Category Archives: Napoleonic

Battles, Campaigns & Other Thoughts

I have been reflecting this week on the role of one-off games, historical refights and linked games. While the following has a Napoleonic and American Civil War references I see the concept as equally applicable to Ancient warfare through to the Cold War.

Regular readers will recall the American Civil War 160th anniversary series recently played. That is, six major historical battles all played in sequence. Casualties in one battle didn’t influence the next, but in some ways I likened it to being something of a campaign, though without all the hard work that comes with a campaign. The down side with such an intensive historical series is there was much terrain to be built, often in a short space of time between historical battles. Indeed, I completely failed to grasp the work required. The net result being my planned miniature painting for the year has suffered. Despite that, the project was extremely satisfying and I plan to repeat it in some form, though with different battles.

The next idea was to fight a small series of games leading to a larger game. Free from the restraints imposed by historical terrain fictional encounters seemed to offer less work. This series is also now complete. My cunning plan was to play two smaller encounters first before ending the series with a larger game with all set in 1813. The first involved the Prussians and Russians engaged against the French at the Battle of Aulzhausen in August 1813, shown below. This was a typical Friday evening game with the situation generated by a scenario system we use.

The second battle found the Prussians and Russians again engaged at the Battle of Zollengen, now set in early October 1813. Again no casualties were carried over.

The final battle of the series was that of the Battle of Kleindorf set in the middle of October 1813. This last game found Austrians, Russians and Prussians engaged against the French. While also a fictional the situation was influenced by that south of Leipzig and would result in well over 3,000 miniatures deployed and shown here.

I was pleased with the concept and how it played out. While I didn’t advertise it as a series of linked games to the players, it was my intent as is evident to the reader referencing the supposed battle dates. I think there is some merit in exploring mechanisms to enhance these games further. But what mechanisms should I consider?

The first and most obvious is casualties from one game feeding in to the next. However, I am nervous that will add too much complexity and potentially distract from the concept of an enjoyable game at the end of a busy week. The next is the outcome of a game influencing where the next battle will be fought. As I write this I am pondering the battles that made up the series of engagements between the French and their allies against the Austrians in 1809. The result of one battle influencing the location of the next.

Clearly more thought is required on my part. I wonder if others have experimented with such concepts and what worked, or indeed what didn’t?

Battles on Small Tables

We frequently play reasonably large Volley & Bayonet games, often involving two or more corps. Occasionally we play large games with several corps on each side. However, recently an opponent and I thought we would try playing remotely using Skype. As a result I thought it best to try a smaller game on equally small table. After a little thought Mollwitz was selected. With around 20,000 troops per side, as well as a small physical battlefield, measuring just 2’ x 2’ in our ground scale, it seemed ideal.

After building a snow covered battlefield the miniatures were deployed for what was a fascinating engagement. A summary of the first game can be found here. A week later we refought Mollwitz again. This time I recorded a summary of the game as a video. For those so inclined it can be found here.

More recently we deployed the miniatures again, but this time for a Napoleonic encounter. The battle selected was an old favourite, specifically, Teugn-Hausen from the 1809 Campaign. Again a relatively small table is required, measuring 3’ x 2’.

This battle, while still small, was more complex to refight due to the terrain – a particularly complex wooded ridge and various reinforcements throughout the battle. Despite these additional complexities it proved rewarding and closely followed the historical battle. I have compiled another short video report which can be found here.

Now it’s time to think of something suitable for our next remote game. Ideally it needs to be fought on a reasonably small battlefield with limited troops…

Epic Napoleonic

Well, what an interesting couple of weeks there have been with the announcement that Warlord Games are releasing their new “Epic Napoleonic” range. Which for those not aware are a range of 13mm high miniatures in plastic often cast in strips. The range is rather proprietary, being at odds with most existing figure ranges. The intent of course is to make larger games more accessible with many more figures on a table. The announcement can be found here. I do enjoy reading marketing announcements which identify something as “new”.

Well, so what will the gamer planning on fighting epic Napoleonic games receive. Well, it seems a great range of bundles covering everything a wargamer could possibly want. There will be British and French infantry supported by cavalry and artillery. There will even be an instant sandpit and fruit trees, which is such a relief. All will be available from 2022. It seems we must wait for some Germans just like Wellington had to. As to Austrians, Russians and all those other colourful armies, apparently they were involved in the Napoleonic Wars. So they will may appear, if there is money to be made.

In the meantime I will clearly have to make do with deploying my existing 6mm miniatures for battle as illustrated here. Fortunately my collection does include Austrians, Russians and Prussians.

The news of the release however has seen plenty of posts on the internet, well in the little corner that I frequent. Opinions of course are varied. A few comments by 28mm players seem to show disappointed by the announcement. Some point out that there is little figure variation while others that the range is too narrow or the choice of the Hundred Days Campaign is flawed. The cynic in me can’t help wonder if some feel abandoned by their plastic supplier of choice who once made 25mm, or was that 28mm, affordable. Now perhaps they have been abandoned as a new money making venture dawns on the horizon.

