I may finally get to Leipzig!
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christopher moeller
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Terrific replays, Andrew! Maloyaroslavets has always fascinated me. We need to revisit it with the new errata. Your playing feels much closer to history than ours did. I love the "arc" that these four games have, with the French all pumped up and feeling their oats at Smolensk, and limping home by the end. You can really feel the difference.

Enjoy WWI. I look forward to seeing you again at Leipzig

-Chris
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Lance McMillan
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Thanks for sharing the AAR, Andrew. Very well written.

The more I look at the Maloyaroslavets situation, the more I'm convinced that it's a weighted contest that the French almost preordained to lose. It's fascinating from an historical perspective, but not a particularly balanced (or fun) scenario from a game standpoint.
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Kevin Zucker
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Hi Lance,

I think the situation is a blast; it's one of those you can even enjoy losing! I reckon Andrew was enjoying himself enough to play it twice.

As Andrew mentions, we had play balance problems initially, in favor of the French. With the April update we switched the first player and the reinforcement schedule. I think the game is pretty balanced now.

Note that Andrew got Miloradovich (Commander Card) in both playings.

One of the many weird things about the situation, was the fact that the French could have grabbed the town overnight but just chose to bivouac short of there on the 23rd.
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Lance McMillan
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kzucker wrote:
...we had play balance problems initially, in favor of the French. With the April update we switched the first player and the reinforcement schedule. I think the game is pretty balanced now.


Good to know. I'll assme that Andrew's two games were somewhat atypical then, 'cause the impression I came away with from his accounts was that things were rather one-sided.

kzucker wrote:
Andrew got Miloradovich (Commander Card) in both playings.


True -- excellent point. I noticed that when reading the AARs but it didn't "click" about what a profound impact a Commander could have until you pointed it out. Duh!

kzucker wrote:
One of the many weird things about the situation, was the fact that the French could have grabbed the town overnight but just chose to bivouac short of there on the 23rd.


Yeah, the more I study this period the more instances of "if they'd just kept marching for another hour or two..." I run across. Another example of this would be Schmettau halting just shy of Hassenhausen on the 13th during the 1806 campaign; had he just kept moving for another hour the battle of Auerstadt would've been very different. It's amazing how lackadasical some of the officers were about taking their assigned objectives.
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Kevin Zucker
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> It's amazing how lackadasical some of the officers were about taking their assigned objectives.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this subject for me is the Human angle, trying to discover how they thought about the events they were in the middle of.
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Andrew Hobley
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Thanks for the comments gents.

Yes, I am very tempted to try this again, but without the cards, and thus without the random element (which did end up pro-Russian). I can see a different and plausible sequence of events will get the French into the town and the Russians struggling to throw them out.

I liked Chris's comments about the 'game arc' for this package, makes a change from Napoleon triumphant by the end of it in 'Coming Storm' and The Last Success: Napoleon's March to Vienna, 1809.
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Cihan U.
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Andrew, thank you very much for your AARs. One little question: when playing solitaire, do you skip the hidden units mechanic of the game? Vedettes, etc. You simply play everything revealed, correct?
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