Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Winter 1807 Campaign with SN - French Player reports

"A Stitch in Time"
Marechal Soult, IV Corps

Excerpt from the personal memoirs of General of Division Sainte Hilaire (unpublished):

...We were forced to endure winter quarters in the dreary town of Neumarkt while our estimable Marechal Soult enjoyed the pleasures of the local madam, Frau Blucher. The cavalry seemed particularly frustrated....

    After learning that a winter campaign might be in the offing, we were idle for several days. Marechal Ney who was supposed to be within supporting distance at Niedenburg, had mysteriously disappeared...

    We finally received orders to march on Marienburg by way of Jankovo. Marechal Soult directed us in parallel columns from Neumarkt through Jankovo. We moved with his customary caution/fear, although there was no indication of enemy in the vicinity. As we approached the environs of Marienburg, we could discern the sounds of a desperate battle being fought by Marechal Bernadotte's I Corps. Rather than march directly to his aid, the "Master Maneuverer of Europe" waited until all of our forces were within striking distance. Even then we waited for no reason....perhaps our Marechal waited for the proper die to be cast...

    Our delay in deployment led to a back up of Marechal Murat's Cavalry Corps and eventually the Emperor himself with elements of the Imperial Guard. The Russians were alerted to our presence and had ample time to reinforce their flank to meet and blunt our assault. This proved fatal to the I Corps.

    As the I Corps was being ground into dust, we were approaching Marienburg and were preparing to assault it, supported by Murat to our right, as Marechal Lannes attacked from the east. Unfortunately the Polish February early dusk led to a halt in the action.

French players looking happy bat Marienburg (Danzig)

I do need to recount the results of the massive battle fought at Marienburg the next day and the inestimable effect it has had on the history of Europe....

Toy soldier commander report:

I did move my troops off the Niedenburg table and across the Jankovo table in parallel lines keeping them in supporting distance of each other. This proved to be slow going.

I also did not show myself on the deployment zone at Marienburg until all my forces were in range. On reflection I should have borrowed a page from Davout's book at Auerstadt and marched on piecemeal as I was facing a slower moving enemy.

In effect I was delayed 1 turn by this decision, but then it got worse.

    When I did place my Corps in the DZ, it took up the whole space, and it was during the Russian movement portion of that turn. In game terms that meant I could not move in the following French move, and Scott, as Murat, could not deploy.. The next turn Mike unfortunately finally won the initiative die the worst possible time, as it meant I still could not move. Mike had his move....then the Russians moved....and I was all set to go....until the next turns initiative roll...won by the they got to move again before I could even start!

    What I hoped would be a devastating flank attack was frustrated, first by my own delays, then by the vagaries of the die casts. Scott then had to wait for me to clear out, and I masked half of his force, delaying his deployment further. I think if I had showed myself a turn earlier, even with only half of my forces, and left half of the DZ for Scott, things might have turned out differently.
"For want of a nail..."


"The Bravest of the Brave"
Marechal Ney, VI Corps (Mark M)

Marshal Ney: "I didn't come to march but to fight – and I did, and all day!"

I asked to be the “tip of the spear,” the command most likely to become engaged at the
earliest instant, and James obliged – and in spades – by casting me as Ney. Like Bernadotte's Corps, Ney was stuck out far ahead of the main army. With no orders as to what to do or where to go, I decided to hold my ground and send out light cavalry to find the enemy – which I did, on the very first turn. Both of my scouting brigades found Russian forces, each several divisions strong, and I sent back detailed messages regarding each to the Emperor, including rough maps showing where the Russians were headed.

    Within minutes, the Russians also found me. First one division (under Karl, as Ostermann-Tolstoi) then another under Brian (as Tuchkov), and, soon there after, the Russian C-in-C himself (Peter, as Count Bennigsen) with the Guard. I told them that they were welcome, and while I could not possibly kill them all, I would do my best. After all, as I added, I'm French, I'm Ney, I'm me – and I did not get up at 630 in the morning and drive for 2 and a half hours just to march on parade. I came to fight. And that is just what I did for the next four hours, outnumbered massively in all arms.

    My idea was that I would delay the Russians long enough for either the main army to come to my aid and defeat this portion of the enemy, or that I would keep the Tsar's boys busy long enough for Napoleon to go to help Bernadotte or make some other move he had in mind. I sent no fewer than six messages over the next hour, and it was not until after about 90 minutes of combat that I got the first of four messages from the Emperor: the first was to march to join Bernadotte, the second the same, and the third an order to move to Marienburg (where the main army apparently was heading to save Bernadotte). I could not comply with any of these, however, as I could not disengage, especially as I was so heavily outnumbered in cavalry.

    My battle, however, was not a one-sided affair. For over three of the four hours I was engaged I held my line. I struck out with my cavalry on the right, pulled them back and rallied, then came out on the left and again pulled back to regroup. Some of my four cavalry units were in action every turn, on one or both of my flanks, and they were always successful in throwing back or even destroying enemy units. Ney himself twice led charges – and lived.

Crunch time near Heilsberg as Ney ponders his moves...

    The Russians were closing in, but I managed to hold on for three hours – then their numbers finally started to tell, especially their guns, which included four heavy guns, two medium guns, a horse battery and the guard artillery. My two eight-pounders, however, kept on firing and my infantry held their ground on a hill, but eventually, the weight of Russians finally started to take its toll. By then, as I began my fourth hour of combat, a message came from Napoleon telling me that the survival of my corps was more important than holding back the Russians. Although I had been prepared to fight to the last man – and Marshal – to buy the Emperor time, I decided the time had come to comply. If I could get even a few units off, I could do some good somewhere else.

    My guns fought to the last, as did all but one of my infantry, which I managed to march off covered by a dragoon and a hussar brigade. I tried to get a second infantry away, but it was caught by Bennigsen himself and his guard heavy cavalry. Although greatly reduced in morale, that unit formed hasty square and held on for two turns – not two rounds, but two turns, before finally succumbing. I had lost 12 units but had taken down five, and banged up as many more, and had bought the Emperor four hours.

    Ney and his three remaining units escaped to the south, and began marching to the sound of the guns. I arrived on the Jankovo table where the Prussian L'Estoq (played by another Mark) was quite surprised to see me. I destroyed one of his cavalry units and my presence convinced him to cease his march to the main battle, and deploy to face me. Just then, Brian, who led one of the three Russian divisions I had fought all day, appeared, having been sent to chase me (he had at least 10 units, of all arms), but as he appeared, so did the French reserves under Rapp (Mike, who had died to the last as Bernadotte). To cover Mike's arrival, I did what Ney would do – and charged.

My final charge of the day destroyed a Russian infantry unit – my sixth kill of the day.

    I said I came to fight, and fight I did for almost all of the five hours we spent gaming. I had a great time! Thanks to everyone who played, especially my gracious opponents, and to James and the other organizers, for putting on such a great event.

Can't wait until next time!


"The Iron Marshal meets Russian Steel"
Marshal Davout, III Corps

    I received orders from the Emperor to march to Heilsberg (table H), via Bischofburg (on table U). I approached Bischofburg from the East (Uertelsburg) and encountered Sedmoratzky and the 6th Division. He was well established in the former town, blocking the road to Heilsberg to the south.

    I approached on a broad front, with 1st and 2nd Divisions on my left, and 3rd division and my cavalry on the right. My guns were placed between the Divisions. As I advanced, I refused my right, where Sedmenoratzky had the bulk of his men. This approach used the town as shelter from his powerful battery located in the center of his line. My plan was to envelop Sedmenoratzky’s right and throw him northward to open the road to Heilsberg.

    My 1st Division (Morand) advanced on the Russian regiments to the south of the town. My 2nd Division (Friant) immediately engaged the town and threw the Russians out of the northern buildings. Russian guns sniped at my artillery and my 3rd Division (Gudin). A second effort threw the Russians out of the southern buildings, but the Russians recaptured the northern buildings. The 1st Division mauled the Russians lines south of the town and turned up the road to push in the Russian right. My guns advanced and cleared the town with my heavy battery well-placed on the road to the south of it. The Russian guns seeing the infantry retreat, limbered and joined the move rearward.

    Things had been quiet on the French right, but then the two cavalry brigades on the Russian left advanced on me and Gudin formed square. With my guns advanced on the town, it was up to Marulaz and his Chasseurs to lead charges against these brigades. He did so and panicked the Russian heavy cavalry but was roughly handled by the second Russian cavalry brigade.

    In spite of the vulnerability of my flank, it looked like I would turn the Russian right and win the battle. Most of the Russian infantry was panicked or destroyed when the Russian artillery suddenly unlimbered and poured fire into the 1st Division which was advancing up the road in pursuit of the retreating Russians. Morand was decimated. Friant had been exhausted clearing the town, and thus the overall advance faltered.

    The Russian cavalry attacking my right did not charge, but instead approached my infantry squares and poured fire into them, over time destroying a number of brigades with this tactic. Unable to rally my cavalry, I found no answer to the destruction of my right. Our losses evened out, with Sedmenoratzky eventually enjoying a tactical advantage that only increased when Peter (Bennigsen) came onto the field with a small Guard command via Allenstein (Table A) at days end.

The initial assault on Bischofsburg by Davout's Corps.

The Russians are being bundled out of Bischofburg...

Bischofsburg has fallen, and the Russians have fallen back in apparent disarray!

The massed Russian Artillery strikes back, and the Russian Cavalry begin to employ their unique mounted carbine fire tactic against the French squares.

The battle of Bischofsburg grinds on, slowly wearing down both combatants.

View Halloo! Bennigsen arrives (upper left) with his small but powerful command consisting of 4 units of the Russian Imperial Guard. "Enough is enough", mutters the Iron Marshal.

End of game positions near Bischofsburg


"The Price of Loyalty"
Marshal Augereau, VII Corps "The Price of Loyalty"

GM James holds the pre-game briefing.

Having been reassigned at the last minute to command a French Corps instead of my former Russian Division, I followed the GM's instructions to keep silent as to my most efficient secret service's knowledge of the Russian battle the cost of several comments of 'turn coat' or the like. I took the 'garrison' role at Warsaw, holding my troops the furthest back from battle, and leaving even after Napoleon and his Guard, for whose move I waited on several tables. 

My orders took me from Warsaw to Pultusk to Neumark to Jankovo, where Napoleon himself ordered my VII Corps to 'follow the sound of the guns' to Marienburg. There I waited to enter behind first Murat, and then the Imperial Guard.

Augereau's Corps would have started on Table "W" near Warsaw, then moved on that table to Pultusk (not shown), then here onto table "P". As you can see, this table has connections to tables "B", "N", "S", "W" and "X"! To continue towards Danzig, Augerau had to exit at the P5 road exit, which connects to the N1 entry (deployment zone) on Table "N"... 

Arriving at the N1 deployment zone, Augereau continued his march across Table "N", to the N5 road exit to  Deployment Zone J4the Jankovo table. As long as there are no enemy units on the table, these troops can go as fast as he can move them (assuming no friendly troops are blocking the way), one move at a time. 

Arriving on Table "J" via the N5 exit, Augereau would then enter the J$ deployment zone on Table J, and continue marching across that to the J7 road exit, which leads to the Danzig ("D") table... 

Finally arriving on Table D, Augereau's men can deploy in the D3 deployment area. At just about the same time, Osterman-Tolstoi's 3rd Russian Division (light green highlight) was arriving on Table D from Table "E" (Elditten), and thus Augereau was directed by the Emperor to face off against this new force. to join the French attack on Marienburg.    "Ramblin' Rose.."

I got my full force on the Danzig table just in time to turn to confront the newly arriving Russians [ed. - Osterman-Tolstoi's 2nd Russian Division, which had marched from Heilsberg], consisting of 4 batteries, two heavy cavalry units, 4-5 infantry brigades. Murat offered support from two cavalry units if I'd hold the rear and allow his attack towards Marienburg to proceed, with Lannes (Andrew) on the right flank. Having only one light cavalry unit and two batteries, one of them medium, I quickly agreed, only to find my turn to face the enemy subsumed by total end. Never fired a shot, never took a shot......but great fun and probably the maximum given my turn of roles from Russian to French. I got to see much of the battle of Danzig, while waiting a clear maneuver path to join the battle.


"The Dilemmas of Time and Space"
Emperor Napoleon, French C-in-C and Imperial Guard    (Seth)

Well, despite not achieving the French victory conditions, I thought things went reasonably well. All the French corps got engaged. It was a shame that we had to end before the Battle of Marienburg was properly concluded, as it was the schwerpunkt of the French effort -- all the other actions were delaying actions of one sort or another, so I think to get a true read on the campaign we needed the input from that battle, which was at a very interesting point when time was called.

French players reviewing their plans prior to the start of the game.

    It was a bit disconcerting because the strategic and tactical moves were out of sync. The strategic moves happened several times faster than they probably should have, realistically. This allowed the Russians to put Bernadotte in mortal danger before the French could react at all, an eventuality I had not considered given the distances involved. My previous experience with Napoleonic strategic campaigning was with Le Vol de L'Aigle, which had a more realistic relationship between strategic and tactical turns.

    The victory conditions as presented provided few opportunities for the French to score Victory Points. The French did succeed in preventing the Allies from scoring their maximums, but the heavy penalty in Victory Points for Warsaw and Thorn distorted the French strategic incentives, in my opinion. Jim explained his rationale from a historic standpoint and I haven't studied the campaign enough to dispute his judgement on historical grounds. Purely from a playing standpoint, however, the inability of the French to score VPs of their own created an imbalance that was hard to overcome, especially because the game ended before the natural culmination point. For example, the Russians could score a VP for getting a convoy into Danzig, while the French derived no benefit from maintaining the siege. If the French bottled up the Russian relief force in Danzig that would have, in reality, been at least a local victory for Napoleon, and should have been worth something.

   I think the isolated French Corps gave a good account of themselves, kudos to Ney and Bernadotte, especially, for their tenacious resistance against enormous odds. I was impressed with Snappy Nappy as a grand tactical game system. I thought that portion of the event went really well, and I hope to take part next time as a Corps commander.

    I think a more constrained strategic portion, perhaps with the two CinC's conducting moves up to the point of first significant contact, might maximize player battle time, which I think would benefit the player experience. While every French corps got to roll dice, in some cases it wasn't very many.


Peter's note (blog owner, and also Bennigsen for this event):

    I thought Seth did quite well as Napoleon, especially never having played this system before, which definitely requires some adjustment of one's mindset, particularly for the C-in-C. . The scenario of necessity favored the Russians, although the French had one more Corps and slightly better troops on average. The Russians, however, had more artillery, which they put to good use. This was something the real Napoleon himself recognized as a problem after this campaign, markedly increasing the artillery contingent of his Army Corps. I had originally suggested that Dan and Russ be assigned to the French army, as they are the most experienced players, and that would reflect the greater experience of the French Marshals. We had so many players who wanted to play as French, though, that they wound up assigned to Russian commands instead. I was happy to have them! Seth definitely wins the award for best period costume as well! Historically, the French actually lost  this campaign, despite the Emperor's lifelong attempt to depict it as a limited French victory. Historically, Augereau's Corps was destroyed at Eylau, while here it was Bernadotte at Danzig. I hear his Swedish lessons are going well, though! Finally. Ney's tactical performance was amazing... if frustrating to us Russians who were in a hurry to crush him! Lock up those dice and don't them them out until after the next game! At least one more wrap up post to come on this great event!


  1. Again, such an awesome event. I'm jealous. I'm wondering whether you might consider doing some posts explaining how you set up such a campaign. While most people don't have enough players I think to pull something this big off, I'm wondering whether the concept would translate to smaller campaigns, or perhaps a piece of a larger campaign?

    1. Ken,

      I started to answer this, but it was getting pretty long, so I think that I will do it in a separate post!

    2. Looking forward to it. If you can, please include an explanation of how you synchronized movement across all those tables!

    3. Ah, that's a key point... after the first few turns - we don't!!!
      I just got James' [outstanding] GM write up which gives a lot of insight into planning and running the game. That will be up within the week.

  2. Napoleon praising both Ney AND Bernadotte for their performance? How uncharacteristic! Great endeavor, Peter and it must have been a challenging and fun event in which to participate.

    I offer my praise to both you AND James for your performances in managing such a task. Well done to you both!

    1. James did the heavy lifting on this one for sure. He's still recovering! :-)

      The event was a huge amount of fun, for sure!

  3. Very interesting reading for excellent games

  4. What a wonderfully detailed and inspiring campaign. It must be completely absorbing to organise and play such a detailed game. I love the campaign maps too. I'm sure that everyone had a great time.
    Best wishes,

    1. It is a lot of fun, and very engrossing to participate (or run) one of these.

  5. Is that my old nemesis Mark McL. :))))))))
    On the French side. My Blucher looks forward to the day of reckoning.
    Oh!! forgot it was FOW. My Finns.........

    1. Yep, definitely THAT Mark McL!
      He has telekinetic powers over dice...