My reading suggests a number of 15mm gamers are equally perplexed. Having long decried the 28mm market as being overpriced a number seem drawn to the perceived cost advantages of plastics, but being clearly heavily invested in their existing figures are, no doubt, cautious to adopt something “new”. Others point to the cunning marketing machine that will replace the initial “cheap” plastics with specialist figures in resin or metal.

I’ve not yet seen much discussion in 6mm groups regarding the announcements. I’m not sure if this is because 6mm proponents don’t feel threatened or because they are accepting that 6mm Napoleonics is already something of a niche. Then perhaps 6mm gamers are more focused on scale creep between the existing 6mm manufacturers, where an increase of just one milimetre equates to around a 16% “scale“ variation.

From my perspective I don’t feel at all threatened by the announcement. Napoleonic wargaming has always been diverse with more rules and scales than one can imagine. I generally see variety as being a good thing, it is after all a diverse hobby, though I become frustrated at the religious fervour sometimes adopted. Some will see Warlord’s range as an affordable way to refight larger games, which is positive.

However, I suspect that the additional figures which likely will become available will stretch the affordability equation. In addition the realisation that painting several thousand figures is an investment in time, perhaps a greater investment than initially considered. I am less impressed by the proprietary basing, which I think threatens to reduce the long term reusability of the figures. But then the Black Powder rules have been around for a while and are enjoyed by many so perhaps that’s a mute point.

Now while I won’t be buying any of the figures I will be watching the Warlord announcements play out on social media. At the same time I shall continue to happily paint 6mm Napoleonics drawn from my well stocked lead mountain.

Waterloo & Wavre Anniversary Battles

The anniversary of the Battles of Waterloo & Wavre have come and gone. As planned we managed to mark the anniversary this year with two battles played simultaneously on two separate tables.

Fought over a single evening some 2,600 6mm miniatures sought advantage, attacking with as much determination as their historical counterparts.

For those interested a summary of both battles can be found here.

The Road to Brussels

The other week one of my wargaming friends pointed out that the anniversary of the battles of Waterloo and Wavre would fall this year on a Friday. With Friday evenings being a regular gaming night it seemed fitting to mark the anniversary in some way. The question that perplexed me was how?

My armies for the Waterloo, while well progressed, are currently incomplete as I have insufficient Prussians – just two corps of the required three of Waterloo. In addition my revised terrain for the battle is not ready. Clearly an historical refight of Waterloo was not achievable. Wavre was of course one option and I find this an enjoyable battle to refight. But we have refought it recently. Clearly some additional thought was required on how to mark the anniversary.

In the end I came up with a scenario that assumes the Prussians have fallen back along their line of communication towards Namur, instead of towards Wavre, and Wellington redeploys to the east in an effort to retain some semblance of contact with the Prussians.

Our scenario will see two battles played simultaneously. The main battle will see Wellington facing Napoleon on the northern table. Meanwhile the smaller battle, where the Prussians will be engaged against Grouchy, will be on the southern table. In addition with limited time on a Friday evening a scaled down battle will be required. Having completed the orders of battle, all based on the historical battles, the situation can be described generally as follows, the wording taken from the player briefings:

The twin battles of Quatre Bras and Ligny fought on the 16th of June were extremely bloody affairs. The Prussians suffered particularly heavy casualties and the three Prussian Corps involved at Ligny were split in the chaos following the battle. They have fallen back on their lines of communication towards Namur though becoming more dispersed in the process. Wellington, aware that Napoleon is trying to split the allied armies, has moved his army east in an attempt to remain in communication with Blucher. To do this he has establishing a new line of communication with Brussels via the Brussels to Wavre Road.

Napoleon pursuing east has dispatched a portion of his army, including those troops under Grouchy, to cover parts of the dispersed Prussian forces while protecting his own left and rear from attack from those British forces deployed around Hal. Napoleon has his main army concentrated against the Anglo-Allied army commanded by Wellington. Wellington has drawn up his army to halt the Emperor. Unfortunately his position is not as strong as that around Mont-St Jean where he had planned to fight. On the morning of the 18th of June the Emperor has assembled something in the order of 42,000 foot, 10,000 cavalry & 118 guns in his immediate vicinity. Wellington meanwhile has at his disposal some 38,000 foot, 9,000 cavalry and 100 guns, though the quality of his army is mixed.

Simultaneously a smaller French army, commanded by Marshal Grouchy, is facing those Prussian forces nearer the Anglo-Allied army. Grouchy forces are unfortunately not fully concentrated. Initially they comprise Vandamme’s III Corps of some 16,000 infantry, 1,000 cavalry and 36 guns. Opposite the Prussians have drawn up Pirch’s II Corps. This comprises 24,000 infantry, 3,000 cavalry and 60 guns. Like Grouchy’s French the Prussians are also not fully concentrated with additional forces likely to arrive. When and where these reinforcements arrive is not yet clear.

Currently we should have six players involved. Four on the northern table and two on the southern. I hope this will provide an enough room for confusion and command challenges, while providing some opportunity to model the impact of these twin battles. Only time will tell of course.