A couple of weeks ago a Gentleman from west London contacted me about the possibility of running a one day game. Usually I only run battles over a weekend, however the group of guys he had in mind were all seasoned veterans and he was keen to get a chance of a game at the centre. Their “club” games are generally held on a Monday night, with some of the best looking figures a General could ask for.
So why would they want to come along to the Wargames Holiday Centre? Well their Table isn’t quite as long and isn’t quite as wide, they also don’t have as many figures, so they wanted to get a big game, on a bigger table and with thousands and thousands of figures.
So, what to play? I suggested Marengo at first but this is a game of manoeuvre with a lot less figures, great game, but more for the 8-10 numbers of players. Leipzig would be too big!
Then the suggestion of a “what if” came about, take the battlefield of Eylau, move it three months on instead of Friedland there could be a battle there without the snow. Then to throw a little more weight behind the Russians, how about the Guard being available. Sounds good to me, over a hundred battalions of Russians, a similar number of French infantry. Lots of French and Russian Heavy cavalry and quite a few batteries of artillery.
Well when could we fit it in? I had a weekend booked for Austerlitz which had little takers, it was Mothers day and this seemed to put you dutiful boys off, as well it should! This seemed okay for these chaps though, I think the pressies and calls to Mother had all been done and dusted by the day of choice. I know I had!
So eight divisions of Russian infantry with attached cavalry and artillery along with the reserve cavalry corps under Price Galitzin, faced nine divisions of French infantry, four divisions of heavy cavalry and the Guard.
The defensive plan for the Russians was to array the entire Russian line from east to west from the villages of Serpallen to Schloditten. The Cavalry Corps and the Russian Guard were held in reserve and released on a die roll of 5,6 and 6 respectively on a d6 at the beginning of each turn.
The French deployed three divisions of Soults corps from Opposite Serpallen to Preussich – Eylau, supported by the Cuirassier division, Wathier’s Light division and Klein’s Dragoon division. Further west the corps of Augerau deployed, Grouchy and Lasalle forming their support. The French Imperial Guard were held in reserve with the Guard cavalry and were released on turns 5 and 3 respectively.
The game started with a huge cannonade along the whole front, the French began to advance along a broad front right in to the teeth of the Russian Gun line. Davout would arrive on the roll of a die and the further North they came on, the number required increased. Turn two saw the first French Divisions arrive on the flank though, Friant arriving behind the Russian line, heading straight for the support of Serpallen. Friant’s division was quickly followed by Gudin arriving just south of Friant along with the Light cavalry division of Davout’s III Corps.
The defenders of Serpallen gritted their teeth and began to open up on the advancing troops of Legrand’s division. Shortly after the arrival of Davout the Russian Guard was released and seven battalions of the Russian’s best troops began to march along the roads heading for the eastern wing of the Russian army.
In the centre the divisions of St. Hilaire and Leval marched steadily toward the defenders of the Russian centre and the ridge line west of Serpallen.
To the far west the Light cavalry division of Lasalle’s poured across the stream and engaged the hordes of Cossack sotnias swarming on to the plain from the west. After a few turns of intense fighting the cavalry had been seen off and the Russians began to advance on to the divisions of Augerau’s Corps.
Augerau’s men had already suffered at the hands of the Russian artillery and the French felt that the opportunity to turn the French left was too great to miss. Three divisions of Russian infantry set off from the defensive line, their divisional cavalry attempting to keep the Dragoons of Grouchy at bay.
The village of Serpallen erupted into a hot bed of fire and melee, the Russians, fearing the flanking force had limited supports for the village and eventually it fell to the troops of Legrand’s division. The French occupiers then began to pour fire into the Russians causing more of them to retreat. A new defensive line needed to be drawn up and quick.
The Russians in the centre sent reports that the French Guard was now moving to attack the Russian line just west of the ridge of Serpallen.
The battery defending this area had been overrun and the French were advancing freely. The Russian division behind this battery stepped forward and began to remove the guns, their intent to close with the French Guard at the point of the bayonet. On the right flank of this division the Cavalry corps of Prince Galitzin was emerging, the French Guard, seeing the Russian Cuirassier regiments hastily formed square. Now was the time for the Russian infantry, get them while they were pinned in squares!
Davout began to pour on the pressure, all the III Corps was now on the table, lined out and pouring volley after volley into the luckless Russians. The Russian Guard formed up and began to advance into the teeth of this maelstrom, the Guard Cavalry supporting them charging headlong into the deployed French Lines, crashing through some of them!
The defenders of Serpallen had now fallen back further North, the Russian divisions attempting to reform, however each time this was attempted the French either charged them with their Light cavalry or fired murderous volleys into the milling masses.
The Russians on the far right continued their advance while the troops of Augerau’s Corps formed a new defensive line south of the stream. Now it was the Russians turn to suffer at the hands of the artillery, great swathes were cut through some of the battalions, still they trudged forward!
In the centre, the Russian division had just clearing the debris from the battery when the first volley from the Old Guard tore into them, one of the lead battalions immediately dropped to fifty percent strength!
The other two lead battalions suffered twenty to thirty percent casualties, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. No, they were committed now, Galitzins cavalry put in a charge which was repelled, the supporting Cuirassier squadron left in the open took fire for another two turns before retiring. Finally the Russians had an opportunity to get a charge onto the Guard line, four ranks deep, the Cuirassier could still break the line with consumate ease, as long as their morale held! The charge was declared, the Old Guard tested…….RETREAT!
Now was the time, the charge from the Cuirassier took them through the supporting line, this now being only two deep and unformed. The firing phase couldn’t come quick enough for the Russians, this could swing the battle!
The time came, the French player paused, rolled the d10 for distance and got a “0” short range, wow this would go to the wire, the roll for effect……11, uh oh! The cuirassier squadron now needed a score of 13 on three d6…..nine!!! “TURN and Flee” the result! The Guardsmen had saved their name!
This was pretty much the last throw of the game. The Russians had left it a little too late to counter attack and the gun battery in the centre had caused more problems to the defenders than the attackers! The Russian Guard was taking heavy casualties and had been pinned quite successfully by Davout and the retreating Russians from Serpallen.
All in all a great day, the honours were shared on both sides with some real die hard fights for control of Serpallen and the surrounding area. The Russians to the west were now looking to extricate themselves with minimal loss, while their cavalry covered the retreat!
A stirring French victory, my thanks to the participants from London.