- Andrew Hobley(Andrew H)United Kingdom
After Wachau – Möckern onto the final day of the Battle of the Nations, and the most counters you will ever see on a ‘Library of Napoleonic Battles’ map. 18 October 1813 sees Napoleon preparing to withdraw in the face of overwhelming Allied numbers. Unlike the other scenarios there are no victory points for holding locations. The French get VP for each unit they withdraw (or which is in supply at the end of the game); both sides get VP for destroying enemy units.
At the start of the day most of the French are on the west side of the Pleisse and Elster rivers. The only crossing points they control are the road and bridge at Leipzig and a route via the trail that runs from south of Leipzig to Palgwitz via Schleußig. The card which can bring in the bridging train has been removed from the pack for this scenario, so that is it for crossing points.
The French have IV Corps and the Corps of Observation on the west side of the river, ready to push back the remnants of the Austrian units which had tried to take Lindeau on the 16th. Marmont and the remnants of his VI Corps, along with Reyner’s Saxons of VII Corps hold the north-east, with Soham’s II Cops in reserve. Further south V and XI Corps hold the south-east and II Corps and the Poles of VII Corps hold the southern flank. The Cavalry Corps and the Guard are in reserve.
The Allies have the army of Bohemia, with the powerful Russian and Prussian Guard to the south. Bennsingen and the Army of Poland (not as strong as its name suggests) threaten the French south-east. To the north Blücher and the remnants of Army of Silesia await the arrival of the Army of the North, having almost cleared the French from north of the Parthe river.
The Allied plan was to push north along the Pleisse and south-west along the Parthe, so squeezing the French and threatening the city. The French plan was to evacuate the baggage, use the forces west of the river with II Young Guard to clear the retreat and the I Young Guard to hold the city.
The day began in rain, with the Allied Guard scattered. Early Allied attacks took Dorlitz and Holzhausen; the French pulled back their salient in the extreme south-east to hold Probstheida. Allied attacks on the fortified village around noon were repulsed, but to the north the French V and IX Corps were driven back, to Stöttreritz, exposing the French flank. The French Guard Cavalry came into the line to try and hold the Allied advance west of Zweinaundorf as Probstheida was abandoned on the approach of the Allied Guard. Early afternoon attacks by the Army of Bohemia were initially repulsed, with Connewitz changing hands, but a French counter attack south of Stötteritz was a disaster with the French line being forced back, and the Allied Guard pushing deep into the French lines towards Thornberg, disrupting French attempt to hold a coherent line. From 3pm Simmer’s French brigade of 36 Division, XI Corps, was isolated in Stötteritz church. They held out in a magnificent defence, finally being overrun at 9:30 am the next morning when their ammunition ran out.
To the north the Prussians threw a pontoon bridge over the river at Gohlis and I Prussian Corps crossed to try and cut the road line to the west. Oudinot and the Young Guard met them in the woods between the rivers, drove them back and destroyed the bridge.
In Leipzig itself traffic moved very slowly, as command problems meant combat units failed to move to make way for the baggage. It was not until 1pm the trains began to cross the bridges and at 2pm Ney was sent to provide a degree of traffic control while Napoleon and Murat managed the defence.
In late morning Blücher’s army had crossed the river at Mockau and Plösen. They drove back Marmont and Reynier and as Bülow’s powerful III Prussian Corps arrived the Saxons were badly hit. By 3pm the French line ran along the Sellerhausen stream, before collapsing at Reudnitz and allowing the Russians to get to within 600 yards of the city walls before nightfall. VII Corps baggage train was trampled underfoot in one French retreat. In the south the Allied Guard had taken Thonberg and Sebastiani and Reynier had been killed.
As the French line contacted various Allied Corps became spectators as there was no space for them in the line. Barclay took advantage of this by ordering the Austrian Reserve Corps to march across the rivers to the south and march to Knautkleeberg on the west of the Elster to try and cut off the French line of retreat. At nightfall Kleinau’s Prussian Corps was ordered to follow the Austrians.
Way out west Bertrand and the Young Guard had advanced to Markranstädt to clear the line of retreat, but (due to command difficulties) had not actually attacked the Austrians. Various French commanders had crossed the bridge and were rallying what they could of their Corps in the fields to the west of Lindeau.
That day saw the French lose 142 SP with seven Corps demoralised; the Allies lost 56 SP with one Corps demoralised.
The 19th dawned frosty and the Allies quickly attacked. The French XI Corps went down fighting, the Allies pressed up to the city wall where from mid-morning it was a massacre as the French could not retreat over the city walls [45 French SP eliminated in one turn]. The Oldest of the Old died defending the Grimmaishes Tor and the 1st Young Guard fell in the city.
Napoleon arrived to command the retreat and the II Young Guard smashed a way through the Austrians at Markranstädt. But the Allies were crossing the Elster in force to the south, and the Russian Guard had pushed across the Schleußig bridges to emerge south of Lidenau, pushing back the remains of the Old Guard. It was looking like it was going to be a contested retreat.
Ending the game at 1pm the body count was French losses of 189, Allied of 63, and a Coalition Strategic Victory.
After the game I did what Napoleon and Bacler d’Albe would have done – got out the map and the movement callipers (or rather some counters) and did some calculations.
It costs 1 MP to cross a bridge unless in road mode, when there is no cost, and if on a road you only pay ½ MP. There are four bridges to cross to get from inside the Ranstädter Tor to past Lidenau. So moving normally that will cost 12 MP or three turns (if any unit other than cavalry) to move two stacked units to safety. In road mode this will only cost five MP (including one to move into Road mode) to move one unit, as no stacking is allowed, and you can only have units in road mode in alternate hexes if on a road.
There is also the trail that runs from south of Leipzig to Palgwitz via Schleußig – five bridges to get across the Pleisse, Elster and their tributaries and each hex costs 1 MP as this is a trail, not a road.
There are about 120 French combat units and 14 baggage trains to get across the river. If you prioritise the baggage, play 13 turns from 10 am on the 18th to 1 pm on the 19th, use both routes and road mode for all units then all the baggage and around 42 infantry or artillery units make it to the other side of the river and certain safety, plus the 18 French units already there. One thing I temporarily forgot was that Leipzig is a French supply source, so there is no worry about withdrawing the baggage and leaving corps out of supply.
Of course if you move the cavalry off after the baggage then more units will escape as they move faster. This assumes no command or other hold ups, and that the French hold both crossings to the end of the game. But either way most of the French units will not cross the river.
So if you are playing the campaign game as the French, and have not achieved a battlefield victory on the first few days then plan to start your escape early, unlike Napoleon.
And now there is only Hannau left to try out.
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- robert lindsay(lcrl)United States
- You dont seem to be using the veddettes, is that correct?
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- Andrew Hobley(Andrew H)United Kingdom
Neither side have many veddettesin this game and there is very little opportunity to try to fool the other side with hidden movement in this scenario.
Although playing solo I do cover up the 'other side' when necessary - but leave the masking counters off for the photos.
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