On Saturday I had the absolute privilege of taking part in my first ever large scale Napoleonic game down at the Warlords ‘Big Game Saturday’ and it was bleeding marvellous!
We were playing through the attack of the extreme left wing of the Army of Bohemia during the late afternoon/evening of the first day of the battle of Dresden, 1813 using a ‘big battle’ form of General de Brigade and a mighty battle it was. The Austrians started the game with 1524 infantry and 274 cavalry figures and the French started with 680 infantry and 48 cavalry on table, rising to 1160 infantry and 312 cavalry (thanks for the info Des).
We had fellow South London Warlord Mr Des Darkin to thank for putting on the game – and we can not thank him enough – which had 8 players involved, 4 from the SLW: Me, Alan, Ian and Warren and 4 from the Loughton Strike Force: Andy, Dave, Del and Gary. Des had mixed the two sides up which I thought was a great idea as the Loughton chaps were so familiar with the rules (as they should be!) it made the game flow so much easier.
I was taking the role of Bianchi and my fellow Austrians (Dave, Alan and Del) and I were tasked with taking the line of villages to our front and then marching on towards the suburbs of Dresden. Trying to stop us doing this were Warren, Ian, Andy and Gary who were stretched in a thin looking defensive line between and in the villages we had to secure.
The photo above shows the starting positions of the two armies – Austrians on the left, French on the right. The Austrians were set up thusly, from the top of the photo down (left to right), Dave with Crenneville’s 3rd Reserve Division, Alan with Mesko’s 3rd Light Division, me with Bianchi’s 2nd Reserve Division and Del with Weissenwolf’s 2nd Line Division, we also had Schneller’s 3rd Cavalry Division off table in reserve. Our plan was pretty simple – take the villages and march on Dresden although we did need to do a bit of manoeuvring though as Del and I needed to shift right a tad to take our objectives and Dave was to sweep round behind once he had broken through on the flank – simple but effective and given the tightness of our initial dispositions practical too.
My plan was to send one brigade to the left of the village and one to the right of the village (also needed to keep tied in to Del’s left flank), force the French back and if needed to use my 3rd brigade to either exploit any successes or to steamroller the defenders of the village if they had not evacuated by then.
So we got to it and nearly immediately things started to go slightly awry with both Del and I rolling badly at the start of the 2nd move and each having a brigade go ‘hesitant’ meaning they couldn’t move – part of the rules we were using for running large battles are that a roll for each brigade is done at the beginning of the move and if they fail they go ‘hesitant’ – and thus slowing us down in developing our attack to the right of the village.
From here on in things started to get really busy and my best intentions of taking photo’s and keeping notes of what was going on to enable a beautifully written, detailed batrep went out of the window with having to concentrate on what was going on (that Moltke bloke was clever weren’t he!), and I can only give you a rough idea about what went on in the other parts of the battle. Just after the above photo was taken Gary, who was responsible for this part of the French line, decided that the best form of defence WAS attack and charged forwards into Del’s lead battalions – sort of crazy but it did work, killing Del’s brigadier in the process and causing him to fail a brigade morale test which caused him to withdraw and spend time re-organising.
Meanwhile to the left of this action his other brigade started their assault targeting the battery in the photo and managing to take them out whilst I still had a hesitant brigade buggering up my attack somewhat. To the left of the village I had started to try and whittle down the French with some long range artillery fire whilst my lads bravely trudged forwards. Alan was suffering with the ‘Hesitancy Blues’ too but managed to get into ‘his’ village with his other brigade and things started to look good over on the left. This didn’t last too long however as Dave’s command suffered a brigade test failure too and a dead brigadier as he tried to push Warren back and had to fall back to re-organise.
As you can see from the above photo, the French had brought up their cavalry brigade which caused me to halt my left hand attack as I was worried about them charging in on my flank and had to wait for Alan to clear them away with his cavalry. My right hand battalions got stuck in though and started a trend that ran for most of the day by losing the melee quite convincingly and retreating away – despite being nearly twice the strength! To the right of the village to my front I had managed to unstick my brigade and we launched forwards, my attack initially went well with my lads causing the French battalion to bugger off before we even came to grips with them. Andy, who was defending this sector, decided to use his reserve battalion aggressively to rectify the problem and promptly charged in on the victorious Kaiserlicks, but I was quietly confident that I’d see them off what I hadn’t accounted for however was this………..
Needless to say, much disbelief all round and whoops of joy from the French and my lads streamed back in complete rout!
From here on in it became a bloody battle of attrition as we desperately tried to grind our way forwards before the rapidly arriving French reinforcements could intervene – they had a Heavy Cavalry Division forming a second line already and we could see a huge column of French Young Guard snaking their way out of Dresden.
Over on the left Dave had gotten his lads back into the fray and him and Alan kept up the pressure on Warren pushing him back steadily, although Warren gave a man of the match performance refusing to give up ‘his’ village, retaking it 2 or 3 times by the end of the game and thus stopping Dave from breaking out round the flank.
Alan had some success as well as taking the village and then having to retake it again and again, he had punched a hole through Ian’s line with his cavalry which allowed our reserve cavalry division to exploit through, unfortunately the French had managed to counter the threat with their own cavalry reserve and a massive mounted brawl took place which went to and fro.
I did manage by the end of the battle to push the French back from the left of the village aided by Alan’s cavalry attack although my brigadier did suffer a wound that held things up somewhat and my luck in melee kept letting me down. I also attempted to assault the village on a couple of occasions but kept getting bounced back, Andy’s lads deserve Legion d’Honneurs all round as they were made of extremely stern stuff – even after all the casualties they suffered they kept holding on to the end and had effectively gutted my right hand brigade as they were all dispersed or retreating by the end of the battle. My reserve brigade had made it on he table but I was stuck somewhat for space to deploy it having to wait for the retreating of my right hand brigade to make space for it to start an assault on the village which it unfortunately didn’t get to manage before the end of the game.
On the right Del had also recovered from his initial set back and had managed to take his target village whilst pushing forwards into the space between our two villages although this was slowed down somewhat by the appearance of another French heavy cavalry division – including the Carabinier brigade who were looking cool as usual!
Thus at the end of the day the Austrians had managed to push the French line back somewhat but they had somehow hung on far longer than any of us expected, even though they must have suffered huge casualties doing so, and we had not managed to achieve a decisive breakthrough anywhere. Also we only controlled 2 of the 4 villages (and one of those was lost in the ‘extra’ move we had!) and the French had some serious reinforcements arriving all the time whereas I believe the only uncommitted troops we had was my 3rd brigade – the next day would be very interesting indeed! I think we said a draw was a favourable result – it felt like a loss for me personally as I downright failed to take my objective, but still immense fun.
So, my first ever big scale Napoleonics battle done – it was utterly marvellous, everything I had ever thought a ‘grand manner’ battle would be like. Des deserves immense credit and thanks for organising and putting on the game which was played in the very best of spirits by all the chaps involved which made it an absolute joy to be a part of.
Gentlemen I salute you!
Before some gratuaitous eye-candy shots of the figures (mostly from Des’ collection but with some supplied by Andy) here’s something from Des (used with his permission) to sum up the best bits:
Here’s the OOB for those interested too (again thanks Des): Dresden
And link to Des’ photos: http://s830.photobucket.com/user/desdarkin/slideshow/Dresden%201813
My photos below